The debate is over the absolute right to bear arms. But, victims of school shootings say gun violence has to stop. Getting your hands on assault rifles is easier than you might think. CCTV correspondent Sean Callebs investigates the U.S. gun industry, and sees how it shapes the debate on gun control.
The gun debate in AmericaThe debate is over the absolute right to bear arms. But, victims of school shootings say gun violence has to stop. Getting your hands on assault rifles is easier than you might think. CCTV correspondent Sean Callebs investigates the U.S. gun industry, and sees how it shapes the debate on gun control.
“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.”
It is these words, initially crafted for the United States Bill of Rights in 1791, that allow around 300 million guns to be freely carried in the U.S. today. That is enough for every man, woman, and child in the country to own a firearm. While the issue of gun control has always been subject to debate, in the past few years horrific tales of mass shootings like Columbine, Newtown, and Aurora, have propelled further action from gun control advocates. But shockingly enough, 2013 saw more gun sales than ever before. Correspondent Sean Callebs travels the country to hear from those that stand by the Bill of Rights, and those that are speaking up for more restricted gun control.
The NRA—or National Rifle Association—is considered the most powerful political lobby in the United States, and with 3-5 million members and the support of almost 50 million Americans, it is no wonder why. One of the NRA’s most outspoken members is rock musician and dedicated Republican Ted Nugent. He acts as an extreme representative for the 50 million people that believe attempts to control gun ownership are equivalent to taking away the freedom of the American people. According to Nugent, purchasing and owning a gun is not even a need; it is a right. And many feel the desire to act on it.
“It is not the bill of needs, it’s the Bill of Rights,” Nugent says. “I have the right to pursue my happiness and that includes fast cars, loud guitars, and lots of guns.”
And lots of guns, there are. For some, guns are more than just a sport, a right, or a need. Guns are a livelihood. From gun shop owners and ammo distributors, to craftsmen and shooting instructors, the gun industry conducts nearly $33 billion a year in economic activity and creates as many as 200,000 jobs. Firearms can be bought at expos and shops easily enough, but more recently gun purchases are being made online with nothing but a brief background check. A $10,000 gun with aircraft-destroying capabilities can be bought with the click of a button, and no face-to-face interaction.
But it is practices like this that are deeply concerning for advocates of gun-control. Lax restrictions on gun ownership can lead to disaster, say those that have experienced gun violence firsthand. Caren Teves of Phoenix, Arizona, was on the receiving end of a horrific phone call in July of 2012. Her son had been at a midnight premier of the latest Batman movie when a masked gunman opened fire on the theater, killing him and 11 others.
“I mean, owning a gun is a right,” Teves says. “But my son also had a right. He had a right to live. And I think that is more of a right than owning an automatic weapon.”
Since the loss of her son, Teves has transformed her life from that of a mother and housewife, to that of an advocate. She, along with many others affected by senseless gun violence in the country, has devoted herself to making the purchase of firearms much more difficult, and much more carefully monitored. In 2013, the U.S. congress voted on a measure to improve comprehensive background checks and to make it more difficult to purchase a firearm. When polled, the bill showed overwhelming support in the U.S. But once the bill was brought to senate, it was quickly rejected.
Gun control advocates aren’t giving up, however. While there are currently more arms in circulation in the United States than any other country in the world, the effort to enforce harsher restrictions on firearms is far from losing steam. But with the strong voices of arms advocates around the country as well as the well-funded NRA, it is sure to be a long, difficult fight.
Sean Callebs with developments in the gun debate since the completion of this report.
Sean Callebs on Developments in Gun DebateMore details on the developments in the gun debate since production of this report finished.