PBS Touts Liberal Activist’s Attack on Gun ‘Mania’ in U.S.

News & Politics

On Wednesday’s PBS NewsHour, the show devoted a segment to allowing a gun control activist to promote federal laws to control how gun owners store firearms in their own homes, picking up on recent cases of small children gaining access to the guns of their parents.

William Brangham introduced the segment by recalling a teacher in Newport News, Virginia, who was shot by a six-year-old student, and a toddler in Indiana who walked around an apartment building with a parent’s handgun.

Even though the father of one child was arrested, and the mother of the other might also be arrested, Brangham set up the discussion of laws restricting gun owners in their own homes: “These cases, unfortunately, are not isolated ones. So what exactly are the laws governing how gun owners are supposed to secure their weapons to prevent these kinds of events?”

He then brought aboard Josh Sugarmann of the Violence Policy Center, and began by asking what laws currently exist regarding the storage of guns in the home. The liberal activist began by lamenting the lack of federal laws on the matter:

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Unfortunately, on the federal level, there are no standards as far as safe storage or limiting child access to firearms. And that’s a sad fact that has been with us for a long time. The other issue is that, at the same time, you have an increase in firepower. You have an increase in the lethality of guns that are being sold in the U.S.

Even though concealed carry holders tend to be substantially more law-abiding and responsible on average, Sugarmann then complained about these legal gun owners as he also declared that there is a “mania” about guns in America that endangers children:

And, finally, one point is that you have things like concealed carry where people come from one home to another and bring a gun with them. And these most recent events — these horrible events are just the latest example of the price that children pay for the mania we have for guns in this country. And it’s not just high-profile incidents like we’ve just seen, but it’s firearm suicide, it’s unintentional injury, it’s homicides involving children.

After Brangham fretted over a finding that millions of children live in homes with guns, Sugarmann advised that the parents of children should not have guns in their homes:

…one of those important things to note is that when you talk to the experts regarding child safety, the most important thing you can do if you have a child is not have a gun in home, you know. All too often, we think that, as parents, as guardians, you can safely secure the gun, and the child will never find it. Unfortunately, all too often, that is untrue.

Brangham went on to bring up his guest’s criticisms about the gun industry marketing its products to young people.

This episode of the PBS NewsHour was funded by Consumer Cellular as well as viewers like you.

Transcript follows:

PBS NewsHour

January 18, 2023

7:14. pm. Eastern

AMNA NAWAZ: In the last few weeks, the country has seen several harrowing events where very young children have had access to loaded guns, taken those firearms, and, in two cases, shot themselves and others. It’s again raised questions about the responsibilities of adult gun owners to better protect the children around them. William Brangham has our conversation.

WILLIAM BRANGHAM: Last night in Newport News, Virginia, parents demanded more answers about why a six-year-old student was able to access a loaded handgun, bring it into school, and intentionally shoot his first grade teacher. … And in Indiana a few days ago, residents of an apartment complex shared this alarming video of a toddler wandering alone in a hallway carrying a loaded handgun, pointing it in all directions. The child’s father has been arrested. And then in Phoenix earlier this month, a young child found a loaded gun in his apartment, played with it, and accidentally shot himself. The child is in stable condition.

These cases, unfortunately, are not isolated ones. So what exactly are the laws governing how gun owners are supposed to secure their weapons to prevent these kinds of events? Josh Sugermann is the executive director of the Violence Policy Center, a nonprofit that advocates for stricter gun control. Josh Sugarmann, thanks so much for being here. These examples that I cited are obviously horrendous, discrete events, but can you just tell me a little bit — broadly speaking, are there any laws governing what a gun is supposed to do — has to do to protect kids from getting access to those guns?

JOSH SUGARMANN, VIOLENCE POLICY CENTER: Unfortunately, on the federal level, there are no standards as far as safe storage or limiting child access to firearms. And that’s a sad fact that has been with us for a long time. The other issue is that, at the same time, you have an increase in firepower. You have an increase in the lethality of guns that are being sold in the U.S. And, finally, one point is that you have things like concealed carry where people come from one home to another and bring a gun with them. And these most recent events — these horrible events are just the latest example of the price that children pay for the mania we have for guns in this country. And it’s not just high-profile incidents like we’ve just seen, but it’s firearm suicide, it’s unintentional injury, it’s homicides involving children.

BRANGHAM: I recently saw one 2018 survey that indicated roughly four and a half million minors in America live in a household with an unlocked loaded firearm. Are there states that individually do more to require gun owners do more to protect kids from getting guns?

SUGARMANN: There are laws on the state level — on the local level that can be enacted, such as safe storage, that limit access to — guns to children, but, having said that, you know, one of those important things to note is that when you talk to the experts regarding child safety, the most important thing you can do if you have a child is not have a gun in home, you know. All too often, we think that, as parents, as guardians, you can safely secure the gun, and the child will never find it. Unfortunately, all too often, that is untrue.

BRANGHAM: Okay, so, separately from this gun access issue, you have documented quite clearly how the gun industry is targeting children as potential customers…

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