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Last Updated: Wednesday, 4 July 2007, 15:42 GMT 16:42 UK
Have Your Say: US gun freedom
Guns on display at the Saxet Gun Show in Austin Texas

BBC Radio 4's Crossing Continents examined American attempts to tackle gun crime in the wake of the Virginia Tech massacre.

Kati Whitaker travelled to Texas where she met those campaigning to make it easier to carry concealed weapons.

We asked if you thought more concealed gun licences would reduce gun deaths in America.

Thank you for your comments, a selection of which are below.

This debate is now closed.


My county has a population of over 33,000 people scattered over 1414 square kilometres. A few weeks ago we had to call the sheriffs office concerning a dog attack and discovered there was only one officer on duty. It would take a minimum of 30 minutes for him to arrive, if someone were to attack me or my family. That is why I own several firearms, and I will never surrender them voluntarily.
Zach Smith, Bloomington, IN US

I'd like to ask Americans. Which country would you feel safer in, one where all guns are banned? Or where everybody has a gun? Look at the rest of the world, there's something wrong with your country.
Richard, UK

I'm a gun owner (pistols, rifles and shotguns), but every time I attend a gun show and see some of the nuts out there buying guns it scares the hell out of me. To think we would want to arm even more people is insane. Funny, you'll find that our cops (who many times end up on the wrong end of firearms) are the strongest proponents of "gun rights".
Brian, San Diego, CA

Not everyone in the US carries a gun. In Texas you have to have professional training and prove you can handle and safely use the firearm. A complete and thorough background check is also done before you are issued a carry permit. If anything this is picking the most reliable people to carry a firearm.
Larry, US

I carry a gun for self defence. Europeans don't understand that crime is everywhere and women need a means of self defence and don't say "call the cops" you will get killed while waiting for the cops. Guns are tools not toys and deciding to carry a loaded gun is a decision not to be taken lightly as facing the possibility of killing in self defence especially in your home or on the street at night.
Catherine Klimenkov,

Please do some homework, read the entire Second Amendment, and look at the history of Supreme Court rulings. it's not an individual right, it's a provision for what is now called the National Guard. Lots of Americans have been brainwashed, but they're not paying as much attention as they should.
AM Solomon, Los Angeles, CA

The sad incident at Virginia Tech is not representative of what goes on in American university campuses
David, Pittsburgh, US
As a university professor, I am horrified by the idea that any legal body would pass a law allowing weapons into the classroom. America is mainly made up of small towns with very low violence levels. Most of the places I have lived in the US, I didn't even lock my door at night and felt completely safe. In a country of 250 million you will have your share of lunatics. The sad incident at Virginia Tech is not representative of what goes on in American university campuses and is more of an example of what happens when a very sick individual has easy access to fire arms. The suggestion that this access should be made easier is to put it bluntly - just idiotic.
David, Pittsburgh, US

People here are carrying against university rules so we don't end up as a statistic if this happens again. We're already lobbying the Florida state legislature to change the campus carry rules next year. This is only seniors and grad students because the minimum age to carry is 21. It doesn't take special police training to realise when someone is shooting at you and to know what you should do in response.
Anonymous, US

No wonder why our country is so violent. What next? Do you want the right to carry a rocket launcher too?
Lisa, Florida

Nobody is arguing that students should be issued guns along with their textbooks. Instead, the law-abiding people who already have concealed carry permits are looking for permission to carry their pistols in "gun free" zones. Concealed carry permit holders have a record of gun violence that is statistically insignificant. These are people already licensed by the state to carry their pistols concealed and do so with no ill effects on society. Allowing them to carry on campus would be the smartest, sanest thing to do.
Terence, Newtown, CT, US

I hope that whoever reads this won't tar all Americans with the same brush. Not everyone thinks carrying a concealed weapon is the answer. As a teenager a friend of mine was accidentally shot at his friend's house. The father in that house owned guns, they got hold of one, the friend shot him, and he died. That left me with my own views. You can make a personal choice and lead by example. My personal choice is to not have a gun.
Amy, Boston, MA

As a Texas Concealed Handgun License instructor I get a lot of feedback from my graduates. So far, after over 10 years, it's all positive. No criminal charges against any of my grads and two have used (fired, not just displayed) their weapons to defend themselves and their property. Both hit their targets. Moral: Keep your gun with you at all times to be safe. The police can't be there and won't be there till you are a victim.
Rod McCoy, Wylie, Texas

Allowing more people to carry concealed weapons will only get more people killed
David Camacho, Hong Kong
I am an American expat living in Hong Kong for the past 20 years. Having grown up in the ghetto of the inner city, it is such a relief to be able to walk anywhere at any time without fear of being shot or robbed at gunpoint. The reason is, people in HK are not allowed to own guns. Allowing more people to carry concealed weapons will only get more people killed.
David Camacho, Hong Kong

The average age of soldiers and marines who are kicking in doors in Iraq and Afghanistan is 19. We underestimate the character and ability of our young people. Because of that failing we lost 32 of them at Virginia Tech. Just one person equipped and trained to shoot back may well have saved lives.
Lt Col Chaz Holland, USAF Ret

As a US citizen who has lived abroad for 10 years, I cannot imagine how a nation that supposedly espouses a Christian outlook can be so intent on promoting violence as a way to resolve conflict. There are plenty of countries that outlaw gun ownership yet remain both democratic and safe places to walk the streets. You would think that someone would figure out that the clause "a well-regulated militia" in the Second Amendment implies arming of the National Guard, not students heading off to school.
Anthony F Davis, Seoul, South Korea

I fully support arming of responsible and trained students of university age. The tests and background checks required to obtain a CCW will deny the licence to those not trustworthy. I have lived overseas where arms are prohibited and I now enjoy the freedom and responsibility of a CCW permit - intend to retain such. If you don't want a gun, don't own one - it's really that simple. If you are terrified by a mechanical object - see a professional.
Doug Graham, Snowflake, Arizona, US

As a lifeguard, I'm sure I would have seen at least a dozen altercations on the beach which may have become lethal if one of the assailants had a hand gun. It frightens me to think that people believe the only way to defend against gun violence is more guns. We are only going to see a lot more killing until the Second Amendment is altered or discarded, and the possession of hand guns is limited to law enforcement professionals.
Tim Hindmarch-Watson, Vancouver

I have used a firearm to defend myself
Richard Kaylor, New Mexico
I find it ironic that most Europeans are quite hostile to our self-defence laws. I read about a lot of violence in Britain and Western Europe. I own several firearms. I have also used a firearm many years ago to defend myself from a knifeman who seemed intent on robbing me. I pulled it and thankfully he fled at the sight of it. I am glad I had it.
Richard Kaylor, New Mexico

As an American living abroad I have been able to change my perspective towards firearms: toting guns in more public places only adds to the cycle of armed violence.
Neil van Siclen, Bremen, Germany

If you believe that the citizens are the servants of their government, then you naturally believe that they should be disarmed. If, on the other hand you believe, as Americans do, that the government is the servant of its citizens, then you naturally believe that they should be armed. Dictators such as Mao, Stalin, and Hitler understood this: upon coming into power, each made it high priority to ban all gun ownership, which they did. Gun control equals tyranny, every time.
Matt, Houston, US

As a current Virginia Tech student and as an individual who lost friends on 4/16, I can understand the wishes of some to arm themselves on campus. However, I tend to disagree with this notion and believe the call to arm students is simply a knee-jerk reaction. Mental health loopholes that allow for the mentally unstable to purchase firearms, and the appropriate school and police actions to incidents of violence - are the real issues. These issues should be addressed as a direct result of the VT massacre and not whether arming students would have changed 4/16.
M McMurray, Virginia Tech, Blacksburg, VA

I work at Virginia Tech. I was there that fateful day. I carry a concealed weapon contrary to VT's policy. I do this so I can defend myself. On 4/16, I holed up in an office with my girlfriend with the knowledge and intent to defend myself and my loved one. I refuse to be a lost lamb to slaughter looking to others for my protection.
Anon, US

I've had to brandish a weapon once during the looting at Katrina
Dilip, Houston (Ex-pat)
I think guns in schools are a bad idea, it's a closed environment where violence can/should be controlled. As for no guns at all I cannot agree with it. As an ex-pat who was anti-gun, I've had to brandish a weapon once during the looting at Katrina. It's funny how a gun can actually make a person think soberly once they know their crimes may have instant repercussions.
Dilip, Houston (Ex-pat)

When will the BBC stop presenting its biased view of the US? Asking a dozen people leading questions and then assuming all of America agrees is nonsense. Only on-duty law officers, or the honor guard at a military wedding or funeral, ever bring weapons into a church in the real world, which your reporters don't seem to inhabit!
Kathleen, Bronx, NY, US

Being from Texas this story gives me one more thing to be ashamed of, our paranoia and our leader. I fully agree that we as Americans have bought into the old west attitude that all can be made right with a gun. Our leaders have taken the same a attitude with the world. I'm truly embarrassed.
Mike Latta, Alpine

If someone burgles your house with a firearm, let them take whatever possessions they want. Please keep this in perspective.
James, Hertford

We need to fix the root cause of the problem
Bruce, Vermont
We need to do a better job of protecting society from the monsters that do these things, not provide more guns. There have been several ugly murders around here over the last few years and each time the attacker had a long record. Actually I can't remember reading about a situation like the ones mentioned where the attacker wasn't known to the police. We need to fix the root cause of the problem.
Bruce, Vermont

I live a city full of gun violence. Thankfully, it's mostly confined to the illegal drug trade. Average Americans who think concealed weapons are a real answer are sadly delusional.
Mike, Baltimore, US

Several years ago I was fortunate enough to prevent a home invasion because I had a hunting firearm available, that experience changed my life. I never thought I would experience anything like that but now I legally carry a firearm for self-defence. I don't like to but have realized it is better to have it and not need it than need it and not have it.
Joe Chlebowski, Traverse City, Michigan

I have never been so afraid for my life on a day-to-day basis as when I lived in the US
Drew, Hamburg, Germany
I lived in the US (Texas) for a while. I remember it being common to see stories in the news about the latest accidental shooting. I would hear gunshots at night. I have been all over the world including even unstable areas in Africa, and I have never been so afraid for my life on a day-to-day basis as when I lived in the US. I am thankful every day that I made the decision to get out of the US. It is a country and society built on fear, and the article here really demonstrates that. I really wish that more Americans could get out of the US and see the world and learn that guns don't solve problems, they only create them.
Drew, Hamburg, Germany

This family has been gun bearing for 12 generations and killed no one thus far. It was always tradition for young men to keep their guns and fishing poles by the door and also park them at the door at school (and church). Today our county law officers have advised that in our present drug culture we must be prepared to defend ourselves - given the 911 response time. Other nationals have not our American experience and thus must do their own things.
Miriam Cady, Wellsboro, Pa

When your people live in such aggression and paranoia, guns do make it so much easier to cause grief
Severyn, Geneva, Switzerland
I am an American living in Europe. Having the perspective of living in a different country, it now strikes me how unrelentingly aggressive and fearful American society is. In any event, I have come to agree with the National Rifle Association which for years has said "guns do not kill people, people kill people". But when your people live in such aggression and paranoia, guns do make it so much easier to cause grief.
Severyn, Geneva, Switzerland

Fifty years ago every high school in the US had a marksmanship / rifle team. Every one except city slickers knew firearm safety. Not now, the left wing has made owning a firearm evil.
William Hartung, NY, US

The thought of guns being allowed in school is particularly frightening to a student such as myself. Isolated incidents shouldn't make people react in such an extreme way; it is more likely that more events like Virginia Tech and Columbine will occur with this sort of legislation than be prevented.
Katherine, Detroit, Michigan, US

In Britain criminals carry guns with impunity and can kill whomsoever they wish without fear of an active defence. They can rob, rape and murder as the gun gives them absolute power over the disarmed citizen. In America, people carry guns and have the guns to defend themselves. I carry a .357 Magnum. One flash of that and muggers take flight. I have not needed to shoot as the fact criminals know I have a gun keeps them well away.
Rhys Sage, Columbia, SC (originally from the UK)

I don't want to stand in a snake pit with nothing but a smile to protect me
Gaz, NY
Europeans should stay out of this. I agree there are root causes that need to be addressed but I don't want to stand in a snake pit with nothing but a smile to protect me. I was anti-gun until I moved here a few years ago. There needs to be a long-term plan to reduce violent crime here. It will take time, but the solution is a higher level of general education, fighting poverty on our own soil and a rebuilding of mental healthcare in the US. The amount of seriously mentally ill people in US society is astounding. Soundbites from either side don't help regular citizens caught in the middle.
Gaz, NY (ex-pat)

Stories like this make me so glad I left the United States 10 years ago. I just wish there was some way I could safely get the rest of my family out too.
Tonio Green, Berlin, Germany

With extremists targeting Westerners we all should be carrying guns. We should have the right to shoot first and ask questions later. After all, we pay the taxes and we vote, we should have the final say as to who or when we should carry protection from these monsters.
Len, Riverview, Canada

Len from Canada: too much TV for you methinks. Shoot first and ask questions later? On account of the fact that you pay your taxes? How you gonna stop a suicide bomber with a gun anyway? Shoot everyone just in case? Somebody re-assure me that this us not how everyone thinks in North America.
Bongobwoy, UK

We can't keep millions of illegal immigrants out, or stop the drug trade, but we are somehow expected to magically keep guns out? As the Virginia Tech massacre proved, gun laws only keep them out of the hands of law abiding citizens.
Sean, Tennessee, US

Unfortunately, American gun culture - having been nurtured by Hollywood movies and the glorification of street gangsters - is now affecting its foreign policy and becoming its export industry. While its consumer factories shut down, its gun manufacturers and the military industrial complex are in full production, causing havoc world-wide, including in its own schools. America has become the greatest threat to world peace.
Dieter Birk, Oakville, Ontario, Canada

Imagine a society of adolescents and young adults in which concealed weapons were as ubiquitous as cell phones
David, New York, US
Consider for a minute the working out of the hypothesis that the way to prevent a single, miserably deranged youngster from killing a flock of his schoolmates is to arm the flock. Imagine a society of adolescents and young adults in which concealed weapons were as ubiquitous as cell phones. Think of them all, packing heat, and jostling for recognition, respect, parking spaces, fast food, sexual partners and concert tickets. Imagine this in a society where getting cut off in traffic can incite murder among adults. Ah yes. To quote the bard. Imagine.
David, New York, US

I think it far more frightening to have most of the population carrying guns than the odd wacko.
Marion, Boston

I'd hate to have to live in a society where I feel obliged to lug a gun around with me to protect myself. What an imposition on personal freedom - even carrying a mobile phone is a bit of a pain at times! Where I live in France I have the freedom to walk around safely in shorts, t-shirt and flip-flops.
Richard, Mandelieu, France

Richard from France and I have at least one thing in common - we are both free to walk around safely in shorts, flip-flops, and t-shirts. I'm also free to buy a gun. There's something comforting about that freedom even though I have no interest in guns and probably would never buy one.
Randy, Ventura, CA

The freedom of upright citizens to carry firearms for their protection, the protection of their family, and for sport, cannot, and should not, be infringed upon. The killer at the diner most likely obtained his weapon through black market channels which will not be stopped by any proper gun control laws. Removing the ability of many to lawfully purchase guns may increase the demand for black market weapons, not unlike the spike in demand for black market liquor during prohibition in the 1920s. It is furthermore unreasonable to assume that upright citizens cause the majority of gun crime in the US.
William G, Pittsburgh, PA, US

I'd consider myself to be a level-headed person, but I would not trust myself with a gun
Fraiser, Bangkok
The idea of letting students carry guns to school is totally insane. People should not be allowed to go around thinking they're vigilantes, protecting the world from evil and meting out justice to others who they personally deem to be a threat to society. I'd consider myself to be a level-headed person, but I would not trust myself with a gun. I'd rather not carry one around. I'm afraid I might shoot someone. A sudden rush of blood to the head provoked by someone might cause a split-second reaction with fatal results. For this reason, I definitely would not feel safer surrounded by people toting guns.
Fraiser, Bangkok

I believe civilians should not be allowed to own, let alone carry, firearms at any time. Serious sanctions should be installed to punish those who do. Hunters and sports shooters should deposit their rifles and guns at special deposit locations controlled by law enforcement officers outside of their activities. On the other hand, law enforcement should be given the adequate legal tools to combat firearms ownership by criminals.
Thierry Lespagnard, Kontich, Belgium

Carrying a weapon in any public place is entirely sensible
Mitch Shrader, Tulsa, Oklahoma
My 19-year-old daughter owns a .44 magnum and a 12 gauge shotgun. My 15-year-old daughter owns a .22 target rifle. I own a .30-06 rifle, a 12 gauge, and a .357 magnum. We have no history of uncivil behaviour, nor do we consider guns optional. We will not obey any regulation that infringes upon our right to keep and bear arms, at need or at whim. Carrying a weapon in any public place is entirely sensible. Avoiding any place where carrying weapons has sanctions is even more sensible. Refusing to support any business that is not firearms-friendly is a lifelong habit. To the degree possible, it rules my decisions about politicians as well. I weep for England. I don't claim we are better, smarter, or more civilized.. only a tiny bit more realistic. When they come for you, will you resist? With what?
Mitch Shrader, Tulsa, Oklahoma

To Mitch Shrader, Tulsa, Oklahoma - how would I resist? With my fists, my boots, with anything at hand. But I would do it as a man, not as a coward hiding behind a firearm.
Chris Pestell, Verdun, Quebec (ex-pat Brit)

The kind of culture created by the Americans and diffused all over the world is very much based on action movies and video games that depict killing and guns. If I was in power I would have prohibited American movies in my country. If everybody has a gun there is a greater possibility of carnage. More guns mean more violence.
Sinan, Turkey

I lived in Texas for seven years and shootings were common. During one year it was estimated that 80% were accidental. These included a women shooting dead her two-year-old grandson, a child shooting his little brother and a British business man shot dead through the front door of a home he was, admittedly drunkenly, approaching to ask for help to find his way home - he was killed and the shooter got away with it. The people are paranoid even if in very safe areas and everyone has guns in the home. Does this sound like a place where people should be allowed to carry guns more freely? I don't think so.
Sarah Flavell, Alford

It seems [Americans] think any problem can be fixed by the gun
John, Manchester
Nothing will stop the killing until America changes its attitude to the gun. In Europe, we see guns as a problem and do our best to keep them out of daily life. In America, they see guns as a solution. Good for self-defence, to be sure, but it seems they think any problem can be fixed by the gun.
John, Manchester

Allowing more people to own and/or carry firearms can only aggravate the situation. Such violence is sporadic, where the assaulter acts on fits of outburst. If the firearm was not accessible to the crazy person in the first place, these shootings might have never happened.
Kaushik Das, Wheeling, Illinois, US

You know the old saying that goes something like this: "If guns are outlawed, only the outlaw will have guns"? It's our right to bear arms, if we had not done so back in the revolutionary times, where would America be today?
Greg Fink, East Ridge

If no-one had guns then there would be no problem; whereas if some are allowed to have them (apart from the security forces), then the rest of the population is forced to carry them for protection. The question is not how to stop the guy from shooting everyone in the restaurant, but how to prevent him from having a gun in the first place. This works in Europe. Isn't it simple logic?
Humberto, Cambridge

Armed highly-trained police officers is one thing, but arming the general populace is something else. People have varying degrees of intelligence, decision-making skills, temperament, life experience and maturity. Who is to say that a "normal" person who passes all the security checks and obtains a gun, is not going to use that gun irresponsibly when placed under extreme stress? There are too many variables and the risks are too high to arm Jo Public. However, there are too many firearms in circulation, and guns are deeply culturally ingrained in the States to really clamp down on their supply and use.
Alex Thoma, London

This issue illustrates a wide cultural divide that will not go away. Americans will never give up their right to personal arms. Gun ownership is a civil right enshrined in the Constitution. Alex Thoma, London: yes it's true that people have varying levels of intelligence, self-control etc, but the argument you are making could easily be used to revoke all universal political rights, including suffrage. It is an anti-democratic argument not likely to impress gun-owning Americans.
Susan Starke, New Jersey, US

Criminals are using guns in the sure knowledge that householders will not be able to resist them
George Howe, Keighley
I believe that citizens of the United Kingdom should be allowed to own a hand gun. Gun crime has not been reduced because of draconian gun laws. In fact, more criminals are using guns in the sure knowledge that householders will not be able to resist them.
George Howe, Keighley

It is sheer idiocy to assume that having more firearms in circulation will help reduce the number of deaths caused by them. The notion that a modern nation under the rule of law allows its citizens access to firearms is ridiculous and merely serves to underline the fact that the US can at best be considered semi-civilised.
Andy, Edinburgh

My heartfelt condolences to Suzanna for her appalling loss but perhaps if the killer hadn't had easy access to a weapon, none of the 32 would be dead.
Caroline Hunter, Reggio Emilia, Italy

An armed society is a polite society. Our founding fathers who had lived under the tyranny of a king who wished to disarm them had the wisdom to see that freedom could only exist when the people had more power than the government. History is full of examples that show that tyrants can not fully bloom until they take away the ability of the people to resist.
Mark Elliott, Chicago, IL, US

Making guns illegal has never stopped gun crimes. It is a government's number one responsibility to protect its citizens from harm, which must include allowing them to protect themselves. Until you can absolutely guarantee that no criminal can have a gun, you must allow your citizens to have the means to protect themselves.
John Moore, Boston, MA

The level of paranoia in the United States is stifling. Talk of "mad men", "self defence" and the "right to bear arms"... What would be the legal repercussions be for a student who was "protecting" him or herself after he or she has shot dead an attacker and possibly fatally or critically wounded various other armed or unarmed passers-by? With more bullets flying around, isn't it statistically more likely to have a higher casualty rate?
Greg Batchelor, France

Banning guns will work as well as banning drugs or alcohol did some time ago.
John, Rochester

As an ex-teacher, guns in school. Right, will the teachers be wearing body armour? You've got to be joking.
Jean S Lee, Adelaide


The comments we publish are not necessarily the views of the BBC but will reflect the balance of views we have received. It is helpful if contributors state if they work for any organisation relevant to an issue discussed. Readers should form their own views on whether messages published represent undeclared interests, or views prompted by a common source.



SEE ALSO
American gun crime
27 Jun 07 |  Crossing Continents
US House passes gun control bill
13 Jun 07 |  Americas
Q&A: US campus killings
17 Apr 07 |  Americas


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