During the 7:00 p.m. hour of Saturday’s CNN Newsroom, anchor Don Lemon pushed the view that Barack Obama should try to emulate European gun laws as a way of reducing gun violence in America as he discussed the subject with four guests. During an interview with former FBI agent Gregg McCrary, who expressed support for an assault weapons ban, Lemon suggested Obama learn from the Europeans: "The one person who can probably weigh on this and may have the most influence is the President. Since he's over there in Europe now, and they're, you know, they're not perfect, but it seems that their gun laws seem to be at least working in a way that ours are not."
While Lemon tried to sound nonpartisan at times – once declaring, "We're just trying to find a solution here. No one is on one side or the other. We just want a solution" – and seemed to try to quell accusations of partisanship and liberal and conservative labels, at one point he seemed to single out conservatives to chide for criticizing liberals for advocating more gun control:
Every time we do something on gun control, it always boils down – when it comes to the e-mail, at least – that I get, we get as a response, it's a conservative issue or it's a liberal issue. "Liberals want to ban guns and take away my rights," conservatives say, "this is my right." But no one has the right to terrorize and kill people. And you heard the FBI agent say, people are being killed. Not conservatives or liberals.
The CNN anchor had already used a similarly odd wording about people not having "the right to terrorize and kill people" earlier as he seemed to be about to express a relatively centrist view that law-abiding Americans should be allowed to own guns but that there should be laws to make guns more difficult for dangerous people to obtain, before shifting into what sounded more like a liberal talking point as he seemed to take a jab at people who use the phrase "right to bear arms":
Not saying that – you know, everyone talks about the Second Amendment, their right to bear arms, the right to bear arms, but that's not the right to go around and kill people and terrorize people just because you have the right to bear arms.
During the 10:00 p.m. hour of Sunday’s CNN Newsroom, when guest Ben Ferguson of the Ben Ferguson Show pointed out that Britain’s violent crime rate increased substantially after the country implemented strict gun laws in 1997, Lemon did not get the point that the change in gun laws did not reduce crime and may have contributed to its increase, as he suggested that British gun laws still might improve the situation in America. Lemon: "It's drastically up, but, Warren and Ben, but, Warren, it's still much lower than ours even though it's up now."
In the June 26, 2006, National Review Online article, "No Safety Lock," John Lott – author of More Guns, Less Crime – cited the crime statistics from Australia, Britain, Ireland and Jamaica which showed substantial increases in violent crime after more strict gun laws were implemented. In the case of Britain, Lott informed readers: "The British government banned handguns in January 1997 but recently reported that gun crime in England and Wales nearly doubled in the seven years from 1996 to 2003. Since 1996, the rate of serious violent crime has soared by 88 percent; armed robberies by 101 percent; rapes by 105 percent; and homicide by 24 percent."
Stephen Halbrook, author of Target Switzerland: Swiss Armed Neutrality in World War II, in the article, "Guns, Crime and the Swiss," published in the Wall Street Journal on June 3, 1999, observed that, according to 1996 statistics, crime rates in gun-rich Switzerland are substantially lower than in the more restrictive Britain, and, even in the case of America which has a higher murder rate, the rate of burglary and assault were lower than in Britain.
Halbrook: "Moreover, using data through 1996, the U.S. Department of Justice study Crime and Justice concluded that in England the robbery rate was 1.4 times higher, the assault rate was 2.3 higher, and the burglary rate was 1.7 times higher than in the United States. Only the murder and rape rates in the United States were higher than in England."
After relaying crime statistics for Britain, America and Switzerland, Halbrook observed: "Switzerland, which is awash in guns, has substantially lower murder and robbery rates than England, where most guns are banned."
Returning to Saturday, as he introduced the segment with McCrary, Lemon pointed out that the gunman who struck in Pittsburgh "had recently expressed fear his guns would be taken away," and, minutes later, repeated that "Friends say the suspect in today's Pittsburgh shootings had earlier expressed fears about a new federal gun ban."
After interviewing McCrary, the CNN host held a discussion with three guests – two who expressed support for passing an assault weapon ban, pitted against Florida Republican Party chair Jim Greer, who presumably was there to argue a more pro-gun rights position – but even Greer, while he vaguely argued that America should not emulate Europe, was not aggressive in arguing that too many gun laws could hamper the ability of the general population to defend themselves, and at one point seemed to vaguely advocate "very extensive gun laws": "I think we need to make sure that we have very thorough background checks, that we have very extensive gun laws."
During the segment, Lemon again brought up the issue of Europe’s gun laws: "Why not look to Europe? ... Because when you look at gun violence in Europe, below the U.S., less guns than the U.S." After noting that America has experienced a higher frequency of mass shootings, he added: "They've got to be doing something right."
Lemon read information on Europe’s more restricteive gun laws, which apparently came from the Time Europe Web site, but he ignored an article, which is easily accessible from the same Web page, informing readers that Swtizerland has a high gun ownership rate and low crime at the same time.
In the May 13, 2002, article, "Safety in Numbers: Switzerland Proves that Guns and Peace Can Mix," Helena Bachmann wrote: "There's a paradox in this peaceful and safety-conscious country, which boasts one of Europe's lowest crime rates: firearms are as ubiquitous here as chocolate and edelweiss. Weapons and ammunition are routinely issued to, and kept at home by, Swiss men aged between 20 and 42 for their military service. The idea of having guns at home is tied to the long-held belief that enemies could invade tiny Switzerland fairly quickly, so every reservist had to be able to fight his way to his regiment's assembly point."
She later relayed: "Although some statistics show Switzerland's rate of gun-related deaths is higher than that of neighbors Germany, France and Austria, the number of murders is still low compared to the staggering number of firearms in the country. Last year 47 homicides were recorded — up from only 40 in 2000 — and police say in all cases privately owned firearms were involved. "
Below are transcripts of relevant portions of CNN Newsroom from Saturday, April 4, and Sunday, April 5:
#From the 7:00 p.m. hour of CNN Newsroom from April 4:
DON LEMON: Two days and two heavily armed gunmen, 16 people killed, including three police officers. We're going to recap that story and bring you some new information. Plus, is it time to reinstate the federal ban on assault weapons after these and other recent shooting rampages? We've been getting a lot of responses from our viewers, saying, maybe we should. We're going to speak to a legendary former FBI agent who always weighs in on this and is very outspoken about it. We want to hear his words following these shootings. Back in a moment.
LEMON: All right. If you're just joining us, we want to tell you about three police officers were gunned down and killed today in an apparent ambush at a Pittsburgh home. The alleged gunman, who was wearing body armor and armed with an AK-47, later surrendered. The motive here still unclear, but some of his friends said he had recently expressed fear his guns would be taken away. Police had been responding to a domestic dispute call at the home.
And then we go to Binghamton, New York. Grief has overtaken the community where 13 people were killed yesterday at an immigrant community center. The gunman who killed himself was an immigrant from Vietnam who had complained about not being able to find work and about people making fun of his poor English. He was also wearing body armor. Deadly shooting rampages appear to be on the upsurge. Just last week, a gunman killed eight people at a North Carolina nursing home. On March 21, another gunman killed four Oakland, California, police officers. And earlier in March, an Alabama gunman killed 10 people. Gun control advocates are calling on Congress to reinstate the federal assault weapons ban, which expired five years ago.
Friends say the suspect in today's Pittsburgh shootings had earlier expressed fears about a new federal gun ban. Greg McCrary is retired from the FBI, where he served in various investigative capacities throughout the United States. He is also the author of "The Unknown Darkness," which focuses on the profiles of criminals. He joins us by phone tonight. Thank you very much for joining us. Would stricter gun laws or even bringing back the assault weapons ban, if that was reinstated, would that help us? Would that help out at all in these situations?
GREGG MCCRARY, FORMER FBI INVESTIGATOR: Well, it might. Because the issue, obviously, is to keep these weapons out of the hands of these mentally disordered individuals that are committing these crimes. I think there are a couple of points we need to keep in mind here. One, these things, they're a low probability, high consequence event. They don’t happen very often.
LEMON: They're rare, you say.
LEMON: But they come in clusters.
MCCRARY: They come in clusters, and that's what we have to be aware of, because we're in the middle of one of these clusters right now. What happens is individuals who are on the edge and they see somebody else do it, they think it's a good idea and it pushes them over the edge. So these things come in clusters. So everybody needs to be vigilant now about this situation until we get, at least till we get on the other side of this.
LEMON: So you're saying stricter gun laws and a reinstatement of the assault weapons ban, you said they might, they might help.
MCCRARY: The might help.
LEMON: Are you hedging there? Why are you saying "might."
MCCRARY: The only hedging is that, you know, you can ban, you can do this, but, then, a mentally disordered individual can steal a gun, they can get it, you know, in other ways. I certainly think that's, you know, the issue. If we keep the guns out of the hands of these people, then even if they come in and they want to hurt somebody, if they're just armed with a baseball bat, they’re going to do far less damage than they will if they got an AK-47.
LEMON: Okay. You know what, this is a perfect time to bring this up. The President is visiting Europe right now, and is going all over Europe talking about issues that affect the U.S. and the world, the economy among them. He responded to the violence that happened yesterday in Binghamton, New York.
Doing some research here on gun laws, looking at almost every country in Europe, it lays it out, specifically. You know, not legal, not legal, not legal. But then, once you get to the United States, which is at the very bottom, alphabetically, it says that gun laws, gun control is legislated and enforced at both the federal and state levels, resulting in a complex, often contradictory body of regulations. And you don't see that in any of the European states, and, in many ways, their crime rate’s lower than ours, less gun violence. Their police officers don't even carry guns in some places.
MCCRARY: Yeah, that's correct. You can just look in any given state. I live in Virginia, for example, is one state where we have all sorts of exceptions. There are laws, but there are all sorts of exceptions to the laws. Certain rules apply if you go to a, you know, buy over the counter in a gun shop, but if you go to a gun show over the weekend, then those rules don't necessarily apply. So there's all sorts of loopholes, and we have a very patch quilt sort of approach to this that we really need to address.
LEMON: So it's something that is very concise, might be the order here. Not saying that – you know, everyone talks about the Second Amendment, their right to bear arms, the right to bear arms, but that's not the right to go around and kill people and terrorize people just because you have the right to bear arms.
MCCRARY: No, that's absolutely correct. Yeah, you know, that's absolutely right. You know, weapons in the hands of responsible citizens, you know, that's fine. But we've got to keep them out of the hands of these mentally disordered offenders who commit these horrific crimes.
LEMON: So what is our lesson again? As I said, because the one person who can probably weigh on this and may have the most influence is the President. Since he's over there in Europe now, and they're, you know, they’re not perfect, but it seems that their gun laws seem to be at least working in a way that ours are not.
MCCRARY: Well, they can certainly inform us as to what works and what doesn't. In the short-term, we just all need to be vigilant about this. And certainly the press coverage needs to be non-sensational. You need to report this, but what we know pushes these guys over the edge is this sort of sensational coverage. So responsible reporting and taking a look at these laws and being vigilant right now, I think those are good ways to go.
LEMON: Yeah, and you would think that, Mr. McCrary, you know, some people would say, oh, well, that’s, you know, one way is liberal, one way is conservative, it's really, it’s a human issue, it’s a life issue. Not a liberal versus conservative issue.
MCCRARY: Nobody is out killing liberals or conservatives. These guys are just out killing our fellow citizens. And that's the issue. That's the problem.
LEMON: Very well put. Gregg McCrary, we appreciate it.
MCCRARY: You're welcome.
LEMON: It is one of the biggest hot-button issue in politics. We're talking about gun control and the assault weapons ban. Should it be reinstated? Would that be an infringement on our Second Amendment rights? Everyone has an opinion and so do these guys. We'll find out what they think and what they're hearing. No-holds-barred, folks. And, as always, we want you to weigh in as well. We will get your responses, Twitter, Facebook, MySpace or ireport.com. We're back, moments away.
LEMON: All right. We know this is always a very hot-button issue, so, you know, nothing personal, but we're going to take all of your responses. We're just trying to find a solution here. No one is on one side or the other. We just want a solution. So if you have some good responses that are constructive, we will take them. Okay, here's what some of you are saying. Kadergueye says, "Definitely, assault weapons should be banned from public use. Five fatal shootings this month. What's next? People are going nuts."
Jaredmbennett said, "Thousands die a year from handguns. Maybe at most, 50 with assault weapons. Don't punish everyone because of a few nut jobs."
JuWolf43 says, "Yes, they should be banned. We are the laughing stock of the world, allowing these types of massacres. U.S. gun laws don't make sense."
Cairoglyphics says, "Banned? I don't know, maybe we don't ban guns, we ban people instead."
Twitter, Facebook, MySpace, ireport.com. I'll be checking it while we're on right now, because I'm going to get to this next group. Hello, everyone. I'm Don Lemon. Thanks for joining us here in the CNN Newsroom. I want to expand our discussion now on the upsurge in gun violence and what, if anything, can be done about it. These are my guests tonight –columnist and writer David Sirota, syndicated columnist Michelangelo Signorelli, and chairman of the Republican Party of Florida, Jim Greer.
Thank you all for joining us this evening. So let's have a very good discussion about this, and hopefully we can make a difference, change some folks' minds if they’re from one way or the other, or to keep people from being, you know, one way all the way this way and then one way all the way that way, and we can maybe meet in the middle. Okay? Fair enough?
Jim, I'm going to start with you. Because, as I was talking to the former FBI agent there, and every time we do something on gun control, it always boils down when it comes to the e-mail, at least, that I get, we get as a response, it's a conservative issue or it's a liberal issue. "Liberals want to ban guns and take away my rights," conservatives say, "this is my right." But no one has the right to terrorize and kill people. And you heard the FBI agent say, people are being killed. Not conservatives or liberals.
JIM GREER, FLORIDA REPUBLICAN PARTY CHAIRMAN: Well, absolutely. I really don't think it's a conservative/liberal issue. I'm a strong supporter of the Second Amendment, the Republican Party is a strong supporter of the Second Amendment, but we've got to find a solution to the issues where dangerous criminals are getting guns and they're hurting and killing people. I don't look to Europe to tell us how we should solve this crisis. I think we need to make sure that we have very thorough background checks, that we have very extensive gun laws.
LEMON: Okay, hang on. Why not look to Europe? Because – and I'm going to get your response. I'm going to get you guys in here. Because when you look at gun violence in Europe, below the U.S., less guns than the U.S. They have problems, too. They've had several of these mass killings. I think David Sirota said nine in the past, what, 10 years, you said, David?
DAVID SIROTA, AUTHOR OF "THE UPRISING": Eleven in the past-
LEMON: Eleven in the past 10 years. I just reeled off five or six in the past month. They've got to be doing something right.
GREER: Well, I can tell you one thing, when you travel to Europe, I was in Paris recently, and you look on the corner and the police are carrying Uzis and machine guns on every other corner. So when we talk about Europe and how they're enforcing gun laws and so on, they have a different relationship with their citizens. They have armed police officers with assault rifles on every corner, on every street. So there's not a lot of people doing a lot shooting right then because they'd get shot a lot quicker because of their approach to law enforcement.
LEMON: And, Michael, but in some places in Europe, and I've been there, the police officers don't even carry guns and you see very little violence.
MICHELANGELO SIGNORILE, COLUMNIST: That's absolutely true. Look, the problem is the laws and the restrictions are very, very lax. And we now have assault weapons available in this country. We know that's the problem, as well, with Mexico and the drug gangs. We know that people have access to guns who shouldn't have guns. Certainly, the Virginia Tech killer. His mental stability wasn't checked.
And we have right now a real paranoia on the right that is whipping people up. We have Representative Michele Bachmann. I'd like Mr. Greer to address this, a member of his party, saying our opposition needs to be armed and dangerous. We have 1.2 million background checks more in the last four-month period, because the right has been whipped up into thinking Barack Obama's going to take away their Second Amendment rights, and that's not true. We're talking about restrictions, not taking away all the guns.
LEMON: I want to let David Sirota get in on this because, David, you were saying, that's not necessarily true. I think you may agree with Mr. Greer here to some point, at least. Because you're saying Europe has the same problem as us.
DAVID SIROTA, COLUMNIST: It's a mix here. This is a mix. I mean, I think our gun laws, the end of the assault weapons ban has been a very bad thing for our country. But I think simply saying that it's a problem only of our laws is not really getting to where this problem is. I mean, I used to live in Montana. It's got a very high prevalence of people owning guns, and it’s got a very, very low amount of gun violence.
So the amount of guns and the access to guns is only one part of this issue. There's the whole other issue of mental health, of people feeling alienated. I mean, we're a country that's under a severe amount of stress right now, and that is going to create a whole lot of problems. And I think one of those problems is this kind of thing that we're seeing. So it's a bunch of different issues. And if we're going to address it, we can't just say, well, it's gun laws or it's not gun laws, or, it's a bunch of different things.
LEMON: Okay, I’m just going to say this-
GREER: I agree with that. I think that's pretty reasonable.
LEMON: I'm looking country by country, and I'm just saying, we have probably the worst problem than anyone else. And I’m just being, it's just the truth. If you look at the statistics: Japan, registration of firearms, yes. Singapore, yes. UK, yes. Netherlands, yes. Spain, yes. Germany, yes. Italy, yes. Israel, yes. Australia, yes. Canada, all guns by 2003, which will be a yes. Obviously, this is older, this is from 2002. France, yes, except sporting rifles. So Canada would be yes, now. France would be yes. Switzerland, yes. Finland, yes. USA, handguns in some states. Licensing of gun owners, in some states. Everybody else, yes. So what are we not getting?
GREER: Well, I don’t think we need to look to those countries. Don, you said registration. I mean, we have registration-
LEMON: Well, it's registration and licensing.
GREER: Well, we need to have strong enforcement of gun laws, thorough background checks, but our Founding Fathers were very clear, the citizens of this country should have the right to bear arms to ensure that they maintain a democratic society.
SIGNORILE: Don, you just made all the sense in the world with the list. It makes complete sense. We have the most lax gun laws in the developed world, and we have the most violence. It's that simple. And the Second Amendment was not about people having assault weapons and being able to go out and shoot up a bunch of people. It has been distorted. We need the laws.
LEMON: Mr. Greer, I'm going to give you the last word on this.
GREER: Sure, we need laws. I believe we should have very stringent laws on guns, and we should make sure that we do background checks on people that possess them and put people in jail that violate those gun laws, but we should not ban guns in this country. We should protect the Second Amendment to ensure that our government is not the only ones with guns.
LEMON: Okay, stand by, Mr. Greer. I'm getting responses from viewers as well. I want to talk to you guys more about the President's in Europe. We're going to talk more issues than just gun control. This came up because of the shootings we've had in the last couple of days. More from our panel now, including the big focus on the President's European trip, the economy, drugs, and gay marriage. We're going to talk all of it. Can we learn anything from Europe?
#From the April 5 CNN Newsroom during the 10:00 p.m. hour:
DON LEMON: Talking about the gun violence happening here in the U.S., the President addressed that overseas. Let's talk about that. Gun control, bringing back the assault weapons ban, Ben?
BEN FERGUSON, THE BEN FERGUSON SHOW: You name a place around the world where gun control has worked. The fact of the matter is, law-abiding citizens actually abide by the laws.
LEMON: You say there's no place around the world where gun control has worked?
FERGUSON: Look at the U.K., look at the U.K. when they passed massive gun control laws. Look at their violence, is drastically up. Look at the rate, it's drastically up.
LEMON: It's drastically up, but, Warren and Ben, but, Warren, it's still much lower than ours even though it's up now.