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Colorado shooting highlights barriers to tough gun control: Obama and Romney

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But that didn’t last long, and now Gallup and other polling organizations find steadily growing opposition to stricter gun control. Since 2001, for example, support for a ban on the manufacture, sale, or possession of assault rifles has dropped from 59-43 percent, according to Gallup, while opposition to such a ban has climbed from 39-53 percent.

As a western state with an established gun culture, Colorado reflects this attitude.

Police report that the weapons possessed by alleged theater shooter James Holmes – a Smith & Wesson AR-15 assault rifle, a Remington 12-gauge shotgun, and two .40 caliber Glock handguns – all had been recently and legally purchased from local gun dealers.

Like most states, Colorado law makes it difficult to deny the granting of permits allowing gun owners to carry them in a concealed fashion.

One reason? The relative political clout of advocacy groups.

The Brady Center to Prevent Gun Violence, the largest and oldest of America's gun-control groups, is a fraction of its peak size, Reuters reports. The center and an affiliated political arm had revenues of $5.9 million in 2010, the most recent year for which information is publicly available – down 27 percent in three years.

In the same year, the NRA and its various components took in $253 million from individuals, gun makers and sellers, and other supporters.

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