Guest post by Mara Leventhal, producer and occational co-host of Let’s Talk About It!
Before we jump into Middle East politics next Wednesday, I had a few thoughts to share about this week’s show: “Gun control: Problem, Solution, or Distraction?” After the show, the producers and hosts discussed whether or not we successfully examined the relationship between guns and violence. Pretty soon we were discussing mental health resources, domestic violence services and the history of race and guns and power. Soon, the word violence itself was too simple. There’s mafia and gang violence and political violence. Family violence. Random acts of violence, drug-induced violence, self-inflicted violence, state perpetrated violence and sexual violence. And, of course, mentally deranged killer violence. Somewhere in the crossfire of cities, psychology and culture, I was overwhelmed with the enormity of the issue. That’s when I checked out of our post-show meeting. And that overwhelming complexity, I think, is why the gun debate has become as polarized as it is.
It is understandable that in a soundbite hungry world, we simplify the conversation by focusing on America’s favorite tool for violence: guns. Gun control is a perfect wedge issue. It is used politically to slice populations into clean, easy voting blocks. Pro-gun. Anti-gun. There is no in between. This week on “Let’s Talk About It” we made an effort to have a conversation that went beyond the soundbites. Considering that we found areas of agreement between an ammo dealer, a spokesperson from the Brady Center and a college professor of criminology who studies handgun use in the U.S., I think we were successful. Areas of agreement centered around improving the quality and efficiency of background checks.
Subhash emphasized that drug laws prove that poorly executed laws don’t stop behaviors, they create underground economies and fill prisons. How can we talk about gun control when domestic violence agencies are losing their funding, summer programs for at risk teens have been shut down and communities face reductions in mental health and drug treatment resources? There are many layers and levels to the conversation that we didn’t address, including the history of gun ownership and power, race and class. All that said, I am still convinced that tighter regulation of the gun industry must be part of the discussion. Do you think gun control is a distraction from real solutions to violence?
It is safe to say that this topic is rich enough and important enough to support another show.
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Enjoy the show and please send us your comments, questions and ideas.
Here are some excerpts from the conversation along with links to learn more about our guests:
“Guns don’t cause crime. They make attempted crimes and attempted suicides far more lethal. The gun industry is marketing lethality right now.”
-Ladd Everitt, from the D.C.-based Coalition Against Gun Violence (CAGV)
“Banning guns will not stop the lunatic fringe.”
-Vic Grechniw, Florida Ammo Traders, a gun shop located in Tampa, Florida.
“Gun Control never stopped anyone that I know from picking up a gun, it never stopped anyone I know from committing an act of violence. Consciousness stopped them from committing an act of violence. Consciousness stopped them from killing somebody.”
-Brian Dennis, Brothers of the Same Mind, a non-profit organization working with ex-offenders to start their own businesses, find jobs, and restore their right to vote.
To summarize his research: “Guns had both violence reducing effects as well as violence increasing effects, depending on who had them. If good guys had them, they had good effect, and if bad guys had them they had bad effects.”
–Professor Gary Kleck, who has studied gun use for years at Florida State University.
“Our gun laws are just far too weak. It is extremely easy for dangerous people to get guns, get large capacity magazines, assault weapons; [these are] weapons that just belong on the battlefield.”
-Jonathan E. Lowy, Brady Center to Prevent Gun Violence