tv Anderson Cooper 360 CNN February 1, 2013 4:00am-5:00am EST
>> welcome to this special "ac 360" guns under fire. from the george washington university in the nation's capital. in the nearly seven weeks since the rampage in newtown, connecticut, silenced 27 lives, a national debate over guns has only grown louder and more urgent. there was a shooting just today in a middle school in southeast atlanta. a student was hit, so the need for action is clear. often, however, the debate ends in shouting and arguing. when is why we want to have a discussion that zeros in on key issues and what goals, if any, are actually achievable. we have many here with different experiences, different opinions and backgrounds, they're all represented in this room. gun control advocates, people opposed to greater gun control, victims of crime, people who use guns to protect themselves and their family.
we start with a look at what is at stake. >> columbine, virginia tech, aurora, newtown, an all too familiar pattern, mass shootings followed by a national dialogue on one of the most polarizing issues in america, gun control, but any attempt to alter our relatively easy access to guns rarely gets off the ground. the last time federal gun control legislation was passed was in 1994, a year after a shooter armed with semiautomatic hand guns shot and killed eight people in an office building in downtown san francisco. the shooter was reportedly able to fire 30 shots without reloading, causing outrage among gun control advocates. >> the 19 assault weapons banned in this proposal are deadly, dangerous weapons. they were designed for one purpose only, to kill people. >> the manufacturing of
semi-automatic weapons with magazines of more than ten rounds of ammunition was banned for ten years. but still, the shootings continued. in 1999, 23 people were wounded and 13 killed at columbine high school. the shooters used semiautomatic weapons they obtained illegally. by the time the assault weapons ban expired in 2004, its effectiveness was questioned. the conditioningal research service could not find a connection and wrote existing data do not show weather the number of people shot and killed with semi-automatic assault weapons declined during the ten-year period that those firearms were banned. >> it's not a question of arms. it was a meaningless ban. >> the nra is a powerful force, not afraid to publicly push back against pressure. >> since when did the gun automatically become a bad word? >> with the recent shooting of 27 in newtown, connecticut, including 20 children inside their classrooms, emotions are high.
>> the nra has blood on its hands. the nra has blood on its hands. shame on the nra. >> everyone agrees america needs to be a safer place, a place where children can go to school without fear of being shot. the question is, how do we get to that point? and that is the question we hope to get a little closer to answering tonight, or at least understanding tonight. to help us, we have 310 million, an estimate of how many guns there are in the united states right now. also 30,000, that's roughly how many americans will be killed by guns each year. and finally, 27 words that you probably recognize, a well-regulated militia being necessary for the security of a free state, the right of the people to keep and bear arms, shall not be infringed. that's the second amendment. 27 words, very much at the core of this debate for many in the united states. i want to introduce some of our guests on the podium today.
joining me is dan gross, president of the brady campaign to prevent gun violence. also joining us, charles ramsey, philadelphia's police commissioner, also sandy froman, an nra board member and a former nra president. also gale trotter, a senior fellow with the i understand dent women's forum. she testified before the senate judiciary committee yesterday. i appreciate you all being with us. so stan, let me start with you. after newtown, do you think we're at some sort of a tipping point or do you think this debate we're having now will end as it has in the past years with no real action? >> i think we're at a tipping point. we're at a tipping point in terms of the outrage of the american public wanting to do something about this issue and also in terms of the involvement of the president and the white house and creating this task force, has really taken a comprehensive look, not only at what we can do to prevent tragedies like newtown, but the
10,000 gun murders, 30,000 gun deaths that happen every year in our country. and we need to look at this comprehensively. that's why this has faded with the headlines of these major tragedies. we have to look at it in terms of what can we do to prevent these tragedies, but also, the violence that occurs in our streets and communities every day in this community. >> there are a number of issues that are being looked at, mental health issues, school safety issues, how to protect kids in schools. are armed guards the answer? initially we want to look at the so-called assault weapons ban, high capacity magazines and background checks. the nra says current gun laws on background checks are not being enforced. you look at the statistics, people lie on background checks. felons attempt to get guns illegally on background checks and they're not prosecuted for lying. nobody is going after people lying on background checks. the nra said we don't need greater background checks. we need execution of the laws as
they are. do they have a point? >> it's not an either/or. the laws have to be better enforced, but at the same time, we have to have a conversation about what we can do to prevent guns from getting into the hands of dangerous people. the brady law passed in 1993 has prevented nearly 2 million convicted felons, domestic abusers, dangerously mentally ill from buying a gun. did people fall through the cracks with the background checks? yes, and we should do something about it, but 40% of gun sales in the united states do not require a background check. it's not just the gun show loophole, it's the internet loophole, the newspaper classified loop pole. every day in our country, there are guns being purchased by people. >> if you buy a gun in a private sale, it's not subject to a background check. >> and i'll point out that has nothing to do with the second amendment.
it re-enforces the second amendment. >> let me bring in sandy from the nra. why are you against the idea of, you know, gun shows buyers having to have background checks or private sales having background checks? >> first of all, that 40% number is just not true. that's based on an old study that was a study of ordinary, law-abiding people, people like you and me, people in the audience today. it wasn't a study of where criminals get their guns. >> but plenty of people do buy their guns privately. >> yes, but the law abiding people aren't who you have to worry about. if you look at people who were incarcerated in prison, less than 2% of them got their guns at gun shows. the vast majority of them, 85% got their guns on the street, black market, they stole them or other illegal means. >> some of those are strawmen who are buying guns legally and selling them illegally. still, the question is, why shouldn't everybody who is buying a gun legally undergo a background check? >> because there's a cost for this kind of basically bureaucracy.
why should a law abiding citizen who isn't a problem, who is not a criminal, have to go through additional background checks? why should we spend scarce law enforcement resources on people who aren't a problem? >> some of the guns who wind up in your city in philadelphia, are they purchased legally in gun shows and elsewhere? where are the guns coming from that you see? >> they come from a variety of sources, and it's true that some are just bought on the street, but none of these thugs are manufacturing their own guns. at some point in time, the gun was manufactured, probably sold legally, but over time, transferring from person to person, it winds up in the wrong hands. that's why you have to have the background checks, i believe -- >> you're for universal background checks? >> absolutely. whether it's private or not, and please, don't worry about the cost. i'm from law enforcement and i'll spend the money. to me, it's a much greater cost -- it's a much greater cost in terms of human lives. >> let's look at some fbi
statistics from 2010. there were a bunch of felons trying to buy guns legally who got caught in background checks. a bunch of domestic abusers who -- so why shouldn't these people if they go to a gun show, if they buy a gun privately, why shouldn't they have to submit to a background check? i'm still not clear on your rationale. you're saying it's too much of a bureaucracy? >> what the chief is saying is that everyone should have a background check. the vast majority of people who buy guns are not criminals. >> why shouldn't law abiding people have a background check? maybe they have a mental health issue. >> i think it's admirable that the chief said he would spend the money, but i think vice president biden was saying we don't have the resources to do all this. we don't have the resources to prosecute the criminals who already have been identified as lying on the federal forms. if you don't have the resources to prosecute the criminals who have lied on the forms, how are you going to have the resources to run background checks on all
of the law abiding people? >> isn't it cheaper to run a background check than to prosecute somebody? >> to prosecute somebody, or the cost of life. i want to point out as we have the nra representative on the stage, the extent that that point of view doesn't represent the average nra member. 74% of nra members are in favor of universal background checks. they realize it's a commonsense measure that will save lives. are you against the background checks that are already being done, that have already stopped 2 mill june convicted felons from buying guns? it's not a logical argument, and the real shame is it's costing lives. >> the nra is not against background checks. we support background checks. the system that's in affect right now, we support making sure they're enforced and making sure that names of prohibited possess source, felons who shouldn't have firearms are in that background.
>> not more background checks? >> no, not more. we're in favor of the names of people who shouldn't have guns get into the database. >> how do we know if they don't have a background check at a gun show? >> first of all, i hope everybody here knows that if you are a firearms dealer, whether you sell a gun at a gun store or at a gun show, you have to do a background check on your buyer. so we're talking about private people who might want to, let's say, transfer a gun to their brother-in-law or something. you're talking about them having to do background checked. some people live in rural areas. it would be very far for them to go to a dealer to run the background check. right now, unless you're a dealer, you can't use the instant background check. that would require a change in federal law. >> that's pa tently untrue. the reality is when you go to a gun show, you can see what happens which is under the guise of being licensed firearms
dealers, they're selling guns to people they don't know and could be criminals and could be caught. >> do you support any further background checks? >> no, and it's funny you would say we should for economic reasons violate our fundamental constitutional right to have defense. >> what does it have to do with a constitutional right? what does it have to do with taking away the second amendment right? that's why 74% of nra members support it. >> it's an uncomfortable fact that guns make women safer. >> nobody is questioning that. >> i've listened to you. >> let her finish. >> women who choose to carry guns are safer. the people who are in their households are safer. and the women who choose not to carry are safer because some women choose to carry. in my appendix to my senate judiciary testimony yesterday, i had 21 examples of women defending themselves from violent attacks. 15 of those 21 cases involved a woman having to fire the weapon.
so guns reverse the balance of power. >> but is anyone talking about taking the guns away from the hands of responsible women? >> it's an undue burden. >> so a background check is an undue burden in a private sale? >> yes. >> is it an undue burden in a not private sale? it's okay in a store? you're saying it's an undue burden in a private sale? >> this is so funny that we're talking about this economic issue. when you look at people who are in the business of selling guns, we all have to do things in businesses because we're professional lawyers or doctors or things that our businesses require us to do that we don't have to do when we're doing things among friends. >> when i give a car to a friend, i have to transfer a title. i can't just give away a car. >> but you don't have a constitutional right to have a car. >> because? sorry, i didn't hear. >> because you don't have a constitutional right to have a car. that's a frequent example used by opponents of the second amendment.
>> has the nra changed their position on this? because wayne lapierre is now saying universal background checks don't work. i saw this testimony he gave in 1999 to the house judiciary committee and he said, quote, we think it's reasonable to provide mandatory instant criminal background checks for every sale at every gun show. no loopholes for anyone. >> the answer is yes, the nra has changed their position. the reason it's changed their position is because the system doesn't work. the system is not working now. we have to get that working before we can add any more checks to that system. it's already overburdened. in colorado, it takes ten days to do an instant check. >> you're saying if it got working, if the existing laws started to be improved, you might support the imposition? >> i don't know. let's get it working. let's make sure the 23 states that aren't reporting the names of people who are mentally ill and have violent tendencies, let's get them reported into the system. >> i don't understand why you can't do both.
the reality is, yes, 60% of sales require a background checks, are there things to improve that? yes. >> gale brought up the point of women protecting themselves with guns. i want to introduce sarah, in the audience. she did something extraordinary. two men tried to break into her home. she was alone in her home with her baby. she had two handguns. she dialed 911. you were on the phone with the 911 operator and you asked the operator if they come in, is it okay to shoot? you shot one of the intruders. the other ran off. you protected your home, yourself, and probably saved your baby's life. it's an extraordinary thing you did. when you hear dan gross from the brady campaign talking about more background checks, do you -- is that something you would support? >> i'm not against background checks. i mean, you know. i mean, obviously, there's nothing that prevents people
from having a gun. i have no problem doing that to own my gun. you know, i don't think that's a wrong thing to do. >> when you hear people talk about gun control, do you worry about any kind of limitation on the kinds of weapons citizens like yourself can have? >> i think it's like, i personally have no need for an assault weapon. >> you're pretty good with a handgun. >> it was a 12-gauge. you know, at the same time, i think once they start limiting, they're going to limit more. they're not just going to come in and take our guns away. they're going to start with one thing and then go to something else. >> you see it as a slippery slope. they can get their foot in the door and then they can take more and more? >> exactly, but i personally have no problem doing background checks or registering all my guns in my name or whatever, you know. but i mean, the bad guys are always going to have guns. >> i also want to bring in josh. josh is right behind sarah in the audience. josh, you can stand up. josh is a former marine, serving
in iraq, afghanistan as well. we applaud him for his service. [ applause ] you wrote a letter to senator dianne feinstein, who has put up legislation for a so-called assault weapons ban. you said, i'm not your subject. i'm the man who keeps you free. i'm not the servant, i'm the person whom you serve. i'm not your peasant, i'm the flesh and blood of america. to someone who says, the counter argument, why do you need an ar-15, why do you need a semiautomatic so-called assault rifle? >> the ar-15, first off, is a very ergonomical platform. for people who haven't been in a life or death situation that don't understand the changes the body goes through, it's something i experienced in my first marine corps. you brain releases chemicals in your body. you lose motor control function, and you shake, and you miss. that happens.
now, i helped a 70-year-old man sight his ar-15. i asked him why he had it, it was for self-defense. because he's gnaw able to control a 12-gauge shotgun. she would have been better able to engage both of those threats with an ar-15. >> okay, i want to bring in our senior legal analyst, jeffrey toobin from cnn. he's on the other side of the aisle. the second amendment, which is obviously, you know, part of our constitution, has it always been interpreted in the same way? >> no, these are 18th century words that have had very different meanings over time. until 2008, there was no individual right under the second amendment to have a gun. buthe supreme court changed in 2008, and in the famous heller decision, the supreme court said yes under the second amendment, you do have a right to keep a handgun in your home. but what other kinds of rights do you have to have other guns is now frankly pretty mysterious. the supreme court said,
dangerous and unusual weapons can be regulated. can even be prohibited. are assault weapons dangerous and unusual weapons? we don't know the answer to that at this point. you have some right to a handgun, or to some kind of gun under the second amendment, but that right is not unlimited. >> i want to bring in sheriff brad rogers who is also joining us. he's on the other side, from elkhart county, indiana. you made headlines when you said folks in your area were concerned about government coming and confiscating their guns and you would not uphold any law you felt was unconstitutional that would pass. you believe it's a state's rights issue. do you believe the federal government has any right to any form of gun control? >> no, i do not believe so. article 1, section 8 of the constitution clearly spells out what the federal government should be -- is authorized to do. and everything else goes back to
the states. it's reserved for the states to mandate that. in indiana where i'm from, the indiana constitution spells it out even further. in article 1, section 32, it says the people shall have a right to arm themselves to defend themselves and the state. so even if it is taken up by the state, they are restricted by their own constitution. >> jeff, as the legal analyst, what do you make of that? >> that's just factually wrong. the federal government is supreme in this. there's a supremacy clause in the constitution. if there's a conflict between state law and federal law, the federal government wins. however, the federal government does have to abide by the second amendment, too. so the question, there is no doubt that the federal
government has the right to engage in some sort of gun control. the question is, what can they ban? they cannot ban handguns. we know that from the supreme court. but can they ban assault weapons? can they ban tanks? can they ban stinger missiles? you bet they can. and they do, and so that much we know, that the federal government can ban certain weapons, but they can't ban all weapons. >> let's not get too far down the road of states rights because i want to keep it focused as much as we can. i want to bring in a person whose father was killed in the shooting at the sikh temple in wisconsin this year. you have questions. you're a gun owner, and you have questions for both members from the nra and from the brady campaign. >> absolutely. i'm a gun owner and i don't fear losing any rights because i think it's a responsibility. it separates me from the bad guy so i know what's going on. the question i have is, is it becoming a polarizing issue on
all fronts. we don't need that as a country right now. we have been down that path so many times. what are the gray areas? where is an area where you guys will agree so we have public safety? >> i think everybody on the panel can agree we don't want to have people who are insane have guns. we don't want terrorists to have guns. we don't want hardened criminals, violent criminals to have guns. we all agree on that. and part of the national dialogue that we're here talking about, come to some ways about things we can agree upon. when there's plenty to do, i think, that we can agree upon, to enforce existing laws. >> we're going to take a short break. we'll have more of all of the angles ahead, including the personal side. people who have lost loved ones or survived a shooting. when we come back, we'll look at their experiences. we'll also talk about putting more armed guards in school. is that part of the answer or the answer, when we continue.
welcome back. you can look at that poll, but you can look at all of the polling you want without fully capturing what americans truly think and feel about guns. that's not because the issues involved are so complex and difficult. it's because for many, the questions involved are so deeply personal. >> for many here tonight, they don't just invite an answer. they invite a story. today, we're looking at the
stories of the life-changing ways people have arrived at the views they now hold. joining us now is colin gardener, who survived the virginia tech shooting and calls it the most terrifying nine minutes of his life. as a killer burst into the classroom he was in and opened fire. he was hit three times. he still carries slugs in his body. and also is asa hutchinson who heads up the school safety program. i appreciate you being here. let's talk about armed guards in school. that's what former congressman hutchinson is focused on here. are armed guards in schools, on campuses, is that the answer? >> i don't think so. shootings happen in more places than just schools, and i think most people realize that we need to do better than something at the last second. we need to do a better job of keeping guns out of dangerous hands to begin with. that's the real conversation i think the american people want to have. >> when you were laying on the floor in the classroom in virginia tech and the gunman was walking around, shooting your classmates, shooting you,
wouldn't having an armed guard made a difference or students who were armed? >> there was a s.w.a.t. team there fairly early on, standard local police department. i don't think i could have reacted in such a way. it was such a chaotic thing, i didn't understand what was going on until i was shot. >> congressman, why is putting armed guards in school your focus? >> the focus is safety in school. after virginia tech, they went in and reviewed the security system to see how we could better protect the students. that's the right thing to do. that's exactly what we're doing now, looking at our entire school environment, not just armed guards, which is a local school decision, but also the architecture of the schools, the technology, the layered security. all of these things go into making it a more secure environment. that's our objection. >> are you talking about some new federal bureaucracy with the government putting armed people
inside the schools? because we just heard from the nra saying the cost of background checks would be prohibitive. we're talking billions to put armed guards in school. >> absolutely not. the federal government would mess it up if they tried to do that. we're talking about issues that are local control. right now, school districts are utilizing school resource officers, armed guards out of their own budget. they're in about one third of the schools. president clinton initiated that effort, but the local school districts had to pick it up. in fact, i think the federal government should not be funding it. i think it's a local responsibility and effort. what we want to do is provide free of charge some solutions for them. assessment tools that they can go in and better assess the security of their schools, perhaps grant money, some voluntary contributions to raise money for enhanced security, but it would be with trained professionals that would be able to go in and better protect the security of our children. >> there's a lot of folks who are concerned about the idea of
just inserting guns into schools. i want to play something that the baltimore chief of police said and have you respond to it. >> let me tell you something, carrying this women on my side has been a pain all these years. i'm glad i have it if i need it, but i tell you, it's an awesome responsibility. and what do you do in the summertime when you dress down? how are you going to safeguard that weapon from a classroom of 16-year-old boys who want to touch it? how are you going do it? >> does it concern you, inserting guns into schools? >> they made the same argument about guns in the cockpit of an aircraft or federal air marshals utilizing guns, but it's kept our passengers safe and it's the right thing to do. the school environment is very sensitive. the chief is correct in the sense that awesome responsibility, they need to be trained, and that's the point of our emphasis, to have enhanced training of armed security presence in the school. and teachers should not have the burden of this either. this should be -- teachers
teach. others should protect. and that's why the armed presence, trained personnel is important. >> haven't there been plenty of instances, columbine, i'm sure virginia tech even had police on campus or security guards on campus, and yet that didn't seem to help. >> i just don't understand why the first idea put forth is something that might help at the last second. we can do better than what we're doing now. and we can do things in advance. weeks and months beforehand to keep a dangerous person and a gun from combining in the first place. we don't take that seriously. we don't do background checks. that's nuts. >> it's important to point out you work for the brady campaign. you went out and shot kind of a documentary where you went out to gun shows and you actually bought a lot of weapons without having background checks. >> i bought tech-9s, .9-millimeters, all without paperwork, all without a background check. complete strangers, and i'm told there are no checks because
these are private sales. what is private about that? i walked up to a random stranger at a public event and paid them money and walked out with a gun. that's nuts, man. we shouldn't be able to do that. >> i want to bring in veronique who is in the audience. if you could stand up. her son noah was killed at sandy hook. we have talked many times over the last few weeks. i'm so sorry for your loss and i think about you so often. do you think having an armed guard in that school on that terrible day would have made a difference? >> i can't say for sure. i don't think anyone can. i think there might be a certain power and deterrence. in the case of newtown, it's clear that the perpetrator did choose the path of least resistance, the most vulnerable victims he could. as far as funding all this, i think handsomely taxing ammunition might be an answer.
you can certainly talk about second amendment rights, but that doesn't mean it doesn't come with a price tag. and certainly, public safety should be paramount. so it makes sense. until we have universal background checks, better reporting from the states, and more -- just more safety across the board, maybe a presence in schools is worth considering. i know that there is a police presence in the new location of the sandy hook school, and it certainly does reassure me when i drop my daughters off to see there is that level of protection. >> thank you for being here. i really appreciate it. people's personal perspectives and experiences often affect the way they view this. i want to bring in somebody else. joe, if you could stand up. joe did something that everybody hopes they would do if confronted in a situation. gabby giffords was shot in tucson, arizona. joe heard the shots and ran
toward what many people would run from. you had a handgun, right? you didn't take it out, you ran to try to see if there was something you could do, and you could respond. has your personal experience of doing something heroic and running to that situation and seeing the chaos of the situation, has it changed in any way your feeling about people being armed? >> most definitely. i believe that, you know, everyone should have the ability and the access to take training and to prepare themselves for a terrible situation because we aren't safe. it's a false idea that you're safe just because you live in america. so if you want to be responsible and take into consideration that in the worst case scenario, a person who is mentally unstable might open fire on a crowd that you might be a part of, you should train yourself with a weapon and carry it on you so that in the event of that situation, you could do
something rather than just be a target, i believe we should all have that opportunity. a lot of guns in this country are unsecure. i don't agree with that. i think a large priority should be gun safes and gun locks, and this newtown tragedy which is a horrible, horrible thing, that he was able to steal the firearms from his own home. like, lock them up. >> we have seen -- first of all, thank you again for being here. but also what you did. again, running toward something a lot of folks run from, it's heroic and i appreciate it. you want to say something? >> i want to say the idea if we only had more guns in more places in the country we would become safer, if that idea was true, the united states of america would be the safest country in the world. how many more hundreds of millions of guns do we need? how many more hundreds of millions of guns do we need before things become safer? >> you can find extensive coverage of the gun debate
online at cnn.com as well as an exclusive look behind the town hall at ac360.com. when we come back, i want to try to expand on the roots of gun violence and whether those roots include movies, video game violence, as is offer cited, and issues related to mental health. issues still surrounded by so much stigma and silence. we'll look at all sides. we'll be right back. [ female announcer ] born from the sweet monk fruit, something this delicious could only come from nature. new nectresse. the 100% natural no-calorie sweetener made from the goodness of fruit. new nectresse. sweetness naturally. new nectresse. ...so as you can see, geico's customer satisfaction is at 97%. mmmm tasty. and cut! very good. people are always asking me how we make these geico adverts. so we're taking you behind the scenes.
we look at what's on the screen, a staggering amount of media americans consume. the question is, what is it doing to us? it's not so easy to answer. we're back at the george washington university in the middle of washington, d.c., a city that has seen violent crime plummet in the past ten years. at the same time, a wave of violence has washed over americans in their living rooms. on their flat screens and computers and movies which raises the question, what are the connections, if any, between our violent culture and violent actions. violence in the media is everywhere. and the statistics are shocking.
by the time the average child turns 18 years old, he or she will have witnessed 200,000 acts of violence in the media, including 16,000 simulated murders, according to a senate judiciary report. but what kind of an affect does this have on us? in 1994, the movie "natural born killers" came out about a couple who go on a murderous killing spree and are glorified by the media. >> you ain't soon nothing yet. >> this spawned many instances of real life copy cat killers. the reality is violence sells, the media knows it. >> take the bloody shot. >> these are scenes from some of the top-grossing movies of last year. >> we are hopelessly outgunned. >> django unchained is considered one of the most violent moves of 2012 and has been awarded with multiple nominations. violence in entertainment is not confined to the big screen.
showtime broadcast this disclaimer before the finale of two of their most popular dramas. warning viewers of disturbing content in the wake of the newtown tragedy. >> viewer discretion is advised. >> network programs lean on violence more and more through their primetime lineup. but it's the gaming industry that's under the most scrutiny now. first-person shooting games like halo 4 and call of duty are extremely popular among young males. black ops 2, one of the best grossing games of 2012, warns its players of blood and gore and intense violence. grand theft auto is one of the most popular games ever. in it, a player can pick and choose random people on the street, even cops, and gun them down. the newtown shooter reportedly liked to play violent video games, but the prince pam
investigator of research concludes it more research needs to be done before it can be linked to real life violence. so the question remains, does america's appetite for violent material fuel the media industry or is it the industry that fuels violence in our society? it's a complicated picture to say the least. some even argue that it may provide an outlet, a release for aggression that might otherwise be aimed at real people. a lot to talk about. joining me now is dan gross, president of the brady campaign to prevent gun violence, also sanni froman, former president of the nra, also our medical correspondent, dr. sanjay gupta, and sheryl olson, a author of "grand theft childhood," a project she led on teens and video games. i appreciate you all being with us. so what can we say about -- is there a link between these violent video games? because you hear that every time there's a school shooting, we hear the kids play violent video games.
is there some sort of link we know of between violent video games and violent behavior? >> one thing i can say for sure is we don't know a causal link between a violent game or movie and a violent act. one of the things i learned at my study at harvard -- i studied middle school boys primarily and also girls, but what i found is the typical 13-year-old boy is playing one mature rated game on a regular basis. when you look at something very real like a school shooting, it's something that is statistically normal like video games, it's hard to make that link. >> i looked at a study in ten different countries between gun violence and video game sales, and it doesn't seem like there's a link in all of these different countries. >> this is an international phenomenon. the games we see on the screens here, they play in germany and australia and japan. what we find is that the rate of actual violence is less. it seems guns must be the common factor.
>> do we know if a child who is, you know, disturbed in one way or has mental health issues or behavioral issues, do they play a video game differently than a child who doesn't, who isn't suffering those issues? >> i focused on healthy children in public school. and the parents of the kids need to know more about how to manage the media. and we don't know if their media violence consumption is different. >> sandy, gun rights advocates often point to violent video games. do you agree with that, that the data is not out there? >> the real question is can violent video games be a trigger for an abnormal child who may already be having problems? that's something i certainly don't know and it's something that's good to have a dialogue about. >> let's talk about mental health issues and behavioral issues. there's such stigma in this country, even when it's not associated with a shooting or violent crime. there's such stigma around
mental health. sanjay, where does that fall? >> it can have real damage. first of all, if you look at the perpetrators of these crimes, most often, there's not a diagnosable mental illness. if you look at all violent crimes, only 5% are committed by someone who is mentally ill. typically, they're more likely to be victims of these types of crimes as opposed to perpetrators. if there is violence, it's usually directed at themselves. you remember, anderson, after newtown, you and i talked about asperger's syndrome and it was thought to be a mental illness and one associated with violence. neither one of those things were true, yet that was the prevailing theory for a long time. it's very hard to draw these two things together, but unfortunately, the stigma seems to last for a long time. >> i talked to so many parents who tried to get help for their children before they resort to violence, and they can't get help. >> it's shocking. we always say as physicians, if
you recognize these symptoms in your children or in a family member, why didn't you get them help? what did you do about it? the reality is, a lot of them tried. they even take their children to the hospital, sometimes forced to be in a situation where they get their child taken home or they essentially criminalize the child. >> dan, where do you see this? >> it's very important we do what we can to identify the specific mental illnesses that do have a predisposition to violence. you hear conversations about severe depression, about schizophrenia. at the same time, identifying those, we can identify those that don't. and go through policy, things like background checks, and also through public education, we can tell if mrs. lanza has a son who might have one of those mental illnesses, it appears that might not be the case with aspergers, we can tell those parents through clinicians or directly maybe it's not a good idea to have an arsenal in your house. >> are you in favor of sharing more information with the
database on social security issues or from other information that states have access to, which right now, a lot of states aren't passing on to put into the database? >> yeah, in order to make any background check system work, we have to pass along the data. that's clearly not happening enough. the only time that we take exception to that conversation is when that is used as an excuse not to expand the background check system. >> that's what you're in favor of as well, providing the information from the states to the existing background check. >> yes, because one of the things is we want to encourage people who have mental health issues to seek help, and not everyone who is mentally ill is predisposed to violence. we have to distinguish, and that's difficult to do, and the vast majority of mentally ill people are not violent and are not a problem. what we have to do is basically take people who are likely to commit harm to others, make sure their names are in the database and that the database works when background checks are done. and then the people who need help and can't get it, a parent seeking help for their children,
we have to have resources to make sure they have a way to get help for their family so the children don't turn into murderers. >> i want to bring in lesley long. you wrote an incredibly powerful blog after newtown about your experiences with your child. what is it your child is going through, and how difficult is it to get help, financially, and also, i'm told from a lot of parents, unless your child commits an act of violence, it's very hard to get people to intervene? >> that's very true, unfortunately, anderson. my blog post was written when my personal tragedy of having to put my son in an acute care facility, intersected with the horrible public tragedy of newtown, and i also have children in elementary school as well, so my first thought, when i heard the shooting was, my god, what if it's my son one day, and my second thought was, i have to hug my babies. >> how old is your son? >> he's 13 now.
it's interesting, we have been talking about first-person shooters. my son who struggles with mental health doesn't like to play violent shooter games. he likes his stuffed animals. i'm really glad we can focus on the stigma issue. it's something incredibly hard to talk about. you don't have access to resources. we spent a lot of time tonight talking about keeping guns out of the hands of dangerous people. what if we could put the resources to making people less dangerous? what if we could -- what if we could find ways to treat and diagnose and effectively manage what is a chronic condition. you know, dr. gupta mentions the parody act. in this country, we still treat illness from here to here differently than illness from here to here. i just wish we could continue to have this dialogue because it's a important one not only for the safety of our community but for
the happiness and productivity of individuals and communities. >> if i could ask just emotionally, what is it like as a mom, seeing your 13-year-old son going through this and to not be able to get authorities to help? >> well, it's really frustrating, i think is the best word to use. on monday i sat across from our new mental health provider and she looked through stacks of reports that go back through several years on my son. i said what is it? she said, well, it's mental illness. let's throw another drug at it, let's try an antiseizure medication. people are getting diagnoses based on whether they react to the medication, and in a lot of cases, medication is not effective. i just feel like there's no transitional space between that acute care facility and jail. and that's certainly been the case with my son. he's 13 years old. he's already been in juvenile detention four times. >> sanjay, when you hear that, what do you think?
>> i have kids, so i immediately think of my own kids. you can't help, i read liza's blog. i think that we put people in very, very tough choices here. they have to decide whether they're going to essentially call their child a criminal or you have to -- there's not that facility, that place people can go to get treatment. sometimes it's medication, sometimes it's not. there's a lot of resources that are necessary, and i think mental health is just not treated the same. despite what we have done even over the last decade, here now in 2013, we're at real risk of it continuing, to sort of get short shrift. >> i appreciate you having the courage to speak, especially in a public forum like this. i wish you the best. we're going to take another quick break. quick break. we'll be right back. ordinary rubs don't always work on my arthritis.
welcome back. you see the figure there. more than a quarter billion firearms. we tried to look tonight at what can be done to try to curtail the violence in this country. there is certainly no easy solutions, no single answer. we know the divisions which exist and the arguments surrounding this issue.
i want to end with dan gross and sandy froman and common ground. from all you've heard today, dan, where do you see common ground? >> i think the common ground clearly exists from a policy perspective when talking about universal background checks. the reality is, more than nine of ten americans, 74% of nra members support background checks. >> but you have someone who used to be president of the nra, a board member here who doesn't agree. >> it's a board member of the nra and doesn't agree with the members of the nra. >> is that true? >> no. and i think if you talk to most americans what they will say is the problem is not law-abiding gun owners, the problem is criminal. any time you regulate inan mate objects rather than the people, you're wasting your time, your energy. one more gun control law is just going to be obeyed by the law abiding. it's not going to be obeyed by criminals. every time you try to regulate the behavior of criminals, it's useless. we need to arrest those people,
prosecute them and put them away where they can't hurt anybody. >> if you're not doing background checks on everybody buying a gun, how do you know who is a criminal and who is not? >> well, we had 72,000 people who were denied nics checks and only 44 of those people were prosecuted by the federal government. >> you think those people should be prosecuted for lying on the background checks. how do you know all of the other people who lied when they did a so-called private sale? my. >> my point is if you're not enforcing that law now, all you're going to do is burden an already over burdened system. it's not going to keep criminals from owning guns. >> the brady bill, now the brady law since 1993, has prevented two million people from buying guns, felons, domestic abusers, dangerously mentally ill. the problem is, those same people can go down the street to a gun show, go on the internet and buy a gun.
>> it's an unurt the early untrue argument that passing a quote-unquote gun control law would make it easier for criminals to get guns. it's exactly the opposite. they would make it harder for criminals to get guns and actually reaffirm the second amendment rights of law-abiding citizens and are intending to use their guns safely. >> criminals aren't going to go to background checks. they are not going to go to the gun store and fill out a form. they are going to steal their guns, get them on the black market. >> well, two million people tried and were turned down because of the brady law. >> and only 44 were prosecuted. what does that tell you about our ability to deal -- >> that's a separate issue. i've said that. you refuse to acknowledge that there's more we can do before we focus on that. that doesn't represent what your members think. >> the question was about common ground. this is clearly not an issue where there's common ground. i ec