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A Case For Both More Guns And More Gun Control


Jeffrey Goldberg of The Atlantic finds that something he wrote is now in the middle of this debate over guns. In the current issue of the magazine, he used last summer's shootings in an Aurora, Colorado movie theater, in which 12 people were killed, to say that after the U.S. has suffered scores of mass shootings over the past generation, he's concluded the United States could use both a tightening of gun control laws and more people carrying guns. Jeffrey Goldberg joins us in our studios. Thanks so much for being with us.


SIMON: You begin by saying that you think making laws to get rid of guns just might be impossible.

GOLDBERG: Well, I think we should try but we already have 300 million guns in circulation in America. So, if tomorrow or in January Congress somehow banned the sale of all new guns, we have 100-year problem. Even if you have gun buybacks - they'll buy back five, 10, 20, 30 million guns - we have a terrible, tragic situation where the country is awash in guns. So, very little on the gun control agenda is actually going to make a dent in that, unfortunately.

SIMON: Your most controversial points certainly now is that you say more people ought to be trained to fire back at an assailant and be able to carry guns for that purpose.

GOLDBERG: Well, we have in America, we have this population of about nine million or 10 million people who have conceal carry permits who are - these are people who are screened and vetted by the government, who are trained and who actually turn out to be a very, very law-abiding and sane group of people. They are not the typical gun owner. They commit crimes not only at a lower rate than the public but a lower rate than the police. And so it just seems that in combination with tighter gun laws, you have to give Americans who are qualified the right to defend themselves, given the tragic nature of our society in which the bad guys already have easy access to guns.

SIMON: Is what you're saying the same or different than the NRA?

GOLDBERG: Well, no, because I believe in gun control. I believe in stringent gun control, in fact. The NRA wants to - well, look, first, the first thing that we should say about the NRA is that the NRA has helped create the situation in America in which it might be necessary to put armed guards in schools. I mean, the NRA's performance - it wasn't insane; it was very cynical - let's put it that way - because they want to displace all of the attention onto the video game industry, mental health system, anything but guns. But the fact of the matter is that the NRA would allow, as it used to - you know, it used to be a gun control organization. If the NRA would allow gun control measures to take effect, we would see, I think, a slight diminution in the number of these shootings. But, no, you can be pro-gun, if you will, and pro-gun control at the same time. It's not a binary. The NRA wants to make that a binary, and that's just wrong.

SIMON: What about those who would be concerned that what you're talking about amounts to a return to the Wild West in some ways, and they would worry that if you have a lot of people carrying guns, someday there's the fender-bender and two people get out and the dispute escalates and a somebody draws a gun.

GOLDBERG: On that specific point, there's no data to support that. Like I said, these people who have the permits are very law-abiding. If you go to your sheriff to get a permit to carry a gun, you're a pretty law-abiding person. They tend to be older than the average person - a gun owner. So, there's no data to support that these fender-benders are leading to that. You know, on the larger point, the Wild West point - we're already in the Wild West. We already have a situation in which people walk into schools and movie theaters and malls and try to shoot them up. So, the question - and it's a tragic question; it's repulsive in a way - the question is, you know, would you rather have a situation of a massacre or would you rather have a shoot-out? Would you rather have the good people who are being attacked being able, plausibly, to defend themselves or not? Now, of course, there's going to be, you know, terrible chaos in all of that. But it doesn't seem right to tell Americans who are qualified to carry weapons not to carry weapons as long as they're screened and permitted by the government. It just seems wrong to a lot of people.

SIMON: So, in the seconds we have left, is it legislative effort that a lot of people are undertaking now good intentioned but ultimately what?

GOLDBERG: It's not enough. If you want serious gun control, you're going to have to lower the number of guns already in circulation. And nothing that I'm seeing is going to do that. That's a solution, but we're not there.

SIMON: Jeffrey Goldberg of The Atlantic. You can read his story in the latest issue of that magazine. Thanks for being with us.

GOLDBERG: Thank you. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.