Reason and the NRA - Oil and Water

This is a rather long article, I'll admit, but I wanted to share an exchange I had with a fellow just following the tragedy at Littleton, Colorado, where he says he is a resident. I have no idea exactly how he obtained the message that I sent out to my readers the day after the massacre but that's neither here nor there (and whomever did forward it, please continue to do so because it does widen the discussion). I usually enjoy these little debates because, on some level I learn something new and that is, in itself, worth a little effort.

Sadly, the only thing I learned from this bit of repartee was that some folks appear to be open to a discussion of facts but are not open to looking at the many shades of gray that color all issues, creating ramifications we won't see until in retrospection.

In any event, I wanted to share it with you only because it is a magnificent example of how terribly narrowly focused and single-minded folks can be when you bring up the subject of their guns and the obvious part that they play in so many, many tragedies every day.

I will offer the messages just as they were sent so the lack of capital letters and misspellings will stand. I've edited only the spacing and paragraph scheme in order to conserve a bit of space, otherwise it is exactly as sent and received. I have removed the name of the correspondent simply because who it is isn't important since what he wrote could have come from any of the truly rabid lovers of the NRA that also wrote but who had trouble getting past the four letter word, two syllable, two sentence maximum that seems to be the best that too many can achieve.

The first one is the opening volley that arrived the day after my special issue of the newsletter.

i was recently forwarded some of your comments, john, making derogatory reference to charleston heston and his cowboys. that is what you said, isn't it?

john, did you know that 18 years old is not a child in any state that i am aware of? you can vote, you can drink, you can join the marines, etc. so let's drop the child routine because at least one of the Columbine killers was old enough for the death penalty here, which would have been a certainty had he lived. i am sure he knew that.

i regret that you seem so misinformed about Columbine, but then it might be possible that you don't read the newspapers or that the coverage wherever you live is poor. There were thirty bombs found at Columbine, not including pipebombs used during the rampage. Bombs are not guns. The killers did use guns, and they broke so many Federal and Colorado laws that I won't even try to number them.

So, tell me, what gun control law do you think works? Washington,DC and NYC have prohibitions on virtually any guns, but the murder rate exceeds many places with only Federal control laws.

I do agree with you that the problem is societal, I do agree with you that these outrages need to end, but John, they aren't going to end, it is just a matter of time before the next. Why? Because we have glorified violence in media entertainment and news programs, thus inspiring copycat crimes. Already the copycats are emerging, or so I have heard on today's radio news.

One of our newspapers reported that this was not the largest mass school killing; the largest was in the 1920s when a school was blown up with dynamite, killing 47. Of course, dynamite is a regulated commodity, but the materials for the OKC bomb are not. The largest mass murder that I know of was in the late 1980s when a jilted lover torched a niteclub in NYC, killing 87 who could not escape (the club didn't meet the fire code).

Everyone, including you and I, are feeling very traumatized by Columbine. I live in Littleton, so I am a little closer to the event. I would love to come up with a real solution that would work. Demonizing gun owners is a waste of time. We aren't going to plead guilty; I did not commit a crime and I am not inclined in the least to surrender my present rights to give you illusory peace of mind. I will give up my guns when you stop driving so that we can keep drunk drivers off the road. Let me know when you are ready to send me your license and I will send you my address, or better yet, the address for NRA headquarters.

The problem, John, is that we have more murders on tv and the movies than anyone can count, and rarely do we see the law enforced in a non-violent fashion, either. Why? It doesn't feed the money mill that the "entertainment" industry has created with action/horror/blood and mayhem. Of course, no one is demanding that these movies be banned, because we all know they have First Amendment protection. So, go kick them, and then I might think you have something worth listening to or reading.

I want to conclude that I agree with you we all have a problem; I don't agree with you that the problem is guns, per se, but the criminals who misuse them, or bombs, cars, or knives, or ballbats, etc. Why is is that guns are blamed and the criminal's role minimized? If you think about it, we had a rather peaceful society until the BIG 3 assassinations and the Vietnam War. What has changed? It sure isn't the availability of guns.


I will reply to your message in a few days when I have the time to do it justice. In the meantime, did you read the two articles that the newsletter refered to ( and I think the second would answer some of the points you made or at least clarify my statements a bit more.

I am, however, looking forward to some true give and take as yours is one of the very few literate messages that the newsletter and articles brought forth.

John, we may be kindred spirits, trying to make sense out of the senseless. I am not only literate, I am fair. I don't take cheap shots and I respect people who may not agree with me, if they can avoid the personal attacks. My grief for the kids and families at Columbine cannot be adequately described, other than to say that I have cried, like a lot of other people here in Metro Denver.

things are really busy, but i will enjoy chatting and will read your links.

------------------------------------------------- Sir,
I apologize for the time it has taken to craft this reply and appreciate your patience. It seems that life has a firmer grip on my schedule than I do.

In so far as eighteen being an adult, I do not accept the belief that government can determine the age at which someone has learned and matured enough to suddenly become a responsible "adult". To say that, since someone can begin drinking or is old enough to join the Marines and kill other humans has, in my opinion, no relevance to whether or not that person is truly an "adult". I led a company of Marines in Vietnam and I can assure you that the entire spectrum of maturity was on display there. The vast majority, though, were still just kids who would have been far better served by their "leaders" if they could have been given more time to mature and discover who they were before being handed a gun and told to kill people that they had no arguments with. Just because the government dictates that a certain age is the end of childhood doesn't in any way make it a fact.

These two children did not plan and execute this horror in one day. The abuse that they suffered, and that many of their classmates acknowledge was rampant at Columbine High School, began long before they took up weapons and began murdering and maiming so many. The media is now full of stories from schools across the nation where children say that some kids are allowed to inflict pain and humiliation on others, with the tactic consent of faculty and administrators, and that they, too, have fantasized of just killing them all.

In no way, whatsoever, do I condone the actions of these two boys but, in some respects, I do understand their anger. I was six feet, six inches tall and weighed all of 150 lbs. as a high school kid. I was unmercifully picked on because, quite frankly, I was too uncoordinated to defend myself very well. The Marines and the natural effects of living in that body, as well as the 50 lbs. of muscle and mass that the Marines grew on me, changed that situation nicely. Nevertheless, I'm in some ways still that kid being beat on by four or five of the "jocks" as they are called now. In this way only can I relate to the plight of those in the same circumstances.

I won't argue gun control with you simply because your message makes it obvious that you would prefer no controls over greater controls. The fact that more people are murdered in America every year with guns that the next ten industrialized nations put together is never mentioned nor acknowledged. Nor is the fact that these nations have extremely strict gun control laws which are heavily and constantly enforced.

As I acknowledged in my articles, I own weapons, myself, I even, at one time, supported the NRA but that was when it was still an organization that defended hunting and target shooting as sports. The organization has gone far off track in its push to force America to accept the idea that some small percentage has a "right" to own automatic weapons or that we must all return to the days of the Wild West where everyone was constantly armed.

The NRA has learned that it cannot ask the general voting population for relaxed gun laws because every attempt has failed. Instead, it has found that the tried and true method of just buying enough political power will allow them to get laws enacted that would never stand a chance if put before all of us. This is exactly what is happening in Colorado and this is why I call Heston and those who support his actions cowboys. They want to make it unbelievably easy for any "law-abiding citizen" (a phrase never defined by Heston or the politicians his group owns) to carry a concealed weapon. Personally, I don't believe that even a small percentage of the American people have the intelligence or maturity to be handed a gun and let loose on the rest of us. If you've ever driven on the freeways of LA and seen the driver's aggressive use of their vehicles then you would have to ask what sensible person would want these idiots to be armed as well?

Revisiting the analogy of the Wild West, the reason that the west was eventually "civilized" was not through the fire power of Colt or Remington but it was by the towns ands cities passing laws limiting who could carry weapons and where. What the NRA wants is to destroy the very laws that allow intelligent people to debate an issue without worrying about whether their opponent is armed and angry.

Sir , I'm sorry but the analogy of comparing the damage that guns do to the damage that automobiles do has no relation to one another. An automobile's first and most important function is as a form of transportation that, in the hands of someone careless or just stupid, can, indeed, cause harm. The vast majority of cars, though, fulfill their intended purpose without incident for decades. The one and only use for handguns is to be fired in the process of taking the life of another human being.

The argument that we must all arm ourselves because the criminals are armed is also rather suspect. Most criminals obtain the weapons, according to a study done by the Los Angeles Police Department, either through the theft of legally owned weapons from idiots that leave them out and available to thieves or by the legal purchase but illegal reselling of weapons by weapons dealers. The study found that fully 30% of the weapons used in crimes in this county were purchased by "law-abiding citizens" who then resold them at a huge profit to anyone who could afford them, even minors as young as ten or eleven.

Nevertheless, even with these facts in evidence, the NRA is spending millions to keep from becoming law a limit of one gun purchase per person a month in LA. This is where Heston and his small but vocal following are so terribly wrong. To say that, somehow, someone needs to buy 12 or 20 guns every month and then have the right to sell them without any regulation as to who the buyers are is crazy, at best, and outright stupid, at worst.

I can't begin to understand how the mass murder of 47 kids by the use of dynamite seventy years ago or the murders caused by arson or fertilizer bombs has anything to do with the issue of guns in 1999. These were all horrible events that ruined countless lives but they do not in any way show how the ownership or carrying of concealed weapons could have minimized the damages.

In so far as the huge part that our society's dysfunction played in this incident, we must all take a piece of the blame. Singers that espouse the killing of policemen and the rape of women; movies in which the "hero' blows away everyone in his path in some fruitcake world of black and white and good versus evil and where no one tries to take a stand as peace maker; television shows that make our children believe that any problem can be solved in thirty minutes or less are all part of the problem.

Even our representatives must accept their part when name calling and threats of violence (President Clinton being warned by Strom Thurmond that the "good people" and the military personnel of his state would probably kill him if the President showed his face in their state) has created a climate where those few who still prefer to debate rather than argue are vilified as "nerds" or, worse, "cowards". In a nation where the President can send warplanes in an act of aggression against a nation we are not at war with (both Iraq and Serbia) and then have the gall to go on the air deploring the killings in Columbine, we are nearing the very bottom of the barrel.

The problems we face will not be solved by attacking the symptoms, a strategy most happily embraced by far too many. Complete elimination of guns won't solve the issue of the nasty attitude that America has developed nor will the childish belief that carrying lots and lots of concealed weapons will somehow scare off the bad guys. This nation must take a long, hard look at itself and try to actually talk about and debate exactly where we want this next generation to lead us. In what way do we want guns to play a part in our future? What can we do about the sad fact that so many children have such a fatalistic attitude towards their own futures and what can we do to offer them hope for a better tomorrow? How can we replace the sorry spectacle that has become the election process with one in which ideas and beliefs are debated rather than personal attacks being the preferred discourse? What can we do to stop the constant worship of athletes and the mockery of intelligence? What right do we have to murder (oops, sorry, the official term is "inflicting damage to soft targets") the citizens of sovereign nations whenever we desire? Why do we allow our "defense industry" to sell weapons of mass destruction to any two bit despot who can afford them and who, as our sorry history has shown, may eventually turn them against the children who we send off to defend us from our enemies of the moment? Finally, why is violent crime so virulent in America but so much less of a problem in all of the other industrialized nations?

Guns are only a tool that are implicated in the problem but they do not cause nor solve the problem. Until we search for answers to the basic questions, we are just yelling and sweating and hating over all the wrong issues.

There are hundreds of questions that cry out for inclusion in our sadly dysfunctional "national debate" but all we seem capable of doing is pretend to take action by rounding off the rough edges of the symptoms. I refuse to admit that we cannot find a way to succeed but I will admit that it will take a huge change in our biases and hatreds and demands to allow any such change to begin. I do not pretend to have any or even some of the answers. I only believe that we must somehow get out of the rut of seeing every issue and every challenge as some black and white, good versus evil contest in which each side demands to set the rules and be declared the winner. Oh, but that life could be so simple. No, I only offer, in my small but opinionated and (too often) sarcastic way, something to think about and to include in your thought processes that will eventually lead you towards an informed conclusion. I urge anyone who reads what I write to dispute my opinions because, frankly, my opinions are founded on the same shifting sands of what I see as reality as is everyone else's. I try very hard to be kind and correct but I happily acknowledge my human nature and its constant struggle with facts versus opinions.

I tried to offer some suggestions in my articles as to how we might move in a direction away from that which can and will cause another Columbine or Jonesboro, Arkansas. I do not advocate the elimination of personal weapons. I do demand intelligent curbs be placed on their design and power. What I far more strongly advocate, though, is that we once again offer children our support and protection while they attend our schools. We can and must make school a place of safety and tranquility so that learning becomes the primary aim rather than mere survival. I deeply believe that the children will take this attitude of calmness and a hunger for knowledge home with them and that can only translate into this generation building a better world than we have.

Frankly, I am a child of the 60's and happily embraced all of the wonderful ideals of peace and love and kindness that that era offered. With that as my generation's foundation, look at the ungodly mess we made of things. We have to give the next generation the opportunity and encouragement to do better than we did.

This is a very long and drawn out reply, I know. I find that I become truly verbose when challenged to a debate of ideas by someone who uses actual three and four syllable words which are organized into intelligent and thoughtful sentences. It is seldom an opportunity offered. I do not expect to overwhelm you with a sudden flash of my brilliant command of the facts nor can you expect me to suddenly foreswear my belief system. All we each have to offer is our life's experience and the facts that are in our grasp. That is so much more than is normally available, though. Keep making others think and never allow yourself to believe in your world too thoroughly. That is the trap most fall into and is the basic cause of most of our problems.

John Cannon

you cover a lot of territory, and i sixty or seventy emails a day, so at least until the NRA meetings are over, i can't go into a lengthy discussion. I will address some though.

1. Neither the 2nd amendment nor the Colorado constitution, Art. II, section 12, are in the bill of rights of both constitutions to protect hunting or competitive shooting. they are a civil right, in Colorado the right is the right to defend life and property with firearms, the 2nd is a limitation on the Federal power to restrict the right of the people to keep and bear arms. I know the BS about the states' right argument, and legally it is just propaganda, as the recent Federal court decision showed. boy, did that shock the Bradys and Cliintonites. I have done legal research and there is no doubt that it was universally accepted in legal writings of the 19th Century that it is an individual right.

2. Just because some people don't like something doesn't give them the right to revoke existing rights if others don't want to give them up. this is called oppression or repression. this concept could just as easily be applied to any group you want to revoke rights because of result. result driven rights are no rights at all, they are whims.

3. The NRA, and myself, are unalterably opposed to more Federal controls, because ever since the gun control act of 1968, every control has been touted as a great panacea, and they have all been as unsuccessful as drug importation despite a huge Federal police force, like an occupying army. this is exactly what the founding fathers vehemently wanted to prevent, a domestic standing army. well, it is here. Now, antigun zealots want more and more controls, and clearly you are very uninformed about the agenda.. i guess you are unaware of what happened in britain, australia, and canada (a work in process). Total confiscation on penalty of prosecution, for nomina compensation. we know that is the agenda here, it has been the agenda for years. Clinton says so in a campaign booklet in 1992 where he clearly states that he wants to ban handguns but the public isn't ready. i don't believe a word that liar says when it comes to guns. his administration's track record is proven by the fact that they have a gun czar at the whitehouse who i am sure works closely with the bradys and others of that persuasion/ .

4. i think your attempt to distinguish cars is fallacious and convenient, because you have defined the answer by your personal utility analysis. premise + assumptions = conclusion. OK, your premise is that cars are not weapons of destruction, ignoring the national death toll, which makes guns look like we are a gun free society iin comparison. Next, your utility analysis is that cars are use ful, but guns are not. that is a fraud. guns are used by many people for legal purposes, not the least of which is self defense. do i feel better owning an "assault" rifle (a BS term is ever there was one)? hell yes. i am equal to any group assault, which apparently you think never happens. I guess you think that one wouldn't have made a difference at Columbine. the first cops there didn't have any. the fact is that cops are politically restricted from adequate arms, but their problem is not going to limit me; if you saw cops carrying assault rifles, as they do in Israel, you might understand better. Even civilians in Israel carry them; no problem , in switzerland, no problem. Cars kill. lets ban some and see what you think then. Let's death sentence DUI's who kill. No we would rather ban guns than do anything serious like punishment.

5. your wild west comment was pathetic. there was very little wild, but if it was, and everyone was armed as you contend, why are we more violent now? you have no answer to that because guns are not causal. they have never been causal here.

6. i don't care what imperial countries do with guns, most of the civilians either never had any or were disarmed (e.g. Hitler). we are free, and i intend to stay that way, without federal government big brotherism. if you want big brother, fine for you, but i don't. i've been there cause i've seen it first hand, and it's a hammer against the people. look at the IRS, for starters/

got to go, but there is a brief preview of coming words.

From the reply that you sent it is obvious that we have completely opposing goals. I tried to offer a number of different topics relating to the Littleton tragedy in hopes of opening a dialog on what the nation must do to prevent another of these sad and preventable horrors from ever occurring again. The reply that you sent shows that your entire being is tied up in an obsession over guns and gun ownership and the right to carry concealed weapons. I see guns as only a small part of the problem and in no intelligent way even an approach to a solution.

This, I fear, must be one of those times where we must agree to disagree and leave the matter there. I wish you luck in your life and will consider the conversation at an end.

John Cannon

Quite frankly, I didn't understand a lot of what this person said in his reply. I can't tell if statements such as "imperial countries" or "occupying army" or "personal utility analysis" are simply beyond my comprehension in the context used or if they are just buzz words and phrases used by the NRA in their arguments over gun control. In any event, all I could discern from the exchange was that the mere mention of the word guns can be found to be a trespass on someone's rights and opinions. Also, the references to Canada and Australia and Britain doesn't make much sense since these nations have a mere percentage of the violent crimes that America has and nearly anyone could conclude that this is probably because weapons are not so easily available nor cheap as here.

Gentle readers, as I have repeatedly said, there is no one answer to the problem of violence and the sad fact is that we will have to allow ourselves to look deeply into every possible area without the manic shouting and name calling that areas like guns or religion seem to automatically provoke. Guns are not the sole cause nor are the movies or TV or video games or whatever one can point to as a possible cause. It is the national mood, as it were, that is the problem and that can only be addressed when all sides just shut up for a moment or two and try to shed their armor of self-interest long enough to see that there is no one answer but that nothing can automatically kept off of the table, either.

I'd like to close this article with a moment to reflect on our society and to remember the children and adults who have paid the ultimate price so that the NRA can continue its fight for more and more guns in our lives.

Pearl, Mississippi, Oct. 1, 1997. 16 year old Luke Woodham first killed his mother, then went to his high school and killed three students and wounded seven.

West Paducah, Kentucky, Dec. 1, 1997. 14 year old Michael Carneal killed three students and wounded five.

Jonesboro, Arkansas, March 24, 1998. 11 year old Andrew Golden and 13 year old Mitchell Johnson set off a fire alarm to force fellow students into the schoolyard where they ambushed and killed four female students and a teacher.

Edinboro, PA, April 24, 1998. A teacher is shot to death by a student at an eighth-grade school dance.

Fayetteville, Tenn., May 19, 1998. An 18 year old student opens fire in school's parking lot, killing a classmate.

Springfield, Ore., May 21, 1998. 15 year old Kip Kinkle, killed his parents then shot and killed two and wounded 22 at his school.

Notus, Idaho, April 16, 1999. Sophomore fired shotgun blasts but luckily injured no one.

Littleton, Colorado, April 20, 1999. 18 year old Eric Harris and 17 year old Dylan Klebold calmly walked through Columbine High School, casually killing students and teachers and throwing home made pipe bombs along their path. Twelve students and a teacher are killed and as many wounded. The two children end the massacre through suicide when they discover the school surrounded by law enforcement. ( 1, 2, 3)

Since this article was first written, other so-called copycat crimes have been reported across this nation and even in Canada. Here is just a sampling of the tragedies and near tragedies that Heston and his band of cowboys must now live with.

Bakersfield, CA A 13 year old boy is caught at school with a semi-automatic gun and 13 rounds of ammunition.

Springfield, OR A ten year old boy shoots classmates with a BB gun.

Taber, Alberta, Canada A 14 year old boy opens fire in school. One dead.

Scotlandville, LA A boy shoots a girl in the face when shooting at but missing a boy he had fought with earlier.


As this all shows, those who claim that guns are not the problem but, somehow, are the answer, simply don't understand the question. If we live in a world where people are so very, very frightened and paranoid that they can only feel whole when they are armed, then the uncertainty that is felt doesn't indicate a need for more and more guns but, rather, it indicates a desperate need for intelligent, thoughtful and open debate on how to solve the core problems.

Oh, one more thing. The NRA wants to show America how wonderful guns are by producing a show for TV that will portray all of the folks who have used guns for self-defense. The NRA is encouraging its members to demand that their local TV channels broadcast the show, known as CrimeStrike. Actually, I might even support such a move but only as long as equal time is offered following this show to present the horrible tales of all of the children and adults who are murdered or accidentally killed by guns. A show like that, though, would probably have to be at least twice as long as the NRA's in order to get even a partial listing produced each week.



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