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The tragedy of gun deaths grows
Scripps Howard News Service


October 04, 2006

Like most Americans, I've become regrettably inured to the daily reports of gun violence and gun death in this country. Oh, I know, "Guns don't kill people, people kill people." But this week's attempted slaughter of 10 Amish schoolgirls (as of this writing, five had died) hit me in a place the National Rifle Association had not yet calloused over with the propaganda it so routinely blares through a well-financed bullhorn of a public relations machine.

Why the gunfire in Nickel Mines, Pa., struck so hard, I'll never know. I guess the visual picture of Charles Carl Roberts segregating out children by gender, binding the girls' feet with wire and plastic ties, then shooting them execution-style, gut-punched me in a place I thought I'd toughened off and hidden away. I thought my emotions were was bullet-proofed by the daily horrors we Americans are forced to stomach in the name of "Second Amendment freedoms."

gif NRA

Daryl Cagle,
Distributed to subscribers for publication by Cagle Cartoons, Inc.

Perhaps Roberts' psychotic ramblings about being "angry at God" touched off an unexpected reaction. Perhaps it was the laundry list of weaponry he brought into a one-room, unguarded, rural schoolhouse in a bucolic setting - a shotgun, a 9mm semi-automatic pistol and a stun gun - that seemed so insane. According to police, he also had 600 rounds of ammunition, a hammer, a hacksaw, pliers, wire, eyebolts, rolls of tape and various paraphernalia, all of which seemed so beyond the pale. How can a milk-truck driver acquire such an arsenal in a country that's supposedly free?

How free are we, when peace-loving Amish children are slaughtered? How free are we when 30,000 Americans die by gunfire each year? How free are we when our elected officials are so hog-tied to the National Rifle Association that they cannot pass meaningful, national gun control?

How free are we when we let the following obscenely lengthy list of child deaths (and innocent adult deaths) take precedence over banning gun ownership outright? Just days before Roberts struck in Pennsylvania a 15-year-old boy brought two guns to a school in rural Cazenovia, Wis., and killed the principal. Two days before that, a 53-year-old man took six girls hostage at Platte Canyon High School in Bailey, Colo., sexually assaulted them and used them as human shields for hours before fatally shooting one girl and killing himself.

gif Guns R US

Guns R US
Pat Bagley, Salt Lake Tribune
Distributed to subscribers for publication by Cagle Cartoons, Inc.

In August, a 27-year-old went to a Vermont elementary school looking for his ex-girlfriend, where he killed one teacher and wounded another, then left to kill his ex-girlfriend's mother and shoot himself twice in the head before being arrested. And on it goes. In March 2005, eight people were killed at a Minnesota high school, among the 30,000 that are killed by firearms each year. And, let's not forget the now-infamous slaughter of 15 (including the perpetrators) at Columbine High School in Colorado in 1999.

I have not lost a loved one to gunfire. I can only imagine how crazy I'd be driven if I had. I was particularly touched, then, by a recent editorial in The Salt Lake Tribune, written by the two parents of a student who was shot and killed by another.

Ron and Norma Molen lost their son, Steven, when he came to the aid of a fellow female student who being stalked by a third student armed with, as they wrote, "a pistol with a laser sighting device and bullets that explode on contact. A bullet blew up the artery in Steven's leg and he quickly bled to death. Susan was shot twice and was left an unrecognizable corpse. Then the stalker blew out the back of his own head." This took place in a graduate school dormitory in Indiana.

They went on, "The NRA is a secular, fundamentalist special interest so focused on gun rights that it dismisses the 30,000 deaths each year as the price of freedom, and this includes the deaths of 14 children every day ... The co-conspirator in this home-grown terrorism is the Republican Party (note: I would add, pro-gun Democrats as well) that allows the NRA to write its gun legislation in exchange for money and votes."

All of this is so true. What Nickel Mines, Pa., teaches us is we Americans are not truly free until we're free of the choke hold the NRA has on national anti-gun legislation.


Bonnie Erbe is a TV host and writes this column for Scripps Howard News Service.
E-mail bonnieerbe(at)
Distributed to subscribers for publication by
Scripps Howard News Service,

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