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Interview With Alan Gottlieb, Joe Sudbay

Aired October 12, 2002 - 14:33   ET


FREDRICKA WHITFIELD, CNN ANCHOR: The sniper shootings have taken center stage in the gun control debate. Both sides are citing the killing spree in arguing their cases. And to flesh out that debate, we have Alan Gottlieb from the Second Amendment Foundation, and he joins us live from Seattle, and we have Joe Sudbay in Washington with the Violence Policy Center. Good to see you, gentlemen.
Well, the .223 rifle we saw an FBI agent holding up in that piece is one that in Maryland can be purchased even without any sort of registration. So, Joe, do you see this as perhaps a catalyst now for those who are saying this is right to bear arms gone to an extreme?

JOE SUDBAY, VIOLENCE POLICY CENTER: Well, it is right to bear arms gone to an extreme. And what we need to do is try to understand why the gun industry and how the gun industry is able to market and sell these types of weapons, military-style weapons, sniper weapons to the civilian market without any real sense of responsibility. They are making and selling these guns, and they have no idea who is buying them.

That's what we really need to look at, the gun industry and their practices. There is a whole culture that's developed among snipers, the sniper market. It's called one shot, one kill. And that's the motto. And when they talk one shot, one kill, they are not talking about shooting and killing rabbits or squirrels; they are talking about shooting and killing human beings. We need to understand that culture exists. The industry promotes it, and it's obviously proven to be very dangerous to the people in this community.

WHITFIELD: Alan, you -- I'm sorry, Joe. Alan, you're shaking your head. Does that mean that you're saying one's motivation cannot be regulated?

ALAN GOTTLIEB, SECOND AMENDMENT FOUNDATION: Well, I say that, too, but I say it's a little inflammatory making those claims about the firearms industry. First of all, every gun that gets sold gets sold to somebody who's going through a federal background check to start with. Second of all, we don't even know what kind of rifle it was. It could have been a very simple hunting rifle. So to make these kinds of claims or call all these rifles sniper rifles gets a little bit out of hand. And quite frankly, that alarms me and upsets me greatly because it exaggerates things to the point of lunacy.

WHITFIELD: Well, Alan, what is your understanding as to how this .223-type rifle and how these type of bullets would be useful in hunting if they're not used for military use? GOTTLIEB: They are definitely used in hunting for medium-sized animals. It's a very common hunting ground, and that's one of the problems why so many people are trained to use firearms that fire that kind of caliber bullet and why you don't need a whole lot of training to do.

I mean, quite frankly, I want this sniper off the street immediately. And quite honestly, if I lived in the Maryland, Washington D.C. area, I'd be upset with some of the current gun control laws that prohibit me from being able to carry firearms to protect myself. In case if somebody like this was on the street, I might be able to get a hold of him before the police could, or protect myself or somebody else, and in Maryland or D.C., you're not allowed to do that. So sometimes gun control costs us lives; it doesn't save us lives.

WHITFIELD: Well, Joe, what would you recommend in which to help police, the restrictions or trying to restrict those with malintent of being able to have the right to bear arms of this such -- this type of hunting rifle, et cetera, and perhaps those who simply just want to go hunting?

SUDBAY: Well, I think, again, what I said earlier is true and it does exist. The sniper culture does exist. It has become a marketing tool for the gun industry. The whole culture built around the one shot, one kill concept is real.

GOTTLIEB: I've not seen that in one gun company's ad ever.

SUDBAY: It is -- gun industry is marketing and selling military- style assault weapons and sniper rifles to the civilian market. That's a fact. And the reality is that in Mr. Gottlieb's world, in the pro-gun world, we would be left with no gun control. And it's almost as if we just have to deal with this carnage because that's their right. That's the lunacy that that exists.

The American people, the people of this community deserve better. At its core right now, we have 10 families who are suffering grievously because of the weak gun laws, because of the marketing and selling of military-style assault rifles and sniper rifles to whomever. And there are a number of loopholes...


WHITFIELD: All right, Joe. Alan, respond.

GOTTLIEB: Everybody who buys these goes through a background check to begin with under federal law.

SUDBAY: The first sale only, and you know that, Alan. It's only the first sale. Gun shows across this country, you can walk in and buy these without a background check. You can do it across the river here in Virginia.

GOTTLIEB: Any licensed dealer at a gun show sells it with a background check as well. SUDBAY: But you know that a lot of sellers at gun shows aren't licensed.


WHITFIELD: All right, Joe, hold on a second. Let Alan finish his point.

GOTTLIEB: You guys like to define any gun under a foot long as a Saturday night special, and it's an evil hand gun that should be banned. Any gun over a foot long as an assault rifle that should be banned, too, leaving us with nothing left to protect ourselves, to defend ourselves. I mean, at least your Violence Policy Center is honest to the point that you believe that gun bans is the only thing that's going to work.

WHITFIELD: Now, Alan, you do see how this string of shootings, however, might be used to, you know, join the arsenal, if you will, in that battle on Capitol Hill in which to bring about greater gun control?

GOTTLIEB: I realize and I recognize that people like the Violence Policy Center are trying to use that to push their cause, but quite frankly, at the same time, you might want to cover how many people are going out right now and buying guns and ammunition around the country to protect themselves from crazy individuals out there who commit acts like this.

WHITFIELD: All right, gentlemen. Hold on tight. Alan and Joe, we're going to resume this conversation in a moment. For now, though, we're going to take a quick break. We'll be right back.


WHITFIELD: We return now to the sniper shootings and how the killing spree in the D.C., Maryland, Virginia area may impact the gun control debate. We have been talking with Second Amendment Foundation's Alan Gottlieb and Joe Sudbay with the Violence Policy Center.

Good to see you again, gentlemen. Thanks for sticking around after that break.

Alan, let me begin with you real quick. What is the matter with having regulation so that perhaps investigators in the case like this would be able to at least trace the purchasing of bullets, in addition to the tracing the purchasing of weapons, and not necessarily doing away with the right to bear arms, just having stricter regulation?

GOTTLIEB: We already have in this country over 20,000 federal, state and local gun control laws that can be used. And quite frankly, you can trace bullets, ammunition and guns right now today under the current laws. What is maybe being talked about is the so-called...

WHITFIELD: But -- but wouldn't you agree that if it perhaps were that simple, then perhaps it would be a little bit more simpler to find somebody in the case of this sniper or snipers? That's not the case, is it?

GOTTLIEB: No, it's not. And the more laws you pile in, the more bureaucracy you pile in, the harder it's going to make -- be able to do it. I wish it was a lot more simpler. I'd love to get this guy off the street more than anybody. Obviously, having somebody out there running around doing this allows my opponents to gun rights to be able to try to use this to push their agenda.

But the bottom line is, there are 65 million legitimate law- abiding gun owners in this country who use firearms every day for legitimate purposes of protecting themselves and their families from criminal attacks, and I don't want to see that right taken away or eroded.

WHITFIELD: Joe, the National Rifle Association lobbying group is a very strong and powerful one on Capitol Hill, and the very argument is, the further regulation means you do jeopardize the constitutionality that every American citizen has, the right to have -- to bear arms. So how in the world do you try to make your case that this is an example of why some changes are needed?

SUDBAY: Well, it should be just obvious on its face. The president of the United States told us he was going to do everything in his power to protect us and prevent terrorism. This community is being terrorized. We'd like to see the president apply the same standard to domestic terrorism, to acts of gun violence. It's not that remote a concept to try and prevent gun violence in this community and in this country.

The American people deserve it; 30,000 people a year die from gun violence. In this community, as we all know, 10 families have been rocked by it. And there are simple things that can be done. The gun industry is unregulated...

GOTTLIEB: No, it's not.

SUDBAY: The president could use the bully pulpit. We would like to see the president denounce this one shot, one kill mentality. I'd like to hear Alan Gottlieb denounce the one shot, one kill mentality.

GOTTLIEB: I denounce -- listen to me.

SUDBAY: This -- this -- this -- let me finish.

GOTTLIEB: I'll do it.

SUDBAY: I think it's very important that the sniper culture that has become pervasive in the marketing of guns -- you know, the sales of guns overall have gone down, and the gun industry is constantly looking for new markets. They have adopted the sniper culture as one way to market their guns. All the way up to the .50 caliber sniper rifle, which has enormously devastating power, and is easier to buy in this country than a hand gun. Any of the rifles that we've seen (UNINTELLIGIBLE).

WHITFIELD: All right, Alan, it's your turn to respond to that. GOTTLIEB: Here it is. I will denounce one shot, one kill because I don't think anybody should be shooting anybody on the street indiscriminately like this.

SUDBAY: It's good to hear.

GOTTLIEB: But the gun industry does not market that way, and they are not unregulated. They are extremely regulated. Every one of their guns manufactured has a serial number on it, it's tracked to what distributor it goes to, what dealer it goes to, who it's sold to. There are all kinds of rules and regulations. You're just -- you just make the stuff up as you go along, with inflammatory rhetoric, and that's why we don't get anything resolved in the gun control debate that might save lives, that might protect rights at the same time, because you people, quite frankly, are off the wall.

WHITFIELD: But Alan, isn't it true, though, perhaps that, I mean, there are an awful lot of cases in which people are able to go around going to a gun shop and doing it the, you know,, quote/unquote, right way by registering, et cetera, whether it's, you know, someone passing on a firearm, or perhaps there are even raffles. I've covered certainly many stories where at issue in a raffle was winning a rifle.

GOTTLIEB: Well, let me say this. First of all, the fallacy here is that if you think a criminal is going to go trot into a police station and register his gun or obey a new gun control law when the laws like murder and sniping people on the street is already illegal, I mean, you're living in la-la land, because these are the kind of people that don't listen to laws.

These laws are only going to apply to people like us who aren't going to break these kinds of laws to begin with, and then we get disarmed and can't protect ourselves against those people on the street who are violent and who shouldn't be there. Our efforts need to be directed to getting these people off the street, getting them arrested, prosecuted them when they try to buy a gun illegally or they steal a gun. And all this debate does is take the resources away and the energy away from the real answers to these problems are, to get us really good solutions.

WHITFIELD: All right. Joe, you get the last word.

GOTTLIEB: Thank you.

SUDBAY: I haven't heard any solutions. And I think -- from Alan Gottlieb. I think it is fair for the American people to expect that the gun industry be regulated for consumer health and safety. It's not. It's one of the only products in America that isn't. Guns and tobacco aren't. I think that we need to do everything we can to make sure our law enforcement has the tools necessary. This community is devastated.

WHITFIELD: Joe Sudbay with Violence Policy Center, and Alan Gottlieb, of the Second Amendment Foundation, thank you very much, gentlemen, for joining us. Appreciate it.


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