Politicians Work Toward Gun Control, While Staying Quiet

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In the wake of the Newtown shootings, legislative leaders are having intense discussions about the direction of gun control, but few of them or their aides are willing to speak on the record, or even return calls.

WNYC's attempts to reach Democratic and Republican officials across New York state was met largely with silence. This included calls to pro-gun control electeds such as Rep. Carolyn McCarthy and Senator Kirsten Gillibrand. We also heard nothing from traditional NRA allies like Rep. Bill Owens, Rep. Richard Hanna and Rep. Chris Gibson, each of whom have received contributions from the NRA.

On background, one Congressional aide said there are "a million conversations going on" in Congress about reforming America's gun laws. While it's unlikely anything will advance in the immediate future, the aide felt Congress was likely to consider an assault weapons ban drafted by Rep. McCarthy after the New Year. 

Although public officials are largely staying silent, advocates were more forthcoming.

"I feel encouraged," said Jackie Hilly, the executive director of New Yorkers Against Gun Violence. "Because I think the emotional component of what has happened in the last week, I really think it’s a turning point. It's reminiscent of the four girls being bombed at the church in Birmingham. There are certain episodes in our history that the tides just change, because the victims are so innocent."

Hilly said one of the most promising bits of legislation would require background checks on all gun sales. Currently, private and online sales, which make up a reported 40 percent of all gun sales, are exempt from background checks. 

While earlier shooting tragedies have similarly raised the hopes of gun control advocates, Hilly felt that in recent days, "the ranks have started to break" among staunch gun rights politicians, and that an increasing number are "not willing to say 'business as usual.'"