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FAREED ZAKARIA GPS
Global Lessons on Guns. Aired 10-11a ET
Aired August 28, 2016 - 10:00 ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
[10:00:09] FAREED ZAKARIA, CNN HOST: Newtown.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I got bodies here.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: 27 people lost their lives, 20 of them young children.
DON LEMON, CNN ANCHOR: A community reeling after the massacre of nine people.
ZAKARIA: San Bernardino.
CAROL COSTELLO, CNN ANCHOR: Another has shooting this time here in southern California.
LEMON: Two suspects dead after the worst mass shooting.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Just boom, boom, boom, and boom.
ZAKARIA: And now Orlando.
JOHN VAUSE, CNN ANCHOR: The worst mass shooting in U.S. history and worst terror attack in this country since 9/11.
ZAKARIA: These horrific events have in some ways come to define the United States. Every day in 2014, 92 people were killed with a gun on average. In total there were almost 11,000 gun murders. More than 21,000 gun suicides and over 81,000 nonfatal gun injuries that year.
Compared to other rich countries, America's gun violence is on another planet. In 2011 the United States had over seven times as many gun homicides, 400,000 people, as is Canada, over 50 times as many as Germany and almost 60 times as many as the United Kingdom. According to GunPolicy.org.
(On camera): So can Americans learn something from other countries on this crucial issue? Of keeping its citizens safe?
(Voice-over): This hour, we're going to travel the world to look for solutions. We'll visit a country that shares America's love for guns yet gun violence rates there are a fraction of American levels.
We'll visit another nation where liberals and conservatives actually reached an agreement on gun control. And afterwards shootings plummeted. But first let's visit a country where the people are obsessed with violent video games.
(On camera): Is gun violence a big problem there? Let's find out.
In the weeks following the Newtown massacre, a clearer picture of the shooter Adam Lanza began to emerge. Alienated and alone, he played military video games in his basement for hours on end, according to reports. With access to a small arsenal, he turned video game fantasies into reality, leaving 26 dead at Sandy Hook.
So in our search for "GLOBAL LESSONS ON GUNS," we wanted to find a country that could teach us about gaming and gun violence.
ZAKARIA: We decided to visit Japan. Because few nations on earth have more avid gamers than the land of the rising sun. The Japanese play many of the same violent video games that we do. In 2015, gaming revenue in Japan was over $12 billion. Behind only the United States and China. But there's another factor to consider here when it comes to gun violence. Japan has some of the strictest gun laws in the world.
The basic premise of those laws? If you want to own a gun, good luck. Japan's firearm and swords control law states no person shall possess a firearm. Before listing a few narrow exceptions for hunters and other categories. For the brave few still willing to apply for one, they face an intricately designed bureaucratic obstacle course.
Just ask Rick Saka, a former U.S. Marine who was living on Mount Fuji when we met him in 2013. He told us he was one of only a handful of foreigners in Japan to legally own a gun.
Back at his house, he showed us the binders full of paperwork he's had to deal with over the years. They were a bit overwhelming even to explain.
UNIDENTIFIED REPORTER: What all do you have to do?
RICK SAKA, FORMER U.S. MARINE: Initially. Want to help me?
ZAKARIA: Saka took over 20 hours of lectures, a written test, a shooting range class and he passed a criminal background check. A doctor gave him a full physical and psychological exam. He also visited the police station more than five times where he was interviewed in an interrogation room.
[10:05:06] SAKA: Are you having any problems with alcohol, are you having any problems with drugs, are you having problems with relationships, family, work, money?
ZAKARIA: The police also questioned Saka's family, his co-workers, even his neighbors. And to top it off, he had to give them a detailed map of his home.
SAKA: To produce a floor map of where your firearm will be stored in your home. It's kind of unusual and photos that actually detailed all of the locks that we have to have in there and show that it's done properly.
ZAKARIA: It took Saka over a year to get approved.
SAKA: That's our actual firearms license.
ZAKARIA: And he must renew his various licenses regularly.
SAKA: The intrusion that occurs with the process regularly would never ever be tolerated in the U.S.
ZAKARIA: It's a process meant to discourage people from even trying to get a gun. And it works. Japan has fewer guns per person than almost any other country. Less than one firearm for 100 people according to one estimate.
And the country's murder rate is astonishingly low. In 2014 this nation of 127 million counted only six gun murders. That's right, six. The United States per capital gun homicide rate that year was nearly 700 times that of Japan.
JAKE ADELSTEIN, AUTHOR, "TOKYO VICE": Japan has so little gun violence that every time a shot is fired in Japan, it's national news. One of the guys pulled out a sword and slashed --
ZAKARIA: Jake Adelstein was a reporter for japans' largest daily newspaper the "Yomiuri Shinbun" for 12 years.
ADELSTEIN: This is the area where the shots were made, we're made to get out and this is where they made the arrest.
ZAKARIA: He authored a memoir of his reporting says called "Tokyo Vice." He says there is a dark side to the rising sun, but it seldom leads to shots fired.
ADELSTEIN: I have not met a cop who has fired his gun in the course of duty. And I mean, I know a lot of cops. Since 1993, I've been working as a reporter in Japan mostly on the police beat.
ZAKARIA: In fact guns are so rare and tightly regulated here that even mobsters avoid using guns. Known as the Yakuza and often recognized for their full body tattoos, Japanese organized crime doesn't lack for muscle. They have reportedly had enormous reach in business and politics. Once described as the largest private equity group in Japan by Morgan Stanley. But many don't like conducting business with a gun.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE (Through Translator): Guns are like nuclear weapons. Weapons that the Yakuza has but won't use.
ZAKARIA: A former Yakuza boss sat down with us to give us his take on the mob's attitude. He insisted on wearing a mask but showed us his tattoos and his partially missing finger. Another Yakuza trademark to prove his identity.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE (Through Translator): Guns are kept and controlled by strict regulations within the Yakuza organization so it's prohibited for members to take the gun out and use it.
ZAKARIA: That's because punishments for gun infractions are very high in Japan, he says. Simply firing a gun can get you life in prison. And if a foot soldier in the mob gets caught with a gun, his boss can also be held responsible. So these days, the Yakuza conduct business using less efficient methods.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE (Through Translator): There aren't specific orders on what weapons we should use, but obviously there's only knives or Japanese swords instead of guns to kill.
ZAKARIA: Jake Adelstein says Japan's lesson for the U.S. is a simple one.
ADELSTEIN: If you make strict gun control laws and you assign cops to enforce those laws and you actually enforce them, the rate of gun deaths in the United States would plummet. But you have to do it.
ZAKARIA: So despite lots of barbaric video games, gun violence barely exists in Japan. But the country does seem so different from America.
Next we'll visit a country with lots of guns, just like the U.S. but not a lot of gun violence. Find out its secret when we come back.
[10:13:56] ZAKARIA: If there' one country with a love for guns that rivals America's, it's the nation best known for its alps, Switzerland.
Welcome to the Feldschiessen, Switzerland's annual field shooting festival that's said to be the largest shooting competition in the world. Towns and villages across the country stage tests of marksmanship. Families bring the skids. And after the competition, there's a gigantic party.
One festival in the town of Savannah was especially boisterous. The winners of each event were cheered wildly. And the champion of the prestigious 300-meter competition, known to all as the shooting king, was reeled at triumphantly to the tune of cowbells.
[10:15:02] Switzerland is by many measures a gun lover's paradise. According to one estimate, the Swiss ranked third in the world with 46 guns per 100 people. Trailing only Yemen and of course the United States.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Ready, fire.
ZAKARIA: Why is Switzerland armed to the teeth? Well, thanks to a tradition that dates back to the Dawn of the Nation. Its citizen militia that forms it's army. All able bodied men from farmers to financiers serve at least 260 days in the militia. They're all trained to shoot and most of them keep their guns at home. Militiamen can hone their skills at their local shooting clubs. Gun appreciation societies that boast hundreds of thousands of members, offering classes, competition, and camaraderie.
URSULA LUTZ, GUN ENTHUSIAST: We do competitions together and we are young people and we are older people.
ZAKARIA: Pistol-packing Ursula Lutz has been shooting for most of her life. On this day at her club, she hits the bull's eye 18 out of 20 times. Not bad for a 70-year-old.
LUTZ: I was very surprised, yes, I never did it.
ZAKARIA: Even the youngsters here are expert marksmen. Dave Habek (PH) is all of 10 years old. And started training two years ago. His advice for the inexperienced? Don't fidget while shooting.
Despite the Swiss people's enthusiasm for guns, gun homicide rates are much lower than in the United States. Over 15 times lower in 2013, according to GunPolicy.org. Supporters of gun rights in America have claimed that the Swiss proved one of their main points -- lots of guns does not necessarily mean lots of gun violence. But that is not the whole story here in Switzerland.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Their interest definitely is not that any crazy man with a criminal history should go out and be able to buy a gun at any spot.
ZAKARIA: Dr. Martin Killias, a professor of criminology at the University of St. Gallen. He points out that many Swiss gun laws are much stricter than those in America.
DR. MARTIN KILLIAS, PROFESSOR OF CRIMINOLOGY, UNIVERSITY OF ST. GALLEN: There are nowadays far more controls than there used to be in the past.
ZAKARIA: Everyone who buys a gun must pass a background check, automatic weapons are banned and gun purchases must be registered with the government. The NRA, Killias says, would not be very happy.
KILLIAS: Others will say it's a communist country, definitely.
ZAKARIA: In the militia, soldiers can take home their weapons, but not their ammunition. After a soldier has completed his service, he must now reapply for the right to keep his gun. The truth is, many gun owners' attitudes in Switzerland are very different from the NRA.
Ursula Lutz, the pistol packing 70-year-old, loves to shoot, but she's not interested in leisure gun laws like in America.
LUTZ: I don't want that people walk in the streets with the guns.
ZAKARIA: Switzerland may look like a gun utopia, but it combines the availability of firearms with significant gun control. Next, we'll visit a country where politics about guns was very
contentious. But liberals and conservatives there actually reached a political agreement on some far-reaching measures.
[10:23:06] ZAKARIA: John Fidler, his wife Gaye, and Walter Mikac can relate to the horrors of gun violence in America all too well.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: He just walked up and stood in front of people and just shot them, shot them, shot them in the heads.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I know what it's like waking up the next day, it's your birthday, you wake up alone. There's a card on the bedside table that's not been written in, and there's no noise in the house. And that's not going to change for quite a long time.
ZAKARIA: The Fidlers and Mikacs were forever changed by the worst mass shooting in Australia's history.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: There's gunshots.
ZAKARIA: On April 28th, 1996, over 30 people were shot dead at a crowded tourist destination. A historic prison in Port Arthur, Tasmania. 28-year-old Martin Bryant arrived at the site, ate lunch, then walked into a cafe and pulled a semi-automatic rifle out of his bag. His first shots killed three of the Fidler's best friends, Wally Bennett, Kevin Sharp and Kevin's brother Ray Sharp, who were gunned down right in front of them.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Our face, I couldn't move, I didn't know what to do, I thought this is the end.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I said to John, there he is. And with that he turned around and pushed me under the table. And I saw the man behind me hasn't got a hit and now the others under the table told me to be quiet. And John told me to shush and then we pretended to be dead.
ZAKARIA: Miraculously the gunman moved on and Fidlers escaped with their lives.
Outside the cafe, Walter Mikac's ex-wife Nanette and their daughters Alannah and Madeline had been having a picnic. Nanette flagged down a car so they could escape. But in that car was the gunman himself.
[10:25:04] Nanette pleaded for her family. But the killer shot her and 3-year-old Madeline then chased down 6-year-old Alannah and shot her near a tree where she was trying to hide.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: The doctor say with Nanette and -- and the girls, they're all dead. I just remember this primal scream. I really wanted to be with them. At that point in time I would have been much happier to be dead than alive.
ZAKARIA: In all, 35 people were killed before Bryant was captured by the police.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: The overwhelming feeling was this is terrible. We have to do something about it.
ZAKARIA: Prime Minister John Howard had been elected just weeks before the massacre. Other mass shootings in Australia had provoked outrage. But with so many victims from different parts of the country, the Port Arthur shooting shocked this small nation of 18 million to its core.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: In politics you use your political capital for a good cause or you watch it waste away. And I felt that I had to use the authority of my office to change things.
A dramatic reduction in the number of automatic and semi-automatic weapons.
ZAKARIA: Howard proposed the toughest gun laws in Australia's history. A ban on semi-automatic rifles and shotguns, and pump-action shotguns. Mandatory gun registration requiring a reason for buying a gun. And new rules for storing guns.
If they pass, they would represent one of the most dramatic changes to a country's gun laws the world has ever seen. It wasn't going to be easy. Howard was a conservative and many of his supporters were rural gun owners who were dead set against tighter laws. As he traveled the country to sell the plan, Howard met plenty of resistance.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: My decisions are not going to be changed.
ZAKARIA: Wearing a bullet-proof vest at one rally.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: It wasn't all that popular. There was a lot of critical outbursts in the media. But was it the right course overall for Australia? Yes, it was.
ZAKARIA: Tim Fisher was Howard's deputy prime minister and a somewhat unlikely ally, a proud gun owner and a veteran of the Vietnam War. But he supported Howard's efforts wholeheartedly.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I'm highly opposed to automatics and semi- automatics being in the suburbs of Australia or anywhere.
ZAKARIA: Thanks to Howard's broad coalition, all of Australia's states and territories enacted the reforms within about two years of the Port Arthur shooting. To get rid of all of the newly banned guns, the government sponsored a gun buyback program, paying everyone to turn in their illegal guns so they could be destroyed. Over 600,000 guns were eliminated. An estimated one-fifth of Australia's firearms.
After the new measures were passed, some of Prime Minister Howard's right-wing allies were voted out of office. But overall the reforms were popular.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: In a short period of time, arising out of a terrible tragedy, we did bring about a change which over the years has demonstrated to have saved lives.
ZAKARIA: According to one study gun suicides fell 65 percent in the decade that followed. And while the sample size for gun homicides were small, they still fell 59 percent. What's more, there hasn't been a single mass shooting in Australia since Port Arthur.
Still, for the victims of Port Arthur, painful memories will never be too far away.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: One of the things that affects me the most is just, we wake up to the radio in the morning, and there's been shootings overseas, particularly America, and that really does make us take a step back, sort of thing.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: It's almost like, what happens is not that far from just normal life. It's the cancer that's eating away the United States of America. It is possible to change the way things are.
ZAKARIA: Australia offers a hopeful example for those who support gun control, that political leadership can make a difference.
Up next, in this age of huge advancement, what can technology to do to keep us safe?
ZAKARIA: It is a horrific, unthinkable event. It always makes the headlines.
(UNKNOWN): A four-year-old boy accidentally shot himself in the head and died.
(UNKNOWN): Their six-year-old son accidentally pulled the trigger.
(UNKNOWN): A four-year-old boy was killed Thursday when his four- year-old cousin accidentally shot him.
ZAKARIA (voice over): And those are just a few examples. The Washington Post reported in October of 2015 that toddlers -- yes, toddlers -- had been shooting themselves or others on a weekly basis up to that point that year. One such incident, where a child shot another child, may come to save many lives.
ERNST MAUCH, FORMER CEO, HECKLER AND KOCH: A six-year-old boy shot his six-year-old -- his six-year-old friend with a gun from H and K.
ZAKARIA: It was the late 1990s, and Ernst Mauch was the head of the famous German gun-making firm Heckler and Koch, known as H and K. He was called to task for his company's weapon having been used by a young boy to kill another one.
MAUCH: And I had to go through a three-hours telephone conference with the judge in court. They wanted to know why this gun fired in the hand of this young boy.
ZAKARIA: The judge's pointed questions about this utterly senseless death of a child affected Mauch deeply, leading to a decision.
MAUCH: I came home and said to my wife, now I have to do everything to make a new generation of intelligent defense products.
ZAKARIA: Intelligent defense products -- those are better known to you and me as "smart guns," guns that won't fire unless the person pulling the trigger is authorized...
BEN WHISHAW, ACTOR: The Walther PPK/S 9 millimeter short. It's been coded to your palm print so only you can fire it.
ZAKARIA: Like the gun James Bond was given by Q in Skyfall.
Mauch made good on his promise to his wife by designing this smart gun, the Armatix iP1. The smart technology in the iP1 works like this. The authorized user of the gun wears a special watch which communicates with the gun. If the user types in a pin and the watch is within a certain distance from the gun, the gun will fire. If somebody else picks up the gun and does not have the watch or the pin, the gun will not fire -- pretty simple.
Mauch says the iP1 has proven itself to be reliable time and time again. So why aren't Mauch's guns and other smart guns available in every gun shop in America?
After all, the president himself made the case for smart gun technology in a heartfelt speech in early 2016.
PRESIDENT BARACK OBAMA: If a child can't open a bottle of aspirin, we should make sure that they can't pull a trigger on a gun, right?
ZAKARIA: Mauch's technology could make sure of that, but some gun owners seem determined to make sure nobody in this country can buy one.
The Washington Post's Michael Rosenwald told the tale of two gun shops that intended to sell Mauch's iP1 gun and then decided not to after threats of violence, protests and attacks on social media.
Why would gun lovers care if smart guns are also for sale?
Well, one of the biggest setbacks for all smart guns has been a somewhat obscure New Jersey law, the Childproof Handgun Law of 2002. It said that three years after personalized or childproof handguns become available for retail purposes in any state, all handguns sold, assigned or transferred in New Jersey must be safe or smart handguns. And some gun rights advocates don't like being told what to do or what kind of gun they can carry, sell or trade.
CHARLTON HESTON, ACTOR: From my cold, dead hands.
ZAKARIA: The NRA's lobbying website spells out the organization's official position. The NRA doesn't oppose the development of smart guns; however, it does oppose any law that would force Americans to buy only guns with smart technology.
Mauch used to be a darling of gun owners, having designed many of the world's best-known weapons, including the assault rifle that is said to have killed Osama bin Laden. Now he is an outcast in his industry and his community.
(on camera): Do the gun-makers in America -- do they think you're a traitor, that you are doing something against...
MAUCH: They -- they don't like me so much.
ZAKARIA (voice over): But Mauch is still optimistic.
MAUCH: I think, sooner or later, they will ask for licensing the technology because you cannot hide it for -- for all the time. If people like it or not, it will come. It has to come.
ZAKARIA: Up next, a retired United States Army general who wants to take away soldiers' guns? Stay with us.
ZAKARIA: Every day in the United States, on average, about 100 Americans die by suicide. More than half of these cases involve firearms. For members of the military, in 2014, about two-thirds of all suicides involved firearms. One man says enough. He's a seasoned leader from an organization that literally lives and dies by guns.
You're a general. You're an Army man. You've spent your life around guns. You're comfortable with them; you know they can be used responsibly. But you also feel that, when people are at risk in terms of mental issues, it is very dangerous for them to have access to guns.
GENERAL PETER CHIARELLI, U.S. ARMY (RET.): It is very dangerous for them to have access to guns. I believe that.
(UNKNOWN): General Chiarelli will discuss the report and the suicide prevention efforts in the Army.
ZAKARIA (voice over): General Peter Chiarelli, now retired, took over as the Army's vice chief of staff in 2008. The Army suicide rate had doubled since 2001.
CHIARELLI: This is an area that we have to in fact attack.
ZAKARIA: And he was tasked with battling the epidemic. (UNKNOWN): As soon as they go, (inaudible)!
CHIARELLI: I would be very, very careful in not underestimating the impact of 13 years of war on an all-volunteer force. I think we were seeing in those suicide numbers some of the effect of repeated deployments and high stress and trauma.
ZAKARIA: To better understand the issue, Chiarelli was briefed on the details of every single suicide that occurred during the four years that he was the Army's number two officer. In 2010, a eureka moment.
ADMIRAL MICHAEL MULLEN, FORMER CHAIRMAN, JOINT CHIEFS OF STAFF: I do want to express our thoughts and condolences.
ZAKARIA: Admiral Michael Mullen, then chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, had sent an article from a medical journal to the Pentagon's top brass.
CHIARELLI: It showed how this particular medical organization, working with a really high-risk population of people who could commit suicide, had lowered their suicide rate to zero for a three-year period, solely by recommending to people who were in crisis to separate themselves from their privately owned weapons. That was striking to me.
ZAKARIA: But when he tried to institute it in the Army, Pentagon lawyers told him it was a no-go.
(UNKNOWN): Our freedom's under attack like never before.
ZAKARIA: The NRA, they said, would block him. And that's exactly what the gun advocacy group tried to do.
(on camera): The NRA got Congress to include a provision that barred military commanders from even collecting information about a troop's personal weapon. Was that frustrating?
CHIARELLI: It's frustrating when you're working with an at-risk population.
And the reason why it's so frustrating is this science is so inexact. We need to have the ability to recommend to that individual that they separate themselves from that personal weapon. And that's what's frustrating about it.
ZAKARIA: Frustrating also to a dozen senior retired generals and admirals who joined Chiarelli in lobbying Congress to amend the law. They argued it was directly prohibiting conversations that are needed to save lives.
ZAKARIA: Shouldn't you be able to order a soldier to do this -- I mean, given how compelling that research was?
CHIARELLI: Well, the fact of the matter is, as far as Congress was willing to go was that we can make the recommendation. We can't confiscate; we can't force. ZAKARIA: It may not be the law Chiarelli wanted, but the National Defense Authorization Act now allows military leaders to ask troops about private firearms if they believe members are at risk of harming themselves or others.
CHIARELLI: I think we're on a journey. I think it was a huge win for us to get that out of legislation so commanders can now ask that question.
ZAKARIA (voice over): Just look at Israel. In 2006, the Israeli defense forces tackled the rising suicides among their troops. They forbid soldiers from bringing their weapons home on weekends. On weekends, the suicide rate dropped by 40 percent. The weekday rate remained flat.
CHIARELLI: It's hugely powerful. And you don't have to just look at Israel. There's just so many studies.
ZAKARIA (on camera): What do you say to those who say, well, there is the second amendment, and that's why you can't go much further with your efforts?
CHIARELLI: I don't buy that. I don't believe the second amendment was put in place to take a person who's at high risk for hurting themselves and put in their hands a weapon that, in an impulsive moment, at a time when they're not thinking straight, they can end their life.
ZAKARIA (voice over): In 2012, a record 321 active-duty soldiers killed themselves. That's more than died on the battlefield.
And it's not just a problem for the armed forces. More than 42,000 Americans killed themselves in 2014 using guns and other methods. That's more than double the number that died in homicides, according to the CDC.
CHIARELLI: When I started to oversee the Army's suicide prevention efforts...
ZAKARIA: Retired General Peter Chiarelli thinks mental health professionals should also be able to do what the Army has started to do.
CHIARELLI: And I think we should look at that nationally. Individuals that provide behavioral health counseling to people who are at risk, that they make that recommendation to their patients, that -- I'm not...
ZAKARIA (on camera): That they separate themselves from their guns?
CHIARELLI: That they separate themselves from their guns.
I am not a doctor, but I have read enough evidence along this line to indicate that that would truly be a best practice that we should adopt. ZAKARIA (voice over): A study by the Harvard School of Public Health
shows that suicide rates were higher in states with lots of guns, states like Wyoming, where about 60 percent of households report owning guns.
Another study shows that reducing gun ownership in all states would result in fewer deaths by suicide each year.
Suicide is a complex problem. But one thing seems clear, certainly to retired General Peter Chiarelli.
CHIARELLI: We need to quit pointing the finger at the services and look at this huge national problem. Are we putting the resources we need against the research necessary to understand this and to study it? When 38,000 of our citizens take their own lives every single year, this is a national problem that we need to attack, and we can.
ZAKARIA: The good news is that active-duty military suicides were down about 17 percent in 2015, compared to 2012. But that still meant 266 active-duty soldiers, sailors, airmen and marines had killed themselves. That's 266 too many. The reasons are complicated. Increased awareness and vigilance likely play a role, but also fewer soldiers in combat, as the United States has drawn down in Afghanistan. Many active-duty have turned into veterans, and there the numbers are not very promising. Estimates show that one out of every five people who kill themselves in America is a military veteran. That's about 8,000 people every year.
Up next, what to make of all these lessons from all over the world? My own conclusions, coming up.
ZAKARIA: We have gone all over the world in search of solutions, ways to bring down the epidemic of gun violence that afflicts America. We saw many interesting ideas that work, all of them centering around some simply, common-sense ideas that would put some checks on the unfettered sale and possession of firearms. What we did not find was a large-scale nationwide example where an expanded attention to mental health issues could be tied to a reduction in homicides or suicides using guns.
This might surprise you, because every time there's a serious gun massacre in the United States -- and, alas, these are fairly common -- the media focuses on the twisted psychology of the shooter and asks why we don't pay more attention to detecting and treating mental illness.
The question we should really be focused on is not the specific cause of a single shooting, but why are there so many of them in America?
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
(UNKNOWN): I've got bodies here.
(END VIDEO CLIP) ZAKARIA: According to gunpolicy.org, there were more than 11,000 gun homicides in the United States in 2012. In Canada, there were fewer than 200; in Germany and Spain, fewer than 100; in Australia, fewer than 50. America's per capita gun homicide rate in 2012 was over 17 times higher than the average of Canada, Germany, Australia and Spain.
Does anyone think that we have 17 times as many psychologically troubled people as they do in these countries?
There are other reasons often given for gun violence, popular culture and violent video games. Japan, with its particular fascination with violent video games, is actually stunningly low in gun deaths.
(BEGIN VIDEO GAME CLIP)
(UNKNOWN): Say hello to my little friend.
(END VIDEO GAME CLIP)
ZAKARIA: So whatever you think of violent video games and movies, they don't seem to be the key cause of gun violence, and we do have an actual experiment.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
(UNKNOWN): ... a dramatic reduction...
(END VIDEO CLIP)
ZAKARIA: In the aftermath of its own Newtown-like massacre, Australia changed its gun laws. The result? Homicides and suicides plummeted in the decade that followed. Of course, like all real-world problems, the link between guns and violence is a complex issue. But one rarely has so much evidence pointing in the same direction.
That finally leaves the issue of the American Constitution, the argument that the second amendment makes any kind of serious gun control impossible. I'm not a legal historian, but I will note that many serious ones have pointed out that the second amendment was not invoked much for much of American history, often applied only to well- regulated militias and for many decades did not stand in the way of sensible gun regulation, and that the Supreme Court upheld such regulations.
All that started to change in the 1970s and '80s as part of a spirited political movement to make gun rights inviolable. As I said, I'm not a lawyer, but listen to someone who was, Warren Burger. He was chief justice of the Supreme Court for 17 years, a conservative Republican appointed by Richard Nixon. Here's what he said about the second amendment.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
FORMER SUPREME COURT CHIEF JUSTICE WARREN BURGER: This has been the subject of one of the greatest pieces of fraud -- I repeat the word "fraud" -- on the American public, by special interest groups, that I have ever seen in my lifetime. Now, just look at those words. There are only three lines to that amendment, "a well-regulated militia."
If the militia, which was going to be the state army, was going to be well-regulated, why shouldn't 16 and 17 and 18, or any other age persons be regulated in the use of arms?
Someone asked me recently if I was for or against a bill that was pending in Congress calling for a five days' waiting period. And I said, yes, I'm very much against it. It should be a 30 days' waiting period.
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ZAKARIA: But let's put aside the legal debate. Here's how I think about this basically. One of the most important tasks for a government is to keep its citizens, especially the children, safe on the streets and in their schools. Every other developed country in the world is able to fulfill this basic mandate; America is not. And the greatest tragedy is we know how to do it.
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