My response to those who wrote emails

in opposition to my Denver Post article

On June 8, 2003 I wrote a guest article in the Denver Post in opposition to a bill in Congress that would provide the gun industry with immunity from civil law suits. I received over 50 emails in opposition. Below is my group response to them.

June 30, 2003

Persons responding to my Denver Post column:

It has now been just over a month since my article appeared in the Denver Post. Now that the dust has settled (or was it mud?), I am writing in response to the fifty or so of you who wrote to object to my article about the gun industry immunity bill. Sorry, I don't have the time to respond to each of your emails individually, but am instead responding to many of the common themes and objections in your emails, so I'm responding to you all as a group. I took the time to read all your emails, which took quite a while, so I hope you will all at least show similar respect by reading my response. Where possible I attribute quotes and paraphrases to the specific email writers, so that you know I'm not making up these things.

Let me first respond briefly to a few things that were said in emails that were just plain wrong. Dr. Daniel P Johnson said "I suspect that you may be a member of the American Bar Association." Nope. Not true.

Cliff Frye speculates that I am "now trying to get a law so there can be law suits against gunmakers. WHY? I say, because you have probably sued everyone you could because of the loss of your son Daniel." Not so, Mr. Frye. My wife and I sued nobody. Nobody.

Gene Moe claims that "Robert Ricker is further from reliable then anyone else," but Mr. Moe offers no proof. (Is it just sour grapes?)

Ramon Rangel Jr. speculates that the friend who pulled the trigger of the gun and killed Sahil Ahmed "didn't even get a slap on the wrist for being so wrecklessly negligent." Not so. He was charged (but not his parents.).

Kurt Amesbury accused me of "attacking one of the safest sports in the world!" Funny-my article was not about, nor did it ever mention, sport shooting.

Dave Rupert declares that "It is a fact that where law abiding citizens are allowed concealed carry permits, crime goes DOWN," and other writers said similar things. Excuse me? Did you guys even READ my article? I did not address concealed weapons in my article!

One writer declared, "Blocking lawsuits would not relieve manufacturers of responsibility for irresponsible or faulty manufacturing," and a few others echoed that. But I never said it would relieve them!

Of the Ahmed case, John Grinton said "The parent or parents who left the loaded gun accessible are to blame." Others like Timothy Mayhugh said the same thing. What irony! The problem is, the DA didn't charge the parents because our statutes didn't provide him that latitude. If Colorado had a Safe Storage law, those parents might have been charged. However, the gun lobby has fought all attempts to pass a safe storage law.

A number of you criticized me for saying that people have called on gun makers to make guns that won't retain a bullet when the magazine is removed. You said it was impossible to do so. But says, "Smith & Wesson is one of the few manufactures that provides magazine disconnects, but provides it only as an OPTION on its sidearms." Thanks for pointing that out, Bill. Furthermore, in a recent lawsuit case, it was revealed that the parts for a load indicator cost only about 8¢ and those for a magazine disconnect safety cost about 11¢. Hmmm..

Jeffrey (and a few others) criticized me by saying, "Contrary to your idiotic assertion, gun makers are not 'exempt from regulation.'" I never said they were. Please don't take my words out of context. I said they were not subject to regulation by the Consumer Product Safety Commission. Not one of you refuted that fact nor did even one of you offer to explain why this ONE product should be exempt. Not one.

Dave Rupert speaks of "an out right ban as recently witnessed by England and Australia," as did others. While those countries certainly have very restrictive gun laws compared to us, they simply do not have an "outright ban."

Frank E. Millis, Sr. said I "won't be satisfied until all guns are prohibited." Others said similar things about me wanting to ban guns, disarm defenseless people, etc. Again, that's NOT what my article was about. Where did I write that I wanted to prohibit, ban or confiscate all guns? Where have I EVER written such a thing? Show me. The fact is that I face this demonization and false attribution all the time. The fact is that I grew up in western Pennsylvania, the son of a coal miner and brother of a hunter. I'm not an extremist, but that's how I'm painted, regardless of what I say. Your accusations are unfair and unfounded and just part of an attempt to demonize me.

David McRae accused me of "attempting to disarm our country at a time when the threats to our safety at home are greater than ever." When it comes to "terrorism," guns are the bigger culprit in America. We lose far more than twice the number of people to gun homicides each YEAR than we lost on September 11!

Robert L says I'm "way out of touch" with Coloradans on the gun issue. Well, to my knowledge the voters have weighed in on a gun issue only once-Amendment 22 in 2000. Conservative, western, pro gun Colorado voted 70% to 30% to close the gun show loophole, despite the opposition of the gun lobby. Now tell me who's out of touch.

Olen Goodwin calls me "an opportunist making a living being a professional victim," while Al Miller asks, "Why don't you find a real job?" Let's get this straight: I do not make a living in the gun control field. I have a regular full time job that has nothing to do with guns. All my gun control work is done as a volunteer. The reason is simple: just two weeks before my son Daniel's death, he asked me if I knew there were loopholes in the Brady Bill! I don't know what prompted the question. Shortly after that he was killed with a gun purchased through one of those loopholes. To me that's no mere coincidence. To me that was a sign, a sign I had to respond to. So, I do my work to honor Daniel and to try to see to it that other parents like me don't go through this pain of gun violence. I see that we lose 11,000 lives a year to gun homicides (30,000 total and nearly 100,000 gunshot wounds!)--numbers that are shameful for America, for they're SO much higher than ANY other Free World nation.

John Ranch declares, "What a soapbox!" and John Steinmeyer says I have an "apparent need to stay in the spotlight." Again, let me set the record straight. Let me tell you that I do NOT enjoy being an advocate for gun control. I am not an extrovert, I am not very comfortable sharing my grief in front of others, and any time I do public speaking, the gun issue painfully reminds me of the loss of my son that tragic day.

I also dislike being an advocate because often I have had to face nasty phone calls, letters and email from pro gun people. There's been a death threat, a protest at my house, and lots of hate mail. Just look at examples of the crap I have received over the past four years on my son's web site, at I have seen other Columbine parents being comforted by people in the community--but instead at times I find myself facing vilification, rudeness, even hatred. How do you think that makes me feel, as a grieving father? Do you think that's something to look forward to? But I have accepted it as a risk of this advocacy--and I will not be deterred by a bunch of bullies. The cause is too important.

Some pro gun activists have said to me that I have placed myself in the public eye and have to expect criticism. I accept that. I don't expect anyone to agree with me just because of what happened to my son. Disagreement is one thing. Rudeness and incivility is another. You folks talk so much about being law abiding citizens. But what about God's laws of simple decency towards one's brother?

While some of your emails to me were mild compared to some of what I've received before, it was still sad to see that many of you chose to respond to me using insults, name calling and rudeness. Did you really expect a dialogue, an intelligent debate of our differing positions, when using such insults and derision?

A small number of you criticized my article but at least had the decency to express some words of condolence. My thanks to the few of you who did so. (Then there was Dr. L.W. Kreider, who said, "Sorry you lost your daughter." It was my son, Doctor.)

My column was described in some rather colorful ways: Nall Roy called it drivel. Mike Clark said it was "nothing but bulls-t." Jeffrey at said it was "despicably irresponsible and dishonest."

Writers offered me some rather colorful advice: David McRae told me to "Get your head out of the ass of the anti-gun movement." Dave Rupert advised me to "fly to Africa and embrace Nelson (The Noose) Mandela and stay."

David Hendrix was rather creative. He tried rather sophomorically to associate me with Arab terrorists by saying I have a "jihad against gun manufacturers."

And as for me, David McRae says I have a "thick skull." Delta school teacher Mark Pretz says I "have a reality problem." David Hendrix says I'm half-cocked. John Ranch calls me the master of nonsense. Jeffrey calls me a liar, Ramon Rangel Jr. says I'm a "straight-out liar." Martin Lee Turnbull says I "write like a wolf in sheep's clothing." Steven C. Churchill calls me "AN IDIOT!", while a number of you called me a moron.

Jeffrey calls me "a hysterical anti-gun nut who, like most anti-gun nuts prefers to emote rather than think." Mike Clark lays it on, calling me "just another leftist scumbag bulls--t peddler propagandist nazi piece of pig crap who doesn't know his ass from a marble."

I think that my son, who was a good debater at Columbine High School, would remind me that people who use insults and name calling in their arguments are insecure and rely on such tactics to cover over their lack of a good argument. They only make fools of themselves and hurt their own cause. How true.

A number of you slammed me for implying that guns weren't regulated at all. I never said they weren't regulated at all. But with the exemption from the Consumer Product Safety Commission regulation and the special treatment in this immunity bill, we'd be moving even closer towards NO regulation.

I was disappointed in how some of you told me how to live my life and how to grieve. Chris Yoerg tells me to "Get over it" and "Get on with your life." Someone said I have a "need for revenge", while another said I was obsessed with gun control. I'll bet not even ONE of you has lost a child to murder. Not one of you KNOWS me or my family, so who in the hell are you to tell me how to live my life and how to grieve? I'm sorry to disappoint you, but I have learned to deal with my grief fairly well, and, gun control is not the focus of my life. Among other things, my family has established a scholarship fund at CU, helped raise $78,000 for the Christian Foundation for Children and Aging that was used to build a school and library in two Guatemala villages, my family won a "Peacemakers" award in 2001 from the Catholic Archdiocese, and in 2000, at age 48, we adopted an abandoned baby girl from China. We write about these things on Daniel's web site, but I suspect most of you don't want to hear about THOSE things, do you?

One of the most despicable statements came from John W. Steinmeyer, who tells me to "stop embarrassing yourself and demeaning the memory of your son by your apparent need to remain in the spotlight." I am not demeaning his memory, Mr. Steinmeyer, I am putting some meaning to it. How would you know? You didn't know my son or what he believed in.

Mr. Steinmeyer also said "Your emotional and illogical piece stood in such marked contrast to the very factual and logical essay by State Sen. Mark Hillman." Excuse me?!? As a woman from Lafayette wrote to me, "Sen. Hillman's article was rife with fairly derogatory (and emotional!) terms, such as:
* (the gun control crowd's) hysterical fear
* emotional tirades
* gullible twits
* shrillness of their own tactics
* politically naive
* outrageous "facts"
* abject paranoia
* fear-mongering foes"

But my article, as she pointed out, "used no such terms-the paragraphs begin with 'gun activists say', and then he counters it with his ideas. I did not pick up on his casting opponents as corrupt and callous, nor did I get a sense of hysteria, or paranoia."

Likewise, a number of you criticized me for using "emotions" to make my case. In the first place I strongly disagree that my article was somehow "emotional." Tell me, where? And what if my writings DO contain emotion? Should I be emotionless over the murder of my son? Should society? What's wrong with emotions? After all, I'd say that many of you displayed emotions in writing to me, mostly in the form of anger. What's wrong, guys, you can't write objectively and without interjecting emotions?

Dr. Daniel P Johnson tells me that Klebold and Harris "could just as well have used bombs, knives, poisons, etc." But the fact is, Doctor, that they did NOT. My son was shot, not stabbed or bombed, ditto for the other 12 victims. If you have trouble understanding that, perhaps you'd like to sit down with me and read my son's autopsy?

And now for your lack of logic and your contradictions:

A number of you don't see accidental shootings as a problem. You questioned why I even talk about them, pointing out that fewer kids were killed from accidental shootings than were killed by football injuries, drowning in buckets (?), etc. Well, with that logic--more people die from cancer each year than from drunk driving accidents. Does that therefore mean we should do nothing about drunk driving?!? That's apparently YOUR logic!

A number of you asked questions similar to Ramon Rangel Jr.: "So you are all for auto manufacturers being held responsible for a bank robber that used one of their cars as the getaway vehicle?" No, I'm not. Actually I'm one of those people not often pleased with our overly litigious society. However, I don't think the selling of cars is the same as the selling of guns. Society has few expectations or limitations on who a dealer can sell a car to, but it has plenty of expectations about who does and doesn't get guns. Think of this: If a car dealer sells a car to a very visibly drunk person and that person drives off and kills a pedestrian, wouldn't that dealer be at least partially responsible, even though they didn't drive that car?

A sledgehammer and dynamite can both be used to tear something down. Do we treat the sale of each the same? Of course not! Dynamite is dangerous, so society expects sellers of dynamite to control access. There's a certain amount of responsibility we expect when it comes to dangerous products. Answer this: if a terrorist used dynamite to blow something up, wouldn't you be a bit concerned about how they got it? Might you not be mad at a dynamite seller?

The same holds true of guns. But if we give an exemption to gun makers and dealers, where's the incentive to be responsible and the punishment for failure to do so? The real question here is, do you think that gun makers and dealers have absolutely NO responsibility for the proper sale and distribution of guns? If so, then I guess you don't mind giving them the free ticket of immunity, but I think most Americans would disagree once given the facts.

A number of you pointed to allegations that "gun banning" countries like England and Australia are seeing a rising rate of armed and violent crimes. Well, let's look at the logic of your argument. What is a "rise" in gun related crime when you're a country with low gun crime in the first place? These countries lose less than a couple hundred people to gun homicides per year, compared to us shamefully losing over 11,000! And so you'll fault those countries because they have an increase in gun related crime? But I never heard ANY of you claim they had any significant increase in gun homicides! Not one of you! What would you rather have-a couple hundred deaths or 11,000? Would you rather have some increase in gun related crime or 11,000 lives?

More important, the U.S., a country with relatively little gun control, has ALSO seen an increase in crime and gun related crime. So, doesn't that mean that even a country awash in guns and gun rights is experiencing gun problems?!? It simply takes us back to the bottom line: perhaps the world economic situation has led to an overall increase in crime, but in the end we see that America has a shamefully high level of gun deaths, while they have very few. That fact CANNOT be denied.

The fact is that other Free World countries have suicidal people, abusive spouses, alienated kids, road rage, disgruntled workers, thieves. They watch our violent movies and play our violent video games. Like us, they don't have prayer in their schools. BUT, they have only a FRACTION of our gun death rate. How can gun activists say the proliferation, glorification and easy access of guns aren't factors? Would you then argue that we just have more sick and violent people than all the rest of the Free World? If THAT'S the case, why in the world would we then make it so easy to get guns (the easiest in the Free World)? Where's the logic in THAT?

Donald Bishop of Westcliffe made one of the weakest of arguments. He said, "It has been illegal for a private individual to own a gun in Germany for over fifty years and yet a young man obtained a gun and killed teachers and students there, obviously gun ban is not the answer." First of all, theirs is not a gun ban-sports shooting thru clubs is legal. But let's nonetheless look at Bishop's logic: because one kid in a gun control country goes on a shooting spree, that means that gun control is a failure?!? A country only loses 200 or so to gun homicides per year and you call that a failure compared to a country with 11,000 gun homicides? Well, with that kind of logic I could argue that America's death penalty is a miserable failure. After all, people commit murders despite us having a death penalty.

Quite a few of you said this issue is all about personal responsibility, not guns. A few scolded me, saying I was blaming my son's death on guns. Not so. Let me set the record straight: I hold those two cowardly bastards, Klebold and Harris, directly responsible for my son's death. But, at the same time, I do believe that there were contributing factors. Among those contributing factors, in varying degrees, were poor parenting (they didn't see their kids' hate?), the bastards who bought the guns for the killers, law enforcement that failed to follow up on Harris' internet threats, easy access to guns, a culture that glorifies guns, kids who failed to take threats seriously, etc etc.

I could respond to so much more but I'll stop there. Thanks for writing. The rude, insulting and illogical emails to me don't impress or intimidate me-they simply strengthen my resolve to fight for stronger gun laws.

Tom Mauser
Father of Daniel Mauser

Top of page

We are all Columbine!