The new players in the gun-control advocacy space have not, however, dramatically widened the scope of proposals to reduce gun violence. The main ask for most advocates remains a universal background check system that closes loopholes that allow people with criminal records or mental illness to buy firearms at gun shows or from private dealers. The groups largely also back a ban on assault-style rifles, limits on high-capacity magazines, a crackdown on straw purchasing, and an end to the prohibition on federally-funded research into gun violence as a matter of public health.
But in the interest of pragmatism, that’s about as far as the gun-control movement will go. Congress hasn’t passed a significant gun-control measure since the Brady Bill nearly a quarter-century ago, and a major element of that law—a ban on so-called assault weapons—lapsed in 2004. In the last serious legislative effort in 2013, Democrats anointed as their point man Senator Joe Manchin of West Virginia, perhaps the party’s most avowed supporter of the Second Amendment who campaigned for election with an ad in which he loaded a rifle and fired a bullet through a piece of climate-change legislation. Despite an overt appeal to gun owners, Manchin’s background check bill fell short, too.