The Arizona Legislature's consideration this week of a proposed campus-carry gun law despite the Tucson tragedy illustrates how attitudes toward guns have changed since the Columbine High School massacre in 1999, which sparked a slew of state anti-gun measures, including in Kentucky and California.
"What we've seen is a maturing of the American public in its sophistication on the gun issue, and I think we're now seeing a growth toward a more realistic attitude, which is to think about these incidents on a case-by-case basis and whether this shows us anything that could be done better," says Dave Kopel, an adjunct constitutional law professor at Denver University.
In the past 30 years, the number of states that automatically issue concealed-carry permits after a background check have gone from nine to 37, meaning that "Americans have in most places practical social experience with guns, where if you go out in public, out of every 100 people you pass there's probably going to be a few who are lawfully carrying concealed weapons, and they're not maniacs," says Professor Kopel. "That experience accumulates."
For their part, gun-control advocates hope the Arizona shooting will change the pro-gun rights momentum of the past decade, especially seeing as this time a mass shooting touched Congress personally.