What our speakers want you to know—and ask—about guns

We asked 2016 forum speakers Chelsea Parsons and Adam Bates, “What are the most important questions people should consider when discussing gun policy?”

Here are their answers:

From Chelsea Parsons, Center for American Progress

An average of 33,000 people are killed by gunfire every year in the United States. Roughly 11,000 of these deaths are murders and 21,000 are suicides. The remainder are accidental deaths.

What is the most effective framework for thinking about gun violence?

The Supreme Court has held that the Second Amendment right to gun possession by individuals is subject to reasonable restrictions to protect public safety.

Laws pertaining to guns have been enacted at the federal, state, and local level across the country.

There is a substantial disconnect between public opinion on a number of policy proposals relating to gun violence prevention and the political will in Congress and in many state legislatures to enact this legislation. For example, the proposal to require background checks for all gun sales continues to receive the support of 90 percent of Americans—which cuts across both parties and includes gun owners and NRA members—yet the Senate has voted down this legislation twice.

From Adam Bates, The Cato Institute

Guns is a big issue. What is the specific problem we're trying to solve?   

There are dozens of different issue (with potentially different solutions) that all get wrapped up in guns. Generalizing causes people on both sides to talk past each other, so how should we narrow the conversation?

Comparisons with other countries are common, both among gun rights supporters and advocates of stricter gun control.  

What limits should we place on a person's ability defend him/herself from an attacker?  

There are estimated to be more than 350,000,000 firearms in private hands in America, along with a robust black market.  

Is it worth re-examining some other policies, such as drug prohibition, in order to get at the problem of gun crime in America, or is this an issue that needs to be viewed in isolation?  In other words, is this a debate about gun rights as a matter of principle or is the dispute over gun rights a means to some other policy end?

Suggested Background Reading

The Second Amendment of the Constitution of the United States:
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.

Common Interpretation of the Second Amendment, The National Constitution Center

Federal Law 18 USC 922

President Obama’s January 5 Speech & Gun Control Action

Supreme Court's Decision in District of Columbia v. Heller

ATF Form 4473   

Even Defining Assault Weapons is Complicated, New York Times, 2013