On Friday’s “NewsHour” on PBS, New York Times columnist David Brooks and Washington Post columnist E.J. Dionne reacted to this week’s mass shooting in Oregon and discussed any potential government policy that could prevent these types of incidents.
While Dionne applauded Obama for his aggressive effort politicize the tragedy, Brooks cautioned viewers that given America’s history with guns, eradicating them won’t likely happen.
“Oregon happens to be a place with pretty tight gun control legislation,” Brooks said. “The criminals — the people who are in criminal gangs do get the guns illegally, but there are so many guns in this country. We can’t — we’re not going to deport 12 million immigrants. We’re also not going to get rid of 250 million guns. There are just practical realities.”
“One in three American households has a gun,” he added. “There is a history of 300 years going back. And that’s why it touches such a nerve. And so we just have a legacy of a lot of guns in this country and that’s been true because of the nature of the settlement of the country.”
Partial transcript as follows:
JUDY WOODRUFF: So here we are yet again, another mass shooting. They seem to be happening every few weeks.
David, the president said yesterday at his news conference that he thinks the country’s grown numb, that these are happening so often. Is he right?
DAVID BROOKS: I actually don’t think so.
The reaction certainly among the people I have spoken to is one of impatience and growing frustration. And so I don’t think we have grown numb to them. I don’t think we have taken a practical and a pragmatic approach to trying to prevent them.
Obviously, as we heard earlier, they’re phenomenally hard to prevent. I’m for gun control laws, as I have said so many times. We have gone through a ritual on this program.
JUDY WOODRUFF: We have.
DAVID BROOKS: And I don’t think they will do much good. They might do a little good, just because there are 250 million guns in this country. I think it’s just very hard to control the ones, but they might erect a barrier.
There’s obviously problematics with getting a list of people who have had mental health issues to run against a registry. That’s obviously a problematic thing to do. I have emphasized the make-believe function, that the profile of these guys who do it is very similar, and it is in this case, alienated young guy with loneliness issues and self-worth issues.
And if we looked around for young men like that in our society, maybe we could do something there. I guess I would invite people to de-ideologize it, if that’s a word and to think pragmatically about the many steps we could do to hopefully make some dent, but it’s going to be hard to make a dent in this, I think.
JUDY WOODRUFF: It is hard, E.J., and yet, as the president said, something has to happen, something has to happen. What is the something to change?
E.J. DIONNE: I must say, I loved seeing his anger about this, because I think he reflected the anger of a lot of people.
And I actually liked it when he said this is something we should politicize, because the barriers to de-ideologizing it, as David said, are political barriers. And I was so struck by some of the responses of the Republican candidates to this. Ben Carson, you’re not going to handle it with more gun control because gun control only works for normal — the normal law-abiding citizens.
Well, all laws only work for normal law-abiding citizens. Only with guns do we hear these arguments. Same with Marco Rubio, gun crime is committed by criminals. Criminals ignore the law. Well, yes. But, again, that’s an argument against all law. We have to try some things.
There are no free and democratic and wealthy countries in the world that have our rate of gun violence. You know, David is quite right that we have to worry about loners and alienated people. We have to do better on mental health. But we’re not the only country in the world with loners and alienated people.
And I think we have to be willing to take some steps on guns. And I don’t know what’s going to shake us to get there, but I think the president is saying we can’t just sit here anymore. I think there is an anger that’s growing out there that may at some point get conservatives in particular, who ought to be in a different position than they are on this issue.
JUDY WOODRUFF: And, David, as we heard from the two guests we talked to a few minutes ago, it is hard. And yet maybe there is a way to identify some of these young men — most of them are young men — who are deeply troubled and try to prevent them from getting access to them.
DAVID BROOKS: Maybe.
And I think the way — if we’re going to have any political process, it’s not to have a big fight about guns, which we have had a million times, but it’s to come up with a comprehensive package of reforms that would include some gun control things, but also some mental health things and a range of other things that creative policy-makers could come up with, and to de-ideologize it.
To have the same fight again, I don’t see the point in it. On gun control, as I say, I’m not against them. But most of the guns that these guys get, they get legally. Oregon happens to be a place…
JUDY WOODRUFF: And it was the case this time.
DAVID BROOKS: And Oregon happens to be a place with pretty tight gun control legislation.
The criminals — the people who are in criminal gangs do get the guns illegally, but there are so many guns in this country. We can’t — we’re not going to deport 12 million immigrants. We’re also not going to get rid of 250 million guns. There are just practical realities.
E.J. DIONNE: But there are practical approaches to that.
Australia had a massive gun buy-back program, 700,000 guns, which would translate into about 40 million here, which is a start. We are so hemmed in on the gun issue that we right now can’t do a thing. I’m all for doing more on mental health. I don’t think there is a real problem with that. The problem, the ideological part, is on guns.
DAVID BROOKS: Yes. We have our history. We saw the graphic earlier in the program. One in three American households has a gun. There is a history of 300 years going back. And that’s why it touches such a nerve.
And so we just have a legacy of a lot of guns in this country and that’s been true because of the nature of the settlement of the country.
JUDY WOODRUFF: If history repeats itself, we talk about it for a few days and then we move on to the next thing.
DAVID BROOKS: I agree with that.
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