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Jan. 10. 2013
Column #1,637
Good, Evil & Guns
By Mike McManus

The gun issue is heating up. People feel passionately on one side or the other. This week Darrell Scott, the father of Rachel - one of the victims of the Columbine High School shootings, testified to the House Judiciary Committee:

“Since the dawn of creation there has been both good and evil in the hearts of men and 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 eleven 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. The true killer was Cain, and the reason for the murder could only be found in his heart.”

Scott was critical of “how quickly fingers began to be pointed at such groups as the NRA.” He is not a member nor even a gun owner, but doesn’t blame NRA or gun owners.

He called Columbine “not just a tragedy” but “a spiritual event.” He even said the “blame lies here in this room.” As evidence he read a short poem he wrote:

“Your laws ignore our deepest needs,/ Your words are empty air./ You’ve stripped away our heritage,/ You’ve outlawed simple prayer.

“Now gunshots fill our classrooms,/and precious children die…

“You fail to understand,/That God is what we need.”

Scott is right in adding that “Men and women are three-part beings. We all consist of body, mind, and spirit. When we refuse to acknowledge a third part of our make-up, we create a void that allows evil, prejudice and hatred to rush in and wreak havoc.”

However, Scott ignores some basic facts. According to Gallup Polls, two-thirds of Americans are members of a church, synagogue or mosque, and 43% attend worship services in any given week.

By contrast, only 12% of the British attend weekly – about one-quarter of the U.S. Yet only 63 British were killed in firearm murders in a year compared to 12,179 murders in America committed with guns.

The only reasonable conclusion is that even though the U.S. is four times more religious than the British, Americans are 200 times more likely to be killed by a gun than is a British citizen.

What matters is not faith but the availability of guns in our culture.

In 2010, 19,382 committed suicide with a gun. In fact, a California study of handgun purchasers found that in the first year after purchase, suicide was the leading cause of death.

In a recent column I reported that I accidentally nearly killed myself with my father’s pistol at age 10. Two years later Dad was threatening my mother with the gun. I grabbed it away from him and hid it. I’ve never had a gun in my house.

In other respects Dad was a good father to me. He spent time talking to me about the factory he ran, politics and the American culture. He sparked my interest in journalism, which led to my career.

However, I’ve experienced the danger of guns. Consequently, I support several important reforms that Congress will consider:

First, every purchaser of a gun should undergo a background check to see if he has a criminal or mental health record that should prevent a sale. Fully 40% of sales are in gun shows where background checks aren’t required. The two Columbine high school shooters recruited friends to buy guns for them at gun shows. One buyer said she would not have bought them if required to get a background check.

Even so, 600,000 gun purchases were prevented due to background checks.

However, there are many loopholes. Jared Lee Loughner, who shot Rep. Gifford, was so disruptive in class that campus police had been notified. Yet he was still able to buy the gun. The Virginia Tech killer of 32 people was considered dangerous by a Virginia court and ordered into treatment. But his record was not reported to the background-check system.

Second, I believe assault weapons like those in Newtown should be banned, along with high capacity clips of bullets. No hunter needs to fire 30 rounds in a few seconds.

Third, I support the “buy-back” of guns. Camden, N.J. police paid up to $250 for weapons with forfeited money paid by felons, and 1,100 guns were turned in.

The key to fewer deaths is fewer guns.

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