On Sunday's Good Morning America, ABC co-anchor Kate Snow interviewed New York University Professor Jim Jacobs, author of Can Gun Control Work?, as the show gave attention to the view that gun control has little effect in stopping criminals from obtaining guns. While it is to the show's credit that they allowed him to make his case as Snow presented a contrarian point-of-view, Snow did seem sincerely skeptical toward his presentation. As she plugged the segment, she referred to his views as a "controversial take," and seemed surprised by his views: "We're going to have a guest on this morning, a criminologist who has a, interesting take, you could say controversial take."
As one of her contrarian questions, Snow brought up the argument that a new law should be passed even if it would only save one life: "But the counterargument would be if it's possible to, a chance to save one life, to pass one new law, one new regulation to save one life, why shouldn't we at least try?" She also cited the Brady Campaign: "They have a very different view than your own. They say 1.7 million convicted felons have been stopped from obtaining guns with the laws that we already have on the books. Do you disagree with that?"
Jacobs countered: "That doesn't mean that they, that you've stopped them from getting a firearm. They can buy the firearm from a friend, they can borrow it, they can buy it on the black market, they may already have a firearm, they can use weapons other than firearms."
But on a down side, the segment did not delve into the evidence that high rates of gun ownership can reduce crime, an issue that has been covered in the past by ABC's more libertarian minded 20/20 anchor John Stossel.
Below is a transcript of relevant portions of the Sunday, April 5, Good Morning America, including the entire interview with New York University's Jim Jacobs:
BILL WEIR, IN OPENING TEASER: Three police officers are gunned down in Pittsburgh by a lone shooter who may have lured them into a trap, as residents of Binghamton mourn the 13 people slaughtered the day before. All of it leads to fresh cries for gun control. We'll take a look.
KATE SNOW: Also, in this country, it's been a terribly tragic weekend – Pittsburgh; Binghamton, New York ; now Washington state, there's a town dealing with deadly shootings, back-to-back horrors – all raising questions about gun control, gun ownership. 250 million legally owned firearms in this country. Is more control over guns the answer to curbing violence? We're going to have a guest on this morning, a criminologist who has a, interesting take, you could say controversial take.
SNOW: The deadly shootings in Binghamton and Pittsburgh and Washington state have so many people talking now about gun control again. And Professor Jim Jacobs of New York University is author of a book, Can Gun Control Work? And he joins us here in the studio. Good morning.
PROFESSOR JIM JACOBS, NEW YORK UNIVERSITY: Good morning.
SNOW: Let me first just establish your credentials. You're not a gun owner? Do you own guns?
JACOBS: I do not.
SNOW: And are you with the NRA or support either side?
JACOBS: I do not.
SNOW: So you're agnostic on this, you're a professor, you're a criminologist, you've looked at this for years now. Do you think it's possible to keep guns out of the hands of criminals?
JACOBS: I think it's not possible to keep guns out of the hands of dangerous people.
SNOW: Why? That's a strong statement. Why?
JACOBS: I think it's too late. There are just too many guns in the United States. There are too many ways that people can obtain guns – there's the legitimate market, there's the black market, there's the gray market.
SNOW: So you're saying no matter what we do, in terms of gun control, moving forward, it's not going to make a difference?
JACOBS: It's not going to make a big difference. There's no way, I think, of addressing these incidents by making it more difficult for deranged people who are willing to kill themselves to obtain a firearm.
SNOW: But the counterargument would be if it's possible to, a chance to save one life, to pass one new law, one new regulation to save one life, why shouldn't we at least try?
JACOBS: Well, we would need to look at what that law is going to be and what the cost of it would be. For example, we could say any person who's ever misused a firearm should be sent to prison for life, you know, and that would prevent one death because one of those people-
JACOBS: -would recidivate.
SNOW: So what's wrong with that?
JACOBS: But the cost of that would be, would be enormous, and more than the society would be willing to bear.
SNOW: So what's the solution, in your view? Does it take a cultural shift in this country? Or how do we, because everyone, everyone's on the same page wanting to stop these mass murders. What do we do?
JACOBS: Of course, and everybody would say, "What is the solution?" For ever problem, there must be a solution. I mean, we've sustained 40,000 traffic deaths a year in the United States. What is the solution? Every year, we know that that will happen. Well, that's the price we pay for living in the kind of society we live in, and a small number of these kinds of incidents committed by deranged people are going to occur, and I don't think there's a way of stopping it by separating them from the instruments of violence?
SNOW: So we just throw our hands up?
JACOBS: Well, that sounds, you know, that sounds like a-
SNOW: That sounds defeatist.
JACOBS: -defeatist and fatalistic thing, but, in such a big country, we can be thankful that there are very few of these incidents. Maybe what we could do better is try to be alert, to hence, that there are people who are going to go off in this way and have better mechanisms of feeding that information to police and to the appropriate authorities.
SNOW: We talked to the Brady Campaign yesterday. They have a very different view than your own. They say 1.7 million convicted felons have been stopped from obtaining guns with the laws that we already have on the books. Do you disagree with that? Or you agree about that?
JACOBS: I think the Brady Law may have some very limited, limited significance. I mean, it only applies to the licensed dealers, so if a person goes to a licensed dealer and they apply for a firearm and they find that they have a disqualifying record, usually a criminal record, they deny them the firearm. That doesn't mean that they, that you've stopped them from getting a firearm. They can buy the firearm from a friend, they can borrow it, they can buy it on the black market, they may already have a firearm, they can use weapons other than firearms.
SNOW: The debate will continue. I have to go here. Jim Jacobs, thanks so much for being with us.