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Need to Know, January 14, 2011: Gun control, Haiti, high-speed rail

In the wake of the shooting in Arizona this week, we revisit our story about gun rights activists and examine the current state of gun laws in the U.S. In an essay, co-host Jon Meacham, a gun owner, takes legislators  of both parties to task for their reluctance to ban assault weapons.

To mark the first anniversary of Haiti’s devastating earthquake, we present a report from The New York Times about two badly injured children who were brought to the U.S. for treatment and recovery. We also present a Blueprint America report that examines the prospects for high-speed rail in the midwest in light of starkly opposing political views.

And CNN political analyst Peter Bergen talks about the war on terror and the continued viability of al Qaeda.

Watch the individual segments:

Guns after Tucson

In the wake of the Arizona shooting tragedy last week, Need to Know updates its story about gun rights activists and examines the current state of gun control laws in the U.S. For more on the shootings, see Need to Know’s coverage of the charges, the gunman’s mental state and the possible use of the insanity defense.

Helping children in Haiti

Need to Know presents a report from The New York Times on two severely injured children who were brought from Haiti to Boston for surgery, physical therapy and recovery. For more on Haiti, read about the slow pace of the recovery and watch an audio slide show featuring an interview with Dominican Republic President Leonel Fernandez.

Missteps in America’s ‘longest war’

Alison Stewart talks with author Peter Bergen about his latest book, which charts America’s prosecution of the “war on terror” and al Qaeda’s continued strength as a movement.

High speed rail: A tale of two governors

President Obama’s vision for high speed rail has been rejected by Wisconsin Governor Scott Walker, a Republican, and embraced by Illinois governor Patrick Quinn, a Democrat. For more reports from our partners at Blueprint America, check out Need to Know’s Transportation Desk.

Essay: Balancing liberty and life

In light of the shootings in Arizona, Need to Know’s Jon Meacham — a gun owner — takes both parties to task for their reluctance to ban assault weapons. Then, Jon talks with Rep. Michael Quigley, an advocate of gun control, about the chances of passing new gun limits in Congress. Read Jon’s past essays as part of our In Perspective series.

Watch more full episodes of Need to Know.

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  • Sturmsegel7

    Tom Shales Wash Post/syle was correct about Jon Meacham. See:
    Jonathan Ellis wants to ban my 30 rndr AR-15, how about I take out his favorite ice cream, “tootie frutie?” While we are at it, how about a ban on McD and all the fast food Companies that are killing far more people than Semi-Autos?
    As a Cherokee, I cant tolerate anyone who speaks favorable of Ol Hickory Stick, aka Andy Jackson who sent my people to the Hell that’s Oklahoma.

  • Space_Case

    As long as the criminal element gets to continue to keep their AR-15 with detachable large cap magazines. Trouble is that when the courts find that the haters of our Constitution are actually putting those AR-15s in the hands of criminals, they will rule that the “equal protection” clause of the 14th Amendment has been blatantly violated.

  • andy

    i beleave that every one dose have the right to own a gun but think of it this way from law inforcment point of view when the shooting took place in tucson if a man from the N.R.A was there and pulled his gun who would be shoot first ? who would thay take down? that man would put his self and maybe other people in the crowed at risk like i said every one should have the right to own a gun but law inforcement might shoot the rong guy and maybe even giving the real gun men time to get away.
    Sorry if iv made any one mad about this but im just trying to look at it the same way my friends in the millytary see things

  • WJ

    Why did Need To Know fail to mention that the gun ban in Chicago was an utter failure? Chicago had one of the most restrictive gun bans and one of the highest murder rates in the US. It is insane to think that more restrictive gun control would make the situation any better. Tucson, on the other hand, with its less restrictive gun control has a much lower violent crime rate (10.07 violent crimes per 1000 residents) than Chicago (12.12 violent crimes per 1000 residents). A common sense answer is to make gun ownership possible for responsible citizens, not more gun control. Apparently the people at Need To Know want to make Tucson less safe for the people living there.

    Where is the data to support the claim that 30 round magazines correlate to more crime? I’m suspecting that there is no data to suggest that so-called high-capacity magazines increase the crime rate. In fact, after the sunset of the assault weapons ban violent crime has dropped. If we really want to reduce crime we will support more common sense solutions like we did in 2004.

    The data suggests that guns are not the problem and may even be part of the solution, but liberals keep pushing gun control despite all the evidence. One tragic event that garners media attention should not overshadow the real data behind the problems that America faces. But, apparently, at Need To Now ideology trumps good policy. Why do liberals hate freedom and safety so much?

  • Downzero8249

    Andy there was an “NRA” guy there. He acted responsibily and did not draw his weapon because he did not have to.

  • Tom

    I appreciated that the gun carrying citizens were allowed to make their statements without any of the typical disparaging pre-amble. It was surprising to see the editorial focus on the oversized magazine. Would the tragedy have been less if he had only been able to shoot 4 people? Clearly the magazine is not the issue. The issue is that this person was able to get a gun. Why not require ‘CITIZEN references”? I doubt he could have gotten other citizens to recommend that he be armed.

    Of course he might still have gotten the gun illegally. I am sorry there were no armed citizens in the crowd.

  • andy

    (down) from what i under stood he wasnt right there and in the rest of the epsiod there were other NRA members NOT there but said if thay were thay would have shot him i should have clairified that i do agre that the man that was there did act responsible and took the right actions but to say that you would take the law in to your own hands is rong thats why we have police

  • AJ

    “The data suggests…” – exactly what is the data you’re relying on?

  • Aaron

    Jon’s usage of clips not magazines, and cordite calls into question the rest of his facts, and figures. If the simple facts are not accurate what else is left out or misrepresented.

    The 1994 assault weapons ban was largely nothing more than a cosmetic ban. And if it made a difference when it was allowed to expire in 2004 by a Democratic Congress the streets would have been filled of bodies.

  • Tko

    Need to know really missed the mark tonight. You mentioned Zamudio in relation to the AZ shooting, but you didn’t mention that he shoved and almost shot the guy that had already gotten the gun from Loughner. If you didn’t mention that, you shouldn’t have mentioned Zamudio at all and he had drawn his weapon unlike another commenter said. Maybe the cops would have shown up and shot Zamudio as the shooter. Then starting another clip with the phrase “Islamic terror” was in bad taste too.

  • WJ

    The data provided.

  • WJ

    The program specifically mentioned that the shooter was once kicked out of his algebra class. Your algebra teacher should not be the one who decides whether or not you can have a gun. References can also be faked. I agree that we need to keep guns out of the hands of the mentally unstable. However I don’t see an easy way of accomplishing that.

  • Nmhunter

    I’m interested in the conversation with the Illinois congressman. A very nice discussion filled with innuendo and lies. The Chicago ban resulted in an increase in violent crime from it’s inception. Why wasn’t there someone from the NRA or the Gun Owners of America involved in the conversation or in a separate conversation? Could it be that the facts they would introduce would be counter to the Utopian fantasy of Quigley and Meacham would have been quickly shown to be contrived?

  • Mike_Canada

    I remember a comedian’s bit from a long time ago (don’t remember the guy’s name) in which he argued that America’s founding fathers would have been appalled by modern assault weapons, therefore if people are claiming a right to bear arms under the Second Amendment, then they should only be allowed to own guns based on technology available at the time the Second Amendment was written. It’d be almost comical to have a gang war where the participants had to carry muskets, powder, and shot.

  • Nasolomon

    In the wsj today a study from the Journal of PLoS Medicine in 2009. They looked at 18000 sudjects from several western countries and found that beween 3 and 10% of violent in society was committed by severe mental ill patients.
    thanks for talking about the elephant in the room(guns)

  • WJ

    It’s pretty obvious that Need To Know is pushing a political agenda. They are not interested in the facts or showing both sides of the issue.

  • Dave5056

    two wrings do not make a right.

  • Dave5056

    I really really liked your comment it was well thought out and Germain to this conversation. This really is one of those hard nuts to crack. The hard nut for me to crack right now is K through 12 education in Schools.

  • Dave5056

    The Republicans controlled congress in 2004 as George W. Bush swept in for his second term with a Republican Congress.

    If you have this much of your answer wrong how are we to trust the rest of what you say. People make mistakes and I actually really did like your comment. Thanks

  • Dave5056

    A classic Antonin Scalia Argument. Completely constructionist and,”what the founders intended.” Bravo! :^)

  • guillermo a. ramirez

    A well structured fair and balanced appeal to common sense on the most peculiar institution of gun ownership in America. Unfortunately, without changing radically the soul of a good number of Americans who like Mr. Meachan bequeath the idea, implicitly or otherwise, that the guys with the guns make the rules, horrible, despicable, disgusting, heart-breaking tragedies such as the one in AZ will keep happening, and are happening every single day one victim at a time, unabated in this land of the “free” and home of the “brave.” It really bothers me to say it but in America an attitude much worse than the “normal” prison-gang-mentallity of your average American penitentiary has taken hold of America’s soul that pathetically parallels the internalization that the U.S. Constitution codified that a person because of his race could be considered only 3/5 of one and that took an event of cataclysmic scale to correct.

  • guillermo a. ramirez

    Tom, Citizen personal references, great idea. It should take more time and effort for even the most responsible citizen to acquire an intrument that can be potentially lethal on a fairly large scale. We should add to that requirement a series of visits to a mental health counselor who could also add his recommendation, or not, as to the mental fitness and emotional stability of the prospective citizen-buyer. As I recall in the U.S. Army we did not run around with loaded weapons on base. And when we went to the range to qualify we drew our weapons from the armory and the ammo was counted and distributed and used under strict supervision and the shell casings were retrieved, returned and counted. I think that any serious 2nd Ammendment supporter would only want mature and thoughtful people behind the business end of any firearm.

  • W9338922

    It makes my blood boil when I hear that they want to put a ban on assult weapons, why because they don’t even know that it is allready illigeal to own one unless you have a class 3 liscence which you have to apply to through the FBI at a cost of about 25000 dollars a year.
    Beer kills more people than bullets but yet we can go to the local grocery and buy it with the hard stuff.

  • Jshively

    Your constitutional “right to bear arms” is not based on the need to protect yourself against marauding neighbors or rabid bears… those things would have just been “common sense” when this country was founded, and in fact still are. This issue was deemed sufficiently important to be made a part of the primary founding doctrine of our country because it was part of the prior history of those who came here from situations wherein the governing entity had removed the rights of its subjects (victims, not citizens!) to bear arms as a means of removing the ability of those subjects to resist the will of said entity. The 2nd amendment is intended to ensure that AMERICANS would be able to keep a check on our government’s tendency to forget why our country exists as a free society. It is appropriate, in this reference, that citizens be able to obtain and keep any such personal weapons as would put them on a par with those that the government wields. Laws that punish MISUSE of such weapons are appropriate; those that seek to abrogate the right to own/bear such weapons are tools of tyranny. Any government, Federal or otherwise, that fears it citizens will always be eager to use those tools to further its own interests in suppressing the ability of those citizens to resist encroachment on their rights.

  • Downzero8249

    Taking the law into your own hands and protecting yourself or someone else in grave danger are different things.

    When seconds count the police are only minutes away. They simply can not be everywhere at the same time.

  • Bvbklyn

    I have lived in nyc most of my adult life. Despite the high population concentration, potential for conflict and multi-ethnic base, most of us are anti-guns. For us a gun in the room is a signal for violence. Even with police or military, I feel uncomfortable in a place where guns are present. For nra members to suggest that guns are required for daily life suggests to me that they are easily threatened by others. Such hypervigilance does not signal safety. The tone is a self rightous notion that they know what is right. If a person has to have a gun, it is evidence that the person does not in fact know because they are using a gun to create fear and obtain power. A gun is a symbol of powerlessness not a reason for trust and order. I should like a woman or a child or anyone with a subserviant status is likely not to confront a husband or neighbor with a gun. It does not make that
    person right or smart, but just a person that needs a gun. How it is used is a crap shoot.

  • Jonkneemerritt

    Actually Need to Know,, are some of the only places interested in showing facts and both sides of the issue. Especially John M. The cite their sources and even mention common sense, unlike major corporate networks.

  • Jonkneemerritt

    explain one reason why you would need an automatic weapon for sporting? just once. Unless you’re state allows for massive amounts of game to be taken in your being outrageous. Besides, almost all the time shooting happen, bullets ricochet, hit innocent bystanders, or people thinking they are ‘saving’ someone might get shot or arrested by the police in the confusion.

  • Jonkneemerritt

    Yeah, one super lightly alchol beer won’t kill someone like a bullet. Bullet can miss, hit wrong people, guns can miss fire, police take anyone holding a gun very seriously. I think hunting is great. Never needed an automatic weapon for it. For security, having a gun can put you at risk, gun can be taken from you, lost, or if everybody has one, wouldn’t the people robbing you’re house or drunk angry guy at the bar have one too? think about it.

    “Guns are meant for killing, ain’t no good for nothin’ else” From Mister Saturday night special, by Lynard Sknyard (sp?)

  • David

    Remember New Orleans after the hurricane? Most of the police did not show up for duty and the majority of those that did were afraid to venture out after nightfall because of the crime. It was up to the citizens to defend themselves. We see the same thing happening in Egypt. The 9/11 commission reported that it was not a matter of if — but when terrorists will attack the United States with a nuclear weapon. What do you think that will be like? Think you will need to be armed to protect your family? The NRA just reported that Obama is preparing to push gun control. For those that want privately owned firearms taken up by government – go ahead go unarmed – just don’t come looking for protection when society reverts to the law of jungle. Just keep thinking it will not happen to you.