CBC Radio - As It Happens
January 10, 2011

Hosts: Carol Off and Jeff Douglas
Guest: Alan Korwin (Author of The Arizona Gun Owner's Guide)

transcribed by Joel Sturm

In the wake of the tragic shooting in Arizona that killed six people and wounded 14 on January 9, 2011, CBC Radio interviewed author Alan Korwin about the availability of guns in U.S. society. Korwin told his interviewers that it's time to stop confusing sport shooters with criminals.

Korwin wrote his first book, The Arizona Gun Owner's Guide, in 1989. It is now in its 24th edition with more than 150,000 copies in print. He went on to write or co-write nine more books on gun laws, including state guides for California, Florida, Texas, and Virginia, the unabridged federal guides Gun Laws of America and Supreme Court Gun Cases, his 11th, which debuted in 2008, is The Heller Case: Gun Rights Affirmed!, and his latest, After You Shoot, about the deadly loophole in self-defence law.

With his wife Cheryl he operates Bloomfield Press, which has grown into the largest publisher and distributor of gun-law books in America. His website, gunlaws.com, features a free National Directory to every gun law in the country and more than 220 books and DVDs for gun owners and the freedom movement. Alan's blog, PageNine.org, is carried by scores of paper and online outlets.

Here is a transcript of that CBC interview:

Jeff Douglas: Much of the discussion south of The 49th has been about the nature of political discourse in The U.S., but there's also been talk about guns, especially about gun laws in The State of Arizona. Alan Korwin knows these laws well. He's the author of The Arizona Gun Owner's Guide, which is updated regularly since he first published it in 1989. We reached Mr. Korwin in Phoenix.

Carol Off: Mr. Korwin, is there anything in the gun laws of Arizona that might have stopped Mr. Loughner from owning and concealing that weapon?

Alan Korwin: If this person had a record of being certifiably mentally disturbed, he could not legally buy a firearm. There's a whole list of prohibited possessor categories: a previous felon, user of illegal drugs, dishonourable discharge (from the military), that would prevent him from getting a gun legally. But that said, you can buy cocaine in this country in every city in America 24 hours a day, and there's no legal channel for that whatsoever. So preventing people from getting illegal things through law isn't the easy solution that people would like to see.

Off: What exactly did he have to do to qualify to purchase a Glock 19 semi-automatic weapon?

Korwin: He can buy a firearm in this state the same as you can buy any legal property. He could go into a firearms store, fill out a lengthy form—it's then submitted to the FBI by phone or by fax or by Internet. They do a background check. If there are any disqualifiers, he cannot buy the firearm, and if there's any question, his purchase will be delayed. But, if he appears to be like you, or I, or any other honest, law-abiding adult, he would be able to buy a firearm the same as any other law-abiding adult.

Off: A Glock is a handgun. You can't use it for hunting. What would be the point of having a weapon like that?

Korwin: Actually, the shooting sports are the number two participatory sport in the nation—ahead of golf and just behind exercise. And handguns are used frequently to stop crime and deter criminals. One of the greatest travesties of this situation was that there was nobody else there with a Glock 19 or any other gun to stop this perpetrator from this heinous act. That would have been a perfect use for a firearm. Imagine how different the story would play If this guy had attempted an assassination and a citizen had stopped it. Unfortunately, that wasn't the case.

Off: A citizen did attempt to stop him by trying to knock the clip out of his hand and he was about to reload. You're suggesting that there should have been a shoot out? With citizens shooting at each other?

Korwin: You make it sound like the Wild West. We're a very civilized place down here. The whole purpose for your earlier question, “Why would a person want a gun?” Guns save lives. That's why you have them. Not for committing assassinations or being a crazy person. If a citizen was there with a firearm, and this guy started doing what he did, what would you do? Have the guy just stand there and watch? Or should he use a legally-owned firearm to stop the perpetrator? Which would you prefer?

Off: But there are a lot of people around, including the nine-year-old who was also killed. What happens if people start to shoot each other? Isn't it better just not to have concealed handguns inside shopping malls?

Korwin: There is a risk of harming other people, but those other people are at a deadly risk right then at that moment. This maniac, psychological crazy guy is shooting people: you would say, “Nobody should act to stop him?” Is that what you would say?

Off: But how did the psychological crazy guy get a gun?

Korwin: That's a great question. At what point do you say somebody is crazy? The issues necessary to deny a person his civil rights, certify them as crazy, are complex. They have a right to appeal, and to have an attorney. They need doctors to study them. Courts have to make decisions to actually deny a person all his civil rights. You'd lose your right to vote, to hold office, as well as lose the right to keep and bear arms. Maybe you're suggesting that we should give psychological testing to every youngster who ever did anything a little wacky. And then, give everybody a card that says, I'm certifiably sane, and it expires in a year, and you have to go back for more tests. Would you do that?

Off: Your Governor, Jan Brewer, just in this past year, I guess, passed a law that allows for a concealed weapon without having to have permit. Why did so many people want that law to be passed?

Korwin: That law has been a very good law. It has led to a reduction in crime. I understand that in Canada, it's a difference in the culture that makes it a little hard to understand why a person might even want a firearm, as you asked earlier. We've had open carry in the state of Arizona since Statehood in 1912. You could own a firearm, wear it on your hip, go about your business all day long, for almost a hundred years now with no government permission or tax, photograph, fingerprints, entry in a criminal database, or a plastic-coated permission slip that says you're OK. What the Constitutional carry law does—it allows your shirttails to fall over your firearm and you haven't committed a crime. Prior to that law, with your sport coat or jacket if it's cold—if the firearm is concealed in any way, you automatically became a criminal without actually doing anything wrong, with nobody harmed, with no victim. That didn't seem like a proper way to go if you value freedom.

Unfortunately, there was nobody there that day--which would have saved the day—if only somebody would have been there and could have acted.

Off: This semi-automatic weapon that he had, had about thirty rounds in it. Wasn't there an effort to try and limit the number of rounds…

Korwin: How many rounds would you allow a person to have, Carol? Your question presupposes its answer. If the logic is that we can limit the amount of ammunition you can have, or the size of the round, or the size of the magazine, then we might as well limit them down to zero and outlaw guns for every decent, law-abiding citizen—by that logic. It's a free country.

Off: But Mr. Korwin, if the only solution to what happened this weekend is to have more people with guns, where does that stop? Doesn't that just become a bigger problem when people are armed and able to have shootouts in public places?

Korwin: The ignorance behind that question is monumental. I don't even know how to begin to address that. We know that when criminals go crazy, you send in people with guns to stop them. More guns, less crime. When the citizens are armed, they are a deterrent to crime. When the citizens are disarmed, the criminals have no controls of any practical nature. And that's what we saw in that great tragedy.

You're assuming that if a person has a firearm, they automatically go crazy and shoot people. That's very typical of the political left in this country. The anti-right bigots keep saying that if we have firearms, we'll kill people.

We've had open carry banquets with 400 people—all carrying firearms—and the service is slow—and the waiters all get out alive. It's not about having a firearm and the gun makes you psychotic. It's about having a firearm to be able to stop a person who is a psychotic.

Off: Mr. Korwin, thank you.

Korwin: Thanks very much.