This website is no longer actively maintained
Some material and features may be unavailable

After Newtown: Gun policy

Much has been made this week about what, if anything, will happen legislatively regarding gun control. But the less reported story is that over the last few years, dozens of states have significantly rolled back gun restrictions. Two years ago, Need to Know’s John Larson traveled to Virginia to see what’s known as the “open carry” movement first-hand, to understand why it had become so popular…and to investigate how the gun rights movement had become so effective in easing gun control laws.

Part II

That sentiment has been echoed across the gun rights community this week…and some are taking it even further. Last weekend, Larry Pratt, the  Head of Gun Owners of America wrote in USA Today that gun control advocates have “blood on the[eir] hands” for the Connecticut school massacre. Pratt believes that the solution to the massacre is not fewer guns but more. John Larson sat down with him in Virginia.

  • thumb
      Subversive learning?
    Need to Know travels to Tucson, Arizona, where a years-long dispute over a Mexican-American studies program has tensions high.
  • thumb
    Following the money: Tax breaks
    New CBO report echoes the findings of Need to Know's "A tale or four tax returns."
  • thumb
    Mixed-status families
    From PBS NewsHour: Listen to the stories of families who are struggling with separation or being forced to leave the United States.


  • Anonymous

    This is what I see:
    a gang of white men who started down this sorry road back in the 60s, Mr. Nixon’s “silent majority”. And they have been terrorizing this country since they ‘found their voice’. Apparently these are the control freaks of the current century. Whenever they are requested to explain themselves they discuss urban areas as their raison d’etre. It is simply absurd. Their next reason is described as not wanting to live in a police state where only the government has guns. Well, while the second amendment gives all the right to arm themselves, no place does it discuss open carry laws. Neither does it discuss automatic and semi-automatic weapons. The whole discussion is now balled up with what is simply – I repeat – a gang of white folks who want to be armed for when “IT” happens, when the violence in the cities comes to their rural little town. The fact that it is totally unlikely, notwithstanding.

    I do not believe there is any level of gun ownersip that will ever make these people feel safe. It is a shame before God that they consider the children of Newtown collateral damage, and their only response to that tragedy is to put people with guns in elementary schools. And who shall watch these selfsame watchers?

  • Anonymous

    When Wayne LaPierre of the NRA said “The only thing that can stop a bad guy with a gun is a good guy with a gun,” he was either ignorant or lying. We have many projectile weapons which aren’t firearms. We have weapons which are neither guns nor projectiles, which can be used to stop a bad guy with a gun. We have non-weapons using projectile principles for some other use, which can cause serious injury if discharged in the direction of a living creature; there’s usually a warning on the package to that effect. There are all kinds of objects we can throw at a bad guy with a gun to stop him. Finally, martial arts have defenses against bad guys with guns, in some variety depending on the distance, context, and element of surprise.

  • M K

    It’s a shame the liberal media doesn’t air the 100,000 attempts per year stopped by that good guy. I’m sure however, none of you will do the research to find out for yourselves.

  • Joan

    RWe are firearm owners, but I am not sure I approve of itizens whereing assault rifles in the grocery store. My daughter has a carry permit,so does my husband. But they rarely where them in public places or church. The second amendment is the right to a well armed militia.It unsettles me to think if of that fact becoming real, that there will be armed militia roaming our streets. We have the military and armed services to do that. My family eas brought up to believe that if you didnt have a shot, dont take one. We oppose semi automatic, and think clip size should be limited to 8 rounds. NRA are so worried that the government will take away their guns, which they should know will never happen. We must limit certain weapons. Tanks are cool, but not everyone can own one. Certain firearms are to be appreciated but not everyone needs them. Children seeing people carrying firearms in stores, libraries, churches, will be scared all the time. Armed citizens would make us feel like a3rd world country.

  • Anonymous

    Please post your sources of statistics for these important stories! I can’t find any proof for the claim that guns were used to deter crimes at the rate of 100,000 per year that you said came from the Dept. of Justice. The only study I found was from 1992-1997 and it included police use of firearms! That number was around 160,000 per year. Perhaps more than a few were in the routine work of law enforcement. The number of justifiable homicides by citizens is around 200 per year, and there is no evidence that the use of guns was necessary, only that it was legal.

  • William Brangham, Need to Know

    M K —
    I’m not sure if you saw this or not, but the program above — about the gun-rights activists in Virginia — actually DID cite the estimated 100,000 instances that the U.S. Justice Dept believes happen every year where someone carrying a gun stops a crime from happening.
    Thanks for watching.

  • JohnF

    “We are not going to live in a police state where only the government has the guns, that’s just not acceptable in America”

    Here, here!

  • JohnF

    The purpose of the 2A is NOT personal defense against criminals, but so the people can resist their own government if it should come to that.

  • Guest

    the second amendment is not about hunting or fishing. it’s not even about personal self defense. it’s about having a public who is equal to the federal military in armament. This is the only true way to keep civil liberties with the owls. Please address this point. I agree that guns will end up in the hands of crazy evil people from time to time. But the possible alternative is far worse when you look at history of how tyrannical governments have abused the rights of its people. I urge you to study history and try to put yourself in the shoes of those who founded this country.

  • Anonymous

    Journalists are not historians and PBS does the American public a grave disservice by broadcasting misleading opinions about the irrelevance of our national heritage. Any editorial attack on the Bill of Rights is an attack on our Constitutional government. The great majority of American public opinion deeply distrusts journalists and government personnel who seek to suppress, silence or persecute honest, law abiding citizens. Our 1st Amendment rights allow us to engage in strong and even offensive topics of public interest without fear of government suppression. Our 2nd Amendment rights are designed to preserve the right to personal safety, personal liberty and private property. If individuals are not allowed to preserve personal liberty, safety or private property, then what is the purpose of our social contract? The Bill of Rights is a safeguard of our natural rights as human beings. Our ancestors agreed to create a government of the people, by the people and for the people. Our government was not created to satisfy the ambitions, egos and greed of a select few.

  • Anonymous

    Why did Malcolm X and Nat Turner advocate gun rights?

  • Anonymous

    The Bill of Rights does not endorse the right to insurrection. Our Constitutional government is designed to limit government power by preserving the natural rights of individuals. By preserving individual rights, our Constitution created asociety of free and equal persons who did not live in fear of government.

  • Anonymous

    The 2nd Amendment was included in the Bill of Rights to address the three great rights of personal security, personal liberty and private property. An individual who is in fear of death, or who is imprisoned unlawfully or who has lost all property cannot exercise other important natural rights.

  • Don Leverty

    I’m a progressive and don’t have any respect for the NRA, but I’m also a gun owner and hunter. I think I see all sides of gun control issues. Nevertheless, I was offended by John Larson’s style. It was at the level of tabloid journalism, beneath PBS’s standards, I would think. Pure advocacy journalism.

  • Matt

    Because the government and don’t forget, a lot of citizens as well, still believed that they weren’t citizens and perhaps not even human. Look up the Black Panther movement.

  • Matt

    The 2nd Amendment actually was to protect the rights of states/citizens to maintain a militia. You have to remember the real threat of outside invasion, no instant communication between state and federal level, etc. It is an incredibly different time where if you had no standing defense, the country could be defeated quite easily. It’s only a very recent interpretation that even fathomed it includes the right to own a gun. Read the actual amendment, you can certainly ‘read between the lines’ and end up with the more modern interpretation, but it’s very hard to believe that’s what the founders meant by it if you try to think about why they might have written it as they did.

  • Anonymous

    Be advised: In the United States, police forces have no duty to protect the average person. This is not my opinion. My opinion has no value in this matter. It is the opinion of the US Supreme Court.

    This is old, well-settled law. In 1856, the US Supreme Court held, in South v.
    Maryland (59 U.S. 396 (1856), that a private party has no right to police protection. In the modern language of a US Appellate Court: “But there is no constitutional right to be protected by the state against being murdered by criminals or madmen. It is monstrous if the state fails to protect its residents against such predators but it does not violate the due process clause of the Fourteenth Amendment or, we suppose, any other provision of the Constitution.” (Bowers v. Devito, 686 F.2d 616, 618 (7th Cir. 1982). This is “good law”, i.e., this decision has not been over-turned.

    Not even the beneficiary of a “restraining order” or an “order of protection” acquires a right to police protection, unless a State legislature specifically so enacts. Few have. The US Supreme Court so held, in deciding Town of Castle Rock, Colorado v. Gonzales (545 U.S. 748 (2005).

    The Second Amendment civil right to be armed exists, because in the US, each of us is responsible for his/her own protection. This suggests that the concept of “gun
    control” – except as it relates to penalizing criminals’ abuse of firearms – is alien to US jurisprudence.

    That the Supreme Court has not so concluded results from litigants’ failure to raise this issue. In the US, Courts’ decisions are based on litigants’ briefs, litigants’ lawyers’ arguments, and arguments made by interested parties in briefs submitted for the Court’s benefit (amici curiae [friends of the Court]).

    Organizations such as Gunowners of America, the National Rifle Association (NRA), etc., do not bring to the Supreme Court’s attention, the fact that police have no duty to protect the average person, because GOA and NRA – and like-minded organizations – do not want to destroy “gun control”. Fighting “gun control” enables GOA and the NRA to raise hundreds of millions of dollars, to pay top officers six-digit salaries, and to employ many lobbyists. Were “gun control” sent to history’s garbage can (into which all bad concepts eventually go), the NRA would be a training organization. That work would be very valuable. But were the NRA focused on training, it would not need millions of members, huge budgets, and employees earning salaries well into six digits. GOA would simply cease to exist.

    In sum, “gun control” – a vast fraud that dwarfs Bernie Madoff’s crimes – is
    mathematical idiocy. There is about one firearm per US residen (270 million firearms [BATFE data: Commerce in Firearms in the United States] and 315 million residents [US Bureau of Census, home page, left-hand column]). Even were “gun control” feasible, it should not be carried-out, because each of us is responsible for our own protection, and firearms are a key tool for self-protection.