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Does the right to bear arms make the United States less free?

STEVE INSKEEP, HOST:

Here is some of the news on this Independence Day. Last night, in Philadelphia, where the founders signed the Declaration of Independence, a gunman wearing a bulletproof vest killed four people. He also wounded four people, including two children, before police subdued him. They don't know why he did this. Last night, in Fort Worth, Texas, a shooting at a street festival killed three people and wounded eight.

In Baltimore, Md., early Sunday, gunfire at a block party killed two young people and injured dozens of others. Police there suspect more than one gunman. Baltimore Sun columnist Dan Rodricks wrote that the Baltimore shooting got him thinking about freedom in this country, and he's on the line. Good morning, sir.

DAN RODRICKS: Good morning, Steve.

INSKEEP: How do mass shootings relate to freedom?

RODRICKS: Well, I was thinking about this, of course, after this event in Baltimore Sunday and with the Fourth of July approaching, thinking, you know, maybe we don't think about this enough, or we only think about it when these disasters happen. But when you roam around America, when you go on with your lives, do you actually - is your freedom actually being impinged by the number of guns in our society - by the not knowing who's carrying guns?

INSKEEP: Would you explain how your freedom would be impinged by knowing there's a lot of guns out there?

RODRICKS: Well, I mean, if you don't think about it, I guess you're OK. But if you think about the number of mass shootings that have occurred, the daily violence that goes on, the number of guns in America, maybe you don't travel as far as you do. Maybe you don't go to certain places. I went to a concert with my adult children and, for the first time, remembering to look to see where the exits were - you know? - in case something were to happen. That followed one of the mass shootings - and I can't even remember which one it was, Steve, because there have been so many.

INSKEEP: Yeah.

RODRICKS: So yeah, I don't know if people want to think about this on the Fourth of July because there's a lot of Americans I think are in denial about how serious a problem this is. But, you know, it does affect how you think when you go out into the world - young parents worried about their kids in school, whether there's going to be a mass shooting. Going to a prayer service - I mean, 10, 20 years ago, you wouldn't have thought about the danger in doing that. And now, I think Americans on the Fourth of July ought to think about this because it's an increasingly serious public health problem.

INSKEEP: I don't think that what you're saying is very far off line. I mean, I hear people making remarks like this - mothers worried about their children as they go out and thinking about what might happen to them. I think you're telling me that while gun violence directly affects thousands of people who are killed by it, it indirectly affects the lives of millions, even hundreds of millions of us.

RODRICKS: Certainly. I mean, I'm in Baltimore. This is a city that's been struggling for years to get on track again - you know, to grow population, to see new people move into the city. There's so - on so many fronts, we're looking to see Baltimore improve, and this has been going on for years. I've been writing about this for years. And even that, the daily gun violence that goes on in this city - not to mention this mass shooting that occurred the other night - diminishes your civic pride or your optimism about what the city can achieve, even if you're not affected by it - even if you don't live in one of those neighborhoods where a shooting is likely to occur. And I say that knowing full well that a shooting is likely to occur almost anywhere now.

INSKEEP: Yeah.

RODRICKS: I don't confine my concern about this to what goes on in inner-city Baltimore.

INSKEEP: Yeah.

RODRICKS: It can happen anywhere.

INSKEEP: You know, somebody listening to this is probably thinking, well, I don't approve of gun violence, but I feel that guns protect my freedom. What would you say to someone like that?

RODRICKS: Yeah. I'd say look to see where you live. Look at the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and what they say about the number of guns available and whether it provides safety. There is a - there was a correlation between the number of guns and the lack of safety - the danger that occurs in states where there are permissive gun laws and more guns. So I know you may think it makes you safer. I - the statistics don't support that. But, you know, we're living in an age when we're so polarized, people don't want to hear facts about it. And people are pessimistic, I think, Steve. I'm sorry to say, but I think you know this. People are pessimistic about what can be done about the gun problem in America. And it's an increasing problem - 48,000...

INSKEEP: Yeah.

RODRICKS: ...Americans killed by guns, suicide or homicide, in 2021 - I think the last time we had a good measurement. And, you know, we're on a pace with mass shootings this year that's just terrible.

INSKEEP: Dan Rodricks is a columnist with The Baltimore Sun. Thanks for your insights.

RODRICKS: Thank you, Steve. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

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