Why we’re still debating guns in 2016

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Experts from both sides of the debate offer their views on the issue of guns in America

CNN  — 

CNN Opinion rounded up a selection of op-eds from both sides of the gun debate in America–one that continues to rage, with highly publicized shootings in Charleston, Chattanooga, Lafayette, Roanoke, the campus of Umpqua Community College in Oregon, and San Bernardino, California, where at least 14 people were killed in December. Where are we today on guns and mass shootings? Here are experts’ opinions on the issue. Watch President Obama as he joins Anderson Cooper and a live audience for a CNN Prime time event: Guns in America, Thursday Night, 8 pm ET.

Julian Zelizer: Why nothing happens on gun control

Julian Zelizer profile

Why does gun reform fail, no matter how intense the outrage from horrendous attacks?

The most important and obvious factor is exactly what the President mentioned: the overwhelming power of the gun lobby.

This is one of the most sophisticated lobbies in the country. The National Rifle Assocation and other gun rights organizations employ a full arsenal of lobbying tools – from disputed constitutional arguments, to a massive campaign finance war chest, to voter mobilization drives – that are enough to influence members of both parties.

In the 2014 midterm elections, the NRA spent $12 million, with 95% of its candidates victorious. Whenever the issue comes up in Congress, the NRA mobilizes and makes it clear that there will be payback for any representative or senator who supports gun control. Read more …

Julian Zelizer is a professor of history and public affairs at Princeton University and a New America fellow. He is the author of “Jimmy Carter” and “The Fierce Urgency of Now: Lyndon Johnson, Congress, and the Battle for the Great Society.”

Carol Costello: Feel disrespected? Pull a gun

Carole Costello update profile image

We require every single person in every state in this country to pass a driving proficiency test before they’re issued a license to get behind the wheel. So why not require that wannabe gun owners pass a gun proficiency test before they are issued a license to obtain and shoot a gun?

Under our current federal laws, states require little more than filling out a form in order to buy and use a gun. Depending on where a gun is purchased, the applicant may have to undergo a criminal background check, and wait a couple days before they can purchase a firearm. The fact that it’s so easy is a matter of national pride. Read more …

Carol Costello anchors the 9 a.m. to 11 a.m. ET edition of CNN’s “Newsroom” each weekday.

Daniel Webster: How America swallowed the gun lobby’s Kool-Aid

Daniel W. Webster

Once again, Americans are shocked and saddened by an unspeakable act of gun violence. Nine innocent people who attended a bible study at the historic Emanuel AME Church in Charleston, South Carolina, will not return home to their loved ones, and a community will forever be changed.

In a nation with a homicide rate that is nearly seven times higher than the average of other developed countries which have much stricter regulations, the all too regular experience of mass murder committed with firearms in American is tragic and senseless.

We should not have to accept these often preventable acts of violence – about 11,000 homicides committed with firearms per year, or about 30 a day – as our fate. Read more …

Daniel Webster is director of the Johns Hopkins Center for Gun Policy and Research, and professor of health policy and management at the Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health.

Cedric Alexander: Can we have gun rights and gun safety?

Cedric L. Alexander

Let’s rethink the idea of a “well regulated militia.”

I’m not talking about starting a vigilante movement. I am asking that we begin to think of ourselves – all of us who live in this great country – as guardians of our communities. That is the way the framers of the Bill of Rights thought of the “militia.”

While the second clause of the single-sentence Second Amendment gives us the right to keep and bear arms, I believe that the first clause gives us the responsibility for being a militia: the guardians of our country and our communities within it. Read more …

Cedric L. Alexander is a CNN law enforcement analyst and director of public safety at the DeKalb County Police Department in Georgia. He is a former national president of the National Organization of Black Law Enforcement Executives.

S.E. Cupp: On guns, let’s focus on facts, not fears

S.E. Cupp-Profile-Image

What’s the difference between a semi-automatic weapon and a fully-automatic weapon? What’s the definition of an “assault weapon”? What features are cosmetic and which make a gun truly dangerous? Is there really such a thing as “high capacity ammunition”?

You might not know the answers to these questions. But you’d expect the lobbyists, activists, pundits and politicians who advocate for gun control to, wouldn’t you?

American deaths in terrorism vs. gun violence in one graph

Yet more often than not, the very people looking to peel back our Constitutionally-protected Second Amendment rights are the ones who can’t answer these simple questions. Whether it’s a pundit who doesn’t know the difference between a semi-automatic and automatic rifle or a congresswoman looking to ban high-capacity magazines but can’t explain how magazines work, shouldn’t language matter? Read more …

S.E. Cupp is a political commentator for CNN and is also the author of “Losing Our Religion: The Liberal Media’s Attack on Christianity,” co-author of “Why You’re Wrong About the Right,” a columnist at the New York Daily News and a political commentator for Glenn Beck’s The Blaze.

Colin Goddard: The gun lobby’s foolish answer

Gun control activist Colin Goddard was shot four times during the April 2007 Virginia Tech massacre.

The truth is, elected officials who aren’t willing to take action want these events to recede from the headlines so they can return to the status quo of not standing up to the gun lobby.

It’s time for all Americans to come together and ask our lawmakers, “Do you side with the overwhelming number of Americans who support basic gun safety measures or do you side with the gun lobby?”

For the sake of the many Americans whose lives were destroyed during this cruel summer of gun violence – while doing their jobs, enjoying a night out at the movies, or praying in their house of worship – we demand that political leaders side the right way and take action to end this crisis. Read more …

Colin Goddard is a Virginia Tech shooting survivor and a senior policy advocate for Everytown for Gun Safety, a gun control advocacy group.

Sally Kohn: Why won’t GOP act on gun control?

The same conservatives who complained about how same-sex marriage was decided largely by the courts instead of voters want the courts to strike down gun control laws that were passed by voters and their representatives. It’s hard to argue you’re the side that stands for values when your values are so plainly inconsistent.

Sally Kohn

The Republican Party, led by their presidential aspirants, is increasingly out of touch with the safety and security needs of the American people.

Yes, they’re shouting from the rooftops about the threats from Islamic extremists, as we all should be. But when it comes to the weapons that are all too easy to obtain by not only Islamic extremists but also anti-abortion extremists and anti-government extremists who pose serious threat to American lives, Republicans show none of the “leadership” they say our nation so desperately needs. Read more…

Sally Kohn is an activist, columnist and television commentator.

Andre Spicer: What gun control advocates can learn from smoking ban

You can walk into many restaurants and diners across America if you are carrying a loaded weapon and find yourself welcomed with open arms. But if you happen to be carrying a lit cigarette, you will be quickly shown the door.

Andre Spicer

The main driver of smoking bans was concern about human health. Naturally, then, shouldn’t the United States ban guns for health reasons, too? After all, just look at the statistics on gun-related deaths.

The fear of workplace shootings might seem overblown. But according to the U.S. Labor Department, 307 workers were killed in 2014 in shootings. People are five times more likely to be killed at work when firearms are allowed.

In about half of the United States, employees have the legal right to bring their gun to work. Many employers have objected, but have had their hand forced by the law. Read more…

Andre Spicer is a professor of organizational behavior at Cass Business School, City University London.

Ruth Ben-Ghiat: Nashville ‘gun’ terror carries message for America

Summer is high season for movie-going, but who among us will not carry in the back of our minds – as we settle into our seats in a darkened roomful of strangers – that anything is possible in a society so saturated with guns. That the alleged assailant in Nashville, Vincente David Montano, was wielding a pellet gun that only, quite convincingly, looked like a real gun changes the outcome, but not the terror. Some of us may decide going out to the movies isn’t worth it.

Ruth Ben-Ghiat

This would constitute a change in our consumer habits. And it has an economic effect. This is something that has gone largely unspoken in the debates about gun control and concealed carry that follow upon each shooting: the ever-rising economic toll of gun violence in our country and the role that American business can play in advocating for more stringent gun controls. Read more…

Ruth Ben-Ghiat is a professor of history and Italian studies at New York University and a specialist in 20th-century European history. Her latest book is “Italian Fascism’s Empire Cinema.”

David Perry: Professor’s killing highlights our vulnerability

David M. Perry

As I head back towards my classroom, determined not to be afraid, I can’t tell you that I feel any hope that Ethan Schmidt’s death will change anything. A nation that does nothing after the murder of 20 school children at Sandy Hook is not going to act after the murder of a single history professor or after the murder of a single police officer.

But we do have to name these killings for what they are – a natural consequence of a society that just has too many guns, too few controls, and no political process that can do anything about it. Read more …

David Perry is a journalist and history professor at Dominican University. See more of his writing at his blog, How Did We Get Into This Mess? Follow him on Twitter @Lollardfish.

Eric Liu: Gun violence isn’t somebody else’s problem

Eric Liu

We the people get to decide whether that’s normal. Whether it’s acceptable or laughable to brandish firearms in the produce aisle. Whether it’s tolerable or disgraceful that we average more than one school shooting a week now. Laws like background checks can help set a tone for what’s OK. But ultimately, with our family and friends and neighbors, each one of us must decide what kind of civilization we expect in the United States.

Somebody’s child was killed Friday because that child went to school. Somebody has to do something about it. In ways full of both risk and responsibility, you are that somebody. Read more …

Eric Liu is the founder of Citizen University and the author of several books, including “A Chinaman’s Chance” and “The Gardens of Democracy.” He was a White House speechwriter and policy adviser for President Bill Clinton. Follow him on Twitter @ericpliu.

James Garbarino: Why so many killers are male

James Garbarino

Males are disproportionately over-represented in the ranks of America’s killers – about 90%, in fact. Why is that? Some of it appears to lie in the biological vulnerability of males. About 30% of males (versus 9% of females) have a form of the MAOA gene that impairs their ability to deal effectively and pro-socially with stressful situations (like living in an abusive family). Thus, the vast majority of males who have this genetic vulnerability and who live in abusive families end up engaging in a chronic pattern of aggression, bad behavior, acting out and violating the rights of others by the time they are 10 years old.

It’s a childhood pattern that is often the gateway to seriously violent delinquency and perhaps murder. This genetic vulnerability is part of a larger pattern for males. But this is only a part, perhaps a small part, of the larger story. Read more …

James Garbarino is author of “Listening to Killers: Lessons Learned from My 20 Years as a Psychological Expert Witness in Murder Cases,” and professor of psychology at Loyola University Chicago.

Joshua Horwitz: This could have prevented Lafayette movie theater killings

Josh Horwitz

A policy recently enacted in California, the Gun Violence Restraining Order, or GVRO, would seem to hold enormous promise for those looking to stop the next gunman before he can carry out his plans.

The GVRO is based on the same principle as a domestic violence restraining order. It would allow family members and/or law enforcement to go before a judge and request that guns be temporarily removed from an individual who is likely to be dangerous toward himself and/or others (while allowing for due process).

Obama: ‘Somehow this has become routine’

Notably, a GVRO does not rely solely on mental illness as a marker for violence. As research shows, the overwhelming majority of individuals with mental illness will never be violent toward others (the risk of self-harm is far greater). Stronger indicators of risk include a history of violent behavior, domestic violence and drug or alcohol abuse. Read more …

Joshua Horwitz is executive director of the Coalition to Stop Gun Violence, a research and advocacy organization. An attorney, he has represented victims and municipalities in lawsuits against the gun industry and is the co-author of “Guns, Democracy, and the Insurrectionist Idea.”

Mark O’Mara: Gun debate? What gun debate?

Mark O'Mara

Reasonable restrictions on guns will not lead to totalitarianism and anarchy. Suffering 30,000 gun deaths annually is not a reasonable sacrifice to make in order to blindly maintain our unrestricted gun culture, particularly when the rallying cry is an outdated reference concerning infringement which, known to anyone who has actually studied the Constitution and our founding fathers who drafted it, was a reference to the then-existing reality that young men, when called upon to defend the state and the laws of the state, were expected to provide their own arms. Read more …

Mark O’Mara is a CNN legal analyst and a criminal defense attorney.

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