join the discussion

do our gun laws make it easy to put guns in the hands of criminals?  tell us what you think

click here to share your thoughts

Dear FRONTLINE,

I found your program on guns to be very one-sided. It is disturbing that my tax dollars are being used to fund propaganda which is aimed at destroying my rights.

I also found it deeply troubling that the victim of theft, Mr. Lorcin, was portrayed not as a victim, but as "responsible" for the misuse of the guns he manufactures. If a car is stolen and used to run down a child, are we to hold the owner of the car lot responsible? The automobile manufacturer? If I am beaten to death by a hammer, is the maker of the hammer at fault? How about kitchen knives and baseball bats? Where does it all end?

In all the emotional garbage your producer presented, he seemed to have missed the criminological evidence which shows that gun ownership is a net benefit to our society. Every year, guns in the hands of responsible citizens are used to prevent and stop crimes and save lives. How do I know? I went to the library and read the pertinent criminological literature. In an article published in the fall, 1995, issue of the Journal of Criminal Law and Criminology, Professor Gary Kleck of Florida State University estimated that private citizens use guns between 2.2 and 2.5 million times a year for self defense. Kleck is a self-described liberal Democrat and ACLU member who has never received any funding from the NRA or any other gun-rights organization. Kleck's results are supported by thirteen other surveys of defensive gun use. According to the work of Kleck and other unbiased researchers, defensive gun uses are about three to five times more common than criminal uses. Kleck also found that about 400,000 people a year deploy firearms in situations where the act "almost certainly" saved a life. This exceeds by more than a factor of ten the number of lives lost each year to criminal shootings. The facts are plain and unmistakable: if gun-grabbers like Dr. Wintemute and your producer are successful in disarming us, at least 400,000 innocent people will be murdered each year. In a few short years, the total number of innocent victims may exceed the 6 million killed in the Nazi Holocaust.

David Deming
Norman, Oklahoma
ddeming@ou.edu

Dear FRONTLINE,

As someone said on the program, the traffic in guns is pure capitalism. Minimal regulation of the product, 'laissez-faire', that's what we Americans want. We are fearful people, so we must be allowed to buy as many guns as we want, without limits, because that is the only way most of us can "feel a sense of power", as someone else said. So what if lots of people get blown away? Let the buyer beware.

M K Smith
Salisbury, MD
ksmith@umes-bird.umd.edu

Dear FRONTLINE,

I was very impressed with the report you did. While you could have chosen a better speaker than the doctor who claimed to be a shooting or firearms instructor at one time, who while presented with a not so difficult "jam" in the Lorcin called for "professional help".

Lorcin should probably be shut down and its owner, operations and employees should be thoroughly investigated. I say this, by the way, as a former licensed gun dealer and a concealed carry permit holder in my state, as well as a strong gun owner rights advocate.

While it is true that the BATF has a great deal of trouble operating under its current policies and restrictions, it is also understandable that they not be given the ability to set up a national registry. There is no reason for the government to be able to find out, simply with the stroke of a few keys, weather my wife and I own firearms, or what kind.

While I do agree that some laws could be passed to help both the government and the law abiding gun owner (the Brady Law was not one of them, and is not applicable in my state) I feel more strongly that the prosecution and punishment, stronger penalties directed at, and swift justice towards people who commit crimes with firearms, is a much better solution.

Is there a reason that the firearm used in this site is not one that is produced by Lorcin? Are you aware of the fact that the firearm displayed is of much higher quality and price than anything that could possibly be achieved by Lorcin? Or that the firearm you chose to use is equipped with a laser sight that costs almost as much as the firearm that is on, and must be purchased separately? If not I am sure you are aware that this particular firearm, and its accessory, are much more intimidating to look at than the Lorcin.

While I did find a few things I don't agree with or thought you could have done better on, I thought that the report on the whole was very well done and well balanced. Kudos on your pointing out the turmoil that faced Agent McCrary, and must face many other officers, and showing that these people, BATF agents, have the same concerns and interests as we the public do. In my dealings with the BATF, as a gun dealer, I have yet to come across a "thug" in fact ALL of the ones I have met are highly professional and personable.

Keep up the good work.

signed:
A New Loyal Viewer

Dear FRONTLINE,

While I understand the concern over the theft of guns from Lorcin and totally agree that it appears they need help with security, it unfair to say that the 'Ring of Fire Manufacturers' should not be allowed make their product. I have been an undercover narcotics officer and have been on both ends of a gun but in my 30 years of working with firearms, I have yet to see a gun jump up and shot someone. In every instance there has always been someone holding the gun and pulling the trigger. As to making gun manufactures liable for how their product is used, I completely disagree. If you make gun manufactures liable the you will have to make automobile companies liable because someone was killed or injured with a vehicle. What about alcohol, tobacco, bicycles or kitchen knives? You cannot protect the public from their own stupidity. If someone is going to commit a murder, the lack off having a gun will not stop them. Besides, criminals don't go to FFL dealers to purchase guns anyway.

Their guns come from people selling them in bars, on street corners or out of trunks of cars and they are usually stolen. It is not fair to tell an honest law abiding citizen that they cannot own a particular kind of gun because a criminal uses it. There is no amount of gun legislation that is going to stop criminals from obtaining guns. The only way to stop criminals is make jails a living hell (instead of a vacation with free room and board) or put them 6 feet under.

Dear FRONTLINE,

Wow, 40,000 people murdered each year across the country. That's 80% of the death toll from the entire ten years of the Vietnam war!!!! And people protested then, why not now???? Are we as a society that numbed to the idea of megadeaths via nuclear war, that open warfare in our streets and homes means nothing to us? Its time congress acted to ban all handguns. And lets not stop there! They should put a ban on any weapon that shoots more than two shots and is easily cancelable. I am a gun owner. I own it to defend myself from the other idiots out there that are stupid enough to use them to murder innocent civilians. I would gladly offer my weapon up to be melted if the congress would get off its ass and act in the best interests of the people of this great nation and protect us. 50,000 people died in Vietnam before we pulled out, with peace and honor. Yet, almost that many die each year from gun deaths. We must stop this now.

I think it absolutely irresponsible that Lorcin corporation creates weapons that are nearly fingerprint proof. Who are these idiots who came up with that idea? They are in the business of selling death, just like the tobacco companies. they should be regulated to the point of death of their business. Only guns for hunting should be allowed anymore in this country. How many hundreds of thousands of people will continue to die over the years before the NRA controlled Republican congress gets off its ass and saves us. I for one will vote democrat. at least they offered us the Brady bill.

Thank you for a very good program.

Michael J. Slebodnick
Owosso, MI
slebodni@shianet.org

Dear FRONTLINE,

The report concerning the Lorcin gun manufacturing facility was very disturbing. I am only 27 years old, and I remember when the worst thing someone brought to a fight was their fists or an occasional solid object. I find the attitude towards guns and gun manufacturing to be absolutely ridiculous. I hear everyone complaining about the amount of violence in this country and the decline of our social courtesy towards others, but yet no one seems to do what it takes to reduce or eliminate this problem. Too much money involved in it I guess. I think that is a pretty sad situation. I almost feel ashamed to tell foreigners that I am American. We have too many people who do not understand the difference between right and wrong and they have become desensitized by the huge amount of glamorous violence that our society puts out on TV, movies, literature and in many other media's. I hope something happens to shut down these excuses for gun manufacturers. The executives are uncaring idiots...

Tom Rammer
Cincinnati, OH
rammer@asetech.com

Dear FRONTLINE,

I'd like to say that as a Medical Student I have a rarely have an opportunity to watch your show. Before your show on HOT GUNS I really had no opinion concerning the gun issue. Until now! I find it very discouraging that the ATF is somewhat powerless in its effort to control or regulate companies such as Lorcin. The company president should be ashamed in knowing that his product is responsible for such destruction. His cowardly attempt to deflect responsibility is why our gun problem still exists. The security at his factory was a joke! Corner grocery stores have more security then his establishment.

I feel that congress needs to get out of bed with the NRA and for once realize that the dynamics of our national social structure does not reflect that of a constitution written well over a hundred years ago.

Thank you.
Houston, TX

Dear FRONTLINE,

Criminals will always be able to get whatever weapon they want, no matter what laws are in place. Laws against an object are useless, harsh laws against the MISUSE of an object are the only practical answer. As with any powerful object, it can be used for great good, or terrible evil. The good uses(self-defense) should be praised and the evil uses should be severely punished. Side by side with this has to be work done to find and cure the reasons why there are more and increasingly violent crimes being committed in our society. Anything else is just typical leftist dogma.

Joseph White
Effort, PA
jwwhite@postoffice.ptd.net

Dear FRONTLINE,

Daniel Polsby is right. The "instrumentality theory" has fallen on its face. The availability of guns has virtually nothing to do with the level of crime. Think back thirty or forty years ago, when guns were easily available: you could buy by mail order, there were no background checks, no waiting periods. There was also considerably less crime. Low-cost handguns were widely available, and yet there was less crime. We have more crime now because 1) we tolerate it, and don't enforce existing laws, and 2) we have raised a generation of young people who do not respect authority, society, or even themselves.

Duarte, CA

Dear FRONTLINE,

The serial number on the gun is put on it to make the gun safer for the public. I believe the manufacturer should be sued by victims families under the product liability laws since through their negligence they allowed a deadly product on the open market. Which is required by law to be printed and traceable to the purchaser and therefore a deterrent against crime.

Dear FRONTLINE,

Thank you for the outstanding report.

I am amazed by the number of people who are diverted from the main message in a story such as this. Although, Lorcin it's management and employees have acted irresponsibly and the violent acts perpetrated by the end users of their product are horrendous, the ultimate responsibility for our safety, yours and mine lies with our government.

In this case the lack of funding for the ATF to perform it's job adequately and the lack of guidelines for manufacturers of weapons of destruction is appalling.

One more time the accountability issue as regards our government is being avoided. Each and every legislator as well as all bureau heads who send their personnel out into the field to face this plethora of weapons needs to be held accountable.

As with the barracks bombings in Beirut and Saudi Arabia we the American public(their bosses) reasonably expect to be protected from these sorts of terrorism. The illegal guns on our streets are as much a form of terrorism as planting and detonating a bomb.

I implore all who are concerned and alarmed by this article to write their local legislators and demand stricter guidelines for the manufacture and distribution of firearms.

Maybe a month in the trenches with officers in high crime areas such as Chicago, Philadelphia, Washington DC., Los Angeles, San Diego, Atlanta or any of the thousands of cities and towns throughout America would enlighten these people(legislators) to whom they are ultimately responsible.

My hat is off to the men and women of law enforcement who have to confront these weapons on a constant basis.

We will soon celebrate the 221st birthday of our country. We have succeeded this far by learning and growing from our shortcomings. Let's not let the outstanding message presented in this article pass without working to the ultimate solution to the problem.

John Cairncross III
Vista, CA
cairncross@hotmail.com

Dear FRONTLINE,

I would like to express my disappointment with PBS and my local affiliate, KLRU-TV with the airing of the recent Frontline special on "Hot Guns". I believe that the views expressed during the show were quite subjective and biased. I am a law abiding gun owner and a supporter of public television, however after the airing of this program, I now question the latter. It is sad that all to often today, journalism has compromised its objectivity to achieve sensationalism. Many journalists, as exemplified by the recent Frontline, have forgotten how much of an impact their reporting has on the layman in formulating their opinions and views. I hope that some form of redemption is offered to the viewing public (especially the supporters such as myself) as a result of this program.

Sincerely,
Robert Otto Rasmussen, Ph.D.
Civil Engineer
Austin, Texas

Dear FRONTLINE,

The appalling lack of individual self-control and responsibility presently rampant in American society indicates that many of us are unable to handle our constitutional freedoms. The possible consequences of this dilemma could be the loss of many of our freedoms through a desire to protect ourselves from each other.

Cliff Hewlett
Tigard, Oregon
chewlett@teleport.com

Dear FRONTLINE,

Having seen your program on Hot Guns, I am concerned over the fact that the ATF took it's time to arrest and convict the employee of the gun company. While we as a nation become incensed and outraged about "Saturday Night Specials" shootings in this nation, I think that we overlook the fact that when a airplane from a major airline crashes, and hundreds of people are killed instantly, we chalk it up pilot error, poor judgment, or the weather. Not the airline or the manufacture of said aircraft. As well as all the automobile crashes that result in deaths in this nation.

As more regulation can and is instituted and more laws made, the real loser is the honest citizen that is victimized by the faults that have become the norm of the system that is taken for granted that we can live "without fear" everyday of our lives.

If it becomes societies need to lower ourselves to the level of the criminal to protect our selves with a firearm, then so be it. The laws, at present, are good and enforceable if only the justice system, i.e., the police, courts and finally the prisons use these laws as the intent was, and dole out the punishment that is required by law and not plea bargained away like a "blue light special" at K-Mart.

Finally, the NRA is willing to work with Congress on a instant check system that is cost effective not only to local police with little or no funds, but will help find criminals that are trying to make illegal purchases. The criminal element will always get guns by any means, but, if the system can "work," there is the possibility of a safer society.

Dear FRONTLINE,

If a person were just a little cynical, he could imagine that it was good business for Lorcin to look the other way, while its guns were being stolen. When you think about it, wasn't Lorcin just giving samples to its best salesmen. The greater public would not be buying so many guns for protection if there was no perceived need, and what better way to create a perceived need than to arm the hoods. Its just good business; Lorcin probably sells over 50 guns per "sample".

If a person were just a little more cynical, he could imagine that Lorcin is not the only industry or political power base that thrives on the public's perception that it has never been in greater need of protection from the enemy within. We're talking serious big money here! In fact, when you come right down to it, police protection is one of a small list of services for which most people praise their elected officials and are actually happy to pay taxes. For all these industries and political groups, Lorcin is a dream come true, so why would there be a rush to shut it down?

Erich L. Gibbs, Ph.D.
Wilmette, IL

Dear FRONTLINE,

So exactly what was Lorcin guilty of? Making cheap guns? Is there a law, some kind of consumer protection, which establishes minimum performance and safety standards for such a weapon? Did Lorcin's products not meet those standards?

Is Lorcin guilty of poor record keeping? Does the law say they must somehow keep track of guns which are stolen prior to shipping?

Are they guilty of lax security? Are there laws regarding minimum security standards and background checks for gun manufacturer employees?

It seems to me that if there is anything to be angry at, it should be the lack of laws in the first place. Lorcin might be selling a very immoral product in a very immoral manner, but if there are no laws against it, why get angry at them?

Jake Brodsky
Beltsville, MD
frussle@erols.com

Dear FRONTLINE,

Today, in 1997, in American, there can be no valid reason for everyday law abiding citizens to own handguns. To say that they offer a family protection, is a lie. Each day in America, one more child is killed by a gun kept in a home under the excuse that it's there to protect them from harm.

Visit an Emergency Room of a hospitals, see the damage that a bullet does to another human being. Nearly all of the costs to put these victims back together - and it amounts to millions of dollars per hospital lost each year - is paid by you and me, the taxpayer, because most of the victims don't have insurance.

From the near total lack of enforcement - which raises the question of "why" isn't the BATF being funded and "why" are they using computers to verify the sell and who's selling all of these guns and to whom - it's no wonder why guns are flooding America.

The examples of the "ring of fire" gun makers versus a "Smith & Wesson" type of gun maker, show the glaring differences of why each is in business. One makes guns. The other makes a killing off of killer guns. The total lack of security and accountability questions why the Justice Department hasn't shutdown these types of gun manufacturing companies.

The statement by the BATF agent, that there may be as many as 14,000 guns illegally out in the hands of criminals, is shocking.

Yesterday in Denver, CO, Tim McVeigh was convicted of killing 168 people.
With 14,000 guns from this one gun company missing, more people will be killed or injured than what Tim McVeigh did.

So who is the more dangerous, one person who kills 168 people or one man who supplies over 14,000 guns, which will kill thousands?

What in the name of common sense is wrong with Congress? Why can't they see what's happening here - or is it that they just refuse to see? Either way, they don't belong in Washington, DC. Any fool can close the barn doors after the horses have escaped. We need people who know how to close the doors before the horses run off!

Patrick Clement
Greenfield, WI
PNClement@aol.com

Dear FRONTLINE,

Hot guns was an interesting program but was obviously incomplete. The next program on the subject should investigate why the government does absolutely nothing to punish the few firearms companies that neglect to secure there place of business from easy trespass and from having their firearms easily stolen. The whole firearms industry is getting a very bad rap because of a few irresponsible companies. I don't own a firearm but I strongly believe that law abiding Americans have the right to the option to purchase firearms. Since government on all levels cannot protect innocent people from violent criminals and the corrections system fails to keep violent criminals behind bars for their full terms we must allow innocent people to defend themselves, families and property whichever way they feel they should as the wise founding framers of the constitution intended.

Dear FRONTLINE,

Great and frightening story. Obviously the Lorcin factory had ridiculously poor security practices and procedures. I found the "quality" argument about a gun that self destructs after several hundred rounds an interesting one. Is that necessarily a bad thing? If the handgun is purely for self defense purposes how many rounds are required to become reasonably proficient and then occasionally re-acquaint oneself with it at the range. Historically, how many rounds would a "quality" handgun made 100 years ago last with lesser materials and (I assume) less uniform loads?

Jim Phalen
Rochester, NY
JPhalen103@aol.com

Dear FRONTLINE,

After viewing your program on hot guns I find myself in a state of disbelief. How can thousands of killing instruments be unaccounted for by a weapons manufacturer? I know the arguments for home defense and other reasons for owning a lethal weapon, but I cannot help to see the lack of concern from that manufacturer that thousands of pieces of his merchandise turn up missing. Doesn't he see that someone who steals these weapons from his establishment are not law abiding citizens and most likely these weapons will end up in the same type of persons possession? At the least he should be guilty of criminal negligence. I say this because that his product has the potential to kill and maim untold numbers of innocent people as the record already shows. I am greatly disturbed that someone can be so unconcerned about his missing guns and make the unbelievable statement that guns don't pull the trigger by themselves, people pull the trigger. True, but those type of people are the reason! why his weapons are missing. I I firmly believe we need stricter laws on the accountability and manufacter of weapons in this country so that business's like Lorcin's are stripped of their rights to create weapons of death.

Darrin Hart
Bend ,Oregon

Dear FRONTLINE,

Yes I believe that your gun laws make it easy for both legal and illegal obtainment of guns. In Canada the laws are much more difficult and in most cases the need for a handgun is for criminal use only.

I am a hunter and target shooter, I believe that the sporting use of shotguns and rifles are important. The only real use of a handgun is for protection. However, if there were not so many illegal handguns then the need for protection with a firearm would be reduced. The need for a handgun for protection is a poor argument. Most people are not trained and ready to shoot a human anyway. The other important issue is not just the law but also enforcement. The punishment of a criminal act using a firearm should be extremely severe. None of this sentenced to 15 years jail - out in 3 stuff. I realize this is a burden on the tax system but that might be the cost of the right to bear arms and still have a safe society.

My question to the US. - Is the right to bear arms (handguns) worth the cost of all these problems???

Tom Jakob
Whitby, Ontario, Canada
tcjakob@sympatico.ca

Dear FRONTLINE,

US puts more guns in peoples hands around the world then anyone else. US exports more drugs (tobacco) then anyone else. Us consumes more drugs then the rest of the world. World is a global village. What goes around comes around. Selective morality will not work.

Jan Hochbaum
New City, N.Y.
jhochbaum@aol.com

Dear FRONTLINE,

If there is a demand there will always be a supply(basic economics). Just look at the drug issue. We currently have about 2000 gunlaws on the books. Are any additional laws going to make a difference. NO. How about keeping the bad guys in prison for a novel thought. The criminals are ones committing the crimes not the people who obey the laws.

Just a thought:

When they took the fourth amendment, I was quiet because I had nothing to hide.

When they took the sixth amendment, I was quiet because I was innocent.

When they took the second amendment, I was quiet because I didn't own a gun.

Now they've taken the first amendment, and I can say nothing about it.

John Murphy
Darien, CT

Dear FRONTLINE,

If we punished criminals timely and harshly for their violent crimes against the citizens who are working hard and making the country work, we could solve the problem. We must not abridge the law-abiding people's rights in this effort. The 2nd Amendment is an individual, not a collective right, just like the rest of the bill of rights. Lower income people have the right and the duty to protect themselves, their families and their businesses. One last thought: I'll bet King George wished he had banned "Junk Guns."

Scott Odenbach
Sioux Falls, SD
minngop@sd.cybernex.net

Dear FRONTLINE,

I think expecting gun laws to prevent criminals from having guns is like expecting drug laws to keep drug addicts from getting drugs. Also , If we get rid of small inexpensive handguns wont this mean that criminals will end up with powerful, accurate expensive handguns?

Wesley Dunnington
Norfolk Ma
wesley@world.std.com

maps / quiz / pro/con / more / interviews / ring of fire / discussion / tapes & transcripts / press / wgbh / pbs online

web site copyright 1995-2014 WGBH educational foundation

pbs

SUPPORT PROVIDED BY

NEXT ON FRONTLINE

The Rise of ISISOctober 28th

FRONTLINE on

ShopPBS