Mass shootings in El Paso, Texas, and Dayton, Ohio, left more than 30 people dead over the weekend. What can be done to prevent incidents like these? Amna Nawaz talks to Larry Ward, chief marketing officer of Gun Dynamics, and Shannon Watts, founder of Moms Demand Action, for two different perspectives on potential solutions to the problem of rampant gun violence in the U.S.
Back now to our look at guns in America.
Excluding El Paso and Dayton, just since yesterday, at least 88 people were shot and at least 28 people were killed by guns in 27 states. That's according to the Gun Violence Archive.
In fact, we rarely report on these events: gang warfare, domestic violence, robbery. And that excludes suicide, the largest factor for gun deaths.
Amna Nawaz reports that the number of guns in America, some 393 million of them, more than one per person, is greater than in any other country and that, even on days of relative calm, guns kill roughly 100 people in this country every day.
That's right, Judy.
And President Trump condemned the shootings over the weekend and denounced white supremacy and racist hate, which he said fueled such violence. He also warned against — quote — "the perils of the Internet and social media," which he said helped to foment that hate.
But he declined to call for tougher gun laws, instead pointing to the mental state of the killers.
President Donald Trump:
We must reform our mental health laws to better identify mentally disturbed individuals who may commit acts of violence and make sure those people not only get treatment, but, when necessary, involuntary confinement. Mental illness and hatred pulls the trigger, not the gun.
We look now at some of the questions that are again in the air, in particular, what, if anything, can or should be done to curb gun deaths in this country?
We get two views.
Shannon Watts is founder of Moms Demand Action, a grassroots organization she established in the days after the 2012 shooting at Sandy Hook Elementary School to strengthen U.S. gun laws. And Larry Ward is chief marketing officer with Gun Dynamics. It's a group that promotes gun rights and the gun industry.
Welcome to you both. Thank you for making the time.
Shannon, I'll start with you.
I want to take a moment, and, if you can, on a day like today, when many Americans are reeling from the events over the weekend, what is your message to them? What specifically are the changes you would like to see put into place?
Well, we are specifically calling on Congress to come back from recess and to do their jobs.
We're asking them to pass legislation that we have seen work in the states, a background check on every gun sale — 21 states now requires that — as well as red flag legislation; 17 states have red flag laws. And they have been shown to be essential in interrupting gun suicide and gun homicide.
And it is time for our Congress to do their job and to protect Americans, instead of protecting gun manufacturers' profits.
Larry Ward, tell me briefly, what was your reaction when you heard about the events this weekend?
I was horrified.
I mean, look, at the end of the day, all gun violence is terrible. We're looking at this thing that keeps happening over and over again.
According to the Crime Prevention Research Center, 94 percent of these active shooter, active gun, and mass shootings take place in gun-free zones.
Shannon, what's your response what you just heard from Larry Ward?
Well, first of all, it's not true most mass shootings occur in so-called gun-free zones. Most mass shootings occur in private residences and involve domestic violence.
Walmart wasn't a gun-free zone. Not only was it in an open carry state. Open carry is allowed in Walmart. And there were even armed customers when the shooting happened.
So that is a lot of NRA talking points. And it's been debunked over and over again.
There are no background checks required on unlicensed sales in this country in 29 states. It's how so many criminals and minors get easy access to guns. And the idea that just because one law wouldn't have stopped one specific mass shooting, they shouldn't be passed is asinine.
We don't say one law is going to fix all of gun violence. It's going to take several different laws to get passed. And we have seen them work in the states. We know that they would work at a federal level.
Shannon, I do want to ask you about what the president has mentioned, what we have heard from people before about this issue of mental health, that we need to do more to address it as a country.
It's true there have been incidents in the past, right? The Sutherland Springs shooter, for example, had a serious mental health issue. And suicides actually comprise a large number of gun violence deaths in America.
So, what's your response to that argument?
When you look at gun homicides, only about 5 percent of shooters show any sign of mental illness.
We know that people who are mentally ill are much more likely to be victims of gun violence than perpetrators. This is an NRA talking point. It's the same thing they said after the Sandy Hook tragedy. They blamed video games and movies and mental illness. And data shows it's none of that.
In America, we have a 25 times higher gun homicide rate because of easy access to guns, full stop.
Larry Ward, the statistics do speak for themselves.
We have a gun violence problem in America. What is it? You're a gun owner yourself. You're speaking on behalf of gun owners out there, who comprise the minority of Americans.
What safety regulations would you be willing to sign on to?
Well, like — like I said, if we're talking about safety, I'm talking about people safety.
And the only way to stop somebody with murderous intent that goes into a place to shoot, to run over, to drop a bomb, the only place to stop these people is to have people who are vigilant, with their — with their ability to defend themselves and the people around them, and to make sure that law-abiding citizens are armed so they can act.
See, what happened in Dayton was, there was — there happened to be an armed police officer there. Of course, that whole area has — most of those stores and restaurants and clubs were all gun-free zones. So that's why that place was chosen.
But thank God there was a — there was an officer there.
But let me ask you about that Dayton shooting, because at, the same time, nine people died in that shooting. Are you saying there was nothing that could have been done to prevent those nine deaths?
Well, there could have been things. I don't know the whole case. I mean, the whole case hasn't come out.
We do — there was a whole lot made about blaming President Trump and his — and blaming President Trump's policies and ideas on the border, but — so we don't know the motivations of that — of that particular shooter.
Could — would — would anything have stopped him? No, he could have driven — could have rented a truck and driven it and run over a whole bunch of people. There's a lot of things that could have happened.
If the person has murderous intent…
But he didn't use a truck. Mr. Ward, I want to ask you about that. He used a gun. We know he didn't use a truck.
I want — I want to stick to what we know. As you mentioned, we do not know the motivation of the Dayton alleged shooter at this point.
It is true, in America right now, we have more guns in circulation than we do have Americans. And a large — a large portion of that ownership is concentrated in a minority of Americans.
So I'm trying to understand from you — and you seem to be saying that there's nothing you would be willing to do, there's no additional safety regulations you would be willing to agree on. Is that — is that right?
Well, look, come up — come to us with what I consider an additional safety regulation, which is ending gun-free zones, which is having — having more people — look, everybody's ignoring the, what, 47 — 47 shootings in…
Mr. Ward, what is the data? What is the data you can show — what is the data you can show that shows that prevents deaths in America?
Well, what — what — what data can you show that shows gun-free zones actually stop anybody from entering and shooting? There's no data.
Let me show you what data I can use. Let me show you what data we do have.
Federal waiting periods, for example, can significantly lower gun violence in America. Background checks can significantly lower gun violence in America.
Would either of those be amenable to you as proposed safety regulations?
There are background checks. There are background checks all over in all of the states of the United States. There are background checks.
There are — there are due — there's due process to get guns out of hands of people with mental illness. There are — if you commit a crime, you can't have a gun in most states.
There are a lot gun control laws, very, very strict gun control laws in all the cities of America.
And no one's talking about the 47 shootings in Chicago, where they have very strict gun control laws.
Shannon, I would like to ask you.
It's been seven years since the mass shooting at Sandy Hook Elementary, which is the reason you began this work in the first place. A lot of people said back then, if the murder of 20 children, ages 6 and 7, could not bring people to actually change our gun laws in America, that nothing will.
Do you see anything in the weekend's events that leads you to believe that now is the time for change?
First of all, so much has happened since the shooting in Newtown, Connecticut.
Moms Demand Action happened. We're the largest gun violence prevention organization in the country. We are larger than the NRA. We outspent them in the midterm elections, and we outmaneuvered them. We won in the midterm elections. And we're going to beat them again in 2020.
But I also want to say that there are 400 million guns in the hands of civilians in America. If more guns and fewer gun laws made us safer, we would be the safest country in the world. In fact, we have the highest rate of gun violence of any developed nation.
And the reason for that is because people like Larry, who work for the gun industry, are writing our nation's gun laws. And the only way we fix that is by every American getting off the sidelines and using their voices and their votes and demanding change.
We will leave it there.
Larry Ward and Shannon Watts, thank you very much for your time.
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