On the anniversary of the Aurora theatre shooting in Colorado where James Holmes left 12 dead and 70 injured, America has only taken small steps toward better gun control and mental health services over the last year.
The changes have failed to prevent subsequent mass shootings in Newton, Mass., Santa Monica, Calif., and other areas. Since the Aurora shooting, 126 people have died in 23 mass killings spread over 19 states, according to USA Today.
Colorado saw some of the most significant changes.
In May, Colorado Gov. John Hickenlooper signed a bill that allocates $20 million for an expansion of mental health services, including walk-in crisis centres, and a 24-hour hotline. Mental health issues have been linked to many mass shootings, and lawmakers hope that early intervention can get these people the help they need.
The bill also creates a task force that will study ways to consolidate Colorado laws for placing a person in involuntary commitment for mental health treatment. Holmes’ psychiatrist said he made “homicidal statements” and threatened her five weeks before the shooting.
Colorado also passed a series of gun control measures, under fierce opposition from the state’s strong gun lobby.
The state passed a law limiting gun magazines to 15 rounds of ammunition, though sheriffs and firearms dealers are seeking to have the law declared unconstitutional. Another bill passed Colorado’s legislature that requires universal background checks for everyone who tries to buy a gun in the state, including private purchases between individuals. Colorado lawmakers also approved a measure that bans online certification for concealed carry permits.
Gun control opponents have launched an effort to recall the Colorado Senate president for leading the effort to pass stricter regulations.
Other states have made changes too following Aurora and other mass shootings, particularly in the wake of the massacre at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, Conn.
New York passed a sweeping package of mental health and gun control laws in January, which has been challenged by gun-rights groups. Earlier this month, a state appeals court rejected an attempt to block the law’s implementation.
Connecticut, Maryland, Delaware, and California were among other states that strengthened gun laws in the wake of the shootings. These laws range from limiting magazine capacity, improving background checks, and keeping guns away from those who are dangerously mentally ill, according to the Los Angeles Times.
Nationally, President Barack Obama signed 23 executive actions related to gun control and mental health regulations after Newtown. The White House has touted the implementation and progress of 21 of these executive actions — including federal agencies sharing more information within the federal background check system and directing the CDC to expand research into gun violence.
Stricter laws on guns, however, fizzled in Congress. Most prominently, the Senate failed to pass a bill that would have expanded background checks on gun purchases, something that polls showed was favoured by as much as 90% of the American public.
Other changes after Aurora have come at the local level.
Movie theatres around the country tightened security immediately after the theatre shooting. Some banned costumes and masks, dispatched police officers to major movie theatres showing The Dark Knight Rises, and began offering active shooter training for movie theatre employees.
Finally, gun sales shot up after mass shooting sparked a panic in gun rights advocates who wanted to protect themselves and worried the government might make it harder to buy firearms.
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