As with many issues, guns have been portrayed as deeply polarized—extremes on either side and no middle ground. In 2008 the Supreme Court found that there is a constitutional right to own guns, and it concurred that the government has the right—and responsibility—to protect its citizens with reasonable restrictions designed to keep Americans safe from gun violence.
In fact, for nearly 200 years federal and state laws have imposed conditions and restrictions on gun ownership with the support of gun owners and the National Rifle Association. Today Americans agree that some restrictions to keep them safe make sense. Meanwhile, for the last several decades (or since the 1970s), the leadership of the NRA has mounted vigorous opposition to any effort to restrict gun ownership and has had some success in weakening federal and state protections.
While the Court is clear that the government cannot arbitrarily restrict gun owners, Americans are increasingly concerned that terrorists and other potentially threatening individuals who may suffer from mental illness or addiction can easily purchase guns legally. Americans expect the government to protect them by making it impossible for these individuals to purchase, own, or carry a gun.
Can progress be made to increase the safety of Americans in light of NRA opposition? Please join the Center for American Progress for a lively discussion about these issues.
Bob Carpenter, Vice President, American Viewpoint
Everett Gillison, Chief of Staff to the Mayor, City of Philadelphia
Adam Winkler, Author, The Battle over the Right to Bear Arms in America; Professor of Law, UCLA School of Law
Faiz Shakir, Vice President and Editor of ThinkProgress, Center for American Progress Action Fund