Shotgun News

May 12, 2002

by John K. Bates

The past couple of weeks have brought a plethora of interesting items across my desk, many of which are related in one way or another to the ongoing American argument over guns. So it seems a good time for a blast of the journalistic shotgun, a “News and Views” column if you will, focused mostly but not entirely on the thorny Second Amendment and its many critics. Fortunately for my readers, and although the story does involve guns, this column does not include anything about O.J.-in-waiting Robert Blake.

News: Expelled student Robert Steinhaeuser offs 16 at his high school in Erfurt, Germany and then kills himself in a shooting predictably compared to Columbine. The killer’s motives weren’t clear, but it seems at least motivated by revenge for being expelled. No mention has been made if he was bullied by athletes at the school.

Views: Aren’t our “enlightened” European friends supposed to be immune from this sort of carnage? After all, there is no Second Amendment in Europe; it is unlawful to own guns in much of the Continent. Americans are told - through European scowls and down-turned European noses - that the only way we can prevent mass shootings in our country is to either take away or regulate guns as much as possible. This is the only way to prevent the sort of carnage and violence that routinely occurs in our gun-happy country. And we are told that it is simply inconceivable in enlightened Europe for a disgruntled student to get hold of guns and kills so many.

Apparently, it is not so inconceivable. Which just goes to show that at its core, anti-gun arguments are flawed. While guns perhaps make certain killings easier, banning guns does not eliminated the possibility of killings. Furthermore, and especially since the vast majority of the Erfurt victims were teachers, it is quite possible that guns in the hands of properly trained teachers could have been used to stop the shooter before he killed so many. As the old slogan goes, “If guns are outlawed, only outlaws will have guns.” One has to wonder how many of the faculty in Erfurt wish they would have had some outlawed guns on that tragic afternoon.

News: Dutch politician Pim Fortuyn is assassinated on an Amsterdam street after conducting a campaign radio interview. Dutch police have apprehended one Volkert van der Graaf, an activist with the environmental organization Environmental Offensive, in connection with the killing. The apparent motive is unhappiness with Mr. Fortuyn’s environmental policies, even though many “Green” organizations considered them acceptable.

Views (1): Holland is one of the enlightened European nations where guns require licenses, and van der Graaf had no such license. Like Mr. Steinhaeuser in Germany, however, he was able to illegally obtain the weapon needed to commit his crime. So we are again left to wonder: If someone is truly bent on committing a crime, especially the premeditated act of murder, is it possible to stop him or her from acquiring the means to do so? Killing is already illegal and carries a stiff penalty; will the penalty for illegally purchasing a gun make any difference? And with so many guns available through the black market and private sources, can guns be controlled that closely? Or is gun control nothing more than wishful thinking that has the additional, harmful effect of taking guns out of the hands of potential victims?

Views (2): The deceased Mr. Fortuyn has been widely reported as a “right wing extremist” candidate. In reality, he “earned” this tag by promoting an anti-immigration platform. But isn’t it always interesting when the media reports certain candidates, always from the right wing, as “extremists” while others, always from the left wing, avoid such a label. In this country, Pat Buchanan and Ralph Nader differ little in their “extremism” (and also on their views, when it comes to the issue of economic protection they both love so dearly). Yet Buchanan is routinely described as “right wing”, or “extreme” while Mr. Nader usually gets the title “Green Party candidate.” Nothing new under the sun, perhaps, but it sure is nice to see our “unbiased” media alive and well.

Views (3): Mr. Fortuyn’s killer belonged to a radical, extremist, environmental organization. Other enviro-groups immediately denounced van der Graaf and sought to remind citizens that in large part they agreed with many of Mr. Fortuyn’s views. But one has to wonder that if this was a left-wing candidate and if the killer belonged to a radical, extremist, anti-abortion group if the coverage would be the same. Political killing is an abomination in all cases, but certainly this story would have generated a great deal more angst had the “correct” type of politician been the victim.

News: The White House, according to Fox News, affirmed the right of Americans to own guns.

Views (1): Duh.

Views (2): Actually, the story is very disturbing. Why? Because this administration is the first in nearly 40 years to file a legal brief in favor of individual gun ownership. That’s right, folks. For 40 years, the official policy of the United States Department of Justice held that the Second Amendment only guaranteed the rights of gun ownership for militias (more accurately, for police personnel) and those involved in active military duty or training. For all those years, through administrations both Republican and Democrat, official policy in these United States has been to oppose broad private ownership of guns, despite a clear and prominent guarantee in the Second Amendment of the United States Constitution.

Of course, the Bush administration hedged its bets by stating that the right is “subject to reasonable restrictions designed to prevent possession by unfit persons or to restrict the possession of types of firearms that are potentially suited to criminal misuse.” In plain English, Bush is trying to walk the middle of the road yet again. For the only way a person can be defined as legally “unfit” is to be a convicted felon. And goodness knows how the government could go about parsing what weapons are “potentially suited to criminal misuse.” That said, the Bush policy is a good first step. The fact that it is a first step shows just how far the nation and the judiciary have drifted from the ideals stated in the Constitution.

News: A bill that would allow “concealed carry” in Colorado stalls in the Democrat-controlled Senate. Republicans threaten to make hay about the failure of the popular bill to pass and use it as an issue with which to reclaim the state Senate

Views: The Republicans have no one to blame but themselves. For many years until 2001, the GOP enjoyed control of both houses of the legislature; from 1999 to 2001 they had a Republican governor at their disposal. In 1999, concealed-carry was this close to passing, only to be derailed by cowardly Republicans running right and left from gun issues in the wake of Columbine. Now the Republicans are promising a “backlash” against Democrats in this fall’s elections for failing to pass the bill they should have passed three years ago.

As Stone Cold Steve Austin would say, “Nah-uh!” If the GOP wishes to call upon the NRA and have them send out Charlton Heston to try to unseat the Democrats, fine. But someone should stand up and ask Republicans how they explain their inability to pass this law when they held all the cards. Much like the idiots in Washington who call themselves Republicans but who have given into liberal, nanny-state policy at every turn, the GOP in Colorado should be held accountable for holding power and failing to exercise it properly. Both the Republicans in Washington and those in Colorado deserved to lose power in 2000. Colorado’s Republicans will have to make a convincing case - including promising to deliver smaller government and to give power to the people to carry arms - if they are to earn enough trust to return to power.


John K. Bates is a part-time freelance writer who works in the energy engineering field and lives in the Denver, Colorado area. He enjoys many outdoor pursuits and the company of his family of three cats. His columns can also be seen on

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For more of John's articles, visit his archives.

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