In the aftermath of the tragedy at Sandy Hook Elementary, former gun enthusiast turned anti-gun activist Tom Diaz has presented his views on several programs, including NPR’s Fresh Air with Terry Gross and Current TV’s The Young Turks. As a political advisor to Congress on the Crime and Criminal Justice Subcommitee, Diaz brought his expertise of gun culture and crime to his University of Michigan Press book No Boundries, an account of the rise of Latino gang activity. Styled as the “new mafia”, these sweeping organizations have a powerful role in a violent transnational drug trade. His newest book is titled The Last Gun: Changes in the Gun Industry Are Killing Americans and What It Will Take to Stop It.
Young Turks host Cenk Uygur, raising the debate over the causes of gun violence, asked Diaz about the influence of violent movies and current regulation of the gun trade. Diaz challenged the relevance of the NRA in a more modern America, and suggested that the organization does more to appeal to the market provided by the right to bear arms than does the Hollywood entertainment industry. “The secret behind all this is that the gun industry, which is really the kind of hand behind the puppet of the NRA, markets guns to a shrinking minority of people in the United States. And we know that … fewer and fewer people own more and more guns — that’s a proven fact.”
On Fresh Air, Diaz examined the successes and failures of the lapsed assault weapons ban, one of the measures Vice President Joe Biden is expected to suggest reinstating as part of his gun violence task force’s recommendations to Congress and the president. The original ban, Diaz said, “”defined a semi-automatic assault weapon in terms of a gun that had at least two of certain features. One of them was the actual crucial feature, which is the ability to take a high capacity magazine. … The others were … almost decorative features that were on these guns.” The result, he said, was that manufacturers like Bushmaster got around the prohibition when they “took off all the truly irrelevant bells and whistles and just produced a basic gun.”