Gun Control Shouldn’t Be This Hard

November 16, 2017 by · Leave a Comment 

Before the gun lobby or its sycophants in Congress bring out their usual talking points for why we can’t ever have common sense gun reform, I’d like to shoot one of them down. No pun intended.

We just saw what happens when a bad guy with a gun is met by a good guy with a gun. In Sutherland Springs, Texas, when a mass shooter attacked churchgoers, he was eventually confronted by another armed civilian.

But before the good guy got there with his gun, 26 people were fatally wounded.

A Well-Regulated Militia Actually, hold the regulation please. (Khalil Bendib /

A Well-Regulated Militia – Actually, hold the regulation please.
(Khalil Bendib /


I’ve already heard discussions about fixing the problem by having more people bring guns to church, as the attorney general of Texas recently suggested.

What about other ways to prevent gun deaths? How about any solution other than “more guns”?

Every time I hear discussions about one reform or another — universal background checks, banning high capacity magazines, banning assault rifles, etc. — I hear the exact same talking point: Criminals can get around those rules.

You could ban assault rifles, or the high capacity magazines that allow people intent on mass murder to shoot more bullets before they need to stop to reload. Perhaps some criminals would just get them illegally.

Not all mass shootings could have been prevented by background checks. For example, the Sandy Hook shooter stole guns from his mother, who legally acquired them. Background checks wouldn’t have stopped him.

Here’s the thing: These hypothetical arguments don’t need to be hypothetical. We can study them and make an informed choice.

Which reforms will simultaneously preserve freedom for hunters, gun enthusiasts, and other law abiding citizens who want to own firearms while also keeping guns out of the hands of criminals?

If there’s any will at all to reduce the death toll from guns in this country — more than 33,000 deaths a year — no doubt the country that sent a man to the moon can figure out how to do it without violating citizens’ rights.

Furthermore, just because a law may not prevent all shootings doesn’t mean it won’t prevent some shootings.

I’ve even heard a gun advocate say that regulation won’t work because it would only stop people who are too stupid to get around them from obtaining a gun.

You know what? That sounds good to me. If we can prevent every single shooting perpetrated by a stupid person, I’m for it. That’s still fewer people dying overall. It won’t get us down to zero, but refusing to do anything just because it’s a partial solution is ridiculous.

Each little bit of progress we make is a human life saved. It’s an entire family whose lives aren’t torn apart and changed forever. It’s two fewer grieving parents and four fewer grieving grandparents. It’s more children who grow up with their parents alive.

I don’t have a stake in which method we use to reduce gun violence so long as we pick something that works. It would be nice if law-abiding gun enthusiasts would help.

So let’s actually look at the data to find out how it can best be done. In fact, let’s lift the congressional ban that’s prevented the Centers for Disease Control from examining a lot of that data for the last 20 years.

Preferably before another year passes and another 33,000 Americans are dead.

OtherWords columnist Jill Richardson is the author of Recipe for America: Why Our Food System Is Broken and What We Can Do to Fix It. Distributed by


Buy Today, Kill Tomorrow

December 3, 2015 by · Leave a Comment 

Good people can disagree about guns.

Though I’ve always leaned left in my political views, I believe that Americans have a constitutional right to keep and bear arms. I owned a gun for many years myself — at least until my conviction for blowing the whistle on the CIA’s torture program canceled my Second Amendment rights.

But there’s a problem that warrants immediate attention. You see, current law allows suspected terrorists, including those on the “No Fly List,” to legally purchase weapons.

That’s right. I can’t legally buy a gun. But suspected terrorists can.

Adam Gadahn, also known as Azzam al-Amriki, was an American citizen. Born and raised in California, he converted to Islam in 1995 and became a senior advisor to Osama bin Laden. Gadahn became al-Qaeda’s media expert, producing a slick magazine and videos to help the group recruit even more Americans to its cause.

Gadahn was killed in a U.S. missile strike in Pakistan earlier this year. But as early as 2011, he urged would-be American jihadists to buy weapons and turn them on their innocent compatriots. “What are you waiting for?” he asked. “Buy today, kill tomorrow!”

American intelligence and law enforcement agencies knew about this threat. So did Congress. And nobody did anything.

Indeed, at least 2,043 people on the terrorist watch list legally purchased weapons in the United States between 2004 and 2014. We know this because they actually filled out the necessary paperwork with gun dealers. What we don’t know is how many people on the list purchased weapons from private gun dealers or owners. They don’t have to keep records.

Who could possibly support this arrangement? Just a little outfit called the National Rifle Association.

Some members of Congress — and even officials in George W. Bush’s administration — recognized the potential disaster if homegrown terrorists could purchase weapons and use them in domestic attacks. Several lawmakers sponsored measures to put a stop to these purchases immediately.

But the NRA protested, saying that it would be unfair for any Americans improperly placed on the no-fly list to not be able to buy guns. Though government watch lists have been criticized for being overly broad, the NRA’s backers offered no compelling arguments for why travel rights and other freedoms should be restricted but not gun purchases. Nonetheless, the measures were killed.

There seems to be some new life in Congress to close this loophole. Senate Democrats Chuck Schumer, Cory Booker, and Robert Menendez vowed recently to “fight the NRA tooth and nail” on the issue and to prevent terrorist suspects from buying guns. That’s great.

But the NRA’s arguments carry a lot of weight in Congress. And a lot of conservatives apparently would rather risk an attack than impinge on the rights of anybody to buy a gun.

Maybe that attitude will change if there’s another deadly attack by suspected terrorists on U.S. soil. Maybe not. I for one don’t want to find out. We should fix this now.

OtherWords columnist John Kiriakou is an associate fellow at the Institute for Policy Studies and the winner of the 2015 PEN Center USA First Amendment award.


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