CNN hosts a town hall on gun violence
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CNN and other media organizations focus more intensely on mass shootings like in El Paso, Texas, and Dayton, Ohio, but gun violence is more than those major events, said Joe Sakran, director of emergency general surgery at Johns Hopkins.
"The mainstream media, let's be honest, we talk this issue around the mass shootings. But that's just a small proportion of the epidemic," he said.
"We have young black men that are being killed on our streets every day in cities like Baltimore, Chicago, Philadelphia. And those stories often go untold," Sakran said to applause.
"So I think we have the responsibility to tell those stories."
CNN law enforcement expert Charles Ramsey said he'd seen that day-to-day violence in his long police career.
"I call it collateral damage that's caused by the violence that occurs in many of our neighborhoods."
"You go to an outdoor crime scene and you've got a body laying there, crime scene doing what they do, and look across the street there's kids over there looking at what you do," Ramsey said.
"They've got to walk passed that same place to go to school the next day. And then we wonder why they have trouble reading and writing. They're traumatized," he said. "There aren't the services in place to be able to help these kids."
Joe Sakran, a trauma surgeon, explained the difference between wounds caused by handguns compared to high-powered rifles and said gun violence is a "public health crisis in this country."
"We know that the kinetic energy, the force that's delivered pulverizes the tissue. When we see the wounds and these missiles that are passing through bodies," Sakran said. "And the reality is that makes it difficult for us to save those lives. It's very different than if someone gets shot with a handgun."
CNN's Chris Cuomo asked Sakran his thoughts on the argument that bad people will just find other ways to inflict violence, like using cars or knives, if guns are taken away.
Sakran responded that he didn't think that was true.
"Look what happened in Dayton. I mean a 100 round drum, 32 seconds, nine dead, a number injured. You cannot do that in such a short amount of time. So, I think that theory is false," he said.
Former New Orleans Mayor Mitch Landrieu noted that the Second Amendment right to bear arms, like all constitutional rights, is not absolute.
"In the Constitution, everywhere there is a right — First Amendment, Second Amendment — there is a corresponding responsibility to exercise that right in a balanced and a thoughtful way. Where is the balance?" he said.
"I'll just remind the country that even Justice Scalia, the most conservative justice, wrote Heller, and said you can find a balance between a person's right and a person's freedom."
About that court decision: Heller refers to the Supreme Court decision District of Columbia v. Heller, written by Antonin Scalia, that ruled DC's ban on handgun possession in the home "violates the Second Amendment."
Supporters of the landmark opinion believed that gun restrictions across the country would be cut back in the aftermath. But many lower courts seized upon the words Scalia wrote, "Like most rights, the right secured by the Second Amendment is not unlimited," to uphold restrictions.
Columbine shooting survivor Samuel Granillo said that, even 20 years after that shooting, Columbine remains Americans' barometer of horrific mass shootings.
“It was definitely unique when it happened and what's different now, a lot of people will argue, is nothing," he said.
Granillo said that things have gotten worse over the years. Now, he's trying to find common ground and common thread to pierce the polarizing gun debate that often goes nowhere.
"So that common ground is that we all have families, we all have friends, loved ones, we all want to be loved. We all want to give love and what makes — what that makes us all is human," he said.
"And the common thread here is that we are all that, and every single person in the world is human and that is a common ground that we can all come to and understand that we need to change something here," Granillo added.
Eric Gonzalez, the Brooklyn district attorney whose brother was killed in gun violence in 1996, said he believes the National Rifle Association is to blame for not having "reasonable" gun control laws.
"I believe that the power of the NRA in controlling some of our elected officials and not wanting to face the wrath of that organization and supporters is a major factor in not having reasonable gun control," he said.
Gonzalez continued to say that NRA seems to not care that people are being killed by guns.
"Everyday, we're losing people's lives in this country, losing in our big cities, and those lives seem not to matter to folks in the NRA and others. We lose them often in low-income communities and black and brown communities, and there's no resources put into understanding those problems, where those guns are coming from, and when we have a mass shooting like this, it highlights it because it puts everyone on the edge, but we don't have those further conversations," Gonzalez said.
Mitch Landrieu, former mayor of New Orleans who was also on the town hall stage with Gonzalez, said he thinks the problem is how we are thinking about gun violence.
"Right now Congress prohibits any significant research on violence as a public health threat," he said. "I think they're worried about guns. Then we begin to talk about guns and we don't talk about public health."
Christine Leinonen, the mother of Pulse shooting victim Christopher Leinonen, said she is in favor of pushing a ban on assault weapons through voting and a ballot initiative.
"I want to see less guns on less people, period," she said at a CNN town hall tonight.
Leinonen said she wants action, and is frustrated with politicians.
"Our politicians are saying that they're going to help us, and then they get into office and they don't help us, I want to see less guns," she said.
Some background: Leinonen's son was murdered, along with 48 others — including his boyfriend, Juan Guerrero — at Orlando's Pulse Nightclub on June 12, 2016.
CNN host Chris Cuomo said that the National Rifle Association declined to participate in the town hall on gun violence tonight.
"They declined. They sent a totally disingenuous statement that they're open to honest discussion but not this spectacle," he said.
"That's what you call this, a spectacle? I guess they want to do their talking with propaganda ads and millions in lobbying," he added.
He also said the gun lobby will not be the answer to this question, just as the tobacco industry was not the answer to issues of smoking years ago.
"People like you are the answer, and there can be no sides when it comes to wanting to be safer," he said.
The audience at tonight's town hall will include survivors from mass shootings, including those at Florida's Pulse nightclub in Orlando; Connecticut's Sandy Hook Elementary School; a church in Sutherland Springs, Texas; and Columbine High School and the Aurora movie theater in Colorado.
Guests are expected to include:
- Eric Gonzalez, the Brooklyn district attorney whose brother was killed in gun violence in 1996.
- JT Lewis, a 19-year-old who is running for a seat in Connecticut's state Senate as a Republican after losing his 6-year-old brother in the 2012 Sandy Hook school shooting.
- Mitch Landrieu, who served as mayor of New Orleans from 2010 to 2018.