Columbine One Month Later: Gun Control

In polls taken a week before and a week after the shootings, public support for gun control surged.

Gun-control advocates were hopeful that some 50 gun control measures pending on Capitol Hill would get a helpful push from the growing public anger over the shootings.

Two days after the shooting, Deputy Attorney General Eric Holder announced that the Justice Department would send a package of gun control measures to Congress. The proposals under consideration include extending the Brady Act's prohibitions on gun possession to people who committed violent crimes as juveniles, requiring manufacturers to install triggerlocks on guns, raising the penalties for adults who transfer guns to juveniles, a three-day "cooling-off" period before a handgun purchase, and background checks on gun buyers to sales at gun shows.

During a weekly radio address, the president said his Safe Schools Bill would crack down on gun shows and illegal gun trafficking, as well as close the loophole that permits juveniles to own assault rifles.

At the time of the shooting, Robyn Anderson, 18, might have slipped through a loophole when she bought a rifle and shotguns for her boyfriend, Dylan Klebold. To prosecute on the charge of giving a handgun to a minor under Colorado law, prosecutors must show that the giver "knowingly or recklessly" gave the gun with the knowledge that the minor planned to break the law.

On April 27, the specifics of Clinton's proposals restricting the sale of guns and explosives were finally unveiled at a White House ceremony. The intiatives were part of a broader administration anti-crime bill to be sent later to Congress. The White House trumpeted the crime package as "the most comprehensive gun legislation any administration has put forward in 30 years."

The same day, city and county leaders in Detroit and Wayne County filed lawsuits targeted at gun makers and merchants who profit "from the assaults, maimings and killings on the streets of our city and county." They insisted that gun makers and merchants who knowingly put firearms in the hands of felons and juveniles should pay a price for turning the streets violent. The damages could exceed $800 million.

On April 30th, one week after the Columbine shootings, the NRA held its annual meeting 15 miles from Littleton in Denver, Colorado. Even though the group had reduced its agenda from three days of meetings to one, the Denver community, including students and parents from Columbine, protested to let the NRA know that it was not welcome. Nevertheless, a defiant Charlton Heston, the president of the NRA, refused to take blame for the Columbine High massacre. On Sunday, Heston told ABC's This Week that he would oppose President Clinton's attempt to limit handgun purchases to one a month.

The TEC-9 semiautomatic, 9mm handgun, used by Dylan Klebold in the shootings, is a special target of gun critics. Although it's been banned by federal and state governments, it is more likely to be used in a crime than any other handgun. Several lawsuits are aimed at this small, cheap semiautomatic that has a finish with "excellent resistance to fingerprints."

In Milwaukee on May 11, the first Badger Guns & Ammo store pulled their cheap, so-called "Saturday night special" handguns from its shelves.

On May 12, Senate GOP leaders who had supported the gun lobby considered reversing an earlier vote and requiring background checks for all private firearm sales at gun shows. By May 14th, they voted 48-47 to approve the measure establishing a system of background checks for all buyers of firearms at gun shows. A few days later Attorney General Janet Reno urged Congress to close loopholes in the measure — including a 24-hour background check while most gun shows are held over weekends when government offices are closed.

On May 14th, an amendment that would require operators of gun-selling Web sites to obtain a license was killed in the Senate by a vote of 50-43.

On May 19, hours after a shooting at a high school in Georgia, a proposal that would require mandatory background checks for all transactions at gun shows was tied in the Senate, 50-50. Vice President Gore cast the deciding vote in favor of the measure and democrats declared victory over the powerful gun lobby.