Truth, Politics and Power: Gun rights and gun control

Hundreds rally at the State Capitol rotunda against gun violence.
Hundreds gather in the State Capitol rotunda during a rally Thursday, Feb. 22, 2018 in St. Paul, Minn., where concerned citizens are calling for the passage of four bills they believe would substantively reduce gun violence in the state.
Jim Mone | AP

As the nation struggles to come to terms with the latest mass shooting, host Neal Conan delves into the history of the debate between gun rights and gun control with UCLA Constitutional Law specialist Adam Winkler, author of "Gun Fight: The Battle over the Right to Bear Arms in America."

There has long been gun "rights" in America, and there has long been gun "control."

The Founding Fathers required every adult white male to own a musket, and bring it to musters where it was inspected and registered.

"They prohibited certain people who were deemed untrustworthy from possessing firearms," Winkler said.

Grow the Future of Public Media

MPR News is supported by Members. Gifts from individuals power everything you find here. Make a gift of any amount today to become a Member!

For example, loyalists. If someone was not willing to pledge an oath of loyalty to America they were not allowed a musket.

The laws also prohibited racial minorities from owning firearms — the gun debate as a whole has been deeply rooted in racial injustice since the very beginning, Winkler said.

"Indeed the KKK back in the Civil War time ... was founded in part with gun control on its mind," he said. "The goal was to take guns away from African Americans so they couldn't fight back when whites tried to establish white supremacy."

The type of firearms the Founding Fathers were talking about also play a role in the gun control debate. The weapons they were dealing with were slow to load and used almost exclusively as military weapons, not personal defense.

"The Founders were focused on militias," Winkler said, and while the government couldn't take guns from citizens, they could regulate those firearms.

Pts 1 and 2 — On this "Truth Politics and Power," how a duty for community self defense evolved into an individual right to bear arms and how the laws changed with both weapons technology and the rise of the National Rifle Association.

Pt 3 — Research into guns and gun deaths. Dr. Frederick P. Rivara is a professor of pediatrics and epidemiology at the University of Washington School of Medicine. Dr. Rivara is an expert in injury control and was founding president of the International Society for Child and Adolescent Injury Prevention. He has long-studied studied gun ownership and gun violence.

Pt 4 — A first person essay about mental health, by Neal Conan's daughter, Casey Hansen Conan.