Another mass shooting, yet legislative change to gun laws unlikely, UB law expert says

Pro-gun organizations have too much control over Congress, says Anthony O’Rourke

Release Date: December 3, 2015

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“We are now taking some degree of risk when we enter a public space that we are going to get shot. One of the big reasons is that the law is so difficult to change. Our legislative status quo makes it very easy to obtain semiautomatic assault weapons and other instruments of mass killing, and it is very difficult to change the legislative status quo. ”
Anthony O’Rourke, associate professor of law
University at Buffalo

BUFFALO, N.Y. – The cycle of mass shootings is likely to continue in large part because it is highly unlikely there will be a federal legislative response to the California mass shooting, says Anthony O’Rourke, University at Buffalo associate professor of law.

“We appear to be entering an era in which this is a normalized risk, like a risk we take when we ride in a car,” says O’Rourke, who studies the legislative process. “We are now taking some degree of risk when we enter a public space that we are going to get shot. One of the big reasons is that the law is so difficult to change.

“Our legislative status quo makes it very easy to obtain semiautomatic assault weapons and other instruments of mass killing, and it is very difficult to change the legislative status quo.”

Despite the political rhetoric around gun control and gun laws after each mass shooting, O’Rourke says, actual change is highly unlikely. And that is largely because of the NRA’s lobbying influence.

Congress is structured so that it is far more difficult to block legislation than it is to pass it, he says.

“The NRA does an excellent job navigating this structure to counteract the short-term political momentum that these tragedies create,” O’Rourke says. “The NRA’s positions, though, may be far to the right of the average gun owner – and even to the right of the average NRA member.”

A key, says O’Rourke, is to find creative ways of reorganizing the political landscape outside of Washington. As it stands now, gun owners get discounts on bullets and other countless advantages by joining the NRA, whether or not the person agrees with the organization’s policy positions.

“We need to make it unattractive for people who have moderate views on gun policy, but also own a gun, to be NRA members,” he says.

To find UB faculty experts on other topics – including issues trending in the news – visit UB’s Faculty Experts website.

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