Kojo talks with author Colson Whitehead about his new novel "The Underground Railroad" and its resonance at this particular moment in history.
President Barack Obama unveils new proposals to address gun violence. Lance Armstrong comes clean on doping in a two-day television extravaganza. The conflict in Mali spills over to its neighbors, as American hostages are seized in Algeria. It’s your turn to offer your take on the issues of the day.
MR. KOJO NNAMDIFrom WAMU 88.5 at American University in Washington, welcome to "The Kojo Nnamdi Show" connecting your neighborhood with the world. It's Your Turn. 800-433-8850 is the number to call. It's Your Turn. You can send us a Tweet at kojoshow, email to email@example.com. Go to our website kojoshow.org and take your turn there, discussing events in the news, topics we have discussed on this broadcast or anything else on your mind. And there is a lot in the news to discuss.
MR. KOJO NNAMDIPresident Obama's proposals on gun control, many of them executed by executive order, others which the Congress of the United States will have to approve. Do you think his chances are good there or not? You can talk about the pushback from the National Rifle Association, invoking the security for the president's children. Often the children of the president are seen as off limits to these discussions but the NRA has brought it up. How do you feel about it, 800-433-8850?
MR. KOJO NNAMDIAnd then a confusing situation in northern Africa in Algeria, apparently in response to the French intervention in Mali, itself controversial, hostages taken in Algeria. Nobody is exactly sure how many, what is happening to them. It is supposedly a radical Islamist group that has done this in retaliation for the French intervention. How do you feel about that situation? How do you feel about the French intervention? As I said, that is controversial.
MR. KOJO NNAMDIThere are those who believe that the French should have intervened in a humanitarian mission. The United States, Spain and others in Europe say they will back the French up but there are those who say that this was an internal matter. The French should not have intervened given its colonial history. Others who say that did you see the response of the people in Mali when the French intervened. They were happy about it.
MR. KOJO NNAMDIAnd then what do you make of the Lance Armstrong coming up interview with Oprah Winfrey? We have not seen it yet but it has been preceded by so much build up and so much publicity that there are those who are saying, I don't need to watch the interviews. I'm not going to watch the interviews anyway because I know everything that's happened so far. And it's been too my hype and it's too calculated. Well, what do you feel, 800-433-8850? It is Your Turn. You can join this conversation.
MR. KOJO NNAMDIAnd then of course the other confusing, bazaar story surrounding Notre Dame football player Manti Te'o. Allow me just to quote from Dave Zirin's piece in National magazine. "If it was a hoax then Manti Te'o, a man who would fall in love online, have a three-year-long distance relationship and nurse a young woman through leukemia without ever seeing her in person should be put in a lab and studied for the greater good."
MR. KOJO NNAMDIThis story clearly has legs and it doesn't look as if the story is over. Manti Te'o claiming that for the past three years he's been having this relationship online with this individual, who even as his own grandmother died, this girlfriend that he has had for the past three years got leukemia. And he was talking to her on the phone all night. He would fall asleep. He said the sound of his breathing helped her to feel better. Then she eventually died and so he came out and played better in the game.
MR. KOJO NNAMDIAnd now all of the authorities at Notre Dame said it was all a hoax perpetrated on him. I don't think we've seen the last of this story because there are those who will say, but how could he go three years without never having seen this person. His father apparently said that she had come to Hawaii and they had met there. And the original story was that they had met after a game that was played in Stanford. But it's your turn to weigh in on any and all of these issues.
MR. KOJO NNAMDIHowever, if you're planning to head downtown on Monday for the inauguration you may way to log onto wamu.org to check out WAMU 88.5's inauguration guide. It includes tips for getting around, navigating traffic and security. We'd also love your help in documenting your experience. If you're a Twitter user you can send us your pictures and tips for getting around by using the hashtag wamuinaug W-A-M-U-I-N-A-U-G. We're building an interactive map of all your feedback plus pictures from the WAMU news team.
MR. KOJO NNAMDIBut now your turn on any of the issues we have discussed or anything else on your mind, 800-433-8850. We will start with E.W. in Bouie, Md. E.W., your turn.
E.W.Hey, Kojo man. That was quite a picture you painted of the young man at Notre Dame. King of comical there. But I'm calling in just as it relates to the GOP, Grand Old Party. It just seems like they've come down on all of the wrong issues. And I've never lived in such a time -- I'm not that old -- to see a political party in the predicament it appears that they're in. I mean, no one will come out and speak against, in their party, Rush Limbaugh.
E.W.They have the NRA running commercials like they just ran with the president's daughters. And then they're for the rich as far as, you know, the majority of the people, 99 or 98 percent, would don't make that amount of money. They're looking to protect that top 1 or 2 percent. And it just seems like they're on the wrong side of so many issues that I'm wondering is this the time when a third party will, you know, evolve. I just wanted to get your thoughts on that, especially the Grand Old Party.
NNAMDIWell, the answer to the last part of your question is I think no. The evolution, if you will, or the emergence of a third party is not yet among the calculations that I, for one, am making about what will happen given the clear divisions within the Republican Party. There are those who feel that the party no longer needs to be seen as the part of no. There are those who feel that the party needs to be more diverse if it is going to win future elections that it has to address issues like immigration. And even as we speak, that internal debate is taking place in the Republican Party.
NNAMDIBut if that debate is going to open up room for the emergence of a third party I don't know whether that party would be a party of the far right or a party of the center. What do you think, E.W.? Oh, E.W. is listening on the radio rather than on the phone. E.W., I'll have to get back to you. I'll put you on hold, but there are others who might want to weigh in on that topic. In the meantime let's move onto Rita in Arlington, Va. Rita, your turn. Hi there, Rita. You're on the air. Go ahead, please.
RITAThank you for taking my call. My comment was about the recent situation in Mali and how it seems impossible for the U.S. to uphold its values fighting al-Qaida and terror wherever it may be worldwide. But also the Secretary of Defense Leon Panetta says he will, you know, abstain from engaging with Mali and putting boots on the ground there. It just seems like a paradox that the U.S. really can't do both.
NNAMDIWell, boots on the ground in Mali I suspect harbors for many people the memory of boots on the ground in Somali. And because the U.S. got in a situation in Somali which it clearly did not quite understand and clearly couldn't figure out how to operate in that situation, there is a reluctance to put boots on the ground in an area like Mali where the U.S. has been reported, I think, in the New York Times that still doesn't quite understand the situation.
NNAMDIThe French having been a colonial power in that region probably understands the situation better. And I suspect that the U.S. is allowing France to lead because of that reason. But putting boots on the ground in Mali, I suspect some people feel, Rita, would be way too hasty. What do you say?
RITAI agree with you in that sense, however it seems like what just happened in Algeria, this is becoming a transnational issue. So the kidnappers in Algeria said this is in retaliation for what France and its supporters did in Mali. So...
NNAMDIIt is clearly a transnational issue of course. Algeria borders -- is on Mali's northern border. By the way, here's the latest. Some of the foreigners taken hostage by Islamist militants at the Algerian gas plant have been freed in an operation by the Algerian army, that from the country state-run news agency. But there are reports of casualties. The operation freed two Britains, a Kenyan and a French citizen, that according to the Algerian press service. That report also saying there are a number of casualties in the action but the exact number not yet known. CNN could not independently confirm that report.
NNAMDICNN affiliate BFM TV reported that the French citizen is a nurse who worked on that site. Those are details, but as it stands the situation is still so confusing that I would say that most of the reports coming out of there should not be taken as reliable at this point. But, Rita, I interrupted your point.
RITANo. It was that it just seems like the region as a whole, the north African and parts of east Africa are becoming more embroiled and entangled together with one another. And that the U.S., as much as it doesn't want to become involved is, I think in many cases, like those kidnapping cases, will be forced to become involved.
NNAMDII guess, but the debate is over the nature of the involvement. I suspect that after Iraq and Afghanistan the U.S. does not want to be bogged down. And the American people probably do not have an appetite for a prolonged stay in any of the countries. So the U.S. working with its allies is trying to figure out ways of fighting what is clearly, as you point out, an international event and international struggle taking place in Mali, and now in Algeria as we speak. But, Rita, thank you very much for your call.
NNAMDIIt is Your Turn. You can speak on this issue or on anything else on your mind by calling 800-433-8850 or by going to our website kojoshow.org and joining the conversation there, or sending us an email to firstname.lastname@example.org. Here now is DJ in Washington, D.C. DJ, your turn.
DJHey, Kojo. How are you doing this morning?
NNAMDII'm doing well.
DJGreat. Listen, I just wanted to comment about the recent NRA advertisement about President Obama's children and they're being under security. But it's my understanding that is constitutionally mandated that his entire family has to be under Secret Service protection. And for this person to bring that up, he just shows a lack of ignorance on his part in addition to the apparent racism that's there because no other child -- president's child has been subjected to such harassment because they're under Secret Service protection.
NNAMDIWell, I don't know if it's in the Constitution, but it is certainly the traditional practice that all of the presidents' and vice-presidents' family get protection from the Secret Service. And the president and his wife, of course, even get that protection after they leave office for the rest of their lives. So I think the NRA clearly wanted to make a point that this, in a way, is about children in school and that the president's children are in school and they get a special kind of protection.
NNAMDIBut as you pointed out, not only does that happen on a regular basis, but bringing the president's specific children into a conversation is often seen as off limits, especially when you use the president children.
DJYeah, that should definitely be off limits. It always is. It always has been. And it's time in this country for, you know, a serious debate about racism and from a historical perspective. And one of my things -- main things is I would say bring up the fact that African Americans were born here against their will, stripped of their language, culture, identity and enslaved.
NNAMDIYeah, but what...
DJWhy do you hate them? What did they do to you?
NNAMDIWell, DJ, what would you say to African American Republicans like, I guess, the former Congressman Alan West, who believed that President Obama is a socialist?
DJWell, I think he's kind of maybe mildly retarded.
NNAMDINo. Well, he is out of office and Congressman West says that he will not be running for reelection in 2014. And while there has been some indication that some of the vitriol that has been directed at President Obama and the First Family may be based on race. In large measure a lot of it seems to be also on the basis of ideology. But, DJ, thank you for your call. We've got to take a short break.
NNAMDIWhen we come back, it will continue to be Your Turn this entire hour. Whether you want to talk about Lance Armstrong, whether you want to talk about Notre Dame football player Manti Te'o, whether you want to talk about the president and gun control or Mali or anything else on your mind, 800-433-8850. I'm Kojo Nnamdi.
NNAMDIWelcome back. It's your turn. You can go to our website kojoshow.org, send us an email to email@example.com, send us a Tweet at kojoshow or call us at 800-433-8850 to express anything on your mind. Remember if you're planning to head downtown Monday for the inauguration you may want to log on to wamu.org. Check our inauguration guide that includes tips for getting around, navigating traffic and security. And if you're a Twitter user you can send us your pictures and tips for getting around by using the hashtag wamuinaug W-A-M-U-I-N-A-U-G. We're building an interactive map of all your feedback plus pictures from the WAMU news team.
NNAMDINow it is on to Jerry in Bethesda, Md. Jeri, your turn. Hi, Jeri. Are you there?
JERII am here (unintelligible) .
NNAMDIGo right ahead, Jeri.
JERIHi. I'm calling in regards to do with Manti.
JERII actually had the pleasure of talking to somebody who was a lifetime friend of his from Hawaii (unintelligible) . So he's actually out here on a mission.
NNAMDIWell, the speculation is that if this is indeed a hoax that the perpetrator of this hoax may be a lifetime friend of his. But go ahead, please.
JERIWell, what he was -- and that may be but he was saying that this is not anything that he could imagine that Manti would ever do. It's not in his nature. That he's kind of a sweet innocent kind of guy. And that he hopes that people take a step back before they make any judgments about his friend, that they give him the benefit of the doubt. Because to mention him in the same kind of thing about hoaxes and things as Lance Armstrong, he thinks is very unfair.
NNAMDIWell, I suspect there are a lot of people who feel that way but there has also been criticism of officials at Notre Dame who have sprung to Manti's defense in ways that they -- and called for an independent private investigation in ways that they didn't when a woman who ultimately committed suicide claimed that she was raped by a Notre Dame football player. And so they are, I guess, suspicious of the kind of culture of the football team that immediately accepts the word of a player in one situation and tends not to accept the word of outsiders in another situation.
NNAMDIBut if, as you say, those people who may know Mani Te'o well say he is not likely to be a part of this, they could be right. My own feeling is that we have not heard the last of this, Jeri.
JERIOh, I absolutely agree with you. I absolutely agree with you. And I think that culture -- many football teams in the past couple years have shown, you know, whether it's high school or college, that it's got its own culture that doesn't necessarily equate with that with the rest of society. But in this particular instance, you know, he just asked that people hold their judgment until everybody is heard and the truth is known, is all.
NNAMDIThank you very much. And that sounds like an excellent idea, Jeri. Thank you very much for your call. Of course you know, given the proliferation of blogs and Tweets that there are, that everybody is not going to hold their judgment before this is over. But it would be good if they did. Thank you very much for your call. We move on now to Ben in Centerville, Va. Ben, you're on the air. Go ahead, please.
BENWell, thanks for taking my call, Kojo.
BENI think the point behind the NRA's commercial was they were trying to sort of say that if the president can have armed guards in the school to protect, you know, their children than we should have armed guards in the school to protect our children. But I think they're sort of missing the point, you know, about the intensive training that the Secret Service goes through to be able to do that. And teachers don't have that training.
BENSo they've completely, you know, lost the point that you don't really want guns in the hands of teachers in a school.
NNAMDIWell, I think there is widespread acceptance of the notion of armed guards in school. You can find armed police officers in schools in the District of Columbia, public schools most days, any day of the week here. So I don't think there's widespread objection to that. More controversial, as you pointed out, is whether or not teachers and school administrators should also be armed in this situation.
NNAMDIWhat do you feel about the proposals being offered by the NRA? I'm not sure they are proposals but they are saying that we are addressing the wrong issue. What we should be fixing is the country's, in their words, broken mental health care system.
BENWell, I think their point behind that is that, you know, they keep saying that banning assault weapons and things like that won't fix the whole problem. But, you know, as a parent, if that stops one kid from dying -- you know, you're not really losing anything by banning assault rifles, but if the benefit is stopping one child from dying I think it's worth it.
NNAMDIOkay. Ben, thank you very much for your call. It's Your Turn. You can offer your opinion too. Let's go to Iman in Chantilly, Va. Iman, you're on the air. Go ahead, please.
IMANGood afternoon, Kojo. Thank you for taking my call.
IMANI just want to say to you that today, as we speak, our president is here. We have a president in Somalian -- Somalia to have a president is first time, election by people. And I want to say one thing about Mali. I think what French is doing is exactly what should happen in Somalia. When Somalia was felling their government had we -- had International Community involved in Somalia, Somalia were to have a government 20 years ago.
IMANSo this so called Islamist, what they do to their own people, they massacre them. And you know what's going to happen. People will flee their neighbors and those countries or neighbors will suffer also. So somebody has to do some action before this thing goes further.
NNAMDIThere are those who feel that the African Union should have been leading on this, if there was to be any action, others who feel that a negotiated settlement was possible. Do you think either of those solutions could have worked here?
IMANWell, Africans usually, it takes a long time because when you're dealing African countries it always -- it takes long time to solve the problem. But somebody has to act before -- the French government can do something right now and then they can give the power to African Union. Just like what's happened in Somalia. Right now, as you know, Somalia, Ugandan, you know, troops are there and they help that government.
IMANBut I will tell you this. I support wholeheartedly as we as Africans we suffer based on religion because a lot of people use the religion to massacre people. And I've been telling you after Somalia for 22 years, we suffer for religion issues. Now that we have a government I hope the International Community that now that our president is here they will support financially and stand by this president. Because at lest you have to start somewhere somehow.
IMANAnd I tell you one thing, I hope that you invite him on your show so you will understand more about what's happened in Somalia because he's a brilliant man and we support him. And I hope that we stand up with him.
NNAMDIThe president of Somalia, if he makes himself available, we will be happy to have him as a guest on the show at some point. Iman, thank you very much for your call. Onto Michael in Bethesda, Md. Michael, your turn.
MICHAELGood afternoon, Kojo. I just got back from an event, Money Out, Voters In in Annapolis. And it was very successful. Congressman Sarbanes spoke as well as Senator Ruskin and several others. Very outspoken on the issue. One thing missing, though, was Republican support. Three years after Citizens United, I'm curious, especially after the primaries where everyone was cutting themselves off at the knees, how we can get Republican legislators on our side on this issue.
MICHAELI think it's something like 69 percent of Tea Partiers oppose the Citizens United decision. But there doesn't seem to be this groundswell of support with legislators or, you know, civil society groups on the right sight of the spectrum.
NNAMDIWhy do you think that is, Michael?
MICHAELWell, that was my question to you. Unfortunately, I...
NNAMDINo, it's your turn, not mine.
MICHAELI don't quite understand it because I think in the primaries for the presidential election we saw how these groups were ticking each other off and then, you know, giving money to people who they were defaming previously. And I don't know what logical sense it makes for the Republican Party. And I know it harms our democracy. So, you know, the perception of corruption sometimes is enough to create cynicism in our society.
MICHAELAnd I hoped the citizens would all stand up for that before these other substantive issues get too big to fall.
NNAMDIThat's a good hope, Michael, but on what other issues do you see Democrats and Republicans coming together outside of trying to keep money out of politics? It seems to suggest that if they're not coming together on gun control, if they're not coming together on the fiscal cliff, if they're not coming together on health care, if they're not coming together on immigration, what leads you to believe that they will come together on money and politics?
MICHAELWell, I think it's for the citizens to lead. And unfortunately with gerrymandering, a lot of the elections only really matter in the primaries, at least for Congress. And it's unfortunate but you see in Virginia, you know, a lot more people vote for the presidential elections than they do for the local or even congressional elections.
NNAMDIBut what do you say the citizens themselves seem to be divided along partisan lines?
MICHAELBut that's the thing, they're not. Even Republican citizens, when they're told, are corporations people or they're told money is speech, they disagree. And I don't know if it's a messaging problem or the propaganda has gotten so good…
NNAMDIWell, could it be a problem of fundamental distrust that if there is a perception that any event is being organized by the other side, one side simply won't participate?
MICHAELOh, and I think that's demonizing that the money in politics has helped to generate so that these politicians don't sit down and have dinner, you know, talk and come to some reasonable agreements. But unfortunately they keep worrying about primary challengers. And it's very disconcerting because I think the Republicans lost more than anyone else in the presidential election with the superPACs. And, you know, thing were not great before the Citizens United decision. But now, you know, a cynic, you know, is likely just to give up. And it's hard. And this is going to be a long fight. But I was hoping...
MICHAEL...you would have insight for Republicans and how to, you know, get them to realize this is in their own self interest as a party.
NNAMDI...well Michael, you are clearly no cynic and I would suggestion to Republicans and Democrats alike that they need more people like you, people who are not cynics and are prepared to have dialogue across party lines. Michael, thank you very much for your call. It's your turn. You too can call us at 800-433-8850 or send email to firstname.lastname@example.org to discuss events in the news, recent issues discussed on this broadcast or anything else on your mind. Speaking of recent issues discussed on this broadcast, I think that's what Ben in Columbia, Md. would like to talk about. Ben, your turn.
BENHi Kojo, good to be with you. I wanted to bring up two really quick things. The first one is, I've heard a couple of callers talk about Republicans in a very interesting way, almost in the third party as thought they were wishing they could go and talk with these Republicans somewhere. And I'm sure that people are willing to discuss things and engage in dialogue. So my first thought is, as one, I enjoy political conversation. I think those are healthy things to have.
BENThe other thing I wanted to talk about though is on gun control. I think it's -- I'm always an idealist and I'm always hoping for some solution that makes everybody happy, even thought that rarely happens. And I heard just recently -- or I read an article somewhere and I don't know where I saw it. It was talking about the technology that would allow guns to only fire when they're being held by their owner.
NNAMDIYeah, that was mentioned on the broadcast we had, I guess it was yesterday.
BENAnd I just -- I mean, if you think about -- and I do want to say this. As tragic as the recent shootings have been, they're so small in comparison with how many shootings happen on a regular basis that when you look at something like that -- I mean, I'm curious to know, would the NRA be opposed to something like that? Would they be okay with something like that? In some ways all it does it really punish the people who are stealing guns, which is what they've been saying all along. So I would imagine that they would be supportive of it.
BENI don't know how reliable the technology is but, you know, that's something that I -- if it works I think could really help all sides. It really could make a lot of people happy.
NNAMDIWell, I suspect that that technology is probably available even as we speak. But one argument against it would be if only the registered owner of the gun can use it, what happens if another member of the household, who happens to be there by himself or herself needs to use it to defend themselves against intruders or attackers?
BENI think the easy way to do it is the same way you would add somebody to an insurance policy or anything else. You'd say, we are registering this for the entire family or we are registering this for, you know, whoever needs to be registered for it. And then that also makes sure that, you know, the son or the brother or the uncle or whoever else is going to have access to this gun also gets a background check, also gets a...
NNAMDIAlso have their digital fingerprints being able to...
NNAMDI...activate the weapon or not.
BENWhenever there's a crime committed with that weapon, it can be tracked to the people who own the gun, A, but being more...
NNAMDIWell, not whenever there's a crime committed. Whenever the gun is used, period.
BENExactly. So even before the crime is committed, you're going to be preventing all of those kinds of things. My guess is that most of the guns that are being used anyway are stolen in terms of typical guns crimes. And so this would reduce a lot of that very, very quickly.
NNAMDIWell, I am not sure I guess on -- that the research has been conducted that would say that such a system can be put in place and be viable immediately. But yes, it would be interesting to hear the reaction of all concerned in a situation like that. But Ben, thank you very much for your call. On Your Turn we go now to Patricia in Silver Spring, Md. Patricia, you're on the air. Go ahead, please.
PATRICIAHi, Kojo. Great show and I'm sorry I missed your show yesterday, so I don't know if you brought up the president's gun control statements that he made yesterday.
NNAMDIWe did indeed.
PATRICIAI got so many Twitter emails and just everything about him ignoring the African American kid who was there. I think that kid must've been devastated when he got back home. Did you see it yesterday?
NNAMDII did not see the news conference and therefore do not know exactly what you're talking about. Describe it for me, please.
PATRICIAWell, there were four kids the president had behind him. He acknowledged all three except this one African American boy. And he just was standing there like almost waiting for the president to call out his name and say why I'm here, but it never happened.
PATRICIAAnd I just wondered if you saw it, and apparently you didn't. And I just wondered if it was an oversight on the president's part or if the kid was there and he just was not acknowledged for whatever reason. But I guess you hadn't heard or hadn't seen the conference -- press conference.
NNAMDISounds like -- well, allow me to comment without seeing it as Spike Lee did with "Django Unchained." He never saw it, but he commented. Seems like a case of oversight to me in this situation...
PATRICIAAnd the last thing I want to mention about that...
NNAMDIBecause -- wait a minute it seems like a case of oversight to me in this situation because the inference that I'm drawing from you is that the African American president ignored an African American kid because the kid is African American. And that doesn't make sense to me any kind of way.
PATRICIA(unintelligible) if you acknowledge all three and you miss this one who's African American, I don't know what you read into that.
NNAMDII don't read anything into it except maybe an oversight. But to read into...
PATRICIAThat's what I thought. Okay. Anyway, to gun control...
NNAMDI...to read into it that it had to do with race, come on.
PATRICIA...and having armed guards in schools.
PATRICIAWhen I was growing up, we did have police officers in schools. And I think a lot of the...
NNAMDIOfficer Friendly, no doubt.
PATRICIASay it again.
NNAMDIOfficer Friendly. Remember the Officer Friendly program?
PATRICIAAbsolutely. So that's what I think is needed more. I know in D.C. public schools that's we had. We had Officer Friendly. And I think when we talk about armed guards maybe we should just say policing more. And I'm going to get off and listen. Thanks.
NNAMDIOkay. Thank you very much. I think, however, what people are talking about these days is not so much Officer Friendly as Officer Well-Armed and being able to protect students in that situation, and, of course, from a public policy standpoint and the amount it would cost to have that in every school, most officials in states and counties and cities will say, well, we can't afford to do that, but the NRA seems to feel it can be done, and so it and its supporters may have ways of how one would be able to finance a situation like that.
NNAMDIBut thank you very much for your call. We've got to take a short break. If you have called, stay on the line. It is your turn. 800-433-8850. Anything on your mind. If the lines are busy, send us an email to email@example.com, a tweet @kojoshow, or say it on our website, kojoshow.org. I'm Kojo Nnamdi.
NNAMDIWelcome back to Your Turn where you set the agenda with your phone calls, emails, tweets, or comments on our website. We got an email or -- oh, we got -- this is really from a Slashdot post by Hugh Pickens about something we were discussing earlier. It says "One area of active research is known as the smart gun, a trigger identification system that prevents a gun from being fired by anyone other than its authorized user. Researchers at the New Jersey Institute of Technology created a working prototype of a gun that determines whether or not to fire based on a user's grip pattern.
NNAMDI"So why aren't gun makers making safer guns? Because guns are exempt from most of the consumer safety laws that have improved the rest of American life. The Consumer Products Safety Commission charged with looking over thousands of different kinds of products is explicitly prohibited from regulating firearms. In 2005, Congress passed, and President George W. Bush signed, the Protection of Lawful Commerce in Arms Act which immunizes gun makers against lawsuits resulting from misuse of the products.
NNAMDI"If they can't be sued and can't be regulated, gun makers have no incentive to make smarter guns." That's from, as I said, a Slashdot post by Hugh Pickens. Now, once again, your turn. This time we start with Todd in Bethesda, Md. Todd, you're on the air. Go ahead, please.
TODDHi, sir. Thanks for taking my call.
TODDI was calling with a couple points in reference one of your listener's comments. He talked about the fact that the president's daughters were the first ones to ever be mentioned by name, or to be addressed. But if you look back at George W. Bush's children, both Jenna and Barbara, they were constantly in the press, especially during their time when they were in college, and the same thing was unfortunately true for Chelsea Clinton during the Clinton Administration.
TODDSo I would like to think it wasn't racially motivated that the NRA brought his children into it. I don't they should have necessarily, but I think that's always going to be an unfortunate byproduct of children that are in the White House.
NNAMDIWell, I agree with you. I don't think it was racially motivated at all. I think the distinction between the Bush daughters and Chelsea Clinton is that they got into the news while they were college for aspects of their social life that were played out in public. I think what, if not that caller, others may object to in the NRA is the use of the president's children while they are still not -- while they are still under 18 years old and in school in a political discussion is what people are objecting, too.
TODDSee, I don't disagree with that at all. What I think they -- the comments that they should have made, are that multiple politicians have their children going to private schools that are guarded by private security firms that do have weapons to protect their children. And at the same time that their children are afforded these protections of these armed guards, the same politicians are saying that our children should not be protected by armed guards in similar schools, public schools or private schools that our children go to.
TODDI think that may have been a better way for them to present their argument with respect to that, not specifically naming the president's children.
NNAMDIBut you know, Todd, what's a broader issue that I have been complaining about for years when it comes to politicians leaving their children out of politics, or politicians' children not being included in political discussion, that when a politician decides to run for office, and the first thing they show you is pictures of their family and the family pets all in the picture. Then they have exposed all of those people to the political discussion because they're using them to win office.
NNAMDIThey want to show you that I'm a good parent and I even have good stewardship of my dog, so in a way, that makes everybody in that photo open territory, but that's another story.
TODDSo they pick and choose when it's appropriate for them to do so.
NNAMDIThat's true. But that's another story. Todd, thank you very much for your call. We go on now to Leslie in Middleburg, Va. Leslie, you're on the air. Go ahead, please.
LESLIEHey, Kojo. Thanks for taking my call.
LESLIEAnd I'm so glad to see that the situation in Mali and the Sahel in Africa is finally getting into the public conversation here, because...
NNAMDIWell, for all the wrong reasons, I guess, yeah.
LESLIEYeah. But 10 months ago, this humanitarian crisis started unfolding. I mean, more than 500,000 people have left Mali and are Burkina Faso, they're in Niger, they're in Mauritania, or they're displaced within Mali. And it just hasn't been making the news. And did you know that 80 percent of those people are women are children who have fled? It just -- it's unconscionable to me that we can't have a discussion about it before heavy war fighting equipment comes in.
LESLIEI mean, agencies in the United Nations, the UNHCR, the Red Cross, Plan International, have been struggling to get funding to help these people, and we just -- no one seems to really care.
NNAMDITo what extent is that our fault, Leslie? Because one of the problems we're looking at is that news bureaus around the country have been cutting back on their foreign news bureaus around the world because of internal financial pressures in major newspapers and in television news coverage internationally. And the other reason is because, well, we just don't seem to be as interested in those areas of the world unless there's a crisis that somehow involves us. Are we partially to blame for this?
LESLIEI think that -- I mean, the United States used to be so externally facing, and it seems like we've really gone internally facing unless it is somehow connected to al Qaida and terrorism. To me, it's people who are suffering, and we need to look at that basic human needs that are not being met and achieved, and we should care about that. It just seems like we have the capacity to care about that, and that if we really want to reduce poverty and reduce risk, we should be caring about that all the time.
LESLIEIt is a shame because, you're right, media doesn't have the resources. What does the Washington Post have on the ground in Africa, one or two people?
NNAMDIYeah. Leslie, what it is that fuels your own interest in these matters?
NNAMDIWhat it is that fuels your interest in these countries and in what's going on there?
LESLIEBecause I read about the suffering of people who are just like me. They're moms, and they're trying to get their kids to school. They're trying to get them fed every day. They're trying to make sure that they don't get sick from the flu or some other sort of disease that could be prevented in better conditions, and I see that connection. I see that -- I look at my little girl, and I look at the conversations that happen here, and sometimes you look at some of the political conversations and it doesn't seem like we're that far away from some of the extremism that we see elsewhere in the world, but, oh, it's not in my backyard kind of conversations. I think we need to look so more globally and actually locally and globally.
NNAMDIWell, you have figured out how to connect your neighborhood with the world. It's something that we try to do here every day. Not sure we always succeed, but Leslie, thank you very much for your call. We move on now to Sharon in Columbia, Md. Sharon, you're on the air. Go ahead, please.
SHARONHi Kojo. Thank you for taking my call. I'd like to know, there was more than 300 million guns in this country, and is this the kind of society that we want to have, we want to have a guard at every school, at every movie theater, every hospital, or is there a solution for this? There are other countries that people have mental sicknesses, and they don't have this problem. There are more than 30,000 people are dying by guns in this country if you look at the statistics, and is this what we want?
SHARONAnd I don't really understand what people are arguing about assault weapons and what the president is asking. What he is asking is really the minimum that you can ask, and there is still problems with that. I just don't understand. Is this where we want to be?
NNAMDIWell, there was an op ed piece, I think, in the New York Times today by the Australian Prime Minister who managed to get assault rifles banned in Australia after a particularly heinous crime in which some, I think, 35 people were killed, and he was essentially making the argument that if he could do it in a country where people tend to treasure their gun ownership, especially in non-urban areas, as people in this country, then he feels that it can be done here also. Do you?
SHARONI think so, too. I think there should be no problem. It's just I don't understand what the resistance is. And I do understand the NRA lobbyists are there and the Congress people are really listening to them because it's in their advantage, but for average Americans, that's what I don't understand, what the average Americans are getting from this, because this is not what I want for my society. This is not what I want my kids to go to school being afraid and having guards at the school, at the hospital, or anywhere they go.
NNAMDII suspect that nobody wants that. What we disagree over is how to get to that point. But Sharon, thank you very much for your call. Here now is Chris is Baltimore, Md. Chris, your turn.
CHRISGood afternoon, Kojo. Thanks for taking my call.
CHRISWhat I'm calling about is ironic. A couple callers ago, before your break, you had a caller mention an African-American boy that might not have been paid attention to at that press conference.
NNAMDIThat the president apparently did not introduce, yes.
CHRISCorrect. And I'm unaware of that, but the irony is, is what I called about is the absence of African-American voices in this national conversation about gun issues.
NNAMDINAACP, man. Haven't you heard from them?
CHRISWell, I mean, in -- when we talk about the Second Amendment, how it was -- why it was actually created, the timing of it, it being established just on the heels of the initial talks of slavery abolition, the entire scope of what we're talking about, we don't have enough voices in this conversation to have a real substantive conversation about not gun ownership, but the value of life. Second-degree murders, I don't understand why we're not including -- my point is, when we value all life, then every life is better protected.
CHRISWhen we value some over others, you look at in Chicago they reached 500 murders for last year. In Baltimore they had the summit on gun violence the other day, and the irony in that is, just within a five- to 10-mile radius of Johns Hopkins where they had the summit, the murder rate is incredible, and yet they had a summit on gun violence on the heels of Newtown, which was absolutely tragic. So when we leave out the people who are most affected by the immediate conversation, how substantive can we be?
NNAMDIYou make a good point. The -- of course, the reason we know that Chicago had more than 500 homicides last year is because it was widely reported in the media on the front page of some major newspapers in this country. The homicide rate in places like Baltimore and other places also has been reported, and the gun control discussion, I suspect the organizations like the NAACP that participate in that discussion do participate in that discussion because of their concerns about the disproportionate number of African-Americans in general, and young African-American males in particular who end up being both the victims and the perpetrators of some of the gun violence that we see.
NNAMDISo I do think that they are involved in the discussion, but maybe not in the way and not as prominently featured as you would like to see.
CHRISWell, I certainly respect your response to that, and I would reply with in a holistic discussion, the discussion has to involve gun control on one hand, but we also never talk (unintelligible) in African-American community. When we talk -- everybody in these discussions will say that we -- while we absolutely respect the Second Amendment, well, then we should also discuss the right (unintelligible) and that discussion never takes place when, again, African-Americans historically are the ones who are primarily affected by whether it's the need for self defense or the fact that aggression...
NNAMDIWell, this week in the Washington Post, Courtland Milloy did a column in which he quoted an individual from Louisiana who remembered the deacons for self defense when African-Americans formed it to protect themselves against attack by racists and the Klan in Louisiana. But I'll say to you what I said about that column and the comments on that column, and that is that what we are dealing with here are proposals for limitations on specific types of weapons.
NNAMDIIf what we think we're having is a discussion about whether or not guns should be removed from all hands and all homes in the United States, then it is my understanding that that is not the discussion that we are having right now. There seems to be general agreement among all of the powers that be that the Second Amendment does allow Americans to possess arms. I don't think that's the discussion we're having. Do you think that's the discussion we're having, Chris?
CHRISWell, I don't -- I know you can't spend but so much time with me, so just to close, I would like, again, what I see at the heart of the issue -- the discussion is a surface discussion because, again, it's talking about ownership as opposed to the value of life.
CHRISSo at the heart, I think that has to become the discussion is if you, again, value every life so that in (unintelligible) there's no second-degree murder. If you intentionally kill someone, you should receive a maximum penalty. That's the other part that's being left out is sentencing guidelines that are being (unintelligible) this is a very big discussion that's being...
NNAMDIIt is. You...
CHRIS...held expediently for political reasons.
NNAMDIIt is a very big discussion, and I wouldn't say it's being held expediently for political reasons. It's being held because there was the kind of mass killing and tragedy that draws the attention not only of politicians, but the entire citizenry, in this case, as a matter fact, the entire world was drawn to this discussion and this situation, and that's one of the reasons we're having the conversation, I think, that we're having right now. But Chris, thank you so much for joining that conversation, and I'm afraid we are just about out of time at this point.
NNAMDISo thank you all for participating in this issue of Your Turn, and we'll be back at you soon. "The Kojo Nnamdi Show" is produced by Brendan Sweeney, Michael Martinez, Ingalisa Schrobsdorff, Tayla Burney, Kathy Goldgeier, and Elizabeth Weinstein, with help from Stephannie Stokes. Our engineer today, Kellan Quigley. Christine Leggett is on the phones. Podcasts of all shows, audio archives, CDs and free transcripts are available at our website, kojoshow.org.
NNAMDITo share questions or comments with us, email firstname.lastname@example.org, join us on Facebook, or send a tweet to @kojoshow. Thank you all for listening. I'm Kojo Nnamdi.
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