With dozens of gun-related bills pending in state legislatures, activists on both sides of the issue regard a recent spate of high-profile shootings as a catalyst to advance their causes, the Los Angeles Times reports. Deadly shootings at courthouses in Atlanta and Tyler, Tx., the slaying of a judge’s family in Chicago, a horrific weekend of violence in Philadelphia and the rampage at a Wisconsin church service form an emotional backdrop to ongoing debates in a number of state capitols. “I try not to form my public policy decisions in response to specific events,” said Nebraska state Sen. Adrian Smith, a Republican. Still, he said, hearing about so many brutal incidents in uick succession “gives you pause. You think, ‘How can we try to prevent something like that from happening again?’ ”
Smith’s answer, in part, is to push a bill that would let Nebraskans carry concealed weapons, as citizens of 46 states can. Gun control legislation is also on the table. Washington, Oregon, Florida, and several other states are considering banning assault weapons. Connecticut, New Jersey, and New York may block the sale of .50-caliber rifles, as California did last year. The rash of shootings has inspired several pieces of new legislation. In Illinois and Texas, lawmakers are working on bills to let judges or prosecutors carry weapons to court. Prosecutor Tim Huyett of Illinois’ Logan County, will demand the right to carry a gun for self-defense. Matt Bingham, a prosecutor in Smith County, Texas, senses a similar shift in mood in his state. In the early 1990s, the Gallup Poll reported that 71 percent of Americans wanted harsher restrictions on guns. A few years later, that number was down to 62 percent. By last fall, it had dropped to 54 percent.