|What about the guns? |
Posted 17h 40m ago | Comment | Recommend E-mail | Save | Print |
Cal Thomas is a conservative columnist. Bob Beckelis a liberal Democratic strategist. But as longtime friends, they can often find common ground on issues that lawmakers in Washington cannot.
Today: The Virginia Tech shootings and the gun-control debate.
Cal: The definition of tragedy ("a lamentable, dreadful, or fatal event") does not even come close to describing the horror the families of the dead and wounded at Virginia Tech must be experiencing. I have spoken at this school and can tell you this is a great university. No parent expects to send his or her child to college and have them return in a coffin. I know we agree in extending our heartfelt sympathy to the families and to the university.
Bob: Of course. As a father, I can only imagine that these parents believed as I did until recent years that a child is safe while in school. Friday marks the eighth anniversary of the murders of 12 students at Columbine High School in Colorado by classmates using high-powered guns. In October, the country witnessed the slaughter of Amish schoolgirls in Pennsylvania, again with a gun. How much of this can our children absorb without forever living in fear?
Cal: Though one lost innocent is too much, we can be thankful that this is, indeed, a rare occurrence. Regrettably, we have seen several high-profile attacks, as you mention, but one can't account for evil.
FIND MORE STORIES IN: Congress | Virginia Tech | Cal Thomas | Bob Beckel | NRA
Bob: But one can account for weapons used to perpetrate evil. I'll agree there is very little we can do about lunacy, but there is plenty we can do about controlling guns, which are almost always the weapon of choice for these maniacs.
Cal: If "gun control" — which usually means more laws to keep criminals from getting their hands on guns — could be shown to prevent a mass murder such as the ones in Blacksburg or Columbine, that might make sense. But people bent on law-breaking will not be deterred by more laws. Do you really think more laws would deter a person who is willing to methodically kill dozens of innocent people? Washington, D.C., has some of the strongest gun laws in the country accompanied by one of the highest murder rates.
Bob: No doubt, there are thousands of illegal handguns in Washington, but I bet most of them come from just across the Potomac River in Virginia, where handguns are easy to buy. Cal, it appears that Cho Seung Hui, the student who did this horrific deed, bought these guns within Virginia's laws. Last month, he purchased a Glock 9mm pistol in Roanoke. The gun shop owner said Cho was "a nice, clean-cut college kid." Serial killer Ted Bundy looked like a nice guy, too. So you're still saying the current laws are good enough?
Cal: Nice try, Bob. Are you saying that whenever a law is broken, there is a need for a new law? Laws are put in place to provide the template for acceptable behavior. No law or additional restriction can redirect a deranged mind. By the way, I noticed that Australia's prime minister criticized the United States for our lax gun laws. Perhaps he should try a little self-reflection first. In 1997, Australia implemented a gun buy-back program and confiscated more than 640,000 firearms. The next year, homicides increased 3.2% and armed robberies shot up 44%. Maybe if just one person — a professor or student — had been armed, the shooter would have been stopped sooner.
Bob: That's just what we need — more students with guns. Did you know that the gun-happy Virginia Legislature, with the encouragement of their NRA (National Rifle Association) pals, has never made it illegal to take guns onto college campuses? Then again, our gun culture makes it nearly impossible to get any real change. I mean, the day of the killings, White House spokeswoman Dana Perino felt the need to defend guns. "The president believes that there is a right for people to bear arms, but that all laws must be followed," she said. Unbelievable.
Cal: Funny you should mention the Virginia Legislature. Just over a year ago, a bill to allow for legal concealed weapons to be carried on Virginia college campuses died in committee. At the time, Virginia Tech spokesman Larry Hincker applauded the move, saying, "I'm sure the university community is appreciative of the General Assembly's actions because this will help parents, students, faculty and visitors feel safe on our campus." I wonder what he'd say today.
Bob: More weapons would merely increase the chances that simple disputes would be settled with bullets instead of words.
Cal: A cultural point needs to be made here. Crime is portrayed on TV with bloody scenes and graphic depiction of bullets destroying flesh. Video games, including a Columbine-themed one, desensitize kids. Violence consumes much of rap music. Young people learn that life is cheap. Attempting to impose more restraints through tougher laws will do little about the constraints we used to advocate on the human heart. You can't expect moral behavior when the culture won't teach right and wrong.
Bob: If only it was about just right and wrong. I still say it's about guns. The guns used in the killings were semiautomatic pistols, which let the shooter do the most amount of damage in the shortest amount of time — in this case, just a minute or two. The Glock's magazine held 15 rounds, which would have been illegal under the 1994 federal assault-weapons ban that expired under a Republican Congress in 2004, thanks largely to the NRA lobby. Yet the NRA still defends every imaginable weapon. The NRA's national convention in St. Louis just wrapped up on Sunday, less than 24 hours before the bloodbath in Blacksburg. Convention-goers were even given tips on how to conceal handguns. How quaint. Perhaps if the NRA leadership is available this week, they should go to Virginia Tech and explain to the parents of the dead and wounded why these weapons are so necessary.
Cal: You're regurgitating the flawed argument of the anti-gun lobby: It's the guns, not the people. I am not a fundamentalist on this, Bob. I agree that before people buy guns there should be an effective background check, with no guns sold to convicted felons, juveniles and people with records of drug and alcohol abuse. We have many such laws in place, but criminals will get guns if they want them. And I want the right to own a gun to defend myself and my family should law enforcement not be able to get to my home, or assist me when I am out in public. That is why we have a Second Amendment to allow me to do that.
Bob: The Second Amendment itself is debatable. But my position is the same as it was before this tragic week: I support a ban on all privately held handguns, period. In fact, I believe the manufacturing of handguns for private use should be outlawed.
Cal: I'm not going anywhere near that position.
Bob: I know that, and I know what I want is a non-starter politically. But how's this for common ground: Let's start with stricter gun-control laws in your home state of Virginia, with the first including a ban on any guns on college campuses. Then can we agree that the assault-weapons ban be re-enacted in Congress — a ban that President Bush has said he will sign — within 30 days. These types of guns serve absolutely no purpose. Most sportsmen don't want or need them, but criminals love them. And I know we can agree that our prayers are with all who suffered in Blacksburg this horrible week. What do you say?
Cal: As for the gun ban on campuses, I can't accept that. Again, lives could have been saved if one student had been armed to take out the killer. As for the assault-weapons ban, life went on for the 10 years that the ban was in place, so I'm not averse to reauthorizing it. But we shouldn't be lulled into thinking that this ban, or any gun ban, will be a deterrent to an evil mind. And of course my prayers are with the Virginia Tech community that had this evil unleashed upon them.
Bob: After what they've seen, they'll need prayers.
sounds like he's quoting what Bush said in the distant past.