BROADCAST DATE : Feb 8, 2013


The tragic shooting of 20 children and six teachers at an elementary school in Newtown, Connecticut stunned people on both sides of the border. Somehow it seemed worse than other recent mass shootings - perhaps because of the age of the children, or the popular military-style assault rifle used, the AR-15.

Many hoped it would be a chance to find common ground in a nation bitterly divided over gun rights and gun control. Instead, the sales of firearms soared and the National Rifle Association's membership swelled. This week on the fifth estate, Bob McKeown tracks how the most powerful gun rights organization in the world has influenced the debate around firearms - and why the NRA refuses to accept compromise.

What does all the furor over guns south of the border mean for Canadians? NRA members see themselves as staunch defenders of freedom - and depict countries with tough gun laws like Canada as unjustly restricting the freedom of its citizens. Though the NRA's lobbying can't directly affect laws here, the relaxed regulations in some southern states do have consequences north of the border. About 70 per cent of Canadian crime guns are smuggled from the United States into Canada. the fifth estate traces their route along the so-called "Blue Steel Highway" from states where they're available almost on demand.