The Great Right Hook Gun Debate

George gets to grips with both sides of America's gun control debate

Gun control has been an issue in the U.S. for as long as anyone can remember. It's an issue that's become increasingly prevalent in recent years, with mass shootings sadly becoming a recurring item in news bulletins.

However, being more of a U.S. domestic issue than an international one, it can be easy to lose some of the arguments in translation whenever a new story about a shooting hits the headlines.

With that in mind, The Right Hook took the opportunity to host its very own gun debate while broadcasting live from Boston College, in the hope of teasing out some of the finer points on both sides and putting them into context.

Arguing the side for less restrictive measures was Jim Wallace of the Gun Owners Action League (GOAL). Jim quickly dismissed the idea that anyone in the U.S. can simply walk into a shop and buy a gun. "It's a little bit stricter than that", he said. "There's a 33-step process you have to go through in Massachusetts to be a lawful gun owner: there's all kind of background checks and paperwork you have to complete."

Jim also sought to clarify the purpose of the Second Amendment of the U.S. Constitution, which provides for the right of the people to keep and bear arms." He said it was in place as a "sacred right" of the people to hold authority over the government, rather than the other way around. "There are other things we exercise as a result of that", he said, "for instance self-defence, sport, or hunting. Those are all things that come as a result of the Second Amendment."

Arguing the case for tighter gun control laws, however, Kevin Cullen of The Boston Globe believed that it's still too easy for the average American to buy a gun. "The problem with something like this is that it has to be a national policy", he said. He argued that while gun control was strict in Massachusetts, that wasn't the case everywhere else. "Young gangsters in this town often get on a bus, drive down to Georgia, and come back with a bunch of guns to buy and sell. If you don't have a national policy on guns, it just won't work."

A large part of the problem for Kevin is the various gun shows that pop up across the U.S. He cites the example of Whitey Bulger, the Boston gangster who was the FBI's most wanted man for 15 years: "He was able to acquire 30 weapons, guns that he got at gun shows where he didn't have to provide any background."

Jim argued that one of the main issues isn't so much that anyone in the U.S. could acquire a gun if they tried hard enough; the problem is a lack of focus on mental health. "When we address issues around guns," he says, "we never drill down into the main issues." He says the mental health issue has been ignored for issues across the U.S. "It's a massive issue. When you're talking about guns or anything else, if you don't address it in those terms then you're going to fall down on your face."

Kevin agrees that the solution is more than just the outright banning of firearms, particularly as gun ownership is such a cultural issue across the U.S. He remembers being in Arizona University last year and talking to a woman about gun ownership, saying he wouldn't carry a gun. "All of a sudden she opened her purse and pulled out a very small weapon", he said, recounting that the woman offered him the gun because she owned so many of them. "That's a conversation that would happen in Arizona and nobody would blink at it, and nobody would blink at it."

Ultimately, the discussion between Kevin and Jim highlights how the issue isn't as black-and-white as those who live outside of the U.S. seem to think it is. While the solutions might seem straightforward in this part of the world, there's a lot more to it than the usual arguments would suggest.

You can check out the full interview with Kevin Cullen and Jim Wallace below: