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


  1. 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.

  2. 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?

  3. 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.

Comments are closed.