Though the public at large may not be fully aware of it, “many hunters and other gun owners have been at odds with the NRA for a long time,” says Goodgame. “Whereas the NRA views any gun control as the beginning of a slippery slope that will lead to the taking of everyone’s guns by the government, many in the gun community don't agree, and support reasonable measures to keep guns away from children and criminals.” The Columbine tragedy has done much to bring this more flexible approach to the forefront, as concerned citizens on both sides of the debate seek to come up with effective but measured steps to minimize gun deaths. There may also be an added incentive prompting gun manufacturers to come up with solutions: Antigun groups have begun targeting the industry with liability lawsuits.
A rift that has existed for years within the firearms community emerged into public view on Monday in the wake of President Clinton’s national meeting on youth violence and the Columbine High School tragedy. With the NRA still sticking to its absolutist antiregulatory position, two industry groups, the American Shooting Sports Council and the National Shooting Sports Council, came out in support of several proposals aimed at keeping guns out of the hands of children -- among them raising the age for legal possession from 18 to 21, holding parents criminally responsible for giving children access to guns, and requiring locks on most firearms. “These latest developments reflect a difference that has been demonstrated in a number of polls,” says TIME assistant managing editor Dan Goodgame.