Far from the corridors of Congress, where virtually any kind of gun legislation is dead on arrival and the gridlock has turned into political theater, bare-knuckle battles over firearms are raging in state capitals.
From Sacramento to Trenton and Tallahassee to Des Moines, lawmakers, interest groups and activists skirmish almost daily over pending legislation to either tighten or loosen restrictions on firearms. These smaller battlegrounds are where both sides in the long-running political battle roll up their sleeves and engage in lobbying and grassroots organizing aimed at tilting the national battle — one law at a time.
Recent efforts by Democrats to call attention to the impasse in Congress and turn up pressure on Republicans and the National Rifle Association to allow votes on federal gun legislation —including a House sit-in this week — highlight the growing importance of states in the national gun debate.
The two sides have very different views of how the battle in the states is playing out, though both agree that gun-violence-prevention groups have stepped up their game since the December 2012 massacre of 20 first-graders and six staff members at Sandy Hook Elementary in Newtown, Connecticut.