Pro vs Con: Do We Need Tougher Gun Laws?
Two powerful arguments for an issue dividing the nation
In the hours following the July 20 shooting in an Aurora, Colo., folks on both sides of the gun control debate argued their cases for legal reform; some saying that stricter background checks could have protected the moviegoers, while others maintained that letting people legally carry guns could have prevented the carnage. We went straight to two sources to sort out all the angles in this debate. Daniel Vice, Senior Attorney at the Brady Center to Prevent Gun Violence, is on the pro side — that is, he thinks we need tougher gun laws. On the other side of the discussion, we tapped Erich Pratt, Director of Communications at Gun Owners of America. We asked both the exact same questions; their answers have been edited only for clarity and space. Give it a read, then head to the comments to tell us where you fall in this debate. Let the discussion begin:
Daniel Vice, Senior Attorney at the Brady Center to Prevent Gun Violence
Loop 21: Could any viable changes to those state laws have prevented the mass murder in Colorado? If so, what would you change?
Vice: We must ask ourselves why a man as disturbed as the Colorado shooter was so easily able to amass an arsenal of high firepower weaponry and buy thousands of rounds of ammunition on the Internet. It is vitally important that we work to prevent mass shootings as well as the gun violence that kills eight children and teens, and a total of 32 Americans in gun homicides, every day. Strong gun laws like background checks on all gun sales, limits on military-style weaponry and restrictions on carrying loaded guns in public can help prevent this daily carnage. As a nation, we are better than this.
Loop 21: In general, are our state right to carry laws effective? Why or why not?
Vice: We have seen far too often the deadly violence that results from allowing loaded, hidden handguns on our streets, parks and playgrounds. From the killing of an unarmed teenager in Florida, to a 9-year-old girl in Tucson, allowing the proliferation of guns in public threatens our families and our communities. In the last five years, people allowed to carry hidden handguns in public have killed 14 police officers and more than 400 others. Numerous studies show that laws allowing the carrying of concealed handguns have not reduced crime and, if anything, have increased violent crime, including murder and robbery. The states with the lowest gun death rates in America — Connecticut, New York, New Jersey, Hawaii and Massachusetts — all restrict the carrying of these dangerous weapons in public.
Read the rest of Vice’s PRO argument here.
Erich Pratt, Director of Communications at Gun Owners of America
Loop 21: Do you think the Colorado state gun laws are adequate? Why or why not?
Pratt: There are states that have better gun laws than Colorado’s, but the Silver State has taken some positive strides towards freedom in recent years. For example, the state’s Supreme Court struck down a gun ban on university campuses this year, making it possible now for concealed carry permit holders to possess firearms at institutions of higher learning in the state. Disarming victims has never kept bad guys from shooting up universities (consider Virginia Tech) or kept women safe from rapists. Take Amanda Collins, who was a college student in 2007. Though she had a concealed carry permit, she was unarmed the night she was brutally raped by James Biela. She had left her gun at home because she was scared of what could happen to her if she was caught disobeying the laws prohibiting firearms on campus. Amanda feels certain she could have used her gun successfully that night. “I would have at some point during my rape been able to stop James Biela,” she said. Amanda has reason to be confident, as there are women today who have escaped the ugliness of rape (or death) because they were armed. According to a study funded by the Clinton Justice Department in 1997, Americans use guns to defend themselves more than 4,000 times a day. People are less safe when they enter a “gun-free zone,” but have a better chance of protecting themselves when they can use a firearm for protection.
Loop 21: Could any viable changes to those state laws have prevented the mass murder there? If so, what would you change?
Pratt: What are positive changes that could prevent mass murders? The answer is simple: Repeal laws that create so-called “gun-free zones.” Almost every large-scale massacre in this country has occurred in an area where guns are outlawed: Columbine High School, Virginia Tech, Fort Hood, etc. The Aurora theater was also in a gun-free zone. In all of these shootings, the victims were disarmed by law or regulation — yes, even the one at Fort Hood. They were made mandatory victims by restrictions, which never stop the bad guys from getting or using guns. Contrast these disastrous events with the Aurora shooting you didn’t hear about. That shooting occurred three months ago at a church, which was not in a gun-free zone. A gunman drove into the New Destiny Church parking lot in Aurora, got out of his car and started spraying bullets. Thankfully, a congregant with a concealed firearm shot and killed him, saving countless lives. Gun-free zones don’t save lives, but guns in good people’s hands do.
Read the rest of Pratt’s CON argument here.