Raleigh, N.C. — Despite the national anguish over last week's massacre at a Colorado movie theater, most observers say the shooting spree that killed 12 and wounded dozens more won't result in stricter state and national gun laws.
James Holmes spent months stockpiling thousands of bullets and head-to-toe ballistic gear without raising any red flags with authorities and then purchased a Glock handgun, a shotgun and an AR-15 assault rifle in a three-week period.
Early Friday, Holmes opened fire inside an Aurora, Colo., theater during a midnight showing of the latest Batman movie.
"My heart just sank," Gail Neely, executive director of North Carolinians Against Gun Violence, said Tuesday. "The first thought that comes into my mind (is) not again."
Neely said tougher gun laws could have saved some of the lives lost in the theater.
"I don’t know that this could have been totally prevented. He obviously was very troubled," she said. "(But) the ammunition that he had – the capacity of gun power – I don't think a regular person needs that."
Steven Greene, an associate professor of political science at North Carolina State University, said gun control is too dicey an issue for lawmakers in Washington, D.C., or Raleigh to take up during an election year.
"This is a touchy, very hot, controversial political issue," Greene said. "Democrats especially don’t want to take it on, and (for) Republicans, whose general take is to have more liberalized gun policies, this is not exactly the environment where you want to be pushing that either."
President Barak Obama vowed to reinstate the assault weapons ban that expired eight years ago, but he hasn't yet. Republican challenger Mitt Romney banned assault weapons as governor of Massachusetts, but now he opposes more gun control.
In North Carolina, gun laws have loosened in recent years, and banning large magazines or military-style guns is a long shot, observers say.
"I think the conceal carry bill started the movement of allowing guns in society and allowing people to carry, and there have been additional bills passed in conjunction with that," said Rep. Leo Daughtry, R-Johnston.
Last December, an expanded Castle Doctrine law went into effect statewide, allowing anyone to use deadly force if they feel threatened in their home, car or even their office. This year, lawmakers voted to allow permitted gun owners to carry firearms in parks, unless a town votes to ban them.
A bill that would allow concealed guns anywhere that serves alcohol passed the House this session but died in a Senate committee. It might be introduced again when the General Assembly convenes in January.
"I think (the Colorado massacre) is going to cause some push back, but in the end, when you look at who the Republican legislature is and who their constituents are and their desires, you’re looking at more liberalized gun policies," Greene said.
"Those people who support gun control are on one side, and those people who support the Second Amendment are on the other side," Daughtry said. "I doubt there will ever be a time when they agree on any particular bill. I hope there is, but right now, they're pretty polarized."
Gun owners say they see no need to tighten gun laws in the wake of the Aurora shootings. Rather, they said, existing laws just need to be enforced better.
"I don't think you should say, 'OK, this is a bad gun. This is a good gun.' They're all guns," said Robert Price, a law enforcement officer for 26 years.
Mary Langsdorf, who was practicing Tuesday at Personal Defense and Handgun Safety Center, on Tryon Road in Raleigh, said thorough background checks will keep guns out of the hands of most people who shouldn't have them.
"(More restrictions are) only going to keep the guns out of the good people's hands, and the people who want to get their hands on guns will acquire them illegally somehow, someway," Langsdorf said.
Neely said, however, that liberalizing gun laws doesn't solve anything.
"If more guns in more places meant safer communities, we would be the safest nation in the world, but we’re not," she said. "In fact, we’re one of the worst."