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2009-04-09

Gun Control Advocates Call for Stricter Laws After Spate of Mass Shootings Leaves Nearly 60 Dead

Guests

Roxane Kolar, executive director of North Carolinians Against Gun Violence.

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A spate of mass shootings across the country, from Binghamton, NY to Carthage, NC, has left at least fifty-seven people dead since March 10th. In the wake of the violence, gun control advocates are calling for stricter laws across the nation. We speak with Roxane Kolar, executive director of North Carolinians Against Gun Violence. [includes rush transcript]

Transcript

This is a rush transcript. Copy may not be in its final form.

AMY GOODMAN:

We end today’s show, right here in North Carolina, on a somber note, looking at the spate of mass shootings across the country. Since March 10th, eight rampages have left at least fifty-seven people dead.

    REPORTER: It’s happened again. A gunman opens fire. His victims are police officers.

    REPORTER: Four officers down, and the suspect is dead. It is a grisly scene on the streets of East Oakland today.

    REPORTER: Eight people are dead and several others wounded after a gunman stormed into a North Carolina nursing home and opened fire.

    REPORTER: A distraught man shoots and kills his five young children and his wife before taking his own life.

    REPORTER: It’s a shooting rampage that took place over a twenty-four-mile stretch of southern Alabama. When it was over, eleven people were dead.

    REPORTER: At least four people have been shot, several people, we are told, taken hostage at an immigration service center in Binghamton, New York.

    REPORTER: Police are calling it a family-on-family murder-suicide. Six people were shot to death, including a toddler, a four-year-old girl and a ten-year-old boy. A seventh person, a woman in her mid-thirties, was critically injured.

AMY GOODMAN:

Reports around the country. In Binghamton, New York, a gunman attacked an immigration center, killing thirteen people before taking his life. In Washington state, a man shot dead his five children before killing himself. In Pittsburgh, three police officers were shot dead as they responded to a domestic violence call. In Alabama, a lone gunman killed at least nine people, including four of his relatives, in a shooting spree before taking his own life. And here in North Carolina, in Carthage, eight people died after a gunman opened fire at a nursing home in the town of Carthage. Seven elderly patients died, as well as a nurse.

I’m joined right here in Raleigh, North Carolina, by Roxane Kolar. She is the executive director of North Carolinians Against Gun Violence.

Welcome to Democracy Now!, Roxane.

ROXANE KOLAR:

Thank you.

AMY GOODMAN:

Talk about these rampages.

ROXANE KOLAR:

There’s nothing less to be said about them, that they’re an epidemic. We’re talking about, over a span of just a little over twenty-four hours, having these three shootings right in the row, just in the last few days. And the important thing to remember about gun violence as an epidemic is that, like all epidemics, it is preventable, and we can take steps to change that.

AMY GOODMAN:

How? What?

ROXANE KOLAR:

Well, I think the first is that we see programs all over the country that have gun violence prevention, working directly with youth to stop these negative patterns and to end the cycle. And then there’s sensible gun legislation. We don’t like to talk about it, it’s a dirty word, but there’s laws we can pass that will keep guns out of the wrong hands.

JUAN GONZALEZ:

Many of these incidents, the people who were doing the shooting actually had permits for their guns. So, obviously, the existing permitting system is doing nothing to be able to prevent these kinds of incidents.

ROXANE KOLAR:

Absolutely. And the truth is, this changes from state to state. In some states there’s very weak standards on a permit. In other states, there’s no bulk purchase limits. So, in the unfortunate incident in Pennsylvania, this man was, through propaganda and fear, told to stockpile weapons. And I think we know what happens when you combine fear and stockpile weapons. So there’s a lot more we can do to strengthen this process.

AMY GOODMAN:

The issue of gun violence and domestic violence — I mean, the officers who were killed in Pittsburgh, they were responding to a domestic violence call.

ROXANE KOLAR:

Absolutely. I don’t have national numbers, but it’s pretty close. But here in North Carolina, about 50 percent of domestic violence homicides are gun homicides. And when you look a certain states, you’ll see that a few states have passed laws so that when an abuser has a restraining order put against them, they also have to surrender their weapons, and law enforcement goes out and takes those weapons. In other states where they attempt to pass these laws, there’s actually resistance, and people will openly say, “My right to own a weapon outbalances the right to protect domestic violence victims and survivors.”

AMY GOODMAN:

The laws here in North Carolina?

ROXANE KOLAR:

In North Carolina, you are supposed to surrender your weapons. It’s not as strictly enforced as we’d like.

AMY GOODMAN:

And overall legislation that you would like to see at the state and national level?

ROXANE KOLAR:

On domestic violence or just in general?

AMY GOODMAN:

On the issue of guns.

ROXANE KOLAR:

I mean, I think we have to strengthen our background system. No one should own a weapon without going through as strenuous checks as possible. I think we need to strengthen our safe storage laws so that children cannot get access to guns, cannot commit suicide. Eighty-five percent of youth suicides are committed with a family member, usually a parent’s, gun. Those are the same guns on our streets in gangs, same guns coming in our schools.

JUAN GONZALEZ:

And the impact still of the NRA, obviously, and the lobbying of our politicians on this issue?

ROXANE KOLAR:

Are you talking about the opposition’s ability to stop this legislation?

JUAN GONZALEZ:

Right.

ROXANE KOLAR:

In that case, yes. The NRA is very strong. And what I think is that we have to remember is that that’s a lot of propaganda. In North Carolina, we have 51 percent gun ownership. We work every day with retired police officers, with hunters, with sport shooters, with gun owners who believe in the right to carry weapons, as we do, but also believe in sensible legislation that can protect our communities. However, when the only message reaching them is the message of fear, is the message of you’ll lose your right to carry a weapon, then that mass public support for sensible gun legislation gets silenced.

AMY GOODMAN:

We are coming up on the anniversary of Columbine.

ROXANE KOLAR:

I am sure you saw that one of the fathers who lost his child at Columbine is fighting very hard right now in Maine to stop the — to close the gun show loophole and that the gun show loophole itself, had it been closed, could have prevented Columbine. And these boys were able to have a friend purchase shotguns for them at a gun show from private sellers. And if that was not there, who knows what could have happened, if we could have prevented this?

AMY GOODMAN:

Well, Roxane Kolar, I want to thank you very much for being with us —

ROXANE KOLAR:

Thank you.

AMY GOODMAN:

— joining us here in North Carolina, as we continue our tour around the country, Community Media, Community Voices.

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