Divide on gun control apparent in Anderson Cooper special

This post was written by Hatchet staff writer Mary Ellen McIntire. 

The Anderson Cooper CNN special taped Thursday at Jack Morton Auditorium was branded with a specific charge: promote discussion to reduce gun violence.

Anderson Cooper visited campus Thursday for a conversation on gun control. Photo used under the Wikimedia Commons license.

But the wide divide and complexities were apparent when Cooper brought activists, law enforcement officials and even Newtown, Conn. residents together as the gun control debate hangs over the country.

The two-hour event, to be aired on CNN at 8 p.m. Thursday, tackled several sides of the debate, but discussion consistently bounced back to the issue of requiring background checks for gun purchases.

Cooper said his team brought together a variety of sources in order to “get a lot of different viewpoints in and see if there is any common ground.”

At the event that about three dozen students attended, he moderated topics from universal background checks to mental health to school safety with representatives from the pro-gun control Brady Campaign and the National Rifle Association. He also directed questions from audience members with personal connections to tragedies, including the Newtown and Virginia Tech shootings.

While the discussion was mostly cordial throughout the taping, the issue of background checks was one major sticking point. NRA board member Sandra Froman stood firm against the proposal.

“One more gun control law is going to be obeyed by law-abiding citizens, not criminals,” she said.

Philadelphia Police Commissioner Charles Ramsey, who leads the fourth largest police department in the country, said that universal background checks would be well worth the money it would take to implement them.

Cooper, too, appeared the push the issue of background checks as a simple step in a broader recipe for gun safety.

“Why are background checks bad if law-abiding citizens have nothing to hide?” Cooper asked.

The discussion also turned toward what other steps, like more security in schools, should be on the table for lawmakers and school district officials as they look to tighten school safety.

Colin Goddard, a survivor of the Virginia Tech shooting in 2007, continued to bring up background checks as the discussion turned to having armed guards in schools, which the NRA has pushed since the Newtown shooting.

While Goddard said he was not necessarily opposed to armed guards in schools, he questioned why it was one the first steps so many people wanted to take.

Cooper also called upon the mother of a child killed in the Newtown shooting, who said she felt comfort in the armed guards that are at the new location of Sandy Hook Elementary School.

“There might be a certain power in deterrence,” she said.

The dialogue then turned to about the rise of violence in the media and mental health, with researchers and doctors testifying that the issue typically lies with undiagnosed mental illness and not video game violence.

As the discussion drew to a close, Cooper announced a school shooting that had just taken place while the segment was taping. He had to re-tape his introduction. A 14-year-old had been shot at an Atlanta middle school.

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