BILL MOYERS: As we speak, Peter Yarrow is on his way to yet another performance. Francine and I are joined by her husband David. David and Francine Wheeler, I’m grateful to you for being here with me.


BILL MOYERS: The Sandy Hook Promise says this time there will be change. But there was no change after Columbine, Virginia Tech, Aurora, or Arizona. How many more deaths is it going to take before the change happens?

DAVID WHEELER: Well, hopefully none. But that's not realistic. This is going to happen again. And the number of deaths at the end of a gun since Ben was killed is an astonishing number.

So what we're trying to do in our small way is approach this in a way that it's never been approached before. I think the numbers that people are hearing about percentages of the population in this country that approve or support the idea of something like an extended, expanded universal background check system, for instance, leveling the playing field for all commercial firearm purchases.

Those numbers, those approval numbers and the numbers of people in this country that support that are so very high that it becomes a question of, you know, how many voices can we raise and how many people can make their opinions known so that eventually our systems of government that are intentionally designed to do nothing very quickly will respond. So that's where we are.

BILL MOYERS: Can you remember what you were thinking as that, what you call, commonsensical gun bill in the Senate went down to defeat from a minority of senators?

DAVID WHEELER: Well, sure. When we went to Washington, and we met over the course of a little over 48 hours with over a quarter of the entire United States Senate.

BILL MOYERS: Individually?

DAVID WHEELER: Individually. And, well, in one meeting, we were speaking to two senators together. Most of them Democrats, Republicans most of them A-rated NRA senators. I remember thinking when that happened, you know, "We have had excellent conversations with these people."

We have had frank, open, and honest discussions about their support of the idea of background checks and other common sense solutions we were talking about. And I remember thinking, "Well, we have these relationships. We can go back and we can talk to them again and we can open up this communication again for the next time the legislation is brought up."

Now ultimately, we didn't get 60 votes on the background check amendment, on the Manchin-Toomey Amendment. But when we arrived in Washington on Monday, everyone in government was telling us, "We see no clear path to even get to cloture.” To even get this bill discussed. To begin the process, the democratic process, the enshrined democratic process of discussion that is the basis and the foundation of our government.

FRANCINE WHEELER: And they're still discussing it.


FRANCINE WHEELER: It's still being discussed. The vote was what it was, but--

DAVID WHEELER: So we didn't, they didn't see a path to even ending the initial filibuster to introduce the bill.

BILL MOYERS: Which would allow debate on the floor.

DAVID WHEELER: When we finished, it passed overwhelmingly. I don't mean to sound boastful, but I would think that anyone observing this would say, "Well, that was fairly effective."

BILL MOYERS: What is your next step, then? What do you plan to do now in regard to Washington?

DAVID WHEELER: Well, remember that, you know, I'm not a professional activist by any means. And I have to confess that my experience at the city of Washington and our national government was very, very limited. I had not visited the city many times as a child or as a young adult. I just had never been. So in terms of next steps, you know, we will just continue this. We will just continue.

I -- on December 13th. On December 13th, I was the father to two boys. And I'm still the father to two boys. I still have two sons. And I will continue to help in any way I can to do what I believe as a father is the right thing to do to make our country safe for our children. It is not simply a matter of this country's relationship to firearms, which is complex, a long history, a very difficult history.

Without even opening the door to a conversation about constitutionalism or the meaning of any particular amendment. It is a very complex topic. Other elements of this piece, other elements of this situation are as important, if not more so, than that part of it. We are choosing to work with the Sandy Hook Promise and allow them to support our voice being heard because of their holistic approach.

BILL MOYERS: Holistic?

DAVID WHEELER: Absolutely. Absolutely. Sandy Hook Promise, Saturday the 15th of December, a number of our friends and neighbors went out into the woods on this walk and they hiked up to the top of one of the highest hills in Newtown and they stood there and they said to each other, and this is all by way of second hand -- I wasn't there. But I'm told, they said to each other, "How can we approach this in a way that will change things? You know, enough already."

And they looked at the history of the activism in this arena, and activism relating to other elements of this situation. And they realized that in many ways, the common approaches of the last 25 to 30 years have not been effective. So a new idea had to arise. A new approach, a new concept had to come to the fore. And you simply cannot demonize or vilify someone who doesn't agree with you. Because when you do that, the minute you do that, your discussion is over. Your constructive conversation finishes. It's over.

BILL MOYERS: When you demonize somebody who disagrees with you.

DAVID WHEELER: When you demonize. Exactly. And you have nothing left to say but goodbye. So you cannot do that. And we cannot do that any longer. This problem is too enormous. It's too big. It's too important.

BILL MOYERS: But here's what you're up against. There was this Minnesota radio talk show host who actually said on the air to, you know, "Tell the Newtown families to go to hell."

BOB DAVIS: I’m sorry that you suffered a tragedy, but you know what? Deal with it, and don’t force me to lose my liberty, which is a greater tragedy than your loss. I’m sick and tired of seeing these victims trotted out, given rides on Air Force One, hauled into the Senate well, and everyone is just afraid, they’re terrified of these victims[...] I would stand in front of them and tell them, ‘Go to hell.’ 

BILL MOYERS: Have you heard about this?

DAVID WHEELER: I hadn't. But I'm not at all surprised.

BILL MOYERS: So if he were here, what would you say to him?

DAVID WHEELER: I think I would, I'd ask him, you know, why he feels it necessary to -- I mean, I don't know the -- I mean, I'm sure that in his quote or in his speech, he gave a reason for that opinion. I didn't hear that part of it. I haven't yet heard, he probably gave some sort of a reason that he holds that very strong opinion. So I'd be interested in hearing about the underpinnings of that opinion.

Because I'm fairly certain that in the course of a reasonable conversation with this man, assuming it's possible, that we would find at least one small point where we could agree on something.

DAVID WHEELER: But I think there are some important elements here. I think people toss around the word, the phase, "tipping point." You've heard that before.

These things happen socially. There were tipping points in the civil rights movement. There were tipping points in the women's suffrage movement. There were tipping points in every major social movement toward equality and the arc of the universe bending toward justice, there has been some kind of a tipping point. And perhaps this is one.

BILL MOYERS: I know it's only been four months, and the Sandy Hook Promise is just really getting up and running, what are some concrete things that the folks out there listening to the three of us right now, what would you like to see them do?

DAVID WHEELER: Well one of the things they can do is if they have a representative who voted for the Manchin-Toomey Amendment, they can call them and thank them. And if they have a representative who didn't, they can call them and say, "Would you mind telling me why?"

The president has said it at least half a dozen times now. Nothing is going to change until the people demand it. Until the people ask for it.

FRANCINE WHEELER: He said that on December 16th to us--

DAVID WHEELER: He did, he did.

FRANCINE WHEELER: To us. And the people, the senators who voted against it, one of the things they said in their defense was, "Well, it was a three to one call from constituents who did not support this bill.”

DAVID WHEELER: Or four to one, or six to one.



FRANCINE WHEELER: And so they were listening to those phone calls. So I would say, you know, get on the phone. If you support background checks and you support your senator to vote for that.

DAVID WHEELER: We know how well financed, we know how well organized, and we know how effective the other side of this particular part of this debate is. So it's an uphill struggle. There's no denying that. But does that mean it's not worth doing?

BILL MOYERS: All right, David. Suppose that I were Wayne LaPierre who's on totally the opposite side from you. And I were sitting here. How would you try to connect with me?

DAVID WHEELER: I would say, you know, it's well documented that he supported background checks in the past. That's not something that can be run away from. The importance of being honest and truthful and not prevaricate in any way to the people who listen to him cannot be overstated. You know, he has a family. There has to be, no matter who is sitting in the chair opposite me, there have to be points where we can agree on something.

BILL MOYERS: Well, you've said that there are some things we agree on. What are some of the things you think we agree on regarding guns?

DAVID WHEELER: I think we can agree that responsibility is tantamount. That nobody wants to be irresponsible in any way. On either side of this debate. I think everyone can agree that the kind of loss of life that this country has experienced is unacceptable. I don't think anyone would argue in their right mind that that is somehow the price we pay for our freedom here. I just don't think that's a rational explanation. So if someone has a reasonable approach to this issue, I think those are points where we can certainly find common ground.

BILL MOYERS: Suppose Wayne LaPierre said to you, "Do you think a background check would've saved Ben?"

DAVID WHEELER: That's not the point. That's a lovely diversion, and an interesting rhetorical tactic, but that's not the point.

BILL MOYERS: What's the point?

DAVID WHEELER: The point is, there are a tremendous number of firearms in this country, sales through the roof. Very responsible people are the majority of the owners of those firearms. Very responsible, respectful, safety-oriented, very conscious people. Good people. Our job as a society is to try to keep those tools out of the hands of the people who don't have the capacity to use them in a safe and rational way. It's -- we do it with almost everything else.

BILL MOYERS: Do you think the right to bear arms under the Second Amendment carries the right to own an assault weapon? And if Adam Lanza had not had an assault weapon, do you think Ben would be alive today?

DAVID WHEELER: The Supreme Court has affirmed that there are limitations and restrictions to the type of weaponry that can be owned by the public.

The intended purpose of a firearm is to shoot a bullet out of the front of it. And at the highest possible velocity for whatever reason. Now, if you want to buy a weapon for target practice and for shooting on a range, of course, that's fine. And obviously the extension of this technology into the forces of our civil defense are incredibly important. No one's denying that.

You and I, could we afford it, could go and buy an open-wheel, Formula One racecar right now. And we could go out on Interstate 95 and see how far we could get before someone pulled us over and said, "You really shouldn't be driving that car here because it is a public safety issue."

So what I'm getting at is that's a technology discussion. The concept of lethality is a very difficult one to pin down. And people have been working on this problem for a hundred years. But it appears to me, in my opinion, that the one thing that makes a weapon lethal is the number of bullets you can get out of the front of that weapon as quickly as you can.

That's why machine guns were banned in 1934. So let's not get caught up in general terms of how we describe a gun. Let's talk about what the military needs to do their job in a firefight and what sportsmen and enthusiasts and target shooters and gun clubs, what they need. Because those needs are not the same. And the vast majority of people who own and use firearms in this country understand that. They get it.


DAVID WHEELER: And yet, there is an element that is powerful, well financed, historically entrenched, with its hands on the levers of power, that is not necessarily concerned with lethality. Not really.

BILL MOYERS: I read in The Promise's mission statement that you've launched an innovation initiative to foster new technologies that can reduce gun violence. What kind of new technologies?

DAVID WHEELER: I wasn't at the San Francisco initiative launch. But from my understanding, we're talking about technologies that would make it very difficult for someone who does not own that weapon to fire that weapon. Whether we're talking about some kind of a palm or fingerprint technology, whether we're talking about a smart gun lock, or whether that lock could be on some sort of a storage case or on the gun, a trigger lock itself, that kind of thing. And, you know, there's a lot to be done there. And it can be done now.

But I think there's a larger issue here. And we have to find a way as a society and a culture and this is going to take time, we have to find a way to release ourselves from the grip of fear.

BILL MOYERS: Fear of what do you see the fear as? And did you see it before the 14th of December?

DAVID WHEELER: Yeah. I did see it before. I did see it before Ben was killed, Ben and his classmates and his teachers. I did. You know? The minute there is an economic downturn, we all talk about uncertainty. Those kinds of things can foster this fear, or a type of fear. The world is a very complex place. And yet now, because of technology, everyone has the same size megaphone.

So that can engender this kind of fear. There is a certain media sensationalism. And often people refer to it, and we've heard this in this discussion from time to time, people talk about the culture of violence. That is certainly related to this. And there has to be some way that this darkness can be banished with light.

BILL MOYERS: Well, I notice that the Sandy Hook Promise, in some sense, is modeling itself on Mothers Against Drunk Driving. You know, that program on designated drivers, has probably saved hundreds of thousands of lives. And if I hear you correctly, you're looking not only for legislation, like the Senate bill that was defeated, but for non-legislative, voluntary efforts like that.

DAVID WHEELER: This is very important to be clear about. The idea that cultural change is what's required is I think that that's the kernel of success in there. It's a cultural shift to change the way people think about something they do regularly. The way Mothers Against Drunk Driving did, the way we've changed our relationship in this country to many things, many, many things that used to take many lives, and still do to some degree, but certainly, you know, we've made life better in many ways.

BILL MOYERS: How do you move from the grieving and from the respect for each other's individual needs at this moment of catastrophe to the kind of political action that can win 51 percent of the vote, whether it's background checks or assault weapons ban, or whatever. FRANCINE WHEELER: You have Columbine people, Aurora people, Tucson people we've all gotten to know who are still working together. So if that's the path that you're choosing to take, and I'm not even saying that this is -- I don't know where our paths are going with this. But we work with a whole bunch of people from different tragedies.

Urban, you know, city people too, who are on common grounds with this, who can work together like this. So it's not, you know, I'll get texts from one mom from Aurora who says, you know, "Hang in there," one day. Just a text. "Hang in there. Thinking of you." That's what it's about, right?



DAVID WHEELER: Yeah. Our system is set up in such a way that the change is going to take time.

BILL MOYERS: What would you say to a community listening to us right now that has not experienced the tragedy, the catastrophe, the death that came to Newtown. What would you have that community do? What would you urge them to think about?

FRANCINE WHEELER: We have, the church that we belong to, Trinity Episcopal Church, that has started a community-based group called Ben's Lighthouse Fund, which Ben loved lighthouses. It was in honor of Ben, his name, but it really speaks to the youth in the community.

DAVID WHEELER: It's an outreach program.

FRANCINE WHEELER: It’s an outreach program.

DAVID WHEELER: For everyone.

FRANCINE WHEELER: For everyone, religious, nonreligious, a place for kids to go that can be listened to, activities, people to counsel. It's a place of -- it's safe for them to talk or to celebrate together. And that's a positive thing. It's hugely positive. That is also part of the promise.

We have to remember that a lot of this change, from what we experienced listening to Peter talk in the concert, I have to remember when I have my angry days, there’s positive change. Ben tells me, you know, "Mama, there's positive things. Remember love wins." He's right.

BILL MOYERS: Tell me about your angry days.

FRANCINE WHEELER: We have gone to a grief counselor and other counselors who talk about, you know, it's not “you're sad and you're angry then you start to get over it,” or whatever--

BILL MOYERS: The seven stages of--



FRANCINE WHEELER: It doesn't work like that.

DAVID WHEELER: It doesn't really apply to our situation.

FRANCINE WHEELER: It's all mixed up, right? So one day, I'll tell you what happened last week. I saw one of Benny's good friends. And they were like brothers. And I saw him -- his mom, I couldn't, for like, three months, see him because it was too hard. And finally I said, you know, "Bring him over." They came over and he had a tooth missing.

And Benny never lost a tooth. So I was angry that he didn't lose a tooth. And he kept saying, "Mama, when am I going to get to lose a tooth?" I said, "Soon, soon, soon, soon." So yeah, I get angry. I get angry that my kid's not going to get older. Yeah. I get angry.

BILL MOYERS: So you're taking action with The Promise, is that helping you to get over it?

FRANCINE WHEELER: Well, personally, just my path has to do with sometimes helping them with legislative change. But it also has to do with me singing through it. So I'm going to be singing through my grief. I'm going to be bringing our other son in these communities like my church has started. Because that's how I'm going to help change.

BILL MOYERS: What are you doing with your grief?

DAVID WHEELER: I wear a pendant. It's a locket, well, it's a vial, as does Francine, containing some of Ben's ashes. I keep it with me. I don't hide from my grief. There is no way out but through. So I go through.


DAVID WHEELER: And I have amazing friends and family who support me. But I don't deny it.

BILL MOYERS: So, what do both of you hope for? How do you want us to get to what you want?

DAVID WHEELER: Right. Don't stop talking about it among yourselves, among your family, among your community. Whether that's your community of faith or your town or your city or your state, on the national stage. Do not think that this problem will go away. Because it won't. It hasn't in the four months since we lost our son, and it's not going away any time soon. It is an enormous problem.

So contact your elected representatives and if they don't give you satisfactory answers, then allow them to understand the expression of political will in its most democratic sense. Someone in Washington told me, a senator said, "There has to be something worth going home over. There has to be a vote that you know in your heart is worth going home over." So on the most basic level as citizens, let your elected representatives know what vote you think is worth going home over.

BILL MOYERS: I'm intrigued by what you think of those senators who voted against even a background check. I don't mean it in any punitive way.

DAVID WHEELER: No, I understand. I understand.

BILL MOYERS: But how do you read them?

DAVID WHEELER: I don't harbor ill will toward these people. I understand they have difficult choices to make. And I understand that the states that they represent and the constituencies they come from are very, very different than the place where I live and the people that I have in my life. There's a tremendous cultural difference. But there are also cultural similarities. And I am not willing to give those up. Not in a million years. We are parents. We are caring parents and grandparents.

FRANCINE WHEELER: And I think that instead of being angry at them, because I don't focus on what other people are thinking about what we're doing. I don't even focus really about that senator that voted no. What I focus on is saying, "We are here, this is what we believe, this is what we hope for, and we're going to continue to talk." It's almost like standing at a doorway and saying, "Okay, well, you can close the door and then we'll keep knocking and then maybe you'll open it again." And they will. They will.

BILL MOYERS: Why do you think this is such a difficult problem? Why do these issues involving guns create such emotion?

DAVID WHEELER: Our very republic, our existence as a nation, is founded in the concept of liberty. A new idea at the time. And I can't think of a human concern or part of our human experience that is more essential to our survival than the idea of our liberty.

BILL MOYERS: Including, I assume you're about to say, the liberty to own a gun?

DAVID WHEELER: Certainly. I understand that. But also enshrined at the top of that list is the right to live your life. The right of my six-year-old son to go to school and live his life and get off the bus at the end of the day. It is a thorny, thorny problem. I recognize that. But as a nation, we have to be better than that. As a culture, as a society, we have to be better than that.

BILL MOYERS: David Wheeler, Francine, thank you very much for being here.



DAVID WHEELER: Yes, how many times must a man look up…

PETER YARROW: Before he can see the sky…

DAVID WHEELER: Before he can see the sky?

PETER YARROW: Francine, how many ears must one man have…

FRANCINE WHEELER: How many ears must one man have Before he can hear people cry?

ENSEMBLE: Yes, how many deaths will it take till he knows That too many people have died? The answer my friend is blowin' in the wind The answer is blowin' in the wind.

BILL MOYERS: There have been eight school shootings since Newtown and more than three thousand eight hundred gun deaths. The killing field that is America never calls a truce.

In Kentucky this week a two-year-old girl was accidentally shot and killed by her five-year-old brother who was playing with a rifle he received as a gift.

In Alabama a 24-year-old mother holding her 10-day-old baby in her arms was killed by a stray bullet fired nearby. She fell to a couch by the door still clutching her child.

Hold that image in your head and your heart. It’s so emblematic of a country that has taken leave of its senses. And remember all the dead from all the solitary shootings and all the massacres.

If, as David Wheeler suggests, this is a tipping point for the movement against gun violence, the moment has come to push harder than ever. So, make the promise, “This time, there will be change.”

We’ll link you to the Sandy Hook Promise and other groups working to end gun violence at our website, I’ll see you there and I’ll see you here, next time.

Francine and David Wheeler on Turning Tragedy into Transformation

Francine and David Wheeler’s youngest son Ben was one of the 20 children killed in the December 14th attack at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, Connecticut. Their grief has led them to Sandy Hook Promise, a now-nationwide group founded by Newtown friends and neighbors to heal the hurt and find new ways to talk about and campaign against the scourge of gun violence in the United States. The Wheelers join Bill to talk about the effects of that tragedy and their determination to effectively address guns and safety in a way that includes diverse viewpoints and bypasses partisan brinkmanship.

“What we’re trying to do in our small way is approach this in a way that it’s never been approached before,” David Wheeler says. “It becomes a question of how many voices can we raise and how many people can make their opinions known so that eventually our systems of government that are intentionally designed to do nothing very quickly will respond.”

Francine Wheeler tells Bill, “I don’t focus on what other people are thinking about what we’re doing. I don’t even focus really about that senator that voted no. What I focus on is saying, ‘We are here. This is what we believe. This is what we hope for, and we’re going to continue to talk.’ It’s almost like standing at a doorway and saying, ‘Okay, well, you can close the door and then we’ll keep knocking and then maybe you’ll open it again.’ And they will. They will.”

Producer: Candace White. Editor: Sikay Tang. Associate Producer: Julia Conley.
Photographer: Dale Robbins.
Essay Producer: Rob Booth. Essay Editor: Paul Desjarlais.

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  • Rick

    Thank you, thank you, thank you!!!

  • JamesN

    This was the most thoughtfully considered and moving discussions on this subject I have yet encountered. Profoundly poignant, penetrating, rational, and clear. Thank you for sharing this intimate and heartfelt insight into one of the most difficult challenges mankind must resolve if our children are to inherit any legacy worth having. If we cannot offer them our upmost determined efforts to patiently ” work through ” the depth and complexity of this problem then we must ask ourselves the question implied here: ” What does it actually mean to be a human being? “

  • carl

    Your recent segments on suicide prevention and on the Wheelers were excellent. I believe you may want to examine our web-page, from January 2013, regarding a new concept of gun, which cannot be fired by anyone other than the gun purchaser, since it requires a biometric thumbprint match to be activated, and even then the activation expires after 12 hours.
    Virtually none of the 19,000 Americans who use a gun to commit suicide are the actual gun owner, so those people would stay alive. You mentioned a “San Francisco” reference which seemed to refer to our January 2013 web-page on this gun which can never hurt anyone.
    Carl Johnson

  • Fr. John Saville

    This should be seen by everyone. I would encourage its wide distribution in whatever way you can do that. I will be sharing it with my congregation, St. John’s Episcopal Church.
    While it deals with a particular event in a particular place and the general issue of gun violence, it also models a way to approach any difficult and complex issue with calmness, thoughtfulness, wisdom, and charity. Thank you to the Wheelers and all the families whose lives have been turned upside down by violence. In different ways, you are responding with courage and resolve to keep this before us. We must all ask ourselves what we can do after we “weep with those who weep” and trust there is more light to come.

  • Anonymous

    I wept with David and Francine, as I have been since December, but am profoundly grateful to have them leading us towards a better future. I don’t believe that there is a gun rights absolutist who could convincingly argue against them alive, nor do I believe that there are many Americans who could fail to like and identify with them.

  • kirby

    we are not approaching the issue of gun control with calmness,thoughtfulness or wisdom.We are all in a highly emotional state over Newtown and other tragedies,and right-fully so,but because of this,we should not be passing laws.Legislating must be done on as rational basis as possible.When humans are in highly emotional states is when they are the least rational.We must all empathize with the Newtown parents,and other victims of violence and wait until we are less emotional
    before we legislate on these matters.

  • Bob L

    Firearms are a tool. People in this country have gotten so rude, obnoxious and some would say even provocative in their behavior. We had as many firearms per capita as we do now, but people think it is “cool” to be macho, and being macho means being rude, threatening.
    The firearm is an extension of that. To many the firearm is also an equalizer. I don’t have to worry as much about a 280lb 6’6″ guy who wants everything I have, and maybe kill me when I am standing there with a riot shotgun with OO buck.

    Understand it has nothing to do with Hunting. It is about the tyranny of government. The federal government lies about everything. The background legislation on first look, the title, look like common sense, read the hundreds of pages inside that is not reported on, and it is a registration, confiscation scheme.

    History tells us that surrendering you means to protect yourself from society, and especially the government will get you enslaved, and or killed. Ask the Jews about how that turn in your guns went, or the Indians or the dictatorships all around the world now trying to fight the government with rocks, and sticks.

    To use the analogy that a car, speeding car has laws is absurd. The car, the right to have one is not explicitly spelled out in the Bill of Rights, a document that is the only reason we have a Constitution.

    I feel for his lost, and others. However, the consequences of a disarmed society is, in my view horrific, a nightmare beyond comprehension.

  • CSI America

    Great to listen to Francine and David. Not so sure how much Peter Yarrow adds to the debate.

  • Bob L

    Pretty tacky, so much for “democracy of opinion”

    Didn’t like what I had to say, so just censure me by eliminating my comments….disingenious.

  • Bob L

    You watch the news ? People are defending themselves with firearms, rocks, sticks all over the world…Silly? MIG just analogy is like adding mud flaps to a Lamborghini, has no use and a stupid analogy

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    I must ask again that all comments stay within our guidelines. If you have any questions about our comment policy, please refer to the “Are you aware of our comment policy?” link just above the comment box.

    Thank You,
    Sean @ Moyers

  • Patricia Hryhorysak

    Thank God for people like the Wheelers. Keep fighting. We are behind you and we will not give up. Reasonable, intelligent gun control will happen because we will not give up until it does. Thank you for leading the fight.

  • kirby

    Humans,quite simply,are not
    good at being rational when they are in highly emotional states,and,we must never try to reason from within highly emotional states.When we do,
    we get ideas like the present one,that background checks are going to stop, or even sig-
    nificantly lessen the possibility
    of atrocities like Newtown. They will not. The mother in
    Newtown who bought the guns for her son either passed
    a background check or would
    have,if given one.So a back-ground check would not have
    prevented that tragedy.And if
    you have laws against “straw”
    purchases,like the mother
    made,you can punish the
    straw purchasers after the fact,but that clearly won’t stop
    mass killings. Also,I would guess that not many people with felony records or records
    of mental problems get their guns from sources that do background checks.They likely
    purchase guns illegally on the street,steal them,or get them through straw purchases.
    Another problem:If you are a
    criminal or crazy as a loon,but
    have no record,a background
    check isn’t going to weed you out. Yes,background checks
    may prevent gun ownership for those few felons or crazies that are stupid enough to go to legal gun dealers, so I sup-
    port extending background
    checks to gun shows and especially to online sales,but I don’t for a minute think this will stop gun violence. We all empathize with the victims of violence,and rightfully so, and these emotions can spur attempts at solutions,but law-makers MUST put emotion aside and think rationally.They must,in the light of reason ask,
    “will this law accomplish what it is intended to accomplish,or is it “feel-good”legislation. My
    argument is that background checks would not/did not prevent Newtown or other tragedies,nor will banning cer-tain types of guns and clips,
    nor will banning guns outright.
    Crazies/criminals will always be hurting people,that’s the human condition.Finally,guns are not an emotional issue be-
    cause of the NRA,but because of the second amendment,and
    how various people interpret that amendment.My interpre-tation is that government can’t
    prevent citizens from owning
    guns,but there is likely room for regulating that ownership in various ways,based on the fact that the amendment does not address regulation, only ownership (the amendment doesn’t say government can regulate,but doesn’t say it can’t).Therefore,any regulation
    must be for the public good,
    and to be so,it must have a possibility of accomplishing what it is intended to do.As far
    as I can see,none of the pro-
    posed regulations will prevent
    gun violence.My stand has no-
    thing to do with the NRA.I am not now,have never been,nor will ever be an NRA member,
    but I don’t view them as some evil organization that is out to
    destroy America by promoting
    gun violence.Such ideas are
    prevalent in the populace now
    and are stoked by the media,
    and amount to political correctness at its worst.

  • Andre Sheldon

    I can show you how to create a people movement that the President asked for:

    David said, “The president has said it at least half a dozen times now. Nothing is going to change until the people demand it. Until the people ask for it.”

    Gandhi would tell you to look to the higher ideal. He would say start a movement of nonviolence and have a constructive segment as well as an obstructive segment.

    The obstacles to change, as the gun bill has shown, are enormous. Therefore we need something different.

    My name is Andre Sheldon. I am the Director of a Global Strategy of Nonviolence. I have developed a plan, a guideline, for a Global “MOVEMENT” of Nonviolence, For the Children (GMofNV) with women leading the way! A GMofNV is not about women. It is about working for humanity. Men are included. The Civil Rights movement was led by blacks, but was for everyone.

    A GMofNV is ready now. The mechanisms are in place and the stimulus to implement the plan is prepared. A second main element will be implemented for women to take the world stage.

    Please contact me at your earliest convenience. Thank you very much.

    Peace and Love,


    Andre Sheldon
    Director, GSofNV
    Facilitator, CALL to WOMEN
    617- 964-5267

  • John Saville

    I certainly agree that there is a place for “righteous anger” in this debate. The NRA’s idea that the solution is putting more guns in the hands of the “good guys” flies in the face of my faith and common sense and I will continue to voice that opinion loudly and clearly. Guns as the answer to guns doesn’t accomplish anything. We also need, however, to stay in relationship with those with whom we disagree and the Wheelers seem to be reminding us of that, even as their passion and emotion is being well spent. In the end, as was said and modeled in the interviews, “Love wins”..

  • kirby

    I had a long comment in answer,but it hasn’t shown up.The short version is: 1.we must not make important decisions when we are in highly emotional states like we are in now,and rightly so, over the Newtown tragedy.Emotion trumps reason every time.For
    various reasons,background
    checks will not end mass killings. 2.It isn’t the NRA that has made gun control conten-tious,it’s the different ways people interpret the second amendment.I must add that I am not now,never have been,
    and never will be a member of the NRA,but I don’t view the
    NRA as evil, or as promoting
    gun violence.Such ideas are political correctness at its worst.

  • Rebecca Jones

    Others have said this and it needs to be said again, and again. Now is the time for righteous anger about gun violence. There is nothing that supports the idea that being rational is preferable or exclusive to being emotional. Our emotions are what make us human, and what help us understand the difference, for instance, between our fundamental right to be alive and safe, in contrast to the less clear rights supported by the second amendment. Our emotions also guide us to feel the disgust we feel at the idea that there is an industry, the gun industry, that bases its profits on a product that is responsible for the deaths of 87 Americans a day.

  • bubba

    Pay attention to your own cognitive processes,watch how you make decisions,and then tell me that you don’t make better decisions when you are calm and rational.Of course we feel emotions,and
    rationality doesn’t exclude emotion,we are emotional animals,but when we are making decisions,how can anyone think that rationality should not be paramount?When I
    say I have a right to be alive and safe, I think
    I am deciding that in a cool,calm,rational manner.I agree with you that when you see
    second amendments as unclear,and when
    you make statements like your last sentence,
    you are being guided by emotion,in the absence of rational thought,but that’s your right.

  • bubba

    People don’t primarily want guns to defend themselves from government tyranny,they want guns to protect the sanctity of their homes and the safety of themselves and their loved ones.If you don’t feel that need,so be it.Also,tell the Syrian people that they can
    protect themselves from their government
    without guns.

  • Betsy S

    Peter Yarrow is too well known as a “Je suis” figure who always seems to turn up to blow his own horn.

  • Anonymous

    I pulled my kids out of school the second that there was talk of armed guards , and teachers with guns . I refuse to raise my kids in an atmosphere where it is no different than a war zone, with terrorist practice and guns. There is absolutely no reason my kids need to make war zones a part of life. When the guns and terrorist drills are gone , I will stop home schooling. This is the U.S. not Syria.

  • Nvyrsch

    How many vehicle deaths…how many medical…crazy people and criminals will always have access and the “motivation” to commit criminal activities. Additional laws are not going to eliminate the threat.

  • bubba

    Your statement completely misses my point,which is that when we make important decisions,it is best if we can be rational,and keep our emotions in check.Being overly emotional can trump good judgement. To say this is not to disrespect anyone’s
    intelligence,and I don’t see how the NRA is in any way involved.
    The only intelligence I am disrespecting is yours. Untold numbers of lives have been saved through the proper and rational use of guns by law-abiding citizens in defense of themselves and others.If you choose to be complacent about self-defense
    and defense of loved ones,that is your right,but you have no right to tell me that I must follow suit. If you ever have to defend against a home invasion,I’m pretty sure that speaking sharply to the intruder won’t get the job done.
    The use of armed guards in schools is not a position anyone would favor,until you consider the alternatives. I am not an NRA member,and have no connection with them,and I have been called a lot worse than “troll”.