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TV REVIEWS : 'Arms Race' Charts U.S. Gun Gridlock

September 25, 1993|MARTIN ZIMMERMAN

The thesis of "The Arms Race on America's Streets," a CNN "Special Reports" at 6 p.m. Sunday, can be summed up as "everybody's got one, everybody wants one--except for those who don't want anybody to have one."

The "one" in question is a gun--be it a pricey Glock, a cheap "Saturday night special" or an assault rifle--and the endless statistics CNN correspondent Bonnie Anderson throws at the viewer support the thesis: Half the households in the United States have guns, 200 million at last estimate; there are nearly 300,000 licensed gun dealers, with only 250 Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms inspectors to keep track of them; it costs $1 billion a year to treat gunshot victims; and on and on.

It's a seemingly endless cycle of cops buying more and better guns to best criminals who are buying more and better guns to steal from citizens who are buying more and better guns to protect themselves. The stats are numbing and frequently paired with fairly sensationalistic stories and pictures: gunshot victims being worked on in emergency rooms, commando-style cops fighting at night for control of rough inner cities, the front end of a pistol being aimed and fired at the viewer as the transition between segments.

There are a few bits that get beyond the stats--most notably the one with a survivor of the Luby's Cafeteria massacre of 1991 who could have ended the carnage but wasn't carrying her pistol in her purse that day because she feared losing her chiropractic license if caught with a concealed weapon. She watched her parents and 20 other people die.

"The Arms Race on America's Streets" suffers from choppy writing and editing and could have used a stronger hand at the wheel instead of a statistician. It's doubtful the program will do much to end what Anderson calls the "philosophical gridlock" over gun control.

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