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.
- How can we reduce the deaths in each of these categories?
- To what extent does reducing gun deaths rely on limiting access to guns by
- certain individuals?
- What are other factors to consider in reducing gun deaths, such as underlying causes of violence, mental health issues, and safe storage of firearms?
What is the most effective framework for thinking about gun violence?
- As a public health issue?
- As a criminal justice or law enforcement issue?
- Are there other potential frameworks 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.
- What is the appropriate scope of those reasonable restrictions?
- Are there certain people who should not have access to guns under any circumstances?
- Are there certain individuals who should not be permitted to carry guns in public?
- Are there certain locations where guns should not be permitted to be carried?
- Are there certain types of guns that should be banned from private possession or be subject to heightened regulation?
Laws pertaining to guns have been enacted at the federal, state, and local level across the country.
- To what extent is enacting gun policy the responsibility of the federal government?
- To what extent should states and localities be given the primary authority for establishing laws and policies relating to guns?
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.
- How can we better align the public opinion about these issues with the political will to take action?
From Adam Bates, The Cato Institute
Guns is a big issue. What is the specific problem we're trying to solve?
- Spree shootings?
- Gang violence?
- Domestic violence?
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.
- How is the United States similar to or different from other countries?
- Are these comparisons useful for the problems we have to solve?
What limits should we place on a person's ability defend him/herself from an attacker?
- Is that a common occurrence or mostly just a hypothetical?
- Does the epidemic of gun crime in America trump concerns about self-defense?
There are estimated to be more than 350,000,000 firearms in private hands in America, along with a robust black market.
- What kind of efforts would be required to substantially reduce that number?
- Can those efforts be squared with political reality and the Constitution?
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.