Setting the Record Straight

Over the past four years a number of "charges" have been leveled against me; it's often enough that I feel compelled to respond so that I may clearly set the record straight.

A number of people have accused us, and other Columbine victims' families, of trying to scapegoat others. They say we are trying to blame the police, the school district, video games, and others, because our killers are already dead and we therefore need something "here and present" to blame. Let me set the record straight: I hold those two cowardly bastards, Eric Harris and Dylan Klebold, directly responsible for my son's death.

But, at the same time, as in nearly any horrendous crime, I believe that there were contributing factors. Among those contributing factors, in varying degrees, were:

· poor parenting (didn't they see their kids' hate?)
· young adults 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 and tolerates violence and guns
· kids and officials who failed to take threats seriously

Those are contributing factors, not direct ones. When the tragedy of September 11 happened, we didn't just say to ourselves, "We know who did it. We don't need to know anything more." No, we wanted to know who trained the terrorists, who had lax security, etc. We looked at contributing factors-just as reasonable people should, so that we can learn from them and prevent future tragedies.

Of course, gun rights activists will argue that I go way too far in pointing the finger at guns. A common accusation is that I unfairly "blame everything at Columbine on guns." Again, let me set the record straight. I hold Harris & Klebold directly responsible for the killings at Columbine. But, along with other contributing factors were easy access to guns and this nation's lax attitude towards guns. It is true, though, that I have put more weight on this contributing factor than others. That's the case for three reasons:

1. Just two weeks before my son's death, he asked me if I knew there were loopholes in the Brady Bill! For me the question came out of the blue. He was then killed with a gun purchased through one of those loopholes. To me his question was no mere coincidence. To me that was a sign, a sign I had to respond to.
2. I am one person. I cannot address all the contributing factors involved at Columbine. It would not be possible or fair to my family.
3. I have especially been drawn to this issue after meeting other parents of gunshot victims. To honor Daniel I thought I'd try to stop other parents like me from going through this pain of gun violence. I was just never aware of the shameful fact that we lose nearly 11,000 lives a year in gun homicides (and nearly 100,000 gunshot wounds!)--numbers that are SO much higher than ANY other Free World nation.

I am also accused of a wide variety of other sins, including a hatred of hunters and the desire to ban and confiscate all guns. Let me set the record straight. I have never said that I wanted to ban or confiscate all guns. I'd like my accusers to show me where I have EVER written such a thing. 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. It's common for gun activists to paint their opponents as extremists. It's much easier to make someone a demon than to consider differing opinions and ignore peer pressure. That is why I receive hate mail.

The fact is that I believe we must have strong laws that keep guns away from kids, criminals, the mentally deranged, spouse abusers, and violent people. I don't think we can truly be serious about doing that if we don't have a system for registering guns like we do for cars. Without registration we have no real method of holding people responsible for providing guns to people who should not have guns.

I do not believe that most of our efforts should be directed towards laws. Instead, I think more efforts are needed in changing people's attitudes towards guns. That's what has happened in nearly every other Free World nation-and they have a fraction of the gun deaths we have.

I do not promote gun confiscation. But I do think our nation would be safer if we moved away from encouraging everyone to be armed. Far too often a gun is (mis)used to solve domestic disputes and road rage and work conflicts-by people who were suckered into thinking they would be SAFER with a gun. For the last couple generations we have been told by the gun lobby that we can reduce gun violence by adding more guns and having fewer gun laws! Yes, more concealed weapons, assault weapons, cop killer bullets and armed teachers are supposed to solve our gun violence problems! It's no wonder other nations shake their heads when they hear this.

I do believe some guns and bullets should be banned, particularly military-type assault weapons. There is no useful purpose in a civilized society for these weapons of mass destruction. There was no public outcry way back in the 1920s when the government clamped down on the scourge of machine guns. The same should be true today.

I do not consider reasonable gun control laws an infringement on the Second Amendment. That's because I don't think it, or any of our other rights, were provided to us as absolutes. I realize that we will always disagree on what is "reasonable." But as reasonable people with a serious problem, that's what we must do-as opposed to the gun lobby, which tries to argue that any gun law is an infringement, regardless of merit. More important, the Supreme Court also hasn't viewed reasonable gun laws as an infringement. In fact, since 1939 the Court has ruled that the Second Amendment has conveyed a right to state militias, not to individuals. Even the current conservative Supreme Court has refused to take on a California assault weapons ban law.

I am accused of "attempting to disarm our country at a time when the threats to our safety at home are greater than ever." Let's set the record straight. 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! It's our own domestic terrorism.

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