Special: Can We Talk About Guns?

Thursday, April 11, 2013

gun shop store (Curtis Gregory Perry/flickr)

In a special episode of The Takeaway, host John Hockenberry will aim to get to the root of America's inability to openly discuss firearms by talking to those who most need to join this conversation: gun owners and enthusiasts themselves.

We start off the hour by talking to gun owners about about the significance of guns in their lives, and their first experience with with them. Dan Baum is author of Gun Guys, and Rick Ector is a concealed carry trainer in Detroit, Michigan.

What happens when guns are misused? Dr. Karen Gunson, a medical examiner for the State of Oregon, and who grew up around firearms, explains that the leading cause of non-natural deaths she sees in her office are due to gunshot wounds.

Takeaway listeners describe their own relationships with firearms, and Oregon Public Broadcasting shares the gun owner stories they have collected. Finally, Tom Diaz, the author of The Last Gun explains why after growing up as a gun enthusiast he now supports strict gun regulation.

Why aren't we hearing the voices of gun owners in the debate on gun control? Will Williamson says he feels uncomfortable sharing with his friends and coworkers that he enjoys going out to shoot.

Not everyone who owns a gun enjoys them. Michael Kundu, a federal government employee, says he hates guns, but feels he has no choice but to keep them as a form of protection for him and his family.

Our panel of gun owners — Dan Baum, Rick Ector, Dr. Karen Gunson, and Michael Kundu — discuss how we can move forward in controlling gun violence in a way that is effective and includes the voices of gun owners


Dan Baum, Rick Ector, Rich Finn, Dr. Karen Gunson, Michael Kundu and Will Williamson

Produced by:

Tyler Adams and Mary Harris

Comments [27]

james shelby from Baytown, tx.

I have read some really bad comments about using a 25 for self defence. ther more people killed every year with a small caliber gun, 22,25 etc. when some one is therting your life with out a gun, your probably going to be very close to them! I'am 71 years old and I have seen a 25 make a mess out of the agressor, matter of fact they didn't live very long. you got to know how to shoot and where to put your shots,It's better than know gun at all!

Aug. 09 2013 12:00 PM
David from Fort Worth, TX

In response to one of the above questions regarding if self-defense with guns actually happens: the short answer is yes it does. Here is a link to a website that catalogs reported instances of self-defense using firearms: http://gunssavelives.net/ (it may help to filter and just look at the self-defense stories, not their other editorials). It is hardly an exaustive list and the writing in the blog has an obvious bias, but the news stories they link to for each incident are real enough. The truth is that lot of cases of self-defense using guns never makes the national news because the criminal usually stops being agressive at the time that the firearm is presented and no shots are actually fired. In many cases, the incident may not even be reported to the police. I have seen estimates (can’t find the link to the article at the moment) from pro-gun groups that put the number of firearms-related cases of self-defense at around 2 million a year in the United States. Obviously, that number is up for debate since it is a hard statistic to track, but my understanding is that even the report used by the Clinton White House during the 90s looking at the effectiveness of the last assault weapons ban, concedes that at least 1 million occurrences happen annually.

I classify myself as a liberal on almost all social policy issues, but I firmly support people’s right to self-defense and the right to own and use guns. If one chooses not to own guns, I support their decision, but in my view no one has the right to tell someone else that they don’t have the right to try to protect themselves and their family from bodily harm. It would be nice to live in a world where police really would be there to protect all citizens from harm, but the uncomfortable truth is that if you really do find yourself in danger, the only person you can rely on until help arrives (at least 15 minutes if you are lucky) is yourself. I don’t understand why those in the anti-gun camp choose to vilify gun owners for choosing to take responsibility for their own safety. Violence is the issue that needs to be addressed, not guns.

Apr. 12 2013 06:33 PM

Well I must say that it was refreshing and encouraging -- a welcome breath of fresh-air honesty -- to hear John Hockenberry confess that his "office" (the broadcast headquarters of WNYC, which can't be too much different from the broadcast headquarters of NPR) was filled with mostly anti-gun lefties.

Hockenberry's statement helped prove the truth of what gun shop owner Rich Flynn said a minute later; that "90% of the media is anti-gun."

Almost nothing about the recent gun-law debate has been fair, or reasoned, or informed by experts. It has been a huge, national promotion. A political campaign. And disgracefully advanced on the backs of the tragic vicitms of the Sandy Hook shooting. By the left-leaning media John Hockenberry knows so well.

Apr. 11 2013 09:35 PM
Alex the Young from America

I find it disturbing that people are so hysterical about "assault weapons" when kids are being murdered in the streets with handguns at a rate far higher than any of these mass shootings. You care about the upper class kids in the school but not about the poor black kids in Newark, Chicago, Oakland, wherever. I'm not pulling a "race card," just stating the facts.

I'm a 25 yo vet and gun owner. Just a few more things to throw into the convo.

1. FACT: Universal background checks wouldn't have stopped Newtown, or Aurora because Newtown took his mom's guns (which were legal), and Aurora hadn't been reported by his psychologist, so legally bought his weapons.

2. FACT: The vast majority of homicides with guns in the USA are by HANDGUNS. And most of these are in the inner city. See the below link:


2. An "Assault Rifle," by definition, is an automatic. That means if you pull the trigger it shoots bullets until you stop or it runs out of ammo. None of the weapons used in these mass shootings have been assault rifles. It costs tens of thousands of dollars to own a real assault rifle.

Apr. 11 2013 06:53 PM
Tom LI

Another point. The Pro-gun folks who talk about the mentally ill and the need to deal with them. Great, but these same folks are likely one of the very many groups and demographic who are nearly 100% opposed to any sort of public health care policy!

So who is gonna enact, this and pay for this mental health initiative?

Its laughable when any one - especially on the pro-gun, uber-conservative, tea party, GOP side of the aisle - in this nation brings up the need to deal with the mentally ill in regards to any thing related to any crime that we wish to lessen! Be it violence, sex crimes, petty theft, whatever - committed by the mentally ill. There is no real will in this nation to deal with the mentally ill no matter how it manifests - so its never gonna be dealt with in regards to gun crime/violence. Never? Yes, Bucko never!

Apr. 11 2013 04:11 PM
tom LI

I have yet to hear this question asked, logically and pursued when the "spirit" is asked in some form.

You want to buy an assault rifle? Okay, fine now answer this; "Why and who and what are you planning to assault?"

Its an ASSAULT rifle - its not made to hunt, not for personal protection (unless you're being assaulted by others with them) it has limited "sport" usage - so why do YOU need one? Explain it with legitimate purpose and cause - and not just because you wanna own one and shoot shyte up with it.

I have no problem with people owning guns for a purpose, for real needs (hunting, actual sport shooting, etc) and for personal protection. But no one but those in the military, local SWAT team, the FBI, ATF, etc, etc...need to own assault rifles. They have a need, what is the need of Joe Blow to own one? (let alone several!)

Apr. 11 2013 04:02 PM
Hannah from New York

How about requiring gun owners to carry insurance that would be used if anybody were injured with their gun? We require car owners to have insurance; why not gun owners?

Apr. 11 2013 03:49 PM
Victor Guarnera from Metuchen NJ

The reason for a 30 bullet magazine is to be comparable to the military. As noted in the words of the 2nd Amendment, "A well regulated Militia, being necessary to the security of a free State, the right of the people to keep and bear Arms, shall not be infringed." This is as much a component of the NRA's position as any other. The purpose is to be the equivalent of the current military arms musket vs musket, 30 round magazine vs 30 round magazine
Also, the numbers the public health people state as being higher for those in in-home family member deaths than those stated for in-home defense are continuously argued, each pointing to how the statistics are used.

Apr. 11 2013 03:49 PM
Chavisa Woods

It is highly offensive to compare people who chose to own a weapon to homosexuals, people of ethnic minority and women. It is in NO WAY the same thing.

Apr. 11 2013 03:32 PM
don bagnoli from new jersey

Tell me why someone needs to have an assault weapon? It is a a weapon for war...Why am I reminded of spoiled brats who want to have as much fire power as possible no matter what the risk to the rst of us - even another Newtown?

Apr. 11 2013 03:28 PM
oscar from ny

I blame everyone in America for these trajedys but specially the mothers who are weeping because it is them that have turned their kids into intolerable brats who need all the attetion in the world, these mothers need to cut the umbilical cord and teach these kids some manners, plus we have a government that makes these mothers think that their kid is the ultimate gift from god but don't they realize that there are six billion humans living amongst us?...besides they also have to realize that here in America we are seperated Haven't you heard your politicians divide us in 47% 1% 99%..so we must acknowledge where we at who we are and what our kids are doung and take responsibility, we must unite and start taking charge instead of crying your hearts out to these politicians who have one thousand armed soldiers guardin their own..

Apr. 11 2013 03:28 PM
Jf from The utopian future

We need planned obsolescence for guns not computers. And to arrest everyone in the,gun industry for crimes against humanity.

Apr. 11 2013 03:26 PM
TLP from Allentown, PA

Just west of Easton, PA, at Cedar Crest College in Allentown, PA there is a moving exhibit up chronicling the gun deaths since Sandy Hook:

Apr. 11 2013 03:22 PM
samuli from finland from helsinki, finland

re: self defence... In this piece there was talk about self defence in home, are there any studies / charts of how many cases like these are there in USA yearly? Person has a gun and avoids burglary etc. because of this? Myth or real argument?

Apr. 11 2013 03:21 PM
Vinny from Manalapan, NJ

Ha, that was funny when the one of the gun advocates compared gun rights to women's rights. Seriously, I laughed out loud.

Apr. 11 2013 03:21 PM
Mark Wales from S.E Portland, OR.

It's sad that on your program. That the talk was mostly about gun control. When there are programs out there that can reduce violence. And work. All the talk is about ways that we know will not work. Why?

Apr. 11 2013 02:24 PM

I listened to the entire program. Unless I am mistaken, the subject of expanding background checks on gun sales was not mentioned once. That's a glaring omission in an hour-long show purporting to seriously explore the question 'Can We Talk About Guns?'. After all, the current debate on gun legislation in Congress has essentially been narrowed to one main issue: expanding background checks in gun sales. Even Senator Pat Toomey, one of the 2 GOP/NRA senators who supposedly have brokered an agreement that could bring a bill to vote, has stated: “I don't consider criminal background checks to be gun control”. Why wasn't that issue addressed in this program?

Apr. 11 2013 02:21 PM
slakr007 from Portland, OR

I'm going to throw this one out there... We don't have to do anything about mass shootings. We don't have to get rid of gun free zones. We don't have to do anything more about the mentally ill. We don't need armed guards in schools.

Mass shootings are statistically insignificant. In 2010, there were 606 accidental deaths caused by firearms. In 2012 there were 16 mass shootings with a death toll of 88. So, right off, you are just over 6 times more likely to die accidentally around a firearm than deliberately in a mass shooting. Compare that, then, to the number of traffic fatalities that has been roughly 30,000-40,000 each year for the last decade. People like to say that you do not love your family if you do not own a firearm. I say: you don't love your family if you drive them around in a car.

And, also consider that number when you advocate filling schools with guns. If the accidental death rate is six times higher than the mass shooting death rate, then, on average overall, it stands to reason we are going to start losing six students to accidents for every one that dies in a mass shooting.

None of that, of course, addresses the roughly 12,000 non-suicide firearm homicides. However, even that number is still 3-4 times less than traffic fatalities. And, while that is a large number, it is much easier to conceptualize how to solve that problem than it is to solve the mass shooting problem. We know how to reduce violent crime, violent crime has been decreasing overall for decades.

I don't know how you solve the problem of the mentally ill stealing firearms and shooting up a school or a mall. But, clearly, that is nowhere near the biggest problem facing us.

Apr. 11 2013 02:18 PM

What a depressing show. When some 90% of Americans support some form of gun reform, even if simply backgound checks, all you can do is bring together a bunch of gun nuts in the minority. Are you sponsored by the NRA? Can I get a tax refund rather than have it support your biased show?

Apr. 11 2013 02:04 PM
Ryan from Minneapolis

I am listening to the program and just when I feel that there are some sensible comments along comes a comment that throws me into confusion. Whatever is happening in the political world is because of the adamant behavior of NRA driven gun lobby. The NRA and the gun lobbyists hide behind the 2nd Amendment and think it should give them blanket approval for everything from a pistol to a nuclear missile. When I hear about the need for gun owners to have guns for their security etc, etc. I feel that I am in the midst of a mafia country or in the middle of gunfight in the Mexican drug world. Is this America where freedom is my right and I should be able to walk on the street without fear or send my kids to school and not fearing if they will be shot there? NRA says that the schools should have more security - are they nuts? no, let me change that - they ARE nuts!

Apr. 11 2013 01:55 PM
JW from USA

In 2010, guns took the lives of 31,076 Americans in homicides, suicides and unintentional shootings. This is the equivalent of more than 85 deaths each day and more than three deaths each hour.

73,505 Americans were treated in hospital emergency departments for non-fatal gunshot wounds in 2010.

Between 1955 and 1975, the Vietnam War killed over 58,000 American soldiers – less than the number of civilians killed with guns in the U.S. in an average two-year period.4

In the first seven years of the U.S.-Iraq War, over 4,400 American soldiers were killed. Almost as many civilians are killed with guns in the U.S., however, every seven weeks.

Seeing this sort of suffering in our society. I am not as concerned about the hurt feelings of gun owners, I am more concerned about the real suffering of my fellow Americans.

lets keep our eye on the ball here.

Apr. 11 2013 01:45 PM

Finally, time for the "Sport Shooter" side of the world perspective with Will from out east in the conversaion. I'm "in the closet" as well as a middle aged technology professional with college kids and a limited budget for hobbies. Being a scandinavian midwesterner, on the expense side, I have friends that will pop $800 for a new driver for their golf game, and spend $80 for a tee time in the metro. Being a history buff, and having 5 uncles wheo were WWII combantants, many of my fire arms were puchased based on history interest. On the safety side I've stressed the "basic rules" for anyone I take out to the range. Personal responsibility is difficult to legislate.

Apr. 11 2013 01:45 PM
Debbie from Lyle, WA

I'm a liberal Democrat who lives in a very rural Republican county in Washington State - and I own several guns including a hand gun. I have a CWP for the hand gun and other guns for livestock protection. I attended a 2nd amendment rights meeting at the Grange a few weeks ago hoping to hear a reasonable conversation with state representatives. Instead I heard a very far right pro NRA and lobbyist presentations. We have so many values in common and yet I knew not to mention that I wasn't a Republican. I'm a closet liberal Democrat gun owner. Nice to hear on your show that there others who feel like I do even though we don't share the same "label."

Apr. 11 2013 01:39 PM
Sarah from Portland, OR

The issue isn't crazy versus sane. When we talk about gun violence we need to have a conversation about white masculinity and white men's sense of entitlement--the refusal of too many men to control their emotions and curb their violence at home or in public. And gun violence that affects communities of color and has caused far more deaths of black and brown people every year than the shooting at Sandy Hook doesn't get the media attention or widespread sympathy that a group of dead white children does. The problem of gun violence is rooted in the systemic racist misogyny of our culture, not just a few lone "crazies."

Apr. 11 2013 01:36 PM

I agree that banning certain weapons, magazine size, etc., is pointless. However, proper registration of guns, and yes, a national registry of guns and owners, seems to be a non-starter on the baseless fear that it will make government collection of these guns easier.

If there were a national registry of gun owners and there was even a whisper that our government was moving to take these guns away, you can bet that it would trigger a revolution. That alone makes the primary fear of a national registry moot.

The reason for a national registry, and annual/bi-annual re-registration is clear; to ensure that guns are not leaking into the hands of those that should not have them, and to isolate those that are illegally trading them.

Apr. 11 2013 01:27 PM
melodie from portland oregon

Gun control rightly begins at home. Dont own a gun if you arent going to properly secure it. This was how my army grandfathers raised us all.
Th Clackamas town center AND sandy hook shooter both took guns belonging to someone else. The people who did not stay vigilant and proactively keep guns out of the hands of the unstable people in their realm have neglected the first rule of responsibility for gun ownership.

Apr. 11 2013 01:25 PM

Is the NRA going to pay for the armed guards in every school? What schools get the armed guards? If they expect taxpayers to pay for the armed guards, I would rather pay teachers more!

Apr. 11 2013 01:17 PM

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