Do Americans Care More About Gun Control After Mass Shootings?

A look at all the mass shootings in America since President Barack Obama took office.
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Survivors are evacuated from the scene of a shooting under police escort on December 2, 2015, in San Bernardino, California. (Photo: Frederic J. Brown/AFP/Getty Images)

Survivors are evacuated from the scene of a shooting under police escort on December 2, 2015, in San Bernardino, California. (Photo: Frederic J. Brown/AFP/Getty Images)

Editor's Note: A version of this story first appeared on PSmag.com on July 31, 2015. The timeline of mass shootings has since been updated.

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After every mass shooting in the United States, it seems like we always say the same things. Namely, politicians and commentators on the two sides of the ideological spectrum argue for and against stricter gun control laws. Even President Barack Obama's language has become more pointed in calling out lax gun laws in recent speeches. In the wake of the recent shooting at a social services center in San Bernardino, California, where a gunman killed at least 14, Obama again denounced gun proponents: "The one thing we do know is that we have a pattern now of mass shootings in this country that has no parallel anywhere else in the world," he said to CBS News, "and there's some steps we could take, not to eliminate every one of these mass shootings, but to improve the odds that they don't happen as frequently."

Beyond all the policy talk, however, do mass shootings ever really convince people that gun laws need to change?

The timeline below includes instances of: public, mass shootings since the most recent administration took office; poll results on Americans' support for gun laws; and the advent of new laws related to firearms in the U.S. States try to pass hundreds of pieces of gun-related legislation every year, so it's impossible to include them all, but we've chosen to highlight new laws that fall into one of two hotly debated categories. One comprises laws that mandate stricter background checks than are now federally required. The other includes laws that allow gun owners to carry their weapons around in a concealed manner, without any further application or permitting. Together, these bills illustrate instances of legal triumphs for both gun control and gun rights advocates. But they're just one small window into the overall firearm-law activity in the U.S.

In general, America's relationship with gun control and gun violence is much longer and more eventful than what we included, but this quick snapshot still illuminates some trends. For one, mass shootings seem to barely budge public opinion about whether America's firearm laws are too strict or too lax. Americans seem glued to their opinions, no matter what happens. The exception was the killing of 20 six- and seven-year-olds at Sandy Hook Elementary School in 2012, which triggered a flurry of legislative activity and pushed public support for stricter gun laws up by 10 percent. Since then, however, support for gun-control laws has once again tapered off.

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