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Final note: There are more than 58,000 gunshops in the U.S.

The U.S. flag flies at half-staff over the White House in Washington.

This final note today, about what happened in Newtown, Conn., this morning.

This isn't gonna be something you usually get from Marketplace. But I've got four kids, as I think I've said before. My first reaction was that there wasn't really an angle for us and that we'd leave it to others.

Then I thought about it. And we did some digging around. There are lobbying numbers and gun sales numbers and firearms permit numbers.

And then there's this.

There are, according to the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives (PDF), more than 58,000 gunshops in this country.

There are fewer than 20,000 Starbucks (PDF) in the whole world.

Jay Carney, the president's press secretary, said this morning that this isn't the time to talk about gun control.

If today's not the time, then when?

About the author

Kai Ryssdal is the host and senior editor of Marketplace, public radio’s program on business and the economy.
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Kai,
As an NPR listener, i would encourage discussion, in pursuit of solutions to our nation's problems, at any time. As a parent, i say that NOW is that time. As a gun owner, i call on you at Marketplace to inform a part of that discussion; please shine your light, fully, on the Economics of Guns in America.
Thank You,
Matthew Souza, Gun Consumer, in California

Kai,
Shortly after your on air editorial, Morgan Freeman's issued a brillant statement "Turn off the News." It has gone viral with more people adding the post to their Facebook page than anti gun rhetoric. I sure you have had an opportunity to read by now.

His point is well taken. You can no more place blame on the number of licensed gun dealers than the number of local, state and national news outlet. Freeman correctly points to the medias unattended glorification of mass murders who use guns. He continues it is the sickening glamore these people seek.

One has to look no further then the inaccurate reporting that took place immedialty after Friday's events. News outlets including NPR, inaccuratly reported the profile of the gunman. Why? I'm sure it was not intentional. Nor is the sale of a gun ever intended to harm a child.

Morgan Freeman didn't say/write that.

Thank you for your concluding words Friday. Undoubtedly aware of some likely comments you would receive, they were brave words to say when feeling so vulnerable, as we are we all. I encourage the young men and women I teach in Sunday School to become men and women of character with the jargon of my young adulthood, sometimes exhorting them in the face of challenge or mistake to "take their bolter like a man." You made no mistake, and you did it like a man. I asked my young people today if they felt our nation was making them feel safe. Embarrassing silence, and some tears. I hear in your comments the desire to make our children feel safe. May that be our agenda.

Kai, what is the possibility that one of your four kids will be injured or killed by an automobile? There are more than 45,000 deaths in the U.S. each year due to car accidents. Since we want to control the use of an object, let's try and start with the more deadly object. How many car dealerships are in the U.S.? Sounds unreasonable, huh?

The mass shootings have occurred in blue states with the most gun control laws, so how has that stopped the behavior? The 57 deaths in one incident in Norway was not stopped by Norway's strict gun restrictions. Germany in the early 1930's made gun ownership illegal by citizens, and those caught with guns were put in concentration camps. Is that what we need now in the U.S.?

The Reagan administration put many mental patients back out on the street, and said that medication would keep their behavior in check. Why don't we identify the behavior and the individual instead of the object?

These dead children and educators have been torturing me all weekend. I don't feel that turning my guns in will solve the problem. I feel strongly the founding father's ideas of gun ownership constitutional rights keep future tyrannical leaders in check.

I will make you a deal Kai. You and your liberal friends turn in your cars and I will turn in my guns, okay?

Your analogy is flawed. Would you please tell me when the last time was when someone committed mass murder by repeatedly running over 20 children and 6 adults? The victims in Connecticut each suffered between 2 and 11 gunshot wounds. That can't be done with a hunting rifle. Banning military style, high volume of fire weapons would at least slow down the horror, and how many of the grieving parents would be free of sorrow today if the shooter had had to use a lesser weapon?

Mr. Ryssdal, "Not now, Mister" is a good enough answer for the moment. As a rational conservative, I disagree with many of the positions taken by this administration. The one to which you objected, however, deserves praise. By not politicizing the issue, the President allowed the country to mourn together. He yielded nothing; at some later date we can argue the relative merits of gun control and violence control. For now we can concentrate on a shared grief.

You found a tortured way to present an opinion on a subject outside your area of demonstrated expertise. In doing so, you stirred controversy and diverted attention from the genuine torture of the survivors of the Newtown tragedy. Read the mail. People are arguing about your comments rather than praying for or otherwise mourning the victims of this senseless violence. If you intended to polarize your listeners, you succeeded. If you had any higher goal, you failed miserably.

Entropyman, you asked about sending kindergarten children to school with guns. The answer is no, we should not. Then, as though it were a logical extension, you moved on to asserting that teachers should not have guns. Why? What would have happened at Virginia Tech if the Israeli professor who died trying to fight off the shooter bare-handed had been armed instead? Some teachers would be quite capable of protecting children from attack, and, unlike police who have to respond from afar, teachers are at the school. Maybe an armed teacher or principal could have prevented this massacre.

People who are not prepared to defend themselves should not be armed; they would pose a greater hazard to themselves than to their attackers. Clearly you are one of them, and I would never presume to suggest that you carry a gun. Others among us take a different view of personal responsibility, however, and resent that you would reduce us to sheep, proposing a society in which we can huddle defenseless and only be stabbed. We should prefer to defend ourselves.

A question for you to consider: what would you have thought if MrsC (above) had come on the scene and dispatched Mr. Lanza with a quick round through the back of the head? Would you have praised her for averting a tragedy or condemned her for taking the law into her own hands, or for not being sporting? (By the way, MrsC, bless your heart for thinking as you do, but be aware that everywhere I know, school grounds are forbidden zones for concealed carry. Best I am aware of is an exemption in some places allowing you to be armed if you are dropping off or picking up and do not get out of the car.)

Anyway, Entropyman, please understand that you can't prevent evil or crazy activities by making good and sane people disarm. Perhaps if we stop pretending that there is no evil, that there is no insanity, that there is only some nefarious power through which guns cause the righteous to perpetrate abominations - perhaps then we can address the breakdown in traditional values which might conceivably lie at the root of our problems. Give it a try.

The fundamental problem is that this is a clash between anti-gun folks and the Constitution. The Constitution (now interpreted in DC v. Heller) reads as an individual right to own firearms. The reaction from this most recent shooting brings out all the usual talking points: handguns are awful, evil black rifles are awful, mental issues, etc etc.

To live in the US means you live in a country where, just a few lines after the Founders codified the freedom that lets Kai say we should have a discussion about gun control, there's another one that says the discussion is over, or at least reaaally needs everyone on board to change it.

The reason most people vigorously defend against gun control measures is that experience shows there's no limit that will satisfy anti-gun folks. If you disagree, then, imagine writing up a ruleset such that, if passed, will allow a sane, responsible owner to buy, possess, and carry whatever AND wherever she liked.

If you can write that, I think you'd find a line of voters willing to compromise. If you can't, then, well, we're not the only ones being inflexible, are we?

I realize that you will be castigated for making a comment or for the content of your comment but I congratulate you for doing so. Guns are big business. They are also a cultural phenomenon. And the gun lobby has been very successful at the following response to mass killings which are becoming more common. First, the crocodile tears for the victims. Then the solemn comments not to act rashly, but rather lets grieve the losses. Finally, come the false arguments that private gun ownership is enshrined in the U.S. Constitution. Unfortunately, a radical majority of the US Supreme Court has attempted to do this - a decision that may be put in the same pantheon as the Japanese relocation cases or Plessy v Ferguson.

This is the time to act. National gun and ammo registries may be a logical first step. Maybe national standards for licensing gun ownership which could include mandatory training. I don't have the answers but we sure are left with a lot of questions.

More guns can't be answer. Should we send kindergarteners to school with handguns in case they see a crazy guy attack them? Should we give handguns to teachers? Of course not. (Compare this tragedy to the one in China. A nutcase invaded a school and stabbed 20 kids. Every child survived. Are the Chinese more concerned with human lives than Americans?)

If your program can talk about economic policy during Presidential and bye elections, which included universal medical care, then why not about the guns? One provides health and one taketh away.

Thanks again for your comments.

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