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Q&A WITH ZAIN VERJEE

Q&A

Aired October 23, 2002 - 12:30:00   ET

THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
CHARLES MOOSE, CHIEF OF POLICE: Your children are not safe anywhere at anytime.

ZAIN VERJEE, CNN ANCHOR (voice-over): A message of terror from the sniper suspect in the United States.

JIM CLANCY, CNN ANCHOR (voice-over): With eight people dead, the tendency now, keep your children indoors, and also to reignite the debate over the proliferation of guns both in Washington and beyond.

NICK NORTH, BRITISH GUN CONTROL MONITOR: After all the shooting events in America, as far as I can see everything is blamed except for the gun.

VERJEE: But not everyone agrees.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: We support peoples' right to be prepared.

VERJEE: The United States National Rifle Association on the defensive. Its president, Charlton Heston, on the road, campaigning to keep handguns legal.

Outside the United States, many are sounding the call for gun prevention.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I've been to America a lot and it really scares me that this kind of gun culture is so prevalent there.

CLANCY: A hostage-taking situation in Germany last week led some parliament members there to push for tougher gun control. In Britain, gun laws went from strict to stricter after the 1996 Dunblane massacre, but has it worked?

VERJEE: On this edition of Q&A, does gun control help prevent gun- related crimes?

(END VIDEO CLIP)

CLANCY: Hello and welcome to Q&A once again.

We're going to begin our show today focusing on the hunt for a sniper in the Washington, D.C., area, and what all of this means, really, for gun control and the growing debate over it.

VERJEE: Joining us now from Washington is CNN Security Analyst Kelley McCann, a man with a long security background, more knowledgeable particularly in the use of firearms.

Mr. McCann, can gun control prevent gun-related crimes?

KELLEY MCCANN, CNN SECURITY ANALYST: Well, first you have to address the question that, or address the point, that there are so many weapons currently legally owned in the United States and so many currently illegally owned in the United States.

To have a true test of whether they will or won't, the existing laws should be enforced first, and then a logical decision be made based on the effectiveness.

VERJEE: How effective are existing laws?

MCCANN: Well, again, the condition that exists here in the United States is unlike what you find in many other places, and people who use a firearm or weapon in the course of their duties, it's merely an implement, just like a shovel. I mean, that's the way they look at it.

People who want one for sporting use, their intent goes to another point. But if somebody in fact wants to commit violence, and we saw this on the plane crashes, it really isn't the weapon in their hand. It's what's in their head. And that will never change globally.

You can take away now a sharp knife in first class seating, but I can still smash a glass and have something sharp.

So there are bigger issues, and it's a very complex one.

CLANCY: Kelley, as you look at all of this, I mean, people have been talking -- to trace guns, to use fingerprinting methods. Everyone is looking for a way out of this, and it's happened again and again, whenever we see a tragedy, as we saw in Dunblane, one that we're witnessing right now in Washington. Is there any easy answer?

MCCANN: Jim, you are spot on. There are answers, but there are no easy ones.

Ballistic fingerprinting, of course, would be easy to subvert if you had basic information, like some changing some gas ports, changing the tension of the springs, some tooling marks, changing parts, et cetera. It's fairly easy to at least disguise that that weapon, you know, is one that had an index card that was fired from a factory. The average street criminal will not go to that level of effort.

But it's unlikely that the average street criminal legally bought his weapon. It may have been stolen in a daytime burglary, which is where a lot of the weapons on the street illegally come from. So the fact that you can track it to the last owner doesn't then extent to who may have done the burglary.

VERJEE: But hasn't it been proven, ballistic fingerprinting in the past? I mean, you've cited some examples of how it can be subverted, but has it worked?

MCCANN: Well, of course. Of course. Unchanged, it's very accurate. Unchanged, and without significant use, it will fire tomorrow exactly the same test data that it did yesterday.

The problem is, is that through continued usage, metal wears, pins relax and fatigue, springs don't have the same pressures, and then you get a different result. Add to that now intervention and removal of parts, interchanged with another weapon, et cetera.

So yes, the simple answer to people who don't fully understand firearms is yes, today is the same as tomorrow. However, it's not that simple.

VERJEE: CNN's security analyst Kelley McCann, thanks a lot for speaking to Jim and I on Q&A.

MCCANN: Sure.

CLANCY: All right. Well, joining us now for a bit more of the international perspective in all of this, Rebecca Peters. She's joining us from London. She's from the International Action Network on Small Arms. That's a group that works to prevent the misuse and the proliferation of small arms all around the world.

You work together with a lot of NGOs and other agencies, to try to stem this -- the tide, if you will, of the misuse of firearms, but I'm just wondering, every time there's an incident like this, up it comes. What's accomplished?

REBECCA PETERS, INTL. ACTION NETWORK: What's accomplished, you mean, when an incident like this arises? In most parts of the world.

CLANCY: Right, because everybody gets excited -- everybody gets excited about it and then, you know what? We forget it.

PETERS: Well, that's a particularly characteristic thing to happen in the United States, when there is a shooting incident. You're right.

CLANCY: Well, it happens everywhere, doesn't it?

PETERS: There's a lot of -- right. Except that in most countries, when there is a shooting incident that either is particularly shocking, either because of the number of people killed or the circumstances or the age of the people killed, or you know, looking at the circumstances, how preventable something was -- in most countries, policymakers do decide OK, we're going to look at the laws, as you do actually with any disaster.

I mean, every time there's a major threat -- an event that kills a lot of people or that injures a lot of people, normally you then -- the government says what can we do to improve the situation.

And I guess the United States is unusual in that, you're right, there are a lot of shooting incidents, and very little progress is seen.

But in most places, we have definitely seen -- and it's not only actually in response to shooting incidents in your country. The UN did a survey a couple of years ago, asking countries what is happening with your gun laws, and they found that in most countries, the gun laws were being tightened, whether there had been an incident, a tragedy, a mass shooting, in their country or not.

So lots of countries' policymakers are able to, you know, they see it on CNN, they read it in the media, and they say well, this could happen to us.

VERJEE: Give us an idea, then, of how the gun control debate is played out in other parts of the world and not just here in the United States.

PETERS: Well, you could probably -- across the world, you could say that countries have either a problem, or they -- in some countries, there's a problem with gun crime. In countries especially that are post-conflict, where there are people who used to be involved in a war who are not without jobs, and making a living out of crime.

Then there's other countries, especially in the north, in Europe, for example, where the biggest problem of gun violence in terms of deaths and injuries, is actually a public health problem. It's actually suicides and unintentional shooting injuries that make up the majority of these deaths and injuries.

And so -- but in both cases, the crime countries and the public health countries, they're recognizing that the proliferation of guns and the easy availability of guns to people who -- not only to people who have a criminal record, but people who are under pressure, people who are angry, people who have lost their jobs. There's a lot of reasons why people are fragile, and countries are recognizing that making guns available to people in difficult times is a recipe for disaster.

So across the world, we're seeing gun laws get tighter and tighter.

VERJEE: OK. Rebecca Peters, thanks very much. Stay with us; we're going to continue our conversation with you in a moment.

After the break, does gun control prevent gun-related crimes? We ask that and we'll continue to discuss that.

CLANCY: And we're going to have a lot more people here to discuss it. It's going to turn into a debate, wait and see.

We'll be right back.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

CLANCY: Welcome back to Q&A, and our discussion of gun control.

Rebecca Peters, on the International Action Network on Small Arms, still with us from London. She's an advocate of gun control.

We also have several other guests joining us now. In London, David Bredin. He's the former director of the Campaign for Shooting, who believes gun control laws in Britain have just gotten too strict. In Washington, we have Josh Horowitz, executive director of the Coalition to Stop Gun Violence. He, of course, is an advocate of gun control.

All right. Everyone, thank you so much for being with us.

Let's begin -- and I want to put it out there really for anyone of you want to pick this up -- is the whole notion, every time this comes up, is this kind of gun violence a uniquely American problem?

DAVID BREDIN, U.K. CAMPAIGN FOR SHOOTING: Certainly not. I think many countries in the world experience similar problems, but I think one of the important factors to consider is that there is societal differences and attitude to firearms and their private use.

And that's where I think transferring one form of legislation from one country, across the globe to another, may not actually work. And I think that very often politicians will not get to the root of the issue of gun crime and strictly drawback on privately held firearms by people who generally will abide by the law.

There are many complex issues to be looked at here, and it's not easy.

VERJEE: Certainly complex issues, not easy, but let me pick up a little on what Jim was saying, and what you just brought up.

I mean, Rebecca, is there something that's intrinsically American about what we're seeing here? I mean, a lot of people are asking, why is it that something like this happens in the United States, apparently, and we don't hear about this anywhere else? I mean, does it go beyond gun control? What do you think it is?

PETERS: Well, when you look at the United States, look at it just in a common sense way.

The United States is not that different from many other developed countries in terms of what people are like, how they live, what they -- you know, people are not inherently more evil or more violent in the United States.

It's just that the United States has a rate of gun ownership -- there's almost one gun for every person in the United States, and in most other countries it was about one gun for every four or five people, or less than that. And basically, you've got four or five or ten times as many guns in the United States. You're going to have four or five or ten times as much gun violence. It's as simple as that, really.

VERJEE: So you're saying it's not to do with being intrinsically American, it's nothing to do with society. It's more to do with the numbers of guns around, that people have?

JOSH HOROWITZ, COALITION TO STOP GUN VIOLENCE: Well, let me jump in here. Well, I'm, as an American, we're not more violent than anybody else. We have more guns, so things that could in other countries not end in a tragedy, in the United States end in a tragedy, and I don't think it's fair to say that Americans have violent tendencies and, you know, Australians don't, or something like that. We're all people.

It's just the United States, we have a huge rate of gun ownership. Places where gun ownership is high is places where we see the most violence. And we need to do something about the availability of guns in our society. I think it's as simple as that.

CLANCY: David, do you agree?

PETERS: And actually, there's another.

(CROSSTALK)

CLANCY: Let's get David. Come on, what do you do in all of this? I can show you distinct cases where owning a gun has prevented a crime, prevented a family from being injured. And I don't know whether the other side in this debate can show me an instance where, you know, having gun control prevented something like this.

HOROWITZ: Well, sure, all you have to do is.

(CROSSTALK)

BREDIN: Sure. I can't really speak for that, because in the U.K. we don't have guns for private defense, and that's something that is a societal attitude towards it.

But certainly, many of the instances of gun-related crime are underlined by social difficulty in that community, and I think that's where the issues really lie, and this is where it is a difficult problem to face. It is where the politicians and all people involved should be addressing that issue rather than just simply looking at the number of guns in society and how they're registered and so on.

It's the underlying social problems that bring out to the fore the problems that we have on our streets in London.

HOROWITZ: Well, if you think gun control is expensive, trying to deal with -- I don't buy that, but the underlying social issues is an impossibility.

What we know is in the United States, states that have good gun control laws, like licensing and registration, have the lowest death rates. It's not an accident that places like Massachusetts, Connecticut, California, New York, have low rates of gun death. That's because they have better gun control laws.

Gun control laws, when done effectively, when they're studied right and they're applied, can be very effective.

VERJEE: Rebecca?

BREDIN: I would agree that gun control laws are good if they're properly applied, but an interesting comparison is that in 1997, when we had all privately held handguns banned in this country, in Great Britain, the two years after that event, there was an increase of over 40 percent in handgun crime, and that's an indication that just gun controls directed solely at private citizens does not work and has to be done in conjunction with many other factors. And that's the point that should be taken onboard.

VERJEE: Rebecca, how do you control -- Rebecca -- I'm sorry, go ahead. I'll hold off my question. What do you want to say?

PETERS: What I was going to say is, it isn't actually just a question of how many guns. I mean, guns -- the regulation of guns is more complicated than that, just as it is with any product.

We know that now, for example, with globalization, as barriers are falling, trade barriers and borders are coming down between countries and in fact between states in the United States, it means that guns move very easily between places. A gun made in one place can kill someone in another.

It's not just a question of how many guns you have in the country, but also who is allowed to own them, under what conditions. And so, hopefully, we might eventually get to talk about more specifically what it is, rather than just, you know, having guns or not.

VERJEE: That's the point I wanted to bring up with you, and what you're essentially saying is that weapons are flowing more freely across borders, and people can get them much easier.

PETERS: Yes, in fact, and as it -- I mean, in fact, this sniper incident is happening now at a time when many of us around the world are feeling increasingly insecure anyway, because of other things that are happening.

And it's -- as the world becomes more insecure, all the more reason to be trying to reign in the flow of the deadliest weapons we have. I mean, we talk about the weapons of mass destruction being, you know, we usually think chemical, biological, nuclear weapons. Guns are killing over 300,000 people a year around the world, and they are really the true weapons of mass destruction.

I mean, in the three weeks that this sniper has killed 10 people in the Washington area, which is horrible, atrocious, and all the effort that's being made and attention that's being paid to that is justified, but in that time, 1,600 people have been killed in the United States with guns in general, and in those same three weeks, it's about 17,000 people being killed around the world.

CLANCY: OK. All right. Right now we're going to be joined by Dr. Miguel Faria. He's coming to us from Macon, Georgia, here in the U.S. Dr. Faria, a retired neurosurgeon. He's written many articles against gun control.

Thanks for joining us.

I want to ask you -- we've heard the debate, and you've heard it all before yourself, but from the perspective of the doctor, when you look at gun control, why are you opposed to it?

DR. MIGUEL FARIA, NEWSMAX.COM COLUMNIST: Well, let me tell you, I have, for many years, I've gotten up in the middle of the night to go to the emergency room and take care of patients that have been injured and yes, we have to be compassionate, but we also have to be honest.

And the fact is, the physicians and the general public are not being told about the beneficial aspects of firearms, and the reality is that 2- 1/2 million uses, defensive uses of firearms, take place in the United States every year, and most of this is not reported.

The beneficial aspects of gun ownership dwarf the offensive and the criminal uses of firearms and.

CLANCY: So you're saying that criminals are thwarted by gun owners.

FARIA: Absolutely. Absolutely.

HOROWITZ: I need to jump in here, right, because that study that he's cited has been widely refuted. There are not 2.5 million -- there are not more than 2.5 defensive uses. We live here. That doesn't happen. You never see it in the paper. Those are things that are the make of science fiction and bad science.

FARIA: Well, let me tell you, the Clinton Justice Dept. you know was not very friendly to gun owners.

HOROWITZ: Right.

FARIA: Released a study that was not given the publicity that it should have received in 1997, by the Justice Dept., showing that almost a million uses, defensive uses, of firearms.

HOROWITZ: That's not -- that's incorrect. No.

FARIA: That is correct. That is correct.

HOROWITZ: I'm not going to sit here and argue studies, but your misstating the facts.

FARIA: And that is the lowest. That is the lowest. You can look it up. It's available, and that is the lowest figure that I've come up with. 1 million.

HOROWITZ: I have looked it up and you're off by a factor of 10.

CLANCY: Let me jump in here. Ladies and gentlemen, everybody be quiet just for a moment, because I've only got a couple of moments left. I want to go right around.

Doctor, we'll begin with you. If it's gun control, if it isn't gun control, what will prevent incidents like we're watching right now in Washington?

FARIA: We need to have -- we need to have crime control. Crime control. The fact is, the police cannot be everywhere to protect every citizen. There is not enough policemen.

We as individuals must take some responsibility for our safety, but the safety of our families, and therefore we are fortunate that we have a second amendment in our constitution that allows law-abiding citizens to keep.

CLANCY: All right, let me let Josh get a word in here. Josh, wrap it up.

HOROWITZ: I find it really interesting that everybody is talking about enforce the laws. Right now, we have technology called ballistic fingerprinting that would give us a clue to who this sniper is, and the NRA is not, has tied Congress's hands. We're not going forward with technology.

VERJEE: We just heard a moment ago that that can be subverted.

BREDIN: Can I jump in here for a second? I think that we're talking about whether gun control works or not, and I think that clearly, in Great Britain, certainly, we believe that a limited amount of private firearms control, and I emphasize that word private firearms control, is needed.

But just legislating against people who abide by the law is no prerequisite for preventing firearms crime. The underlying social issues have got to be addressed, and they've got to be given far more weight and power by politicians and law enforcement agencies alike, rather than using automatic legislation against.

HOROWITZ: Everybody's talking about law enforcement.

VERJEE: Rebecca -- let's have Rebecca weigh in on this.

CLANCY: Rebecca, final word for you.

PETERS: Yes, sure.

Well, it's pretty clear that none of those people who have been killed in the recent sniper attacks -- having a gun would not have helped any of them. But basically, in order to prevent things like this, we need to have fewer guns, but the guns that are in societies need to be under better control.

And that means that no -- civilians should not have sniper rifles, or rifles that they can kill someone at 100 meters distance, for example. There needs to be a much greater degree of proportionality in the firepower that's available.

CLANCY: All right. All right.

You can see, right from all of this -- I want to thank each and every one of our guests for being with us.

Obviously, you've been listening to a lot of the debate that we've been listening to. This is a debate that is going to go on for some time.

VERJEE: Well, those are our questions on Q&A, and we're going to be right back with yours. It's always good to hear from you, so stay with us.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

CLANCY: Your views in just a moment, then "YOUR WORLD TODAY" continues with Michael Holmes and Daljit Dhaliwal.

VERJEE: Let's check in with them for just a moment for a preview of what's coming up.

MICHAEL HOLMES, CNN ANCHOR: We're busy, busy out here. Caught us off guard.

Yes, I'm going to be taking a look at Iraq from a very different perspective: antiquities. Some call it the birthplace of civilization. What would a war do to that?

DALJIT DHALIWAL, CNN ANCHOR: We'll also have the latest on the United States sniper investigation, where about an hour ago police linked another shooting to the sniper. We'll have a live report.

HOLMES: Back to you guys.

CLANCY: All right, thanks a lot for that. We're looking forward to it.

Here's a look at your views right now.

First, on our new surroundings, Mirella writes from Austria, "I like the redesigned newsroom. I like the new program, and I still like the not- so-new anchors."

VERJEE: Thank you.

Karishma says, "An absolutely fantastic show. Frankly, it's one of the best shows presented by the best anchors on TV today. I like the change."

Thank you, too.

CLANCY: Cheryl from Helsinki wasn't happy, though. She writes, "Please don't make the set any larger. Your presenters could be in danger of disappearing altogether."

Not me.

VERJEE: Don't worry, we'll never do that.

We also received several letters, imaginative ones, from viewers wanting to help catch the serial sniper in the United States.

Alex in Harare asks, "If the police and the FBI can't catch the sniper, why not ask organized crime to go get him? Let some criminals do something useful for a change."

CLANCY: All right. That's Q&A for this day. I'm Jim Clancy.

VERJEE: And I'm Zain Verjee. Thanks for watching.

END

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