Friday, February 13, 2009


Losing a child in a school shooting immobilizes you. You have difficulty thinking; you cannot articulate thoughts clearly; the depth of your depression knows no bounds.

It is just at that moment—when you are the weakest—that the gun rights proponents go on the offensive with: “Don’t limit our access to guns, we are law abiding citizens!” “We all have the right to defend ourselves!” Those words are yours not ours. No one says you are not law abiding, no one wants to limit your access to guns. Every single human being has the right to defend himself or herself—there is no debate on that point. But what does that have to do with keeping firearms out of the hands of the mentally ill or unstable? “We cannot take guns away from hunters!” I couldn’t agree more, and most hunters I have talked to in my family and outside agree that the problem is not “hunters,” but individuals who are a danger to themselves or others.

The second amendment advocates’ words blur and obscure the real issue—the problem is to pass laws that keep guns out of the hands of the unfit and mentally ill and yet ensure the right of law abiding citizens to own weapons. The most perplexing aspect of the gun advocates arguments is their willingness to make their points by spreading false arguments. To deliberately deviate from the truth at the expense of shooting victims and their families is unconscionable.

This is specifically what has happened in the case of the shooting at the Appalachian School of law. NRA officials and supporters have spread the word that armed students subdued the gun man on the law school grounds. The fact is that the two students, who went to their cars to retrieve guns, arrived after unarmed students subdued the killer--Peter Odighizuwa. The head of the NRA gave an address in Roanoke several years ago and made the assertion that armed students played the key role in the apprehension of Odighizuwa. A few days later the Roanoke Times ran a rebuttal from a student who witnessed Odighizuwa’s capture, flatly denying the NRA assertion.

Why the NRA would resort to twisting the truth is beyond me. Everything is on their side—they have money, power, and clearly control the Virginia state senate (how else do you explain the fact that the senate killed the bill that would have closed the gun show loophole for buying guns).

For those who stand on soap boxes and beat their chests about the right to own guns; for those who cite the second amendment as the source for doing away with restrictions on the right to own guns—I would remind you that your obstinacy has prevented laws from being enacted that would keep firearms out of the hands of the mentally ill. Both the shooters at the Appalachian School of Law and Virginia Tech were mentally ill. Is this really what you want? You need to make your position clear—otherwise it looks as if you want to make it legal for unstable and potentially violent people to buy guns anywhere, at anytime, without restriction.

I would remind the second amendment proponents that before the Constitution, there was the Declaration of Independence. That document begins with the words, “We hold these truths to be self evident, that all men are created equal and endowed with certain inalienable rights, chief among them the right to life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness.” The founding fathers put the right to “life” before the right to bear arms and certainly before the right to give guns to the mentally unstable. If you don’t have “life,” you cannot have anything guaranteed in the second amendment, the Bill of Rights, or any part of the Constitution.

No victim or group of victims of school shootings can ever compete with the NRA’s power and influence. The NRA is probably the most powerful lobby in Richmond and is the second most powerful lobby in Washington. We simply cannot compete. When was the last time you saw the head of the NRA or one of that organization’s advocates interviewed on television? When was the last time you heard a spokesperson for the victims of gun violence, or a victim interviewed?

One news network, Fox, carries the slogan “fair and balanced” when referring to their standards. It is not uncommon for Fox to interview or host someone representing second amendment rights or the NRA. But, when was the last time you saw a gun control advocate or a shooting victim’s family member on Fox? The few times that I have seen gun control advocates interviewed, the Fox commentators interrupt, challenge, and are openly belligerent. By contrast, when those same commentators interview NRA officials and their supporters, they are respectful, do not interrupt, and never ask pointed questions. The deck is stacked against those of us who are “pro-life for the living.”

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