We Can End These Tragedies

Stop the guns, take responsibility

The Columbine Massacre, April 20, 1999

THE TRAGEDY in Littleton Tuesday is so grotesque and unimaginable that no words are sufficient. There is no weeping, no sorrow, no anger that suffices.

We cannot bring these precious children back. There can be no comfort for their parents. There is no way to comfort the dead.

We can pray, hug each other, discuss the causes. But no amount of prayer saved these children. America has had plenty of “dialogue” about violence. We’ve had enough talk of “closure” after carnage. We’ve done enough “reaching out” to killers, the deranged, the pathogens of our culture.

The only way not to perpetuate evil is to stop it. We know the instruments of the Columbine High School massacre, and of the school slaughters elsewhere that preceded it, and of those to come: guns.

With fanatic fervor, the gun manufacturers flood our streets with automatic weapons like those that killed my neighbors’ children here in Littleton. Politicians and the gun lobby pass laws to sell armor-piercing bullets, the better to kill the policemen who risk their lives every day to protect us from each other.

For months, the National Rifle Association and the Republican majority in the Colorado Legislature have been pushing three pro-gun bills. One allows anyone not already a felon to carry a concealed gun. The second voids nearly all local gun-control laws. A third prohibits suits against gun manufacturers.

All three were on their way to passage and signature by the new Republican governor, Bill Owens. They have been temporarily shelved but will no doubt be resurrected. Even as the Columbine children were being gunned down in the school library, one bill’s sponsor, Republican House Majority Leader Doug Dean, insanely argued that if teachers had been carrying concealed guns, this tragedy would have been avoided.

The NRA will stage its national convention later this month in Denver. In the convention hospitality suites, where executives from Ruger, Colt, Remington and all the other merchants of death will pour the free liquor and plan how best to buy the next Congressman, the argument will be that guns didn’t kill these children. I invite these men to walk the blood-soaked, brain-spattered halls of Columbine High. I invite them to explain their actions, and the capital gains behind them, to the parents of the dead and wounded.

A few years ago a shooting in a high school, a single death, would have been unimaginable. Now we have had eight school slaughters in less than forty months. There have been hundreds of lesser incidents – none of which would have been imaginable a generation ago.

As a former NRA member, a gun owner and hunter, and as one who deeply fears for the future of his country, I suggest:

  • Ownership of handguns and assault rifles, except by law      enforcement and the military, be prohibited.
  • Advertisement of guns, as with other forms of killing      such as tobacco, be prohibited in print and other media.
  • Ownership of other guns (rifles and shotguns) be      limited to those who have passed a licensing program and mental and      criminal background tests, and who can show a need for ownership.
  • Political contributions by gun manufacturers, their      consultants, or other related parties be prohibited.
  • All media, including the Internet, be controlled for      the level of violence allowed. We spend billions to restrict trace      chemicals in our children’s foods but scarcely a penny to govern what goes      into their minds.
  • Parents be prosecuted for the acts of their children. In      today’s self-obsessed, emotionally illiterate America, this may be the      only way parents can be induced to consider how their actions affect their      children and the nation.

We can rid our country of this horror. We do not have to stand around like cattle while our children are killed. We must begin by getting rid of guns.

San Francisco Chronicle, 4/26/1999

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