Yes, guns are the problem

I’ve devoted so much “ink” to this topic in countless columns over the years, I can recite the deadly data by heart. Why do Americans continue to tolerate state and federal loosening of gun control laws as the numbers of mass shootings mount? When is the horror, loss and resulting anger going to turn into greater citizen pressure for tighter restraints on lethal weapons?

I remember watching the aftermath of the 1999 Columbine high school massacre in amazement: no national call for limiting handgun ownership or banning outright ownership of automatic weapons. Had America gone brain dead?

The only fact separating this week’s Virginia Tech massacre from the other countless workplace, college, school and public area shootings is its scale. As long as weapons are widely available, particularly automatic weapons, these massacres will continue unabated.

Scripps Howard News Service reporter Lisa Hoffman, reported this stunning fact: “The massacre at Virginia Tech University Monday ranks as the worst such mass college killing in American history. But it is not the deadliest rampage at a U.S. school.” That dubious title belongs to the dynamiting of the Bath Consolidated School in Bath Township, Mich. nearly 80 years ago. Perpetrator Andrew Kehoe killed himself and 44 others, most of the victims school children. But that predated modern gun control and the mass murders Kehoe committed were by torching buildings and detonating explosives, not by guns.

Only last fall, gunman Charles Carl Roberts in Nickel Mines, Pa., invaded a rural Amish school, segregated the children by gender, binding the girls’ feet with wire and plastic ties, then shooting them execution-style. Again, the nation did nothing.

One can only hope that perhaps we’ve reached a turning point. As last fall’s elections show, America seems to be turning against the “Gods, Guns & Gays” crowd. Maybe the next step is that voters will warm once again to the idea of limiting access to deadly weapons.

It is pointless to hope for an outright ban on gun ownership. At last count, the Brady Campaign (named after former President Reagan’s press spokesman James Brady) quotes a Police Foundation report showing Americans own some 192 million firearms, 65 million of which are handguns. A University of Chicago survey quoted on the Brady campaign’s Web site said in the late 1990s, almost 40 percent of American households possessed a firearm.

But any politician, Democrat or Republican, who votes against gun control and supports the National Rifle Association’s relentless lobbying effort against any restraint on gun ownership, is acting hypocritically in voicing sympathy for the relatives of people who lose their lives to gun violence. Those same politicians could have acted to save those lives but chose not to.

USNews.com reported this week, “It has been more than a decade of progress for the National Rifle Association and other proponents of looser gun regulations, who saw their opposition wither in the face of sweeping Democratic losses in 1994 and the loss of the White House in 2000. But when interviewed last year about the decline of the issue’s prominence, advocates on both sides suggested that an especially violent event — like the horrific shootings at Virginia Tech — could cause a reversal of fortunes.”

I would like to re-quote the Utah parents of a son lost to gun violence, who wrote an op-ed in the Salt Lake City Tribune from which I quoted last year. Ron and Norma Molen wrote, “The NRA is a secular, fundamentalist special interest so focused on gun rights that it dismisses the 30,000 deaths each year as the price of freedom, and this includes the deaths of 14 children every day …”

Let us hope the legacy of the Virginia Tech massacre is American voters won’t tolerate the NRA or the politicians it controls any longer.

–BONNIE ERBE

(Bonnie Erbe is a TV host and columnist. E-mail bonnieerbe(at)CompuServe.com.)

15 Responses to "Yes, guns are the problem"

  1. Tango7  April 18, 2007 at 4:54 pm

    While your quote from the Utah parents is touching, I believe their “14 children a day” figure was a plant, courtesy of the Brady bunch et al, and includes suicides and juvenile gang bangers killed by police while committing crimes.

    Not exactly a fair comparison to lawful gun ownership.

    In addition, if the figures you use are correct:

    Police Foundation report showing Americans own some 192 million firearms, 65 million of which are handguns…

    Then why isn’t gun violence even higher, if it really is the guns fault?

    As far as the NRA, consider the following, which you apparantly overlooked in your research:

    Darrel Scott, father of Craig Scott, who watched two of his friends murdered at Columbine High School and Rachel Joy Scott (murdered in the same school after professing her faith in God), spoke before the Subcommittee on Crime House Judiciary Committee, United States House of Representatives, on Thursday, May 27, 1999, at 2:00p.m. at 2141 Rayburn House Office Building. The following is the speech he gave:

    Since the dawn of creation there has been both good and evil in the heart of men and of women. We all contain the seeds of kindness or the seeds of violence. The death of my wonderful daughter Rachel Joy Scott, and the deaths of that heroic teacher and the other children who died must not be in vain. Their blood cries out for answers.

    The first recorded act of violence was when Cain slew his brother Abel out in the field. The villain was not the club he used. Neither was it the NCA, the National Club Association. The true killer was Cain and the reason for the murder could only be found in Cain’s heart.

    In the days that followed the Columbine tragedy, I was amazed at how quickly fingers began to be pointed at groups such as the NRA. I am not a member of the NRA. I am not a hunter. I do not even own a gun. I am not here to represent or defend the NRA – because I don’t believe that they are responsible for my daughters death. Therefore I do not believe that they need to be defended. If I believed they had anything to do with Rachel’s murder I would be their strongest opponent.

    I am here today to declare that Columbine was not just a tragedy – it was a spiritual event that should be forcing us to look at where the real blame lies! Much of that blame lies here in this room. Much of that blame lies behind the pointing fingers of the accusers themselves…..

    And don’t forget the near doubling of armed crimes that has taken place in England since the “great gun ban” of 1997. All of the Brady supplied statistics that cite England as a safer place thanks to gun control seem to stop before that point.

    Gun control isn’t about guns, it’s about control. The state owes you no safety – the SCOTUS has ruled on that numerous times.

    In recopgnition of that fact, I’d rather have the means to defend myself and my family, thank you very much.

  2. Roadapple00  April 18, 2007 at 2:28 pm

    Just a reminder, “when you point a finger at someone, there are 3 pointing at you”.

  3. Redneckmother  April 18, 2007 at 6:17 pm

    So this demented kid had the same gun rights as everyone else?

    What’s wrong with your NRA little minds?

    He had a green card.
    He had a history of mental illness.
    He walked into a store with $571, looked “cleancut” and passed the “instant backround check.

    Evidently he trained playing Doom.

    Is somebody going to propose a limit on gun ownership?

  4. Tango7  April 19, 2007 at 2:03 am
    Originally Posted By Redneckmother:

    So this demented kid had the same gun rights as everyone else?

    What’s wrong with your NRA little minds?

    Nice inference that all NRA members have “little minds” – ie are idiots. Nothing like starting out a discussion by issuing insults.

    Well, for starters, I’m not an NRA member, but I’ll go so far as to suggest that, until he commited the acts, he wasn’t yet a criminal.

    If you have some sort of mysterious psychic ability that allows you to screen folks based on your knowledge of future events, please, assist our meager resources with your tremendous talents. Until such a time as you make yourself and your talent available, I’d keep quiet.

    If you want to attempt to “reverse engineer” history by “if > then”ing all of the ways various historical tragedies could have been avoided based on information gathered after the fact, I would sugget you invest in coffee, as I think it’s going to be a long, long night.

    He had a green card.
    Which allows him to purchase a firearm under a regulation almost as old as the shooter. Thousands of legal resident aliens have purchased, owned and used firearms since the rule was established without incident.

    Why not just say “he was Korean?”

    He had a history of mental illness.
    But none of it resulted in an adjuciation of mental defect or disorder – a definite prohibition that goes all the way back to 1968, IIRC.

    While many are surfacing after the fact that claim to have known “something was wrong”, would you like one of your rights to be stripped based on a “hunch”, or would you prefer some sort of formal evaluation?

    The state judiciary dropped the ball in allowing him to be noncompliant with his re-evaluations. The VT staff dropped the ball by not speaking to his parents or formally processing school charges, and the police dropped the ball by not investigating him further despite complaints.

    He walked into a store with $571, looked “cleancut” and passed the “instant backround check.
    Should we look at all of the fatality car accidents and point to the fact that the driver “walked into a car dealership with $10,000 of credit, looked “cleancut”, and had a driver’s license, then drove down the road and into a minivan, killing the driver and occupants?

    BTW, the “instant check” was an idea promoted by the Brady group, you dullard. And he would have met another gun grabber proposal of “one gun a month” as well from what I’ve seen in the news.

    Evidently he trained playing Doom.
    Is somebody going to propose a limit on gun ownership?
    After accrediting his skills to “Doom”, I’m surprised you don’t call for licensing or restricting video games.

    There are millions of guns in America today – a statistic with widely varying numbers, but a premise that is generally accepted.

    99.999% of those guns were kept in a lawful fashion by their owers and were involved in no criminals acts… but because of the tragic act of one disturbed individual you are calling for the hundreds of thousand law abiding citizens to yield our rights to defend myself and protect our families?

    Hey, I have a great idea – let’s make killing each other illegal. That’s sure to stop all of these acts, since, Lord knows, nobody would want to break a law.

    Maybe we need to review the idea of who possessed the “little mind” after all.

  5. GrndLkNatv  April 18, 2007 at 9:55 am

    Actually the problem is people, if a gun is left on the table with nobody near it, it won’t shoot anyone, but once you put an idiot behind the trigger, bad things happen. Same thing goes for cars and idiots who write columns….

    Generation X Virginian

  6. JerZGirl  April 18, 2007 at 10:20 am

    Mental illness and a society that thrives on gore and graphic violence are to blame. If Cho hadn’t had a gun to use, he’d have found another weapon. The gun did not make him kill – his state of mind made him kill, and he’d have killed regardless of the available weapon. It is time to stop blaming the object and putting the blame where it belongs. While I don’t advocate a “Wild West” setting, I do agree with one student who said that if concealed weapons were permitted (even if only the faculty), it is not likely the death toll would have been this high. Either someone would have stopped Cho literally dead in his tracks (probably his ultimate goal anyway) or he’d have hesitated to make the attempt (if he wasn’t looking to die). Violent crime and burglary decreased dramatically in Kennesaw, GA, after they mandated that all households would own guns. What criminal without a death wish would risk his life breaking in when he knew someone there might shoot? (www.rense.com/general9/gunlaw.htm) So, no – guns are NOT the problem. Not at all.

  7. davek  April 18, 2007 at 10:29 am

    One only has to be a student of history to know that there always have been and always will be crazy individuals that do crazy things. America already has sufficient laws in place to punish such crimes. For those intent on committing such atrocities there are no laws one can put in to place to keep them from their sick motives. The question should be asked, “Would this have happened if all Americans had the right to carry concealed weapons?” The answer, again from an historical perspective of the facts, is a resounding “No”. Anytime we make it easier for criminals to carry out their crimes by leaving the rest of the populace defenseless we become part of the problem. Further restricting firearms ownership, in direct violation of the inspired provisions of our Founding Fathers, would facilitate the criminal and their intent and infringe on the individual citizen’s right to liberty and ultimate freedom. One can look at the dismal failure of England, Australia, Nazi Germany and any Communist country, to understand that restriction of man’s inherent right to defend him/herself only results in tyranny of one form or another. What we need as a nation is the moral courage to stand for our Constitutional principles, embrace them and practice them daily.
    ConstitutionalPatriot

  8. Sandy Price  April 18, 2007 at 10:53 am

    and we are not under the authority of our government. Our government does what we tell it to do. I’m very tired of people who run to Big Daddy everytime a tragedy happens in America. We ask “our Father in the White House” to ban abortions, and gay marriages and death with dignity and now to remove our arms. For God’s sake where does this end? You sound like a Communist wanting the same rules and regulations for everyone in America.

    Had that University been armed that killer would have been taken down before he had a chance to kill 30 more kids. Had he not had a gun, he would have used dynamite or whatever the Oklahoma killer used. Had one or two of those students been armed the disaster would have been much less.

    This mess in VT calls for more guns to be issued to well trained students for their own protection. I will never give up a weapon to a government led by a lying coniving enemy of freedom. In fact I will never give up a weapon to anyone.

  9. kevns007  April 18, 2007 at 11:38 am

    No, man, guns don’t kill people, bullets do. Tax bullets so that they cost $100 a bullet, and see how many lives would be saved? And, it would also give a big ‘fuck you’ to the gun lobby. It’s the best answer to a horrifying problem. Had ammo been costly, how much could that little piss-ant freak have afforded?

  10. GrndLkNatv  April 18, 2007 at 2:47 pm

    If bullets were 100 bucks a piece, 32 of them could still be affordable to a guy who is nuts. Your point is stupid, if the bullets are that expensive, a killer will just use an ax, a rock, a knife, a log, or a sword…. I guess back in the old days in Japan, before guns, people didn’t slaughter each other with swords right??? NOT!

    Generation X Virginian

  11. Steve Horn  April 18, 2007 at 11:42 am

    Guns are not the problem. A gun is a mechanical device, it has neither the mental nor physical ability to operate itself. Saying a Glock was responsible for the tragedy at VT is like blaming Boeing for 9/11.

    I rest the blame on the shoulders of our “compassionate conservative” society, which refuses to deal with mental illness. In fact, as a society, we refuse to deal with any illness, we force that off onto the individuals.

    If there were universal health care – physical and mental (I see no distinction between the two, except that we are more able to influence our own physical health when it comes to being over weight or eating the wrong foods) – with no stigma attached to those suffering with mental illness – if we were an inclusive society rather than a somewhat class based socially excluding one, if we were, well, kind, then perhaps we could avoid these situations.

    The Glock in question was simply the tool this individual selected, he could have as easily built a bomb/vest or some other device, with the same consequence. It was not the gun that killed those innocents, it was a deranged, troubled individual who, perhaps for the first time in his young life, felt like he was “in charge”, he wasn’t getting laughed at, in fact it’s reported that towards the end, before he took his own life, he was laughing.

    Peace

    Steve

  12. Wayne K Dolik  April 18, 2007 at 11:17 am

    My gut reaction to this “event” raises more questions than a call for gun control. Of course, there are those kinds that prefer to have their government make all of their decisions and thus loose all their civil liberties in the process. We have seen the demise of many recently. I have frequently told close friends, the guns would be next, if we are turning towards fascism.

    Was the shooter a patsy? Who were his handlers? We need a thorough honest investigation into these shooter connections. I am greatly troubled by the scale of this and the timing of it as well. Let us not be to quick to judge without the facts.

    Events have happened in Scotland and Australia. The end result was the confiscation of all firearms.

    Now comes new information, this was a failure of the system. This person was a person of interest for quite some time. He was put in mental institutions for two times, once for stalking and once reported to authorities by his parents as suicidal. Charges were not filed, but the University was notified that they had a problem with this individual. The Shooter was crying out for help, yet everyone let him down. He was in desperate need of Mental Health Care. We made this guy a patsy, because of our in-action.

    Then I ask where were the brave men that should have broken those doors down and shot the shooter and saved those children? 3 hours? Give me a break.

  13. jarrodlombardo  April 18, 2007 at 12:09 pm

    Every decision is based on trade-offs. Gun control regulations make some things more secure and other things less secure. If guns were banned, there would be fewer guns out there, but the guns that would be out there will only be in the possession of the criminals and the government. If the populace has no means of defending itself from the government if needed, there is nothing to keep the government from becoming a totalitarian or fascist state.

    I personally, would rather have the number of gun crimes we currently have than no guns allowed. The cost versus the benefit makes sense to me. Others will place different values on different things and may come to different conclusions.

    –Jarrod

  14. GrndLkNatv  April 18, 2007 at 2:49 pm

    If guns are banned, the only people without guns will be law abiding citizens, not criminals. Criminals don’t follow the law. The big problem today is the leadership of this world hasn’t figured out that 95% of the worlds population doesn’t play by their civilized rules and are basically a bunch of animals…

    Generation X Virginian

  15. Razor  April 18, 2007 at 12:14 pm

    If guns are outlawed then only outlaws will have guns. I have always believed that if everyone was packing a gun on thier hip, you would not see the violence that so often occurs. When everyone has the means to defend against violence or attack, then those who are the attackers would think twice about committing the act of robbery or assault if they knew they would be shot. Guns only intimidate those who have none. A bully counts on an advantage in size, unless the victim has something called an equalizer ( 44mag ). Then due respect replaces the attack bully mentality.

    Once we give up our right to bear arms, were for sure totally enslaved. NEVER GIVE UP YOUR RIGHTS.

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