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A Book To Break The Gun Control Stalemate

Filed by KOSU News in Art & Life.
November 18, 2012

Americans own an estimated 300 million guns. It’s a level of gun ownership that no other country in the world comes close to matching. It’s also a source of controversy in the U.S., where groups on both sides of the issue seem to have dug deep into the debate.

Now, a new book tries to break the stalemate. In Living With Guns: A Liberal’s Case for the Second Amendment, Craig Whitney explores areas where the two opposing sides might find common ground, and even compromise. Whitney, a former New York Times editor, joins NPR’s Rachel Martin to discuss the complexities of the debate and possible solutions.

Interview Highlights

On the reaction to mass gun violence in the U.S.

“I actually decided to try and write this book when I was living abroad, and I would see things like [the 2011 Tucson shooting]. People are horrified, and there are expressions of dismay. And then nothing happens, and we have another one. And what you need is to keep the conversation going. What should we do to make these things less likely? Is there anything we can do? If there is, we ought to talk about it.”

On his goal in writing the book

“What I wanted to do was suggest that especially liberals, who are generally in favor of gun control, should say, ‘Now, look, we agree that the right to keep and bear arms is an individual right, and it’s protected by the Second Amendment. Now let’s talk about ways to make it safer to have all these guns.’ That must be as much in the interest of gun owners as it is in the interest of people who fear gun violence.”

On the evolution of the National Rifle Association’s stance on gun control

“I had fun quoting Charlton Heston back in the 1960s, just after Martin Luther King was assassinated with a rifle. And I quote him from then [saying,] ‘Our gun control laws are so lax that anyone can buy a weapon — the mentally ill, the criminal, the boy too young to bear the responsibility of owning a deadly weapon.’ Now, that changed after the 1968 Gun Control Act was passed. And the leadership of the NRA that had endorsed some of the measures was overthrown, and Charlton Heston later, of course, became spokesman for, you know, ‘[I have only five words for you:] from my cold, dead hands.’ “

On the left’s approach to gun control

“I think the left gives the NRA the opportunity to spread paranoia and fear about what the Democrats in particular would like to do about guns by, every time there’s a gun massacre, saying, ‘What we’ve got to have is tighter gun control.’ Mayor [Michael] Bloomberg, his response to the gun violence problem in New York City is [to] tighten up the gun control laws. And the NRA looks at responses like that to gun violence and says, ‘See? This is what we’re up against.’ “

On one point both sides could agree on

“One of the common grounds is that there are plenty of gun control laws that have been on the books for a long time, and the Supreme Court’s decisions did not invalidate them. In fact, they specifically said in the majority opinion in [a] 2008 case [that] reasonable gun control measures are, of course, constitutionally permissible; let’s enforce, to the limit, the laws that are on the books. For instance, increase the penalties for people who buy guns for criminals and others who are not going to pass the National Instant [Criminal Background] Check System. They ought to pay for what they’ve done. And I don’t think the NRA would disagree with that.”

On how to address America’s gun violence problem

“I don’t think at the moment that the ground has been prepared for [corrective legislation on current gun policy]. What you gotta have — and what I hope[d] my book would stimulate, or help stimulate — is a reasonable discussion about how you could devise legislation that would make it safer for all of us and not question the constitutional right of law-abiding people to have guns. Both the Republicans and Democrats could do this if they wanted to. President Obama and Mitt Romney actually did come close to having a little common ground in their last debate, and they both agreed that it isn’t just gun control: You have to affect the behavior of people who turn to guns in troubled neighborhoods and big cities. It’s essential. You’re never going to solve the gun violence problem with gun control alone.” [Copyright 2012 National Public Radio]

4 Responses to “A Book To Break The Gun Control Stalemate”

  1. James says:

    It would be better to read the US constition than read some liberal book.

  2. Jim Gallagher says:

    Who can argue with “a reasonable discussion” but the devil is in the details. Your “reasonable” is not necessarily my “reasonable”. Case in point, you can look at those bastions of gun control, New York City, Chicago, Washington DC, and all of California, and see that the word “reasonable” is used to keep adding laws on the books irrespective of the fact that none of these laws seem to have any effect on the violence in these regions. Also, before us “gun nut” types (a term often used by liberals to paint all gun owners with the same negative brush – talk about stereotyping, bias, profiling and bigotry) would consider such a conversation the pro control folks would have to stop demonizing every firearm under the sun, a good case in point would be the AR-15 (it’s n9xot an assault rifle, the AR stands for ArmaLite, the company that came up with design)that seem to send these folks over the edge. Until they change their focus from the firearm to the criminal/mentally ill there really can be no “reasonable discussion”.

  3. Gene Ralno says:

    Like our founders, gun owners no longer trust the government, including police and military heads. Gun owners have been screwed too many times by the socialist movement in this nation. They know from experience that "reasonable" control is just another term for government control. And they know if they give a little, the government will return for a lot. So rejection of any infringement will continue even if it kindles the second revolution.

  4. Ben says:

    Bloomberg tries to stop gun ownership nationwide, all the while enjoying a security detail of armed men. The Left's approach to gun control is incremental. Label it as anti-crime/pro-police safety, take whatever restrictive law you can get passed, then describe it as "not enough" to prevent some recent tragedy, and then seek the next step. Meanwhile, the US currently has the highest gun ownership in history, and record low rates in violent crime.

    And Whitney is proposing what..?."Reasonable" or "common sense" incremental gun controls that do what, exactly? What is new here?

    Tragedies occur periodically, world wide. Some of the greatest tragedies are genocidal, against unarmed civilians.

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