Gun laws, gun culture

When Vice-President Al Gore cast the tie-breaking vote in the U.S. Senate last month for a plan to require background checks on people making purchases at gun shows, it was hailed as a major triumph for gun control. The lobbying power of the National Rifle Association was ebbing, we were told, following the school shootings in Colorado and Georgia.

That a close vote on background checks could be construed as a new era in gun control tells us a lot about the vast power the NRA has wielded over legislators. A 51-50 vote is not exactly a mandate for change, and a background check hardly constitutes an onerous regulation. But then the gun lobby is not accustomed to setbacks of any sort. The Senate's vote for background checks was the first gun control measure to win favor since the Republicans took control of Congress in 1995.


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