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FAREED ZAKARIA GPS
Special - Global Lessons on Guns. Aired 10-11a ET
Aired November 25, 2018 - 10:00 ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
[10:00:15] FAREED ZAKARIA, CNN HOST: Newtown.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I've got bodies here.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Twenty-seven people lost their lives. Twenty of them young children.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Three tense, horrifying hours.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Come to me. Come to me. Hands up. Hands up.
ANDERSON COOPER, CNN ANCHOR: The carnage was unimaginable.
ZAKARIA: Las Vegas.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: The deadliest mass shooting in U.S. history.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Everybody, get down. Get down. Get down. Get down.
WOLF BLITZER, CNN ANCHOR: Truly heartbreaking day. Seventeen. Seventeen people, mostly students, dead.
DON LEMON, CNN ANCHOR: Another shooting, another angry young man. We've seen too many tragedies like this.
ALEXANDER MARQUARDT, CNN SENIOR NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: It has happened again. A mass shooting in America.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Multiple casualties, shelter in place.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Police cars everywhere.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Contact. Contact. Shots fired. Shots fired.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Guns drawn. Rifles. It was surreal.
ZAKARIA: Thousand Oaks.
JOHN BERMAN, CNN ANCHOR: Witnesses described a scene of sheer panic.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: The same old questions after lives are stolen in another senseless rampage.
ZAKARIA: These horrific events have in some ways come to define the United States. Every day in 2016, on average, more than 100 people were killed with a gun in America. In total that year, there were more than 14,000 gun murders and nearly 23,000 gun suicides according to the U.S. government.
Compared to other rich countries, America's gun violence is on another planet. In 2013, the United States had over nine times as many gun homicides per hundred thousand people as Canada did, over 50 times as many as Germany, and almost 90 times as many as the United Kingdom, according to gunpolicy.org.
ZAKARIA: So can Americans learn something from other countries on this crucial issue?
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 start right here in the U.S., where an entire amendment to the Constitution concerns guns. But does that amendment truly mean what the NRA and others have recently led us to believe?
ZAKARIA: "A well-regulated militia," comma, "being necessary for the security of a free state," comma, "the right of the people to keep and bear arms," comma, "shall not be infringed."
Those 27 words and three commas constitute the entirety of the Second Amendment. No disrespect to James Madison, but grammarians and their red pens would have a field day with the sentence. No one is exactly sure what the first clause about the militia has to do with the clause about the right to bear arms.
For almost 200 years, the puzzlement over the meaning was barely an issue. But then in the 1970s, new leadership took over at the NRA and made it the group's mission to protect every citizen's right, supposedly enshrined in the Second Amendment, to keep and bear arms.
This caused former chief justice of the U.S. Supreme Court, Warren Burger, a conservative jurist, appointed by Richard Nixon, to say the following on PBS in 1991.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
WARREN BURGER, FORMER CHIEF JUSTICE, U.S. SUPREME COURT: 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.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
ZAKARIA: So what to make of the Second Amendment and what to do about it?
Joining me now is Michael Waldman, the president of the Brennan Center for Justice at NYU and the author of "The Second Amendment: A Biography." And Jeffrey Toobin, staff writer for the "New Yorker" and chief legal analyst here at CNN.
Michael, so when Warren Burger says that, he was, in a sense, expressing the view of the long continuity of American law, which had felt that the Second Amendment did not confer an unequivocal right to bear arms to every individual.
MICHAEL WALDMAN, PRESIDENT, BRENNAN CENTER FOR JUSTICE: That's exactly right. He was reflecting the conventional wisdom of centuries.
[10:05:01] It was only a decade ago that the Supreme Court in the Heller case said that there was an individual right reflected in the Second Amendment. Those well-regulated militias, which are foreign to us, were actually quite important to the founders. They believed they were a bulwark against tyranny and they were worried that the big, strong, new central government might crush these state military forces, but they were unlike anything we have now. Every --
ZAKARIA: So to be clear, what you were saying is that that was meant to be a way for states to organize militias for themselves, so those militias could have arms, could be armed and that central government -- the federal government couldn't -- so in a sense, it had almost nothing to do with an individual person privately owning an arm.
WALDMAN: What -- you had an individual right to gun ownership, to fulfill your duty to serve in the militia. Every adult, white man was required by law to serve in the militia and required to own a military weapon and keep it at home.
ZAKARIA: What I'm struck by, Jeff, is when you read the books that detail the various gun control laws, what we would now call gun control laws, there were lots in Texas in the 1880s and 1890s and most important, particularly by the 1930s, in the Roosevelt administration, there were a slew of them, all upheld by the Supreme Court.
JEFFREY TOOBIN, CNN CHIEF LEGAL ANALYST: All upheld, and actually not even really very much debated on constitutional grounds. I mean, there have been discussion throughout the 20th century about whether it's a good idea to limit gun ownership, what kind of gun should be regulated. But those were policy disputes. The idea that the Constitution forbade gun control is a relatively new idea. And one that was pushed with enormous vigor and ultimately great success by the National Rifle Association and its allies.
ZAKARIA: So a lot of people, even who will accept the premise that, look, this is happening because we have a lot of guns and that's the one thing that distinguishes America from every other country. They say, well, but we can't do anything because of the Second Amendment. What do you say to that?
WALDMAN: I think it's pretty clear that the Constitution is not a bar to strong, sane gun laws. In the last 10 years, about a thousand cases of considered gun laws under this new interpretation of the Second Amendment, Democratic judges, Republican judges, state courts, federal courts, overwhelmingly, they've upheld those laws. That's because the Heller decision said, you know, it's an individual right, but there are restrictions, as well. They actually mentioned some, that said unusually dangerous weapons, for example, certainly could be barred.
And courts have understood that we have rights and we have responsibilities and that they have to find a way to balance them. Even things like assault weapons bans, all other kinds of proposals have been upheld by the courts and the Supreme Court has declined to take any new Second Amendment cases. They're letting this consensus, at least, so far, form.
It's not the Constitution, it's not the interpretation of the Constitution. It's a broken political system and political will that stands in the way, I believe. That may change, but that's the way it is right now.
ZAKARIA: What do you think are the realistic prospects? What are we looking at going forward on this issue?
WALDMAN: I think we don't know and we may be in a new era. What we have seen in the months after the shootings, after the massacre, in Parkland, Florida, is something we have not seen in years and years, which is focused, effective, angry cohort of people who care about this and want stronger gun laws. There's always been broad support for stronger gun laws, ebbs and flows, but it's always been much more shallow than the intensity of the NRA and its supporters.
It may well be that young people, a whole group of them just don't get why they shouldn't think big. Just as with the Me Too Movement., just as with marriage equality. You can have a social change that can happen fast, in which compromises that seem sensible or necessary to older people suddenly don't seem that way. But, of course, we don't know.
TOOBIN: Count me as more skeptical of this -- of the future prospects of the gun safety movement. Remember the structure of our government? Small, low -- lesser populated states like Arizona, Utah, Oklahoma have the same number of United States senators as California and New York do, with millions -- who have millions more people. As long as the rural interests are overrepresented in our government, in Congress, I think any sort of movement towards gun control is going to face a very uphill battle.
ZAKARIA: Next up, is some sort of mental health crisis responsible for many of America's mass shootings? That's what many say.
[10:10:02] I'll ask the experts, when we come back. (COMMERCIAL BREAK)
ZAKARIA: Thousand Oaks, California.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Breaking news to tell you about of the worst variety.
ZAKARIA: Twelve people shot dead in a country music bar on November 7th.
JIM SCIUTTO, CNN ANCHOR: Here we are again. Another mass shooting in America.
DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: It makes you sick to look at it. But he was a -- a very, very mentally ill person.
ZAKARIA: Mental health. It is a topic that comes up after almost every shooting when the police, the neighbors, the media are searching for answers.
[10:15:00] In the Parkland case, where 14 students and three adults were killed in a high school in Florida in February, mental health was an issue. Shooter Nicholas Cruz's lawyers claim he had a chronic battle with mental illness. But let's look at some basic statistics. America's rate of annual gun deaths is eight times in EU average. Its gun homicide rate is 15 times higher.
Surely it doesn't have eight or 15 times the amount of mental illness, right?
And then there's this, an FBI report in June that studied 63 active shooting cases from 2000 to 2013 and found that only 25 percent of the shooters had ever been diagnosed with any mental illness.
So where is the disconnect?
Well, joining me now are two distinguished doctors. Dr. Amy Barnhorst is the vice chair of community psychiatry at UC Davis and of course Dr. Sanjay Gupta is CNN's chief medical correspondent and a neurosurgeon at Emory Clinic.
Amy, let me ask you, explain to us how to think about this. At some level, I suppose people assume that somebody who goes in and kills a whole bunch of people, particularly children, or innocents in any event, is by definition, insane.
DR. AMY BARNHORST, VICE CHAIR OF COMMUNITY PSYCHIATRY, UC DAVIS: Yes. And it's really hard to sit here and say that those guys were paragon of psychological wellness. Obviously, there's something going on in their minds that makes them different than other people. But I think it's important to differentiate between somebody who has an actual mental illness like schizophrenia or bipolar disorder, even depression, and somebody who is angry, entitled, narcissistic, and harbors an elaborate revenge fantasy against their peers.
They may not be psychologically well, but that's not exactly a mental illness. And when we talk about people with mental illness being violent, that's not the people we're talking about.
ZAKARIA: Sanjay, you've studied this stuff for so long. And you have traveled to so many different countries. When you hear people say, oh, it must be that we have a mental health problem in America, that's why we have so many gun deaths, what's your reaction?
DR. SANJAY GUPTA, CNN CHIEF MEDICAL CORRESPONDENT: That's simply not true. I mean, you look at the mental health rates and you can start to really dig down in the numbers and perhaps when it comes to certain things like depression, the United States may be the most depressed country in the world. It depends on how you look at some of this data, but not 10 times as high as you said, Fareed.
I mean, guns clearly are the distinguishing factor here. And, you know, the vast majority of the gun deaths are suicides. Two-thirds of these gun deaths are suicides. So we get a lot of attention when, you know, Parkland, something like that happens, but there's a hundred of these gun deaths a day and the vast majority of these are people who are actually killing and harming themselves.
ZAKARIA: When you look at suicides, it's fair to say, is it not, that one of the distinguishing features in America is, our suicides are more successful, in general. I mean, obviously, it's terrible and anyone who's trying to commit suicide has a problem. But if you're doing it with a knife, a rope, pills versus a gun, the latter is more likely to be effective.
GUPTA: I mean, it's frightening, really, to think about. And, you know, we both see this in the emergency rooms, as well, when these patients are coming in. So it's grim, but just to give you a little bit of context, 90 percent, roughly, success rates if you're using a firearm. With pills, 1 percent to 2 percent success rate. So it's not even close.
ZAKARIA: When you think about -- if you were to try to devise some kind of policy that was fair to the person who has mental illness, but fair to the community, what would be the best way to go about it?
BARNHORST: Most of these young men don't have histories of mental health treatment or mental illness and they don't necessarily meet the criteria to be involuntarily committed into the mental health system. There's this gap that they fall into between mental health treatment and criminal justice treatment. So what a lot of states are doing now are passing what are called as extreme risk protection laws, also known as red flag laws.
California passed one that went into effect in 2016. Washington and Oregon have since passed. And then since Parkland, a number of other states have passed these laws as well, because it seems like something that they would have been able to implement in Florida before this young man went into the high school. ZAKARIA: Do you -- when you hear this, do you say to yourself, you
know, at the end of the day, still, the big issue remains the way we regulate guns rather than the way we treat people mentally?
BARNHORST: I do think it is. Because there are so many different people in this country who have this same set of characteristics as these angry young men who turn out to be mass shooters. And many of them don't go on to do that. And in other countries, I have to assume there are similar people with very similar characteristics. The thing that really is the last step between, you know, not being a mass shooter and being a mass shooter is having access to high-capacity weapons that enable you to kill a lot of people quickly.
[10:20:05] ZAKARIA: And you know, we know of cases, you've reported on some of them in China and in India, somebody with a mental condition goes into a school, but he has a knife.
GUPTA: That's right.
BARNHORST: Very different.
ZAKARIA: And so maybe one person dices, maybe none.
GUPTA: It's a completely different scenario. You know, Fareed, when I started doing this sort of work back in 2001, this didn't seem like as big an issue. We didn't train for mass casualties within our training program. If it was a mass casualty, it was because of a bus accident. That's what we trained for, blunt trauma. Now the idea that in really any city in America, you could suddenly have dozens perhaps of patients coming in with penetrating gunshot injuries is a totally different scenario now.
ZAKARIA: Thank you both. Fascinating conversation.
Next, we'll visit a country where there was an extremely contentious debate on guns, but eventually liberals and conservatives reached an agreement to keep their citizens safe.
Could that be a model for America?
ZAKARIA: John Fidler, his wife Gaye, and Walter Mikac can relate to the horrors of gun violence in America all too well.
JOHN FIDLER, PORT ARTHUR MASSACRE SURVIVOR: He just walked up and stood in front of people and just shot them. Shot them in their heads.
WALTER MIKAC, FAMILY KILLED IN PORT ARTHUR MASSACRE: I know what it's like waking up the next day. It's your birthday.
[10:25:03] 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 it's not going to change. For a quite a long time.
ZAKARIA: The Fidlers and Mikacs were forever changed by the worst mass shooting in Australia's history.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Heard the gunshots.
ZAKARIA: On April 28th, 1996, over 30 people were shot dead at a crowded tourist destination. An 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.
FIDLER: I froze. I couldn't move. I didn't know what to do. I thought that this is the end.
ZAKARIA: Miraculously the gunman moved on and the Fiddlers escaped with their lives. Outside the cafe, Walter Mikac's ex-wife Nannette and their daughters, Alannah and Madeline, had been having a picnic. Nannette flagged down a car so they could escape. But in that car was the gunman himself.
MIKAC: The local doctor said that Nannette and the children -- the girls are both, they're all dead. I just remember this primal scream. You know, I really wanted to be with them. But 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.
JOHN HOWARD, FORMER AUSTRALIAN PRIME MINISTER: The overwhelming feeling was, this is terrible. We had 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.
HOWARD: In politics, you are to use 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 passed, they would represent one of the most dramatic changes to a country's gun laws the world had 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.
HOWARD: Those decisions are not going to be changed.
ZAKARIA: Wearing a bulletproof vest at one rally.
TIM FISHER, FORMER AUSTRALIAN DEPUTY PRIME MINISTER: 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.
FISHER: I am totally 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 civilian 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.
HOWARD: 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 was small, they still fell 59 percent. What's more, since Port Arthur, there has not been a single public mass shooting in all of Australia.
An accounting by The Washington Post helps put that in perspective. By its count, in the same period in the United States, there have been around 100 such deliberate killings of four or more victims in a public space unrelated to other crimes.
That list, of course, is topped by the Vegas shooting, where 58 died. 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 if 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 in those events is not that far from just normal life. It's the cancer that's eating away the United States of America. But it is possible to change the way things are.
ZAKARIA (on camera): Up next, after many shootings in America, fingers are pointed to the influence of violent video games. We will visit a country where people are equally obsessed with such games, if not more. Is gun violence a big problem there? Well, you'll find out when we come back.
ZAKARIA: You've heard it before, after countless mass shootings. In a decades-long hunt for answers, one culprit keeps coming up, haunting the popular imagination: video games.
FMR. SENATOR JOE LIEBERMAN, D-CONN.: These games teach a child to enjoy inflicting torture.
ZAKARIA: You heard it after Columbine.
FMR. SECRETARY OF STATE HILLARY RODHAM CLINTON: There is just too much evidence that children are desensitized; you win based on how many people you kill.
ZAKARIA: And after Parkland.
PRESIDENT DONALD J. TRUMP: I'm hearing more and more people say the level of violence on video games is really shaping young people's thoughts.
ZAKARIA: But America is hardly the only country obsessed with video games. So in our search for global lessons on guns, we wanted to find a country that could teach us about gaming and gun violence. 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 2018, gaming revenue in Japan was nearly $18 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 Saca (ph), 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.
(UNKNOWN): What all do you have to do?
(LAUGHTER) RICK SACA (ph), FORMER U.S. MARINE: Oh, it's such a -- for -- initially, gee, do you want to help me?
Saca 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.
SACA (ph): Are you having any problems with alcohol? Are you having any problems with drugs? Are you having any problems with relationships, family, work, money?
ZAKARIA: The police also questioned Saca's (ph) family, his coworkers, even his neighbors. And to top it off, he had to give them a detailed map of his home.
SACA (ph): To produce a floor map of where your firearm will be stored in your home is, kind of, unusual -- and photos that actually detail all of the locks that we have to have in there and show that it's done properly.
ZAKARIA: It took Saca (ph) over a year to get approved.
SACA (ph): That's our actual firearms license.
ZAKARIA: And he must renew his various licenses regularly.
SACA (ph): 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 per 100 people, according to one estimate.
And the country's gun murder rate is astonishingly low. In 2016, this nation of 127 million people counted only 13 gun murders. That's right -- 13. The U.S. per capita gun homicide rate that year was more than 300 times that of Japan.
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...
Jake Adelstein was a reporter for Japan's largest daily newspaper, the Yomiuri Shinbun, for 12 years.
JAKE ADELSTEIN, AUTHOR: This is the area where (inaudible) get out and this is where they made the arrest.
ZAKARIA: He authored a memoir of his reporting days 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. I mean, since 1993, I have 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.
(UNKNOWN, 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.
(UNKNOWN, 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.
(UNKNOWN, 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: Next, we'll visit a country with lots of guns, just like the U.S., but a fraction of America's gun violence. Find out that country's secret, when we come back.
ZAKARIA: If there's 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. (APPLAUSE)
Families bring the kids. And after the competition, there's a gigantic party. One festival in the town of Salvana (ph) 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 wheeled out triumphantly to the tune of cowbells.
Switzerland is by many measures a gun lover's paradise. According to one estimate, the Swiss rank in the top 20 in the world, with 28 guns per 100 people.
(UNKNOWN): Ready, fire!
ZAKARIA: Why is Switzerland armed to the teeth? Well, thanks to a tradition that dates back to the dawn of the nation. It's citizen militias that form its army. All able-bodied men, from farmers to financiers, serve at least 245 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 more than 100,000 members and offer classes, competition, and camaraderie.
URSULA LUTZ, SWISS GUN USER: 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 someone in her 70s.
LUTZ: I was very surprised, yes. I never did it.
ZAKARIA: Even the youngsters here are expert marksmen.
Dave Herbert (ph) was all of 10 years old when we met him in 2013, and he started training two years before. His advice for the inexperienced?
(UNKNOWN): (SPEAKING IN GERMAN)
ZAKARIA: 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 19 times lower in 2015, according to gunpolicy.org. Supporters of gun rights in America have claim 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. MARTIN KILLIAS, PROFESSOR OF CRIMINOLOGY, UNIVERSITY OF ST. GALLEN:
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 is 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.
KILLIAS: 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: Oh, they would 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 re-apply 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 septuagenarian, loves to shoot, but she's not interested in looser gun laws like in America.
LUTZ: I don't want that people walk in the streets with the guns.
ZAKARIA: Up next, what to make of all these lessons from all over the world? My own thoughts, coming up.
ZAKARIA: We in America have been remarkably passive with regards to gun violence. In the midst of an epidemic that kills more people each year than over a decade in most advanced countries, we have done virtually nothing.
We hear a flurry of reasons why, some contradicting the others. What they have in common is a remarkable lack of evidence or fact. So we've tried in this program to bring facts to bear on a debate that is usually high on emotion and conviction but low on evidence.
We hear that regulations would never work. So we went all over the world and found many interesting regulations and ideas that do work.
People say, "Well, America is different because it already has many guns. True, but so do Switzerland and Australia. The latter has a gun culture very similar to America's. And yet, as we saw 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 complicated issue, but one rarely sees so much evidence pointing in the same direction. 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. And yet every time there is a serious gun massacre in the U.S., 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 there are so many of them in America.
There are other reasons often given for gun violence: popular culture and violent video games. Japan, with its particular fascination with violent video games, actually has a stunningly low rate of gun deaths.
That leaves the issue of the American Constitution, the argument that the second amendment makes any kind of serious gun control impossible. Now, I'm not a legal historian, but you heard from two serious scholars who noted that the second amendment was not invoked for much of American history, often applied only to well-regulated state militias, and for many decades, did not stand in the way of sensible gun regulation, and that the Supreme Court upheld such regulations.
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 its 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.
Tune into our regular show every Sunday at 10:00 a.m. and 1:00 p.m. Eastern, and thank you for watching this "GPS" special.