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An Open Forum on Mass Shootings on Wednesday's Access Utah


In response to the San Bernardino shootings, President Obama said, "We have a pattern now of mass shootings in this country that has no parallel anywhere else in the world."

We’re going to hold an open forum on Wednesday’s Access Utah. We invite you to call in and talk about this. Why are so many mass shootings happening in the U.S.? What can be done about this? What should we do? Is this the new normal?

We’ll talk with Matthew LaPlante, Assistant Professor of Journalism at Utah State University, about terrorism, gun accessibility, mental illness, media coverage, culture, religion, prayer shaming, and more.

And we want to know what you think.

You can comment NOW through the Utah Public Insight Network online at www.upr.org, via Twitter @UtahPublicRadio, on our Utah Public Radio Facebook page or by email to upraccess@gmail.com.


Comments from Wednesdays Access Utah: 

The second amendment reserves the right to every American to become a hunter, or killer, or injurer, just like the first amendment guaranties the right to every American to become a professional of any sort.
That does not mean that no restrictions apply, like: you must pass the FLEX exam, prior to which is a background check, in order to practice Medicine. Why not make a “Federal Shooter Exam” mandatory, which would include a background check in order to be eligible to take that test,  for everyone who wants to shoot, or own/ carry a gun. This would be similar to all  civilized countries, including Switzerland. -Clemens, Cache Valley

One of the major problems in any discussion I've heard on gun violence is the
loose language used. For instance, your program tonight repeated several times
the claim that it was meant to discuss "mass shootings". There are important
distinctions between "mass shootings" and gun violence generally; for
instance, the former requires a strict definition upon which those in the
discussion should agree, whereas the latter includes gang shootings, murders,
domestic violence, and much else. There may not be one single solution to both
problems; in fact, a solution for one problem may exacerbate the other, and
many proposals inspired by a mass shooting would have had no bearing on the
incident in question, by the admission of all involved.

The discussion is full of such distinctions. Some proposals cover all guns,
some just "assault" weapons (another term requiring a strict definition), some
hunting versus other purposes. Some talk of "gun nuts", thereby imputing
insanity to an ill-defined but apparently vast group. There's plenty of room
within the topic for all sides to talk circles around each other endlessly.

As a specific example, the guest tonight (or perhaps a co-host, or something;
I missed enough of the program not to be sure) spoke of the ban on
congressional funding for studies of gun violence, and said Congress shouldn't
ban the study of anything. Perhaps, but as the same person pointed out
earlier, Congress hasn't in fact banned the actual study of anything; it has
only prevented the use of federal dollars to fund the studies. Further, in the
bits of the program I heard, there wasn't any discussion of why Congress might
have done that, beyond just the NRA (assumed to be some inexplicably powerful
collection of very few actual people) pressuring Congress to behave that way.
That kind of pressure may exist, and may be why Congress imposed the ban, but
there are other interpretations of the facts, which must be considered in any
such discussion.

A related and more serious problem is the ignorance of those touting gun
control. Certainly there must be some gun control supporters who know what
they're talking about, but they're awfully rare; most display shocking
ignorance when debating the technical details of weapons they propose to ban.
One classic example was Rep. Carolyn McCarthy promoting the lapsed "Assault
Weapon Ban" and its specific provisions against barrel shrouds, which she
described as "a shoulder thing that goes up". She couldn't accurately explain
what a barrel shroud was, nor why it should make a weapon particularly
terrible. The truth is it's simply a cosmetic feature, but it was integral in
the federal assault weapon ban, and remains a key part of many states' bans.

This sort of ignorance shows up all the time. People bemoan the easy
availability of ammunition that will penetrate police body armor, yet in many
states it's illegal to hunt deer with exactly that ammunition because it's not
sufficiently powerful to be humane. One of your emails from someone who
claimed to own guns talked of banning online firearms sales because of the
lack of background checks, yet any online sale by a dealer, or that crosses
state lines, must by federal law go through a background check. Entirely
private sales are far more rare than many assume. Finally, no one has managed
to explain why someone intent on committing murder, already a capital offense,
might be deterred by additional charges of, for instance, an illegal sale of a

This is a long email; sorry about that. It's a complicated discussion and I'd
love for once to hear intelligent discourse on the subject. Your program
tried, and did a passable job by comparision, but that's not saying much.
-Josh Tolley
Hatton, Utah
"Why do we have a pattern of mass shootings in this country? Because it has turned epidemic-status. Extreme events with a lot of media coverage tend to breed copy-cats. The book "The Tipping Point" by Malcolm Gladwell goes into great detail about epidemics (including mass shootings), how they start, what fuels the fire and what has stopped them or what could potentially stop them. What can be done about it? First off, we need to figure out a way to keep people informed without sensationalized media coverage. I believe that keeping the stories in the headlines or at the topic of every discussion only fuels the fire, inspiring more copy-cats or evil people to act. Why wouldn't they relish in knowing if they do something similar, and do it shortly after another horrific act, their story will also be all over the news outlets with their name everywhere? And all of that further inspiring/encouraging more acts of evil. I wonder what would happen if news outlets did their job, stuck to the facts, shared the story in an unbiased way and moved on? Maybe they would even commit to only covering it once if at all rather than dragging it out pushing an agenda and manipulating headlines and stories to further that agenda. Second and at the same time, mayors and governors should put serious efforts into a call-to-action campaign for their residents to become proficient with firearms (and other weapons and self defense training) and to then obtain their concealed weapons permit. They should not force anyone who isn't comfortable with it to do it, but a call-to-action to those who want to contribute, to be sheep dogs and be prepared to defend their own families and those around them if the need arises. Can you imagine if the headlines in the news were something like this: "Salt Lake County has just announced they hit their CCW target. 20% of it's residence now legally hold a CCW permit which allows them to legally carry a concealed firearm." In this example, Salt Lake County is very unlikely to be a target for a mass shooting because the bad guys know that two in ten people around them will have a gun on them and will actually fire back. If something did happen the time between the beginning and end of the event would be decreased significantly. In one report on the Trolly Square incident in 2007 it said that police officers arrived 3 minutes after the initial call was received and had the gunman down 6 minutes after the initial call was received. (This is pretty quick compared to Paris - 10-15 minutes for the attack to stop and 2 hrs for the police to raid the Bataclan and finally kill the terrorists) Luckily there was an off duty officer who engaged and distracted the shooter, but still, six minutes of horror, gun shots, screams and blood is a long time. What if there had been the off duty officer and two other civilians who had their CCW with their weapon on them who could have ended the whole scenario in 2 minutes? Maybe there would have only been 2 casualties that day instead of 5 with several other seriously injured. And yes, any casualty is heart breaking, it is - so why not takes some real steps toward mitigating the risk and/or amount of loss as much as possible? We live in very trying times. Things have changed in the last several years. I think about my trips to the grocery store and to big public places in a different way than I used to. United we stand. We can only effectively battle this evil united and focused on one thing, keeping our families, our children and our neighbors safe. That means everyone, not just our police officers and armed forces. This is a different animal and they are sneaking up on us in our malls, our schools, our work parities, and our theaters. It is time to ask ourselves, what can I do now, today, to contribute to a better outcome in these situations? Make a plan to actually do something whether that be firearms training, self defense training or active shooter scenarios. Go DO something about it. Thank you for the opportunity to share my feelings on the subject and God bless." - Anonymous

"What Jean Lown said is correct; I agree with her completely. And the frustrating thing is that every time you try to discuss the reasonable issues of control -- such as not selling guns online, registration especially for assault weapons, background checks -- the gun nuts come back with "don't let them take our guns!" This is not about killing the 2nd amendment and taking away guns. But NONE of us should have to worry about getting shot on the streets of our cities when we go to the library, grocery store, school, or wherever we need to be in the course of a normal day. And the first answer I see is to license gun owners and register guns. There is no "magic bullet" (no pun intended) for this, but we have to start somewhere. PS -- I'm not afraid of guns. I don't hunt anymore but we own a rifle and shotgun. This debate is not about those, it's about assault weapons that exist for the sole purpose of killing human beings." - Nancy in Logan

"I see two trends in mass shootings: the first involves young men with psychiatric issues: 1999, Columbine, 36 shot, ended in suicide, psychopath and depressive. 2007, Virginia Tech, 58 shot, ended in suicide, extreme anxiety disorder and major depressive disorder. 2008, Northern Illinois Univ., 27 shot, ended in suicide, mental illness. 2012, California Christian College, 10 shot, paranoid schizophrenia. 2012, Colorado Theater, 74 shot, multiple mental issues. 2012, Newtown, 30 shot, ended in suicide, sensory-integration disorder, Asperger, obsessive-compulsive. 2015, Oregon Community College, 19 shot, ended in suicide, Asperger. The second involves those who see themselves as fighting a war against our country: 9/11, 3,000 killed. 2013, Boston Bombing, 265 injured. 2015, San Bernardino, 35 shot. So the first reason is psychiatric problems, and war has always resulted in mass killing. Why do so many young people have psychiatric problems? Has it always been this way? It appears to be on the rise, if so, why? Are the new drugs used to treat mental illness causing violent tendencies? These questions need to be answered. In the meantime, I carry a gun, and have taken the time and effort to be highly trained in its use. If a shooting starts near me, I will be shooting back." - Samuel Roth via Facebook