Despite Friday's slaughter of innocents in Newtown, Conn., it turns out that gun violence isn't particularly common in that state. Per-capita firearm homicides are about average compared to other U.S. states, and Connecticut actually gets high marks from the Brady Center to Prevent Gun Violence, whose score card rates it fifth best in the nation for its legislative efforts to keep dangerous weapons out of the hands of criminals.
As Congress and the states examine ways to toughen gun laws in the wake of the elementary school rampage that left 20 children and seven adults dead, figures like that aren't very encouraging. If horrors like the Sandy Hook massacre can happen even in states that do a decent job of controlling guns, what's the point of forcing states with looser laws to crack down? Researchers have for years been trying to answer the question of whether gun violence drops in states that approve strict gun laws, only to produce studies that contradict each other or provide mixed results.
The problem probably stems from the fact that the United States is a patchwork of 50 governments with widely differing ideas about how to regulate firearms; and there is such a thing as interstate commerce -- if you can't buy a gun in your home state, you can drive across the border to a more permissive one. This is an argument for strong federal rather than state restrictions, but of course the power of Congress in this area is limited by the 2nd Amendment.