December 15, 1791 – On that day the Second Amendment to the U.S. Constitution was ratified, sowing the seeds for an ongoing and still raging debate about the right to be free to bear arms vs. the right to be free of violence.
Here’s the exact wording:
“A well regulated Militia, being necessary to the security of a free State, the right of the people to keep and bear arms, shall not be infringed.”
We went to western Pennsylvania, where hunting is popular, and to Baltimore, Maryland, where it isn’t, to understand better the cultural gap that divides the two sides.
Baltimore, Maryland – So far this year more than 300 people have been shot. Just last week six people died from gunfire. Baltimore is one of more than 450 small and large cities that have joined New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg in an effort to keep guns away from criminals.
Baltimore also has instituted “Safe Streets,” a program that aims to reduce shootings by putting community members onto the streets at night to mediate disputes that could lead to violence.
Dante Barksdale is one of those community members. An ex-con, Barksdale says “Safe Streets” gets at the heart of gun violence. “I don’t know about people loving guns,” he said, “but I know about people using guns to protect themselves or protect their image. … And this is why usually people use guns to resolve conflict. It’s because they feel like, you know, someone is stepping on their macho image [but] … being macho, being the biggest man with the biggest gun, the man who has all these people fearing him, this is not being a man. This is ignorance.”
Westmoreland County, Pennsylvania – The gun owners we spoke with here, just east of Pittsburgh, see their freedom threatened by efforts to control gun possession. They were not uniformly against all gun control, but expressed concerns that new legislation could escalate into an outright ban.
CNN's Carol Costello visited retiree Irwin Polansky, who hunts around the small town of Jeanette. She asked him if owning a gun is a God-given right. “Yes,” Polansky said. He needs a gun “to protect myself from bad guys. … or an animal.” Polansky added that “they’ve got enough laws on the books right now. If they would only enforce them to go after criminals. … But why come after us? We didn’t do nothing wrong.”
We found several hunters early one morning waiting quietly with shotguns for geese to fly over Twin Lakes in Latrobe, PA. After downing several birds, hunter George Smithula told us that “you have to be born in the environment to really appreciate guns.” As for assault weapons, Smithula told us: “I’m not too keen on [them], but everything else I see no problem with.” Why does he think some gun advocates oppose all forms of gun control? “Because if you take the assault weapons away … what’ll be next? The handguns? Who knows?”
“If I lived in a place like [Baltimore],” said fellow geese hunter Dan Weyandt, “I’d like to have a gun for protection because there’ so much going on. What are you going to do if somebody comes in and comes after your family?”