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Why it’s so hard to pass effective gun control laws




Hundreds of people gather for a vigil  in Roseburg, Oregon on October 1, 2015, for ten people killed and seven others wounded in a shooting at a community college in the western US state of Oregon. The 26-year-old gunman, identified by US media as Chris Harper Mercer, was killed following a shootout with police. A visibly angry President Barack Obama made an impassioned plea for gun control in the wake of the shooting, blasting Congress for its failure to act in the face of
Hundreds of people gather for a vigil in Roseburg, Oregon on October 1, 2015, for ten people killed and seven others wounded in a shooting at a community college in the western US state of Oregon. The 26-year-old gunman, identified by US media as Chris Harper Mercer, was killed following a shootout with police. A visibly angry President Barack Obama made an impassioned plea for gun control in the wake of the shooting, blasting Congress for its failure to act in the face of "routine" mass killings.
Josh Edelson/AFP/Getty Images

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Authorities are searching for a motive a day after 26-year-old Chris Mercer walked into a community college in rural Oregon and began shooting.

Mercer gunned down 10 people before he was killed in a shootout with police.

In a statement later that afternoon, a frustrated President Obama blasted gun groups for standing in the way of -- what he calls -- common sense gun laws. It was the 15th time the president has spoken in the wake of a mass shooting.

Major gun control legislation is often a non-starter in American politics. Though many states have adopted stricter controls, mass shootings continue to be a frequent occurrence.

UCLA constitutional law professor Adam Winkler tells Take Two that large-scale reforms would require congressional action.

“Things are stalled in congress, there’s no denying that,” Winkler says. But he says, it’s not for the reasons that one might expect. “I think the NRA can deliver votes on election day. In close tight elections -- like so many of our elections are in America these days -- you need that three or four or five percent of people who are single-issue gun voters.”

He adds that if gun control proponents want to see the laws change, they must match the NRA’s power at the polls.

According to Mass Shooting Tracker, there have been 294 incidents in 2015 alone. Winkler says it’s hard to pinpoint exactly why there are so many shootings in America.

“We don’t have a lot of research and data into gun violence prevention,” he says. “The NRA has succeeded in sort of shutting down the spigot of federal research money -- that goes into public health research -- from going towards studies that might support gun control.”

Daniel Webster, director for the Johns Hopkins Center for Gun Policy and Research, has studied American mass shooters. He says many of them share some common traits.

“I think it reflects a number of things in our society -- of people wanting attention who feel sort of alienated,” Webster says. But he adds that there is a single factor that sets America apart from other developed nations. “We can’t lose sight of the fact that it’s just far easier to get a gun if you are a dangerous person in the United States than practically any place,” he says.

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