Return to Transcripts main page

Fareed Zakaria GPS

Global Lessons on Guns. Aired 10-11a ET

Aired September 04, 2022 - 10:00   ET




UNIDENTIFIED MALE: You got to be more liberal with that abortion situation.

BASH: Voters in a crucial battleground state up in the air as the summer comes to a close.


BASH: Thanks for spending your Sunday morning with us. Fareed Zakaria takes over right now.



UNIDENTIFIED REPORTER: Murdered 19 children and two teachers in Uvalde, Texas.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: We do this again and again and again.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Nineteen children this time.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: At least 20 shots inside the store.

ZAKARIA: Buffalo.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Very heavily armed.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: How is this possible we ask God?

UNIDENTIFIED REPORTER: Killing 10 people and wounding three others in what police call a racially-motivated attack.

ZAKARIA: Las Vegas.

UNIDENTIFIED REPORTER: The deadliest mass shooting in U.S. history.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Everybody, get down, get down, get down, get down.

ZAKARIA: Orlando.

UNIDENTIFIED REPORTER: Three tense horrifying hours.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Come to me. Come to me. Hands up, hands up.

ANDERSON COOPER, CNN ANCHOR: The carnage was unimaginable.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: All units. All units.

ZAKARIA: Newtown.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I got bodies here.

UNIDENTIFIED REPORTER: Twenty-seven people lost their lives. 20 of them young children.

UNIDENTIFIED REPORTER: A mass shooting at a Fourth of July parade.

ZAKARIA: And on America's last big holiday weekend, a shooting in Highland Park, Illinois.


ZAKARIA: Those horrific events and so many others like them have come to define the United States. The most recent figures show that every day on average more than 100 people are killed with a gun in America. In total, there were over 19,000 gun murders and 24,000 gun suicides in 2020.

Compared to other rich countries America's gun violence is on another planet. The United States has eight times as many gun homicides per 100,000 people as Canada does. 50 times as many as Germany and 100 times as many as the United Kingdom. These other countries all face the same big challenges with mental health. They all have the same incredibly violent video games.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Contact. Contact. Shot fired. Shot fired.

ZAKARIA: But other nations pale in comparison when it comes to gun violence.

DON LEMON, CNN ANCHOR: Another shooting, another angry young man. We've seen too many tragedies like this.

ZAKARIA: So can America's 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 United States with a former firearms executive who says the gun industry has radicalized America. Conservative legal scholars often say that we should try to understand

the times in which the founders wrote the Constitution to understand their original intent. So let's consider what they must have been imagining when they wrote the Second Amendment and whether in their wildest dreams the founders could have imagined the AR-15 and similar assault rifles, the sorts of weapons used in Uvalde, Sandy Hook, Parkland and Orlando.

A solid shooter can fire 45 rounds a minute with a maximum accuracy of 600 yards. The main military weapon in the late 18th Century when the founders were around was the musket, which took one round at a time, could be reloaded to shoot three rounds in a minute by an experienced musketeer, and was accurate to 55 yards according to "The Washington Post."

So how did America get to a place where there are tens of millions of those assault-type military style weapons in circulation. And what can we do about them now that they are here?

My next guest is the ideal person to tell us. Ryan Busse is a gun- loving, lifelong shooter and a former firearms executive. He's the author of the book "Gun Fight: My Battle Against the Industry That Radicalized America." He's also a senior adviser at Giffords, an organization dedicated to preventing gun violence.


When I look at something like an AR-15 I think about, you know, those muskets, what was in the minds of the founding fathers. This feels more like a tank. It feels like, as you say, a military assault offensive weapon that has so little in common that it really shouldn't be thought of as even part of the same family.

RYAN BUSSE, AUTHOR, "GUNFIGHT": Yes. It's difficult to envision that something that can do as much damage effectively as an AR-15 can, can be in the same league as some defensive gun, even modern defensive guns now. The AR-15 is purpose built to be an offensive killing machine and it's very, very good at it. It's not an accident that these mostly kids, these teenage kids pick that gun. They pick that gun because they have been told, they have been marketed to. It is advertised that this thing is the most badass military gun they can buy. So I don't know why we are shocked that they use it. I would be shocked if they didn't use it.

ZAKARIA: Talk about Columbine in 1999. You see that as a real turning point.

BUSSE: I do. Columbine, April 1999, was the first really visible mass school shooting in the United States. And after that we now know through enterprising reporters that the NRA sat down and had debates, are we going to be part of the solution or can we use this to double down, to say hell no, to maybe build our membership, use this to build political power, can we use this to rally the troops? They clearly opted for the second choice.

ZAKARIA: Tell me about your own experience, your personal experience. Because you were involved in the arms industry. You were involved with these gun manufacturers. And then you turned on them and you've been campaigning against them. Did they go after you?

BUSSE: Yes. I've gotten a fair amount of trolling and I've gotten a fair amount of personal attacks. I still appreciate guns. I grew up with guns. Many of my best memories are of guns with my dad and my brother, my own kids. I still own lots of guns. I believe that all of those freedoms have to be balanced with an immense responsibility. And I think our balance is way out of whack.

And so this isn't an anti-gun campaign. This is I am trying to restore responsibility that the industry once knew it should adhere to and has forgotten.

ZAKARIA: Given where we are today, there are 40 million AR-15s in the United States already. And as you say millions being sold. Where do you go from here? What's a realistic reform path?

BUSSE: So several policies that would help, background checks for all purchases, universal background checks. Been trying to do that since Columbine. That needs to happen. It's a no brainer. We need stronger red flag laws and we need them instituted across the country. That takes into account mental health and the ownership and purchasing of firearms.

And I think we have to do something about armed intimidation and open carry. I'm really frightened about the health of our democracy. I think when we allow people with loaded AR-15s to march into the Michigan capital or God forbid that happens at another January 6th, like that's not how a democracy functions. And we need to do something to rein in the dangerous open carry intimidation that we're seeing across the country.

ZAKARIA: I mean, how would you draw the line in terms of what kind of weapon like this really shouldn't be allowed for civilian use has no place for hunting, for example?

BUSSE: Look. If we're going to have these guns -- and Americans have lots of freedoms, right, and we're debating them all the time. I don't know where the line is. I just know that we're way over it right now. And this is what a democracy has to do. We have to figure out where the reasonable line is. And I know we can find a way, and I know we can figure out ways to trim back the stuff.

The age limits on purchasing AR-15s, come on. I mean, I was 18 once. We were all 18 once. Our frontal lobes aren't even fully formed. Let's do what's reasonable. And I think that's a very reasonable step. When people say only criminals, like this isn't going to work because criminals won't obey laws. This Buffalo shooter, this Uvalde shooter, they waited until they were 18 to buy the gun.

ZAKARIA: It does seem bizarre that at 18 you have to wait three more years to be able to order a beer at a bar, but you can buy an AR-15.

BUSSE: Well, it sounds crazy. Think how it sounds to those parents in Uvalde. ZAKARIA: Tragic, terrible, but really, really important. Thank you.

Next, we'll visit another country where there was an extremely contentious debate on guns, but in that country eventually liberals and conservatives reached an agreement to keep their citizens safe.



ZAKARIA: John Fiddler, his wife Gay, 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 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 it's not going to change for quite a long time.

ZAKARIA: The Fiddlers and Mikac were forever changed by the worst mass shooting in Australia's history. On April 28, 1996 over 30 people were shot dead at a crowded tourist destination. A historic prison in Port Arthur. 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 Fiddlers' best friends, Wally Bennett, Kevin Sharp, and Kevin's brother Ray Sharp who were gunned down right in front of them.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I froze. I couldn't move. I didn't know what to do. I thought this is the end.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I said to John, I've been hit. And with that he turned around and pushed me under the table. And I saw a man behind me hasn't got a hit. And now the others are 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 the Fiddlers 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. Nanette pleaded for her family, but the killer shot her and the 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 said Nanette and the children, the girls are both -- they're all dead. I just remember this primal scream. And I really wanted to be with them. I didn't want -- 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 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 either 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 travelled the country to sell the plan, Howard met plenty of resistance.

HOWARD: Those decisions are not going to be changed.

ZAKARIA: Wearing a bullet proof vest at one rally.

TIM FISHER, FORMER 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 we're rising 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 been only one public mass shooting in all of Australia. An accounting by "The Washington Post" helps put this into perspective. By its count in the same period in the U.S., there have been more than 100 such deliberate killing 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 perished. Still, for the victims of Port Arthur, painful memories will never be too far away.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: One of the thing 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. It is possible to change the way things are.

ZAKARIA: Up next, after many shootings in America, fingers are pointed to the influence of violent video games. So we will visit a country where people are equally obsessed with such games, if not more so. Is gun violence a big problem there? 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 for years -- video games.

JOE LIEBERMAN, FORMER U.S. SENATOR: These games teach a child to enjoy inflicting torture.

ZAKARIA: You heard it after Columbine.

HILLARY CLINTON, FORMER SECRETARY OF STATE: There is just too much evidence that children are desensitized. You win based on how many people you kill.


ZAKARIA: You heard it from then President Trump after Parkland.

DONALD TRUMP, FORMER PRESIDENT: I'm hearing more and more people say the level of violence on video games is really shaping young people's thoughts.

ZAKARIA: You heard it from West Virginia Governor Jim Justice after Uvalde.

GOV. JIM JUSTICE (R), WEST VIRGINIA: We know these violent video games that are out there getting in the minds of our children. Why don't we do something about it?

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 2021 gaming revenue in Japan was nearly $22 billion, behind only China and the United States.

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.

That is part of what made it so shocking when former Prime Minister Shinzo Abe was assassinated notably with a homemade gun. Anyone who wants to apply to own a gun legally faces 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.

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 has astonishingly few gun deaths. In 2020 this nation of 125 million counted only four firearm related deaths. That is right, four. The United States that year had more than 45,000 gun deaths.

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 Japan's' largest daily newspaper the "Yomiuri Shinbun" for 12 years.

ADELSTEIN: This is the area where the shots were made to get out and this is where they may be arrested.

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. 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 reported 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 punishment 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.

JAKE ADELSTEIN, AMERICAN JOURNALIST: 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 but a fraction of America's gun violence. Find out that country's secret when we come back.




ZAKARIA (voice-over): 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.

Families bring the kids. And after the competition, there's a gigantic party. One festival in the town of Salvenach 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 cow bells.

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.


ZAKARIA: Why is Switzerland armed to the teeth? Well thanks to a tradition that dates back to the dawn of the nation. Its citizen militias constitute its army. Most able-bodied men from farmers to financiers serve at least 245 days in the militia. They are 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 a hundreds of thousands members offering classes, competition and camaraderie.

URSULA LUTZ, GUN OWNER: We do competitions together. And we are young people and we are older people.

ZAKARIA: This is pistol-packing Ursula Lutz, a gun shooter since she was young. On the day we met her at her club she hit the bull's eye 18 out of 20 times. Not bad for someone who was 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 inexperience? Don't fidget while shooting.

Despite the Swiss people's enthusiasm for guns, gun homicide rates are much lower than in the United States, 20 times lower in 2019 according to the Institute for Health Metrics and Evaluation. Supporters of gun rights in America have claimed that the Swiss prove 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.

DR. MARTIN KILLIAS, PROFESSOR, 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, gun purchases must be registered with the government. Over time Swiss voters have even tightened these controls to comply with E.U. standards. The NRA, Killias says, would not be very happy.

KILLIAS: Oh, they would say it is a communist country, definitely.

ZAKARIA: In the militia, soldiers can take home their weapons but not their ammunition.


ZAKARIA: After a soldier has completed his service, he must now reapply for the right to keep his gun. The truth is many guns owners' attitudes in Switzerland are very different from the NRA.

Ursula Lutz, the pistol-packing septuagenarian, loves to shoot. But she is not interested in looser gun laws like in America.

LUTZ: I don't want that people walk in street with the guns.


ZAKARIA: Next up, America's gun problem is bad. How bad? We don't actually know. I'll talk to an expert about why that is its own grave problem.



ZAKARIA: Take out your number two pencils. I have a pop quiz on your knowledge of guns in America. Question number one, how many non-fatal shootings are there in America every year? Question number two, how many of those non-fatal shootings result in serious injuries? Question three, how many guns are owned by the American public?

The answer to all of the above is actually nobody really knows for sure. There are various reasons for this. For instance on the gun ownership question, in most states you don't have to register your guns. So it's tough to say exactly how many guns are in circulation or who owns them.

But the problem goes much deeper than that, to an act of Congress that had a chilling effect on federal agencies keeping them from doing gun research for some 20 years. What happened and why does it matter? Former John Jay College president Jeremy Travis now works for Arnold Ventures, a philanthropy where he is executive vice president of criminal justice.


ZAKARIA: So in the mid 1990s tell us what you're doing.

JEREMY TRAVIS, EXECUTIVE VICE PRESIDENT OF CRIMINAL JUSTICE, ARNOLD VENTURES: I was nominated and confirmed to be the director of the National Institute of Justice in the Clinton administration. And that is the research arm of the Justice Department. It was at a time just to put it in context when rates of violence were going through the roof. The country was really in panic. And one of the tasks we had under the '94 crime act was to conduct research on gun violence from the Justice Department.

At the same time the Centers for Disease Control which had established a national institute for research on injury prevention was starting a research program on firearms as an injury question. And so we were both operating in essence in tandem on one of the critical issues facing the country then and now, which is gun violence. And a study was published coming out of CDC showing that the mere presence of a firearm in the home significantly increased the likelihood of suicide and other injury. ZAKARIA: This is very important because what your research shows is having a gun around actually seems to have the effect of making somebody more likely to commit suicide.

TRAVIS: It's a risk, but this finding that having a gun in the home increased the risk of injury just went to the core of one of the central tenants of the NRA which is that guns are OK at home.

ZAKARIA: So what does the NRA do when this research starts coming out?

TRAVIS: So the NRA went to one of their Republican, a fellow named Jay Dickey from Arkansas, and they introduced an amendment that carries his name saying that the funding to the CDC could not be used to promote gun control. That was interpreted not to limit advocacy but to stop research. And the way the NRA made sure that was -- that message was clear was Congress reduced the budget of CDC by $2.6 million, which was the amount of money that was being spent for firearms research, exact same amount.

So from 1996 until 2017 that -- the Dickey amendment was interpreted as being a provision against research by the federal government on gun violence through the CDC. And this is what we refer to as the two- decade evidence desert. And here we were basically thwarted as a country for trying to understanding what would be effective at saving lives.

ZAKARIA: Then in 2019 there is some funding provided. What changes?

TRAVIS: Intervening events. We have, you know, significant, you know, unfortunately sort of frequent mass shootings and gun violence and then there's a massacre at Parkland at the high school in Florida. And the students of Parkland, much to their credit, started rallying and organizing with an agenda. And on their agenda was restore federal funding for research at CDC. But this became a rallying cry and President Trump, much to his credit, issued an interpretation by his secretary of HHS that that amendment did not preclude research.


That was then codified into statute by Congress and then Congress started to appropriate funds. Twenty-five million dollars which is nothing, half of it to NIH, half of it to CDC. But at least it was opening the spigot for research on gun violence that had been closed.

ZAKARIA: But still, one of the things you point out is staggering to me the difference in how much we spend. So you say -- this is from your research. The U.S. spends about $7,000 on research per life lost to sepsis. About $1,000 per life lost on motor vehicles. And for lives lost to guns per person we spend $63.00 per life lost.

TRAVIS: Shameful. Shameful, isn't it? We have a lot of lost time to make up for. So the current moment is a moment when at least we should be significantly increasing the federal investment in research on gun violence.

ZAKARIA: So a lot of what you're trying to get is facts, evidence, research, data. One thing we're noticing in America these days is sometimes -- that doesn't seem to matter. We're sort of living in a post-truth polarized environment where people for almost reasons of tribal belonging believe or don't believe. It feels more like it's about faith than evidence. Do you think evidence and research could change this?

TRAVIS: This is climbing a very steep hill. I think we recognize that. When it's hard for people to believe in climate change or in the efficacy of vaccines, where there's that type of science backing up a policy, it will be hard and harder for people to look at evidence as a way to break through on gun safety policies.

But what we're seeing that's encouraging is a lot of innovation, particularly at the state level, in trying different policies. So we can now, you know, pretty effectively compare state A to state B and say state A adopted these five policies and there are far fewer deaths because of that. But we're making up for a quarter century of not enough research.

ZAKARIA: So you are at the end of the day somewhat optimistic these days?

TRAVIS: I live in hope.

ZAKARIA: Jeremy, thank you.

TRAVIS: Thank you.


ZAKARIA: Up next, my own thoughts on America's gun violence problem coming up.



ZAKARIA: It is like Groundhog Day from hell. Another mass shooting in America, another flurry of activity that will lead to virtually no serious action. Highland Park and Uvalde alas have not changed much. The compromise bill that made it through Congress is so modest in its scope that it will almost certainly make little difference in a country awash with hundreds of millions of guns. It's like hoping that an umbrella will protect you from a tsunami. And the failure of this gesture at gun control will then be brandished by its opponents to triumphantly claim that gun control doesn't work.

Compare all this to our reaction to terrorism. After 9/11, in which about 3,000 Americans died, we put in place onerous new laws about travel. You already couldn't walk onto a plane with a gun, of course. Now you can't take a normal size bottle of shampoo. We added the huge Department of Homeland Security and we invaded two countries. Meanwhile, from September 2001 through 2020 about 660,000 Americans were killed by guns.

We hear a flurry of reasons for America's gun violence problem. 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 to a debate that's usually high on emotion and conviction but low on evidence.

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 massacre, Australia changed its gun laws. The result -- homicides and suicides plummeted in the decade that followed.

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 thousands of them in America.

There are other reasons often given for gun violence, popular culture and violent video games. Japan with this particular fascination with violent video games actually has a stunningly low rate of gun deaths. And all that finally leaves the issue of the American constitution, the argument that the Second Amendments makes any kind of serious gun control impossible. The wording of that amendment suggests the right to bear arms exists only in the context to being part of a government militia.

For most of American history the Second Amendment did not stand in the way of sensible gun regulation and the Supreme Court upheld such regulations. The New York law regulating guns that the current court struck down had stood in place for 111 years.

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.