Gun Control Will Reduce School Violence
Couldn't two angry thugs find other weapons if guns were not available? Of course they could. But none is as efficient as firearms. Baseball bats? Knives? There is a good reason you have never heard of a schoolhouse baseball-bat massacre. You can tackle a best youth baseball bats wielding sociopath. You might outrun a nut with a knife. But the victims at Columbine High School had no chance against two deranged young men armed with not only pipe bombs but also two sawed-off shotguns, a semiautomatic rifle and a semiautomatic pistol.
In the following viewpoint, Cynthia Tucker asserts that recent mass murders at schools have occurred because young people have too easy access to firearms. According to Tucker, adolescents have always been cruel to one another, but when angry teens have access to guns, they kill more people than they could with knives or other weapons. Tucker argues for more laws regulating firearms in order to reduce the likelihood of more school shootings.
As you read, consider the following questions:
- According to Tucker, what weapons did Eric Harris and Dylan Klebold use unsuccessfully during the Columbine school shooting?
- How many guns are in circulation in the United States, according to Tucker?
- In the author's opinion, what gun regulations should be adopted in order to reduce school shootings?
Let's leave the "why" of the 1999 Columbine [school] massacre [in Littleton, Colorado] to the experts—the child psychologists, the family counselors, the ministers and rabbis—and wish them luck. A platoon of psychiatrists could study [the young gunmen] Eric Harris and Dylan Klebold for decades without finding a key to those hearts of darkness.
Let's turn instead to the "how" of it—something that anyone with common sense can easily discern. How? With guns, that's how. Understanding that obvious truth should keep us from feeling helpless, as if this madness is beyond our ability to change. It isn't.
There are factors in this strange episode that probably are beyond us. Adolescents will continue to be cruel to each other, no matter how much counseling or sensitivity-training they receive. Some parents will continue to delude themselves into believing their children are little angels when, instead, they are young sociopaths. And those young sociopaths will continue to dream up ways to wreak havoc in the lives of others. Such is the way of things.
Angry Young Men
But those angry young men cannot do it so well without guns. Without guns, Harris and Klebold would have had to settle for fewer than 13 victims. Their pipe bombs were not as deadly as they had hoped. A propane bomb they assembled to detonate in the school cafeteria did not go off. But their guns—exquisite tools for killing—got the job done.
Firearms are the single thread connecting every schoolhouse mass murder of 1997 to 1999, from Pearl, Miss., to Paducah, Ky., to Jonesboro, Ark., to Springfield, Ore., to Littleton, Colo. Other factors vary: The Jonesboro shooters, Mitchell Johnson, 13, and Andrew Golden, 11, were too young to have stored up grudges from years as social outcasts. The parents of the Springfield, Ore., shooter, 15-year-old Kip Kinkel, could hardly be suspected of inattention; they had their son in therapy.
Guns Are a Constant
But the guns are a constant—guns too easily available to kids who think killing is cute or clever. There are about 220 million guns in circulation in this country, which has a population of about 260 million people. The ratio is creeping toward one firearm for every man, woman and child.
The National Rifle Association (NRA) downsized its Denver convention and urged "prayer" for the Littleton victims. But it is still in the business of blocking even the most limited controls on firearms, which are easier to get your hands on than antibiotics for a sinus infection. Americans sickened by the constant spectacle of children dead at the hands of other children should stop allowing the NRA to carry the day.
It is not too much to expect that adults who own guns will be required to lock them away or face criminal penalties. It is entirely sensible to require firearms manufacturers to install mechanisms to prevent a gun from being fired by anyone other than the owner. (Gun manufacturers are exempt from the consumer safety laws that cover all other products, including toy guns.)
The NRA has the simplest of answers: Just lock up anyone who uses a gun to commit a criminal offense. I'm all for that. But that would not have deterred the homicidal-suicidal impulses of Harris and Klebold, would it?