Did America learn anything from Newtown tragedy?
December 4th, 2013
09:27 AM ET

Did America learn anything from Newtown tragedy?

Watch Global Lessons on Guns, a Fareed Zakaria GPS primetime special, this Sunday at 7 p.m. ET on CNN

Next week marks the one year anniversary of the Newtown shootings at Sandy Hook Elementary School, in which more than two dozen people were killed, including 20 children. The shootings reignited the debate about gun control in the United States, and have prompted many to ask whether the U.S. could learn any lessons from other countries.

But what lessons have the U.S. learned at home in the 12 months since the tragedy? What should and could America be doing differently on gun policy? CNN host Piers Morgan answers GPS readers questions on the issue.

What kind of guns, if any, should civilians be allowed to own in the United States? 

I understand why, in a country which has over 300 million guns in circulation, people feel the need to protect themselves and their families from armed attacks in their homes. So I’ve never argued against ownership of a regular handgun or shotgun for that purpose. Though I would implement comprehensive background checks for all gun purchases, and introduce heavy punishment for not keeping firearms 100 percent secured in the home. But I see no reason for any civilian to own assault rifles – I would ban all of them. If you did that, there would still be over 2,000 different types of gun still legally available to Americans.

What would you like to see in addition to gun control? Do you think the media could be play a more responsible role in the debate? Is there an inconsistency, for example, in that many feel they need to be armed because of fear, but the media’s coverage of crime helps create a climate of fear?

To blame the media is to the blame the egg, not the chicken. The fear is generated by the NRA, which comes out after each mass shooting and says if every teacher, movie theatre worker, mall store owner etc were armed, it wouldn’t happen. This ruthless, cynical strategy sells millions more guns, and encourages the grateful gun manufacturers to donate millions more dollars to the NRA. It’s a vicious commercial cycle.

There are many things that contribute to gun violence in America: Millions of people with mental health issues, yet very little federal or state research into those issues; the potential impact of violent video games and movies on an unstable mind. Many of the young, male, mass shooters we’ve seen in recent years were obsessed with them; a clear breakdown of family structure in places like Chicago, leading to young men being attracted to gangs, and gang leaders in particular, for the paternal leadership lacking in their lives. But the single biggest contributory factor in gun violence in the United States is…guns. There are just too many of them, and it’s far too easy to buy one. Even for felons or mentally ill people.

Is gun violence simply a symptom of bigger problems the U.S. faces? Shouldn’t the government focus on issues like poverty rather than gun control?

There is poverty in many countries, like India and China, but most don’t have the gun violence America has. More than 100,000 Americans get hit by gunfire a year, of which around 30,000 die from murder, accident or suicide. If a new disease took that toll on civilian life, there would be immediate and drastic action to deal with it. Why not with guns?

What has surprised you most about the debate over gun control in the U.S. since Sandy Hook?

That absolutely nothing has been done about guns in the year since it happened. How can you allow 20 elementary schoolchildren to be blown to pieces in their classrooms and do absolutely NOTHING to try and prevent another such atrocity occurring? It shames America, and in particular it shames the cowardly politicians in Washington who refuse to take on the NRA because they’re terrified of losing their seats. I also think President Obama has been dismal on this issue. He promised the Sandy Hook families he would take action. But he has achieved precisely zero new gun legislation. If he’d made it a genuine priority, he could have kept his word. But he didn’t.

How did the discussion compare with the U.K. after events like the Dunblane massacre in 1996?

It was never political in Britain. Left and right converged in agreement with a united media and public that something dramatic had to be done. And it was. We banned all assault weapons and handguns from civilian ownership. And as a result, there hasn’t been a school shooting in Britain since, and we have hardly any gun crime.

Shouldn’t the government focus on enforcing existing laws, rather than introducing new ones?

It should do both. It’s ridiculous that 40 percent of all gun sales go through without a background check. It’s like the Wild West out there. And nobody can give me a single good reason why any civilian needs an assault rifle other than “they’re fun to shoot.” Well, so are Bazookas, but they are banned. The Supreme Court ruled there should be “reasonable restrictions.” Enforce that ruling.

Why do you keep comparing Americans and America's issues to other countries? Why would you want to disarm the people when clearly America is a more violent place to live?

It’s not about disarming the people. It’s about trying to prevent so many Americans being killed by guns. The reason I compare to other countries is because places like Britain, Germany, Australia and Japan all had long histories of gun violence, yet all introduced strict gun control, and all now have very little gun crime. America can do the same, there just has to be the will to do it.

Is there a difference in deaths where countries have a complete ban compared to the U.S. or other countries that don’t? America has 35 gun murders a day. Britain has that number a year. Do the math.

How would you deal with organizations like the NRA, with their significant financial and lobbying influence in Congress, to allow for significant changes to gun management in America?

I would stand up to them, and say enough is enough. They represent 5 million Americans. That leaves 310 million Americans who are not members of the NRA. The day a large number of those people vote with their conscience at the ballot box, in favor of politicians who support gun control, and against those who don’t, is the day this all changes. The big question is: do Americans care about guns enough to actually do this? I see little evidence so far that they do.

In Chicago they outlawed the carrying of concealed guns for self defense, but saw an increase in gun related deaths. Does this show that stricter gun control doesn’t work?

Gun laws have to be federal or they are pointless. Half the guns seized by police in Chicago came from out of State. In New York, that figure rises to 70 percent. It’s not difficult to see the problem. Criminals aren’t stupid. They’ll go where they can easily get the guns. So make it very difficult everywhere for criminals to get guns.

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Topics: Gun Control

soundoff (127 Responses)
  1. Let's put all our guns in one big bonfire

    Thank you for this article Piers Morgan. We love you and may God bless you! Between the 3 of you, Fareed Zakaria, Piers Morgan & Christiane Amanpour, we beg you to please help us, the truly peaceful, non-violent, loving, humans of the United States........ this hotly debated "Gun Control" issue has gone on long enough...... it is really time for all of us sensible people to step in an make "grass roots" change happen....... after the awful "Newtown" incident, where so very many innocent Kindergarten children were brutally and violently murdered..... America truly sunk to a new low.......... very very low indeed........... all we need to do is "Copy and Paste" from Australia's Gun Control laws, learn about how they came about, after their awful "Newtown-like" incident, and admire the courage that their politicians displayed, at the State and Federal Levels....... and then just DO IT.........!!! The Nation of Australia has already done the hard work and research for us! We know that crime from gun violence went down by 99%, in Australia, after their new guns laws were passed and enforced, in 1996. We have the data! We can start be over turning the archaic Second Amendment and promptly revising it to read: Americans do NOT have the right to bear arms, even for sport. Period. End this silly 100 year old debate now. Please. That Second Amendment was made at a completely different time in US history, when Virginia farmers needed to be armed to fight the British Red Coats, that wanted to take the newly formed USA back under their control......... we don't need all Americans to be armed anymore........ it is leading to a further sinking, of the entire, once beautiful Nation, into a Mogadishu.......... let's face it guys........... Australia passed super-tough gun laws that say: No Australian civilian or Foreign traveler in Australia, is allowed to possess or carry or conceal any gun whatsoever and any ammunition whatsoever, no matter what the make, model or vintage. The ONLY persons allowed to carry any weapon or ammunition, in Australia, are Australian Military and Australian Police. That's it. Keep it simple. Not confusing. Not complicated. Just simple. That way, scared little war mongering losers, or insecure little humans that want to feel macho by shooting an innocent deer in the Catskills or an innocent bear in Alaska, can go and stuff themselves! We Americans have had enough. There is a good reason that Australia has been voted "The Happiest Place on Earth" by the world community, and America has been voted "The most awful, Gun violent Place on Earth, where innocent Kindergarteners get slaughtered"............. please, please help us to really get this movement off the ground............. let's put the NRA where they belong....... out of business and looking for a job............... they have held us at "Gun Point" for way too long........ so that they could get rich from gun peddling........... the sickos that they obviously are............. shame on them!!!!!!!!!!!!!

    December 15, 2013 at 9:24 pm | Reply
  2. Let's put all our guns in one big bonfire

    With over 400 million guns floating around, at random, in the hands of civilians in the United States, and this does not included the guns that are possessed by the US Military or US Police Agencies.......... can any human being, with even half a brain, understand that there could be an increasing number of persons that could lay their hands on a gun, that have had no training in the use of firearms whatsoever, and can cause some serious harm to others! A huge percentage of so-called "gun accidents" happen in this exact manner, where some kid, got a hold of daddy's gun, and was "showing" it to his little brother, and next thing you know.......... somebody is seriously hurt!!! And the second issue you have mentioned that: With so many Americans armed and dangerous, what if a group decides that they don't agree with President Obama, or some political change, or economic difficulty sets it, or whatever the reason......... now you have an awful awful situation on your hands, America, which the police and military just cannot handle effectively enough, because they are outgunned and outnumbered........ and the awful bloodbath that would result from that....... I don't think most of us can even begin to understand how serious that will be............ but to give you a realistic picture of the outcome, just look at Syria today........ I wrest my case!!!!!!

    December 15, 2013 at 9:31 pm | Reply
    • mongo

      you are a very dumb person I'm afraid. we need guns exactly to protect the nation from what bush and obama are trying to impose on us. that is the point

      December 15, 2013 at 11:32 pm | Reply
  3. Let's put all our guns in one big bonfire

    So how did America become such a violent, gun toting, gun possessing, gun crazed, gun owning, gun murdering, gun culture??? In trying to get to the bottom of this mystery, I did some research, and was amazed to find some great answers! Well, my friends, this goes way back, way way back, to European humans stealing the invention of gun powder from the Chinese, and then figuring out that when a piece of metal is placed in a metal tube, in front of exploding gun powder, it gets projected out at over 500 mph, and kills any animals or humans in its path........... bad news for the entire planet...... you see, the European humans had been murdering each other with metal objects (like swords) for eons before guns came along, and they were especially energized at murdering each other during their infamous "dark ages" from 476 AD, after Rome fell, until 1491 AD, when they figured out how to sail ships to other people's countries........... so right after this new weapon called a gun became a viable option, they proceeded to use it to maximum advantage, by sailing to every nation they could sail to, and proceeded to murder over half the Natives in those countries, and then plunder as much as they possibly could, so that they could get rich and finally become "King of the Mountain"......... never even once thinking about the rights of those Natives, and the fact that they had to wade through a “River of Blood” of their own making, in order to get there…….. do we Americans really believe that getting to the top of the heap by this incredibly violent means is something that all of us should be proud of????????

    December 15, 2013 at 9:32 pm | Reply
  4. Joseph Silverbird

    This report should be voted as the best of 2013. Mr. Zakaria deserves an award for bringing this detailed report to the eyes of America. The only thing I felt missing are the names of the manufacturing companies that sell them all over the world.

    December 24, 2013 at 5:12 pm | Reply
  5. cemab4y

    I am tired of Morgan telling Americans which weapons they may own. Read the 2d Amendment. It does not specify which weapons we may own.

    January 2, 2014 at 3:56 am | Reply
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