Debate: Are we safer with more gun restrictions or more trained Americans with guns?

01/23/2013 10:01 PM

There hasn’t been much middle ground in the debate over guns and school safety in the nearly six weeks since a gunman killed 20 first graders and six school staff in Newtown, Conn.

Limit the size of gun magazines? Or encourage more citizens to be trained to use guns?

Ban assault weapons? Or make sure teachers who have conceal-carry permits can bring guns to school?

Steve Challis, who spent 21 years as a British police officer and now runs Harmony Hollow Firearms Training in Montgomery County, has researched and written two books about gun violence in the United States. And he’s firmly in the camp that further restrictions on guns would do nothing to prevent tragedies like the Newtown shooting or the massacre at the Aurora, Colo., movie theater in July.

And State Rep. Mary Lou Marzian, D-Louisville, is among those lawmakers in Frankfort who want to see bans on the type of military-style assault weapons that can kill so many people so quickly.

They outlined the full spectrum of the current debate and even found one area of agreement during a panel discussion on Wednesday’s edition of Pure Politics:

“I think finally Americans are waking up and saying ‘yes we respect hunters and fisherman and those kinds of activities, but do we really need something that can just wipe out a whole school?” Marzian asked (at 7:50 of the video above) to underscore her argument for an assault weapons ban.

Challis, who moved to the United States five years ago, said the argument over the 2nd Amendment becomes confused because, as he says, it had nothing to do with hunting or even a militia.

“The sole reason for the 2nd Amendment being written was to protect the U.S. citizens, among other things, against the tyranny of the government,” Challis said (at 9:15 of the video above).

In the second part of the discussion, the two debated specific proposals offered by President Barack Obama.

Challis said criminals aren’t likely to get the memo about the gun-free zones — or care. He said if someone like Adam Lanza, the accused killer in Newtown, is intent on attacking classrooms full of students, there should be someone within the school to defend it.

“If I was a parent at that school, I would like for at least one of those teachers to be able to stand up, pull their own weapon and stop this guy there and then. It may well be that teacher doesn’t make it, but at least it gives the kids a fighting chance,” Challis said (at 8:30 in video above).

Marzian said she would rather go after root causes, such as through legislation dealing with bullying and more resources for mental health.

“These are our kids. These are 5-year-olds going into school. Do they want to see an armed guard walking around with a gun? I don’t think so. We are not in Iran, we aren’t in Afghanistan, we are in the United States of America,” Marzian said (at 10:00.)

About Ryan Alessi

Ryan Alessi joined cn|2 in May 2010 as senior managing editor and host of Pure Politics. He has covered politics for more than 10 years, including 7 years as a reporter for the Lexington Herald-Leader. Follow Ryan on Twitter @cn2Alessi. Ryan can be reached at 502-792-1135 or


  • viewer wrote on January 24, 2013 09:48 AM :

    I really enjoyed this show last night. Both sides did well. Tough issue with no simple answer. Thanks for taking it on Ryan. Hope another show on guns comes down the road. This needs to be talked about more and also about violence in movies and on video games.

  • Eric James wrote on January 24, 2013 11:07 AM :

    All of which raises a question…If gun training is the answer, what effect would gun training have on mass killers?

  • viewer wrote on January 24, 2013 02:21 PM :

    We cant get the guns back that have been sold. But we can make gun shows do background checks. We also can stop video games that teach killing from being sold. Kids cant keep their mouths shut so the blackmarket will be easy to find. I dont see any reason for a clip that holds over ten shells but for massive assaults. Only in the movies does a hero take on the bad guys with that kind of power. Name me one time were it took 30 bullets to protect a family from evil in this country ???? Dont happen and we dont need it. NRA people if u can name me one , put the article on here and I will say I was wrong… Just one time that it happened in real life America. If you are afraid of your governments black helicopters you dont need guns anyway. That is what the problem is now.

  • jane honest wrote on January 24, 2013 04:05 PM :

    So there are things Mr challis fails to disclose about his history as a police officer. He was fired for not having a licence for his shot gun. Hardly an officer of good standing!

  • Stephen Challis wrote on January 24, 2013 06:11 PM :

    Honest Jane simply does not live up to her username.
    Whilst I did own shotguns and firearms at one time whilst in England I did not own any at the time i left the force. To suggest i got “fired’ for not having a license is stretching their anti gun hysteria way beyond credibility.
    Having a shotgun without a license would be a criminal offense , similar to a felony.
    To lawfully emigrate to the USA i was required to produce a Police clearance certificate ,showing I had no criminal activity in my past.In short the background checks are very thorough.

    I am still surprised that US politics are full of scurrilous innuendos,and if I was standing for public office I would expect it.I am not. I will always defend the right of honest citizens to defend themselves.And as a famous politician once said. I disagree with what you say,but I will defend unto death your right to say it.

  • Kay wrote on January 25, 2013 07:52 AM :

    Clearly Steve Challis has a financial GAIN in pushing the notion of arming more people. Challis’ company stands to pocket thousands of dollars if the idea to arm more people is adopted. I hope the next time Ryan asks an owner of a firearm training Corporation if their “opinion” is bias due to the fact their sole goal is to make more money.

  • Stephen Challis wrote on January 25, 2013 12:03 PM :

    In reply to Kay,I was not asked that question but I am happy to reply, We are a family business and I only wish we did make thousands of dollars, or even hundreds. The truth is that our training school exists to provide proper training for gun owners. We make around $30.00 per student on a concealed carry course after paying the Dept Of Justice required fee. Out of that ‘profit’ we pay for heating, lighting targets and approximately 22 hours of our time as certified instructors. Our training programs are approximately 30% below similar training courses,We also provide hunter education,and first shots courses totally free of charge. So where are the thousands of dollars Kay,
    Are prices reflect the real reason . We all have a vested interest in ensuring those who own guns receive proper training.
    Incidentally President Obama is personally responsible for more gun sales than any other human being in history. Good for the gun trade maybe, but complicating an already complex subject.

  • jane honest wrote on January 27, 2013 05:28 PM :

    Mr challis your perception of the truth is interesting. Do you deny being dismissed (instant dismisal by Hampshire police for gross misconduct? Do you deny appearing at magistrates court charged with shotgun offences and having your guns siezed by the police? I ask people reading this if a man such as this is qualified to even run a firearms training school? Is a desgraced former (fired) police officer with gun offenses the sort of man that should be involved in gun handling? Is his opinon even valid? As the other poster said. Mr challis stands to make a fortune from arms training. Also perhaps research your quotes it was a 17th century french philosopher called Voltaire who coined the phrase.

  • Ron 04 wrote on January 28, 2013 11:09 PM :

    America IS WAKING UP – that the SECOND AMENDMENT has NOTHING to do with HUNTING ! WHY does anyone “need” an assault rifle or high capacity magazine? WHY did Rosa Parks “NEED” to sit at the front of the bus? You don’t need to demonstrate NEED to exercise a RIGHT !

    Its pure coincidence that the 2 cities with the highest crime rates have the most restrictive gun laws – Chicago and DC. If their agenda had an ounce of truth, wouldn’t it make sense that those should be the SAFEST cities in America? Ya right.

    PROHIBITION didn’t work either. Would you like to repeat it too?

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