BILL MOYERS: Tom, let's continue. We're talking about The Last Gun: How Changes In the Gun Industry Are Killing Americans and What It Will Take to Stop It.
BILL MOYERS: Somebody has referred to Florida as the gun-shine state. Is that justified, that mockery?
TOM DIAZ: I do believe it is for a specific reason. The NRA has used Florida as what I call sort of a test tube. Florida was the first of the major states to change the law about concealed carry itself. Used to be if you wanted to carry a gun about, concealed, you had to ask for permission. It was called a May-issue. The authority might or might not give you the gun. Florida was one of the first states to change to what's called a Shall-issue state. Later on it led to this whole concept of Stand Your Ground mixed up with the Castle doctrine. So yeah, Florida is the Petri dish and then the bacillus has spread through American Legislative Exchange Council and other media to the rest of the country.
BILL MOYERS: So this is how Florida's concealed law, concealed gun law plays into the Trayvon Martin tragedy?
TOM DIAZ: Yes, I think it's a mindset thing, number one. And I think it's, the number of concealed carry licenses for people like Zimmerman just by order of magnitude increased after these laws. So yeah, I think it's like pollution, it seeps out into the society.
BILL MOYERS: Have you been able to measure the impact of the law in these states that have passed them?
TOM DIAZ: I personally have not, although there have been studies that others have done.
BILL MOYERS: What do they show?
TOM DIAZ: Well, they show that the incidence of what are called justifiable homicides goes up. Now, because you use the word justifiable, that simply means somebody died, you killed them, but we're not going to prosecute you for murder, second-degree murder, what have you. It doesn't mean that that homicide would not have happened but for these laws. And I think that's clear, that more guns means more shootings and it means more deaths.
BILL MOYERS: So is the dramatic change you write about in The Last Gun essentially the militarization of the gun industry?
TOM DIAZ: Yeah, the common denominator is, and that's precisely, the gun industry is marketing both in handguns and long guns, designs that were essentially military based, the common denominator is something called the high capacity magazine. You think back to the wild west, the revolver, the old six-shooters, six rounds of ammunition, relatively cumbersome to load. Bolt action rifles, cumbersome to load. Even the M1 Garand from the Second World War was eight rounds, little difficult to load.
The high capacity magazine can carry 20, 40, even more than 100 in the drum form of, that's militarization, those are designed for the modern battlefield. The same thing happened in handguns in the 1930s and increasingly in the 1980s when Beretta first sold its version to the United States Army. Both of these provide the individual shooter with lots of rounds of ammunition, and they're increasingly easy to shoot.
You could go get modern semiautomatic pistol today and probably in ten minutes if you've never shot before you could do fairly well shooting. Because they're almost like shooting a child's toy. They're lightweight, the ammunition's easy to load and they shoot very quickly.
The gun industry is like any other business. If you look at your, say your mobile phone, or you look at your car, or even look at your microwave, they're all different. Innovation is what sells consumer products. The gun industry is no different than any other industry, so they know that. And in the last several decades their innovation has been in the direction of enhanced lethality--
BILL MOYERS: Enhanced what?
TOM DIAZ: --lethality, killing power--
BILL MOYERS: Deadliness?
TOM DIAZ: Killing power. So you've got more bullets, you can fire faster and easier and they're bigger, increases the chance of someone being hit and someone dying. So the gun industry has moved in the direction of selling greater firepower whether it's the military style assault rifle or it's the high capacity semiautomatic handgun, that's the two branches of marketing that the gun industry has relentlessly pursued, not only the domestic gun industry incidentally. We are the target of the world, we're the last great market.
As unlikely a jurisdiction is the United Arab Emirates now, I noticed an ad within a month or so, is now selling a concealed carry handgun in the United States they manufacture. Now, why are they doing that? Because this is the only market--
BILL MOYERS: The United States?
TOM DIAZ: Yes, they're, this gun is being pushed in the current round of gun consumer magazines. But it's not, that's not unusual. You, in most countries in the world you could not possibly get away with selling the kinds of guns that are sold in the United States to civilians and you couldn't do it as easily. You couldn't just go to some gun show or even a gun store and say, I feel the need to carry a gun around in my pocket. Can you sell me one?
Even in Israel which the gun people like to cite as an example, completely wrong, Israel has very strong gun control laws. It's believed that, well, Israel says you can carry a gun because they're suffering from terrorism. That's absolutely not true. And I've talked to many Israelis, I've talked to Israeli diplomats. It's just not true. A society that's under threat of terrorism still restricts access of to firearms.
BILL MOYERS: Why are we such a great market?
TOM DIAZ: Well, unlike most other countries we do have the second amendment which does embody a right which according to the Supreme Court is a personal right, you have it, I have it, every single individual have it, has it. So that's different. And it's complex. I wouldn't dismiss that part of the problem as easily solved.
But we also have a kind of imaginary history. We've conquered the West, the frontier, we're a nation of these independent stalwart people and we overthrew a bad government when we took care of King George III. The gun industry knows that these things resonate with the American people. So their advertising and marketing is all aimed at this kind of, you've got a right, you're an individual American, by gosh, you should have a gun.
BILL MOYERS: Why the title, The Last Gun?
TOM DIAZ: Well, I think the logic of the title, it's that until they sell the last gun the gun industry will continue to do the kinds of things that I describe in the book. They're not giving up. They, I write, I describe, have you ever seen a wounded snake on a highway where they're just dangerous because they're lashing about? And that's the way the gun industry is. It's, over the long term in bad health, it's got public opinion, I think, in a large extent are weighed against the industry. And they're going to keep doing what they do until they absolutely cannot any longer. The gun people like to say there are law abiding people and there are bad people and we want the law abiding people to have guns. I don't think humanity is that simple. Humanity is a complex of all kinds of people. Good people do bad things when they have access to guns. People who've been married for many, many years suddenly have a breakup, I can't tell how many stories I've read, typically the husband comes home, kills his wife and kills himself. Not a bad person until the moment something snaps and he uses that gun which is there.
BILL MOYERS: The book is The Last Gun: How Changes in the Gun Industry are Killing Americans and What It Will Take to Stop It. Tom Diaz, thanks for joining me.
TOM DIAZ: My pleasure, thank you.