Thursday, Dec. 14 marks the five-year anniversary of the Sandy Hook tragedy, when a gunman opened fire at a Connecticut elementary school, leaving 26 dead. In the wake of the massacre, the United States found itself asking what could be done to prevent another similar mass-killing. Initially, the answer seemed obvious: gun control laws. But they've failed. Even Sandy Hook, years later, has not been enough for Congress to pass meaningful measures. A quick look into congressional archives reveals that, in fact, many more gun control bills are introduced than are even formally discussed.
Immediately after the shooting, President Obama signed a list of Executive Orders, most of which sought to investigate gun deaths or increase communication about existing firearms-related legislation to people like health care providers, law enforcement, and related bureaucratic bodies. In addition to his executive actions, he also issued a list of proposed congressional actions, which encouraged goals like the reinstitution of an assault weapons ban, limiting the type of ammunition available to civilians, and expanding mental health programs.
In reality, dozens upon dozens of pieces of would-be gun control legislation have never seen the light of day, frequently dying in committee. When gun-control bills are voted on, they are almost always struck down, often along party lines. (Democrats tend to support gun control legislation; Republicans tend to oppose it, usually because they believe the legislation at hand stymies the Second Amendment.) Regardless, legislators have continued to propose similar legislation again and again, be it a bump stock ban or a law that would require universal background checks.
Here are some of the bills, aimed at protecting American residents, that never moved forward since Sandy Hook:
April 2013: Expanded Background Checks
The Senate voted down a proposal to expand background checks for gun purchases. President Obama described the move as "shameful."
April 2013: Manchin-Toomey Amendment
The Manchin-Toomey amendment was a bipartisan effort by Sens. Joe Manchin and Pat Toomey, a Democrat and Republican, respectively. It would have required background checks for commercial gun sales, but it failed by six votes.
June 2014: Lori Jackson Domestic Violence Survivor Protection Act
This piece of would-be legislation sought to make it illegal for those who have temporary restraining orders against them to buy or possess a firearm. It was named for a woman who was shot and killed by her estranged husband the day before a hearing for a permanent restraining order was set to take place.
September 2014: Homemade Fire Arms Accountability Act
This bill, sponsored by Rep. Michael Honda, would have required homemade firearms be given serial numbers the same way that any other firearm would be. A month after it was introduced, it was referred to the Subcommittee on Crime, Terrorism, Homeland Security, and Investigations, where it remained.
July 2014: Domestic Violence Gun Homicide Prevention Act
October 2015: Fail To Close "Charleston Loophole"
The so-called "Charleston loophole" allows federally licensed firearms dealers to sell guns after three days if they do not hear back from a background check initiated by the National Instant Criminal Background Check System. Democrats submitted a bill that would close this loophole, which allowed the Charleston Church shooter to purchase a weapon, but it was never voted on.
December 2015: Ban Gun Purchases For People On Terrorism Watch List
This proposal, introduced by Sen. Feinstein, would have banned gun purchases by people who are on the terrorism watch list. However, the measure failed, 45-54.
December 2015: Revived Legislation From April 2013
This proposal re-visited proposed legislation from April of 2013, which would require universal background checks on those buying guns. Once again, it was blocked, this time 48-50.
December 2015: Criminalizing Straw Purchasing & Gun Trafficking
Sen. Chuck Grassley proposed criminalizing "straw purchasing" of guns (when someone unauthorized to buy guns has someone else do it for them) and gun trafficking. It failed, voted down 53-46.
June 2016: Enhanced Background Checks
One of four moves voted on in a single day, a Republican-backed proposal would have bolstered already-existing background check systems, and also would have defined "mental incompetency" as it relates to gun purchases. It was sponsored by Senator Grassley.
June 2016: Universal Background Checks
The Democratic version of Sen. Grassley's above proposal, this amendment would have required background checks on all gun purchases. It was sponsored by Sen. Chris Murphy, who, prior to voting, led a 15-hour filibuster.
June 2016: 72 Hour Waiting Period For Those on Terrorist Watch Lists
Sponsored by Republican Sen. John Cornyn, this would have required anyone on a national terrorist watch list to wait 72 hours between attempting to purchase a gun and actually purchasing one. While this wouldn't have banned them from the inevitable purchase, it would have theoretically allowed three days for federal officials to prove that this person was unfit because of probable ties to terrorism.
June 2016: Gun Purchasing Ban For All Terrorism Suspects
Instead of a waiting period, the Democratic-backed bill, sponsored by Sen. Feinstein, would have banned anyone on a terrorist watch list from buying guns.
July 2016: Help End Assault Rifle Tragedies Act
This bill would have made it illegal to knowingly hand off a machine gun or semiautomatic assault weapon to someone under the age of 16. Offenders could have been imprisoned for up to 10 years.
September 2016: Preventing Violent Juvenile Offenders From Gun Ownership
Sponsored by Rep. Steve Israel, this bill would have banned violent juvenile offenders from possessing a firearm. The bill functionally died in committee.
March 2017: Gun Show Loophole Closing Act of 2017
Sponsored by Rep. Carolyn Maloney, this bill would have required individuals to register before operating a gun show. It also would have required giving the Department of Justice at least 30-day notice that a gun show was going to take place.
October 2017: Handgun Safety Trigger Act
Sponsored by Sen. Edward Markey, this bill would call for the development of technology which would allow a gun to differentiate between who is holding it. The idea is that it could then only be shot by people allowed to do so. It has never been voted on, and Markey introduced a similar bill in 2014.
October 2017: Required Background Checks
Bill S.1923 would require background checks prior to all gun sales. It was sponsored by Sen. Richard Blumenthal, but has never been voted on.
October 2017: Close The "Charleston Loophole" ... Again
Sitting in the House and Senate Judiciary Committees are two identical bills, introduced by Rep. James Clyburn and Sen. Richard Blumenthal, which seek to close the aforementioned "Charleston loophole." The Senate version has been languishing in committee since Oct. 5.
October 2017: Bump Stock Ban
A bill introduced by Sen. Feinstein would "ban the sale, transfer, importation, manufacture or possession of bump stocks." Like a litany of bills introduced following the fatal Las Vegas shooting, it also has never been voted on.
October 2017: Bipartisan Bump Stock Ban
Inherently similar to the other bump stock ban introduced in the same month, this piece of proposed legislation in the House, sponsored by Rep. Carlos Curbelo, is co-sponsored by 27 legislators from both sides of the aisle. Like other gun control bills introduced in the wake of the Las Vegas shooting, it too is sitting in committee.
September 2017: Safer Neighborhoods Gun Buyback Act
Introduced in July 2017, this bill would allocate funds to states, local governments, and/or gun dealers to fund gun buyback programs. It also would have outlawed the use of "smart prepaid cards" to purchase firearms or ammunition.
October 2017: Background Check Expansion Act
Also introduced by Rep. Carlos Curbelo, this bill would require a background check for all firearm sales. However, it is not expected to ever pass.
These are just a handful of the gun-control bills that never made it. A seemingly endless list of similar proposals can be found in Congressional records, indicating that, while little change has been made to gun laws since Sandy Hook, it's not necessarily for want of trying. But, as President Obama said of Sandy Hook in 2013, "we've cried enough," and the country must be "willing to follow through on what we say is important."