30 Issues: Is The Gun Debate Over?

Thursday, October 25, 2012

30 Issues in 30 Days is our election year series on the important issues facing the country this election year. Today: To what extent is the right to bear arms up for debate? Visit the 30 Issue home page for all the conversations.


Open Prep: Questions, Articles, and Links to Get You Started


Key Questions


  • Are gun rights a public safety issue or a matter of civil liberties?
  • Should states determine the level of gun control?
  • How does geography determine attitudes towards firearms?
  • Why won't either party touch the issue?

What are your key questions on this topic? Post them below and get the conversation going!


Adam Winkler, constitutional-law professor at UCLA and the author of Gunfight: The Battle over the Right to Bear Arms in America (W. W. Norton & Company, 2011)

Got a Follow Up?

Each Friday we'll be following up on one of that week's issues. Got a particular follow-up question from this conversation? Comment below or tweet us. 

30 Issues Interactive from the WNYC Data News Team

Comments [37]

Sez Eye from NYC

Gustav Rech from Manhattan - Lets look at your statement from from an abortion viewpoint (SPELLING ERRORS CORRECTED):

Most of the WOMEN that I know are responsible citizens that would not object to reasonable restrictions on ABORTION. The real problem is the leadership of PLANNED PARENTHOOD which strives to maintain and justify their position leading a large large lobby, and perpetuate their own racist leanings (ORIGINALLY ORGANIZED TO PROMOTE RACIAL CLEANSING THROUGH BLACK ABORTION AND STERILIZATION). It is informative to look at the history of PLANNED PARENTHOOD which until relatively recently backed REASONABLE restrictions on ABORTION (ONLY FOR BLACKS AND OTHER "DEFECTIVES"). That however has changed as the LEFT wingers AND paranoids have taken over. Given THAT OBAMA had actually signed legislation ENCOURAGING BLACK AND DEFECTIVE ABORTION OF FULL TERM BABIES while the REPUBLICAN party have essentially ignored the issue makes one wonder why the support for OBAMA. As stated by PLANNED PARENTHOOD they are satisfied that OBAMA has "changed" his position and are comfortable with that statement. The only real reason to back OBAMA is quite obvious - he is a BLACK/white male. To be quite frank members of PLANNED PARENTHOOD should be embarrassed and take their organization back.

Kinda exposes your comment for the self important diatribe is really is, doesn't it?

Nov. 02 2012 06:05 PM

OK, so some guy asks us to look at the comparison of the UK and Switzerland. UK has very strict gun laws. Switzerland is heavily armed. But one is "safer" in the UK than Switzerland. How could that be? It's not guns themselves. In Switzerland there is a huge emphasis on gun safety and training about proper use of guns, including "family shooting matches."

This is all bullshit. Yes, the homicide rate in Switzerland is somewhat lower than in UK, so one is "safer." However, one is much less "safe" in Switzerland when it comes to gun homicide. In fact, very peaceful, very wealthy, has the highest gun homicide rate in all of Western Europe. How could a country have a lower overall homicide rate than the UK but yet have a higher rate of gun homicide? Prevalence of guns. Very simple.

Oct. 26 2012 04:44 AM
Mary Joyce Carlson

About my 2nd comment, I'm talking about the law in SWITZERLAND, of course - see my earlier comment!

Oct. 25 2012 12:53 PM

The NRA and other gun supporters love to cite statistics showing that homicides and crime are lower where there are more gun carrying citizens. However, the statistics they never cite are the following:

Celeste Monforton, DrPH, MPH of George Washington University School of Public Health & Health Services on July 23, 2012

"Gun violence is uniquely an American problem compared to other industrialized countries. The rate of gun-related deaths per 100,000 individuals in Australia, Canada and the United Kingdom is 0.1, 0.5, and 0.03, respectively. In the U.S., the overall rate is 2.98. And that overall rate doesn’t tell the full story. In some cities, the rates are five to ten times that number. The fatality rate in Los Angeles is 9.2, in Miami it’s 23.7 and in my hometown of Detroit, Michigan the rate is a staggering 35.9 deaths per 100,000 residents. According to data assembled by the National Center for Injury Prevention and Control (NCIJP), about 85 people in the U.S. are killed everyday in firearm-related incidents. The most recent available NCIJP data (2007) identified more than 31,000 firearm-related deaths in the U.S., including 17,000 from suicide and 13,000 from homicide/police involvement.
The number of deaths are striking enough, but even more so when compared to the firearm-related fatality rates in other countries. I used data from the University of Sydney School of Public Health’s gun policy program to create the following table. It shows gun-related fatality rates for the Group of Twelve countries. The U.S. is a striking outlier on both the rate of homicides by guns and rate of unintentional gun fatalities."

Oct. 25 2012 12:03 PM
Mary Joyce Carlson

I rushed to post my comment while segment was still on the air. Checking afterwards, I find that the law is quite a bit more complicated than as I stated it. BUT the provisions in the law do make it VERY DIFFICULT to carry a gun outside the home.

Oct. 25 2012 11:42 AM

Regulate the software!

Chris Rock is right!!

Oct. 25 2012 11:36 AM
Gustav Rech from Manhattan

Most of the gun owners that I know are rsponsible citizens that would not object to reasonable restrictions on gun ownership. The real problem is the leadership of the NRA which strives to maintain and justify their position leading a large large lobby, and perpetuate their own racist leanings. It is informaative to look at the history of the NRA which until relaively recently backed restrictions on gun ownership. That however has changed as the right wingers nad paranoids have taken over. Given the Romney had actually signed legislation restricting gun ownership while the President and the Democratic party have essentially ignored the issue makes one wonder why the support for Romney. As stated by the NRA they are satified that Romney has "changed" his position and are comfortable with that statement. The only real reason to back Romney is quite obvious - he is a white male. To be quite frank members of the NRA should be embarassed and take their organization back.

Oct. 25 2012 11:36 AM

That clip of Obama stumbling and namby-pamby-ing around the issue is PATHETIC!

Oct. 25 2012 11:33 AM
Henry from Manhattan

I heard that Barrack Hussein Obama is going to take away our guns! Any day now.

That’s what I heard at my local NRA meeting anyway.

(I'm kidding, but you know those types of people are out there.)

Oct. 25 2012 11:30 AM
ellen from NYC

Those statistics about how many crimes have been prevented, how often guns are used successfully for self-defense -- what are they based on?? Please explain what your guest means when he refers to these as well as the guests?

Oct. 25 2012 11:30 AM
Amy from Manhattan

The earlier caller may not care about people who kill themselves with guns, but I do, & so do many others who've known any of those people. Suicide doesn't affect just the person who dies--it affects everyone in their lives. Why make it any easier for them to get the easiest means to kill themselves?

Oct. 25 2012 11:30 AM
rbnyc from Brooklyn

I'm going to have to agree with Chris Rock on this one. Let's get bullet control! If the cost of bullets were uber expensive and hard to find, I'm sure shootings would go down significantly.

Oct. 25 2012 11:30 AM
scott from hawk

Keep up te good work Obama!

Oct. 25 2012 11:29 AM
andy from manhattan

It seems to me that the limitation might be better applied to the sale of bullets (no bullets, no fatalities) - any thoughts?

Oct. 25 2012 11:29 AM
Mary Joyce Carlson

About every male in switzerland being required to have a gun: Yes, but they are also forbidden by law from taking that gun out of theiri home, unless they are called up for the Swiss militia (gov't).

Oct. 25 2012 11:28 AM
Henry from Manhattan

Paint me as a liberal who is indifferent towards the politics of gun control. Sure, I have my bias, but I’m fine with how the conversation gets continually swept under the rug.

A good size of the country is in love with gun ownership and until attitudes change, there’s little reason to attempt to heavily legislate against it. When gun tragedies happen, that’s the will of the people, many Americans accept this collateral damage as part and parcel of “Freedom.”

Gun control is political kryptonite for Democrats and the topic only gives Republicans a chance to chest thump, so I don’t blame Obama or any other Democrat for ignoring the issue.

Oct. 25 2012 11:28 AM
Jane from Brooklyn

If guns are so great, why is the crime so much higher in US than in other civilized countries, where gun ownership is very limited?

Oct. 25 2012 11:25 AM

The people who live in cities need to stand up and be heard over this greedy, power hungry gun lobby and get laws passed to protect our us and the police officers who work so hard to protect us.

Oct. 25 2012 11:23 AM
Christine from Westchester

And the caller who was a teacher makes the point: do you think the gun your student was brandishing was legal? There are laws against it. What's "federal gun control" going to do when the kids walks in with one? I'd suggest calling the police and having them exercise the current law.

Oct. 25 2012 11:22 AM

The culture of violence in the US is a reflection of our country’s use of violence around the world. Illegal wars like Iraq become synonymous with gang actions. And the fact that if you are a young kid today, you were born into war, doesn’t help matters. Kids in the US don’t have any experience living in a country not at war.

Oct. 25 2012 11:22 AM
mk from nyc

it's a respect for guns and especially a respect for others that would deter gun crime. guns have been present throughout my whole life but so has been a strong sense of community. i am convinced, because of which, there is a reduction in mental illness as well as an awareness that guns can be dangerous to the community which has repercussions beyond one's self

Oct. 25 2012 11:22 AM
Henry from Manhattan

The population of Vermont 626,431.
The population of New York 8,244,910.

The population of Switzerland 7,785,800.
The population of the United States 308,745,538.

Not to mention all the other social, cultural, geographic, and economic differences that were mentioned.

It’s just not a very instructive comparison.

Oct. 25 2012 11:21 AM
VT & NYC from NYC & VT

Gangs and hard drugs are moving in to the cities/towns of Rutland and Brattleboro, VT. There isn't much crime in rural Vermont because the criminals know that 97% of the homes have a gun in them and the owners aren't afraid to use them. In Rutland & Brattleboro there is more "urban" crime.....

Oct. 25 2012 11:20 AM
jgarbuz from Queens

I'm old enough to remember when punk street gangs went from "zip guns"(made up of rubber bands) to "Saturday Night Specials" (cheap, shoddy hand guns) in the 1950s, to Uzis in the '90s. I strongly doubt that additional gun control legislation will ever gain further ground in this country. Guns are integral to the "Red, White, and Blue" where Red represents the blood spilled in the making of this country, mostly for Whites, and Blue is how most Blacks and "Indians" felt for most that period.

Oct. 25 2012 11:20 AM
BK from Hoboken

Saw Chris Rock on TV recently and had to laugh at his take. He thinks we need bullet control. Charge $5000 for a bullet and you won't have any innocent bystanders shot.

Oct. 25 2012 11:17 AM
Maureen from nyc


kind suggestion: you gotta get out more.

YES -- I see folks playing horseshoes lots.

Your guest is right.

Oct. 25 2012 11:17 AM
Michael D. D. White from Brooklyn Heights

Romney’s answer about what to do about the availability of K-47 assault weapons: He should be elected president in order to encourage two-parent households and dissuade people from having babies when they are not married?

Why this answer? As a Mormon Bishop frequently counseled that “the Mormon church does not encourage single parenthood”

See: TUESDAY, OCTOBER 23, 2012, Did Romney Access His Credentials As Mormon Bishop To Answer Gun Control Question In Second Presidential Debate?

Oct. 25 2012 11:14 AM
Christine from Westchester

So if half the gun deaths are suicide, the issue there is mental health. And if you could take away all the guns, until you resolve the mental health issue, won't those "gun deaths" just turn into other forms of suicide? How would background checks resolve suicides? I don't think the gun violence issue should be clouded with half of the deaths being suicides.

Oct. 25 2012 11:13 AM
Sheldon from Brooklyn

Was there ever a debate?

@RUCB "My preference is to repeal the Second Amendment as written and replace it with one that guarantees the right to bear long arms - shotguns, hunting rifles, etc. and limits ownership of handguns"

That makes little sense, law-abiding citizens should have the right to reasonably acquire handguns. I have no problem going after "illegal" guns but shop-keepers, cab drivers, business people here in NYC, have to go through hoops to protect themselves - thanks to Bloomberg, we all see the results.

Oct. 25 2012 11:11 AM
paul from Harlem

Gun violence will only decrease when the prohibition on drugs is ended.

Oct. 25 2012 11:10 AM
fuva from harlemworld

Question: Exactly how to keep guns out the hands of malcontents? Is this even possible?

Oct. 25 2012 11:09 AM
Christine from Westchester

Until we start enforcing the existing regulations, what good are new laws? Not sure if you have noticed that the criminals don't abide by them anyway. Could we limit access to assault rifles: yep. I don't think we'd miss that. Would the criminals still have them? Yep.

Oct. 25 2012 10:27 AM
Joe Mirsky from Pompton Lakes NJ

“As President Obama indicated during the campaign, there are just a few gun related changes that we would like to make, and among them would be to re-institute the ban on the sale of assault weapons. I think that will have a positive impact in Mexico, at a minimum.”
— Attorney General Eric Holder 2/25/2009

“Outrage tonight over claims the Obama administration is trying to weaken our rights under the Second Amendment. As we reported to you here yesterday, Attorney General Eric Holder is willing to sacrifice our gun ownership rights under the Constitution for the benefit of a foreign government, in this case Mexico. The attorney general, who apparently thinks we're a nation of cowards when it comes to race, seems to believe that we're also a nation of cowards and fools when it comes to our constitutional rights.”
— Lou Dobbs on CNN 2/26/2009.

Oct. 25 2012 09:53 AM
Kathy LPV from Long Branch, NJ

Is the Gun Debate Over Thurs. 25 Oct
My question: How many more tragedies like Columbine, VA State, Aruora, & Rep. Gifford's do we need before we come to our senses about restricting gun ownership?
"This Debate" isn't over until the "Gun Debate" will be over when the Nation & the NRA recognizes that:
A. the second Amendment specifically says "a Well Regulated Militia, being necessary to the security of a free state" - Not every Tom, Dick, & Harriet has the "right to bear arms" nor anyone who wants to own any kind of gun, i.e. UZI's, etc. - & -
B. Our "Founding Fathers" never envisioned the guns of today. Their guns took many steps and several minutes to load, aim & fire They could only kill 1 person or animal at a time. They also had a tendency for the powder to accumulate in the rifling, which made ot more difficult to load with each shot And the guns of that era were only accurate to about 100 to 150 yards, not nearly the distance of today's guns! They were not the rapid firing machines of the 20th Century, able to kill & wound dozens of citizens within seconds, from great distances! - & -
C. The Declaration states: Everyone is entitled to "Life, Liberty, & the Pursuit of Happiness", meaning everyone should expect to feel free to shop, go to a theater, and work, without fear of being mowed down by some disgruntled or mentally unstable person. And, since everyone must have a license to drive a car or truck, Guns should also have strict licensing to sell and own!
Last, Guns are handled by a person, but IF "Guns don't kill, but people do", then how come if a person makes a fist with their pointer finger sticking straight out - they can't kill anything? And how come a gun can't just fire its bullet when it's on a table? Our laws need to reflect that fact. We need strict laws of All sales of who, the kind, & how many guns one person can own. For example, in Colorado, one person can buy up to 50 UZI's at a time - for "their own use" - who needs that many? For what? Rapid fire weapons can't be used to hunt animals! These rapid fire guns were made . . . for Military, not individual use.

Oct. 24 2012 09:13 PM

Despite my liberal leanings, I am a believer in the right of private gun ownership expressed in the Second Amendment. It does not matter to me that we no longer have militias. The amendment says that each individual citizens has the right to keep and bear arms. If you want to have an effective one, you need armed citizens. The amendment also says 'keep and BEAR' arms and eventually SCOTUS - at least the SCOTUS as it is currently made up - will recogngize the individuals right to bear arms in public. That ought make for some fun nights out!

My preference is to repeal the Second Amendment as written and replace it with one that guarantees the right to bear long arms - shotguns, hunting rifles, etc. and limits ownership of handguns and severely restricts access to and ownership of assault weapons, that is weapons designed and developed for the battlefield. Too many shootings and I'd like to not be nervous at the movies.

It would be nice if our arms companies invented some non-lethal method of takedown that was as effective as a firearm. Next opportunity for Apple?

Oct. 24 2012 04:44 PM

There seems to be no limit to whatever weapon one could want! After all we have this Sacred Second Amendment....And excuse me when was it written...1789....seems like we now have a standing Army, Navy, Marine Corps, etc.....The real Weapons of Mass Destruction are in the hands of many, many unstable God fearing Americans....

Oct. 23 2012 09:19 PM
Joe Mirsky from Pompton Lakes nj

“What, Sir, is the use of a militia? It is to prevent the establishment of a standing army, the bane of liberty .... Whenever Governments mean to invade the rights and liberties of the people, they always attempt to destroy the militia, in order to raise an army upon their ruins."
— Rep. Elbridge Gerry of Massachusetts, spoken during floor debate over the Second Amendment, I Annals of Congress at 750, August 17, 1789

“A well regulated militia, composed of the body of the people, being the best security of a free state, the right of the people to keep and bear arms shall not be infringed; but no one religiously scrupulous of bearing arms shall be compelled to render military service in person. “
— Draft version of the Second Amendment sent by the House of Representatives to the United States Senate, on August 24th, 1789.

[The Second Amendment] "has been the subject of one of the greatest pieces of fraud—I repeat the word 'fraud'—on the American public by special interest groups that I have ever seen in my lifetime.”
— Chief Justice Warren Burger

Own The Ultimate Weapon
You have the right to bear arms. Order your Acme atom bomb kit today! Militia membership included with purchase. Batteries not included. Some assembly required. Not sold in stores.
And remember — atom bombs don’t kill people, people kill people.

Sep. 25 2012 11:27 AM

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