Inside Story America

Does the US need stricter gun control laws?

As the US mourns the victims of another seemingly indiscriminate shooting spree, we discuss how it will affect gun laws.

Not again – that was the cry of many Americans when they turned on their morning news on Friday.

At least 12 people were killed and dozens wounded when a man wearing a gas mask and body armour opened fire and tossed a tear gas cannister into a cinema auditorium in the town of Aurora in Colorado. People were watching a midnight showing of the latest Batman movie, The Dark Knight Rises.

A gun doesn’t have the brain to hate with, or a finger to pull the trigger, so the problem isn’t the gun.

– Alan Gottlieb the founder of the Second Amendent Foundation

A 24-year-old former student named James Holmes was arrested shortly after. Police officers recovered four guns including a rifle, a shotgun and two glock handguns.

This latest shooting took place just 30km away from Columbine High School where 13 people were shot dead by two students in 1999.

For many Americans the right to bear arms is regarded as an essential freedom protected by the second amendment of the constitution. Politicians have been reluctant even to call for tougher gun control laws. But in a country where nearly 9,000 were murdered with guns in 2010, could that be about to change?

Does the US need tough gun control laws?

Inside Story Americas, with presenter Anand Naidoo, is joined by guests: Colin Goddard, who survived the Virginia Tech shooting in 2007 and works for the Brady Campaign to Prevent Gun Violence; Hubert Williams, the president of the Police Foundation who also chairs the National Law Enforcement Partnership to prevent gun violence; and Alan Gottlieb, the founder of the Second Amendent Foundation who argues for the rights of Americans to bear arms.

“Soothing words are nice, but maybe it’s time that the two people who want to be president of the United States stand up and say what they’re going to do about it. Because this is obviously a problem across the country, and everybody always says “isn’t it tragic” and we look for the guy …. There are so many murders with guns every day. It’s just got to stop. And instead of the two people – President Obama and Governor Romney – talking in broad things about how they want to make the world a better place … okay.  Tell us how.  This is a real problem. No matter where you stand on the second amendment, no matter where you stand on guns, we have a right to hear from both of them – concretely, not just in general, specifically – what are they going to do about guns?”

Michael Bloomberg, the mayor of New York


  • The US gun industry is estimated to be worth more than $60bn a year
  • There are roughly 300 million firearms owned by civilians in the country, which has a population of 311 million
  • There are at least 88 guns per 100 residents in the US, making it first in the world in gun ownership per capita
  • By contrast, Serbia, which is second on that list, has 58 guns per 100 people
  • Two-thirds of all murders in the US are committed with firearms
  • In 2010, that amounted to 8,775 out of nearly 13,000 murders
  • The second amendment of the US Bill of Rights protects the right to bear arms
  • 13 people were killed in the Columbine High School shooting in April 1999
  • Ten people were killed in 2002 Beltway Sniper attacks
  • 32 people were killed by a student at Virginia Tech University in 2007
  • A lone gunman killed six schoolgirls in Pennsylvania Amish in 2006
  • Congresswoman Gabrielle Giffords was wounded in a 2011 shooting that killed six people
  • Ohio’s Chardon High School shooting left three students dead in March 2012