Special Report on the Columbine Murders

Other writings from the Independence Institute on Columbine.

Special Report items:

Multiple Victim Public Shootings, Bombings, and Right-to-Carry Concealed Handgun Laws. By Professors John Lott and William Landes. This paper also examines "copycat" multiple-shooting crimes, and the potential contributing factors to a state enacting non-discretionary concealed handgun licensing laws.

Abstract: Few events obtain the same instant worldwide news coverage as multiple victim public shootings. These crimes allow us to study the alternative methods used to kill a large number of people (e.g., shootings versus bombings), marginal deterrence and the severity of the crime, substitutability of penalties, private versus public methods of deterrence and incapacitation, and whether attacks produce "copycats." Yet, economists have not studied this phenomenon. Our results are surprising and dramatic. While arrest or conviction rates and the death penalty reduce "normal" murder rates, our results find that the only policy factor to influence multiple victim public shootings is the passage of concealed handgun laws. We explain why public shootings are more sensitive than other violent crimes to concealed handguns, why the laws reduce both the number of shootings as well as their severity, and why other penalties like executions have differential deterrent effects depending upon the type of murder.

Conclusion: The results of this paper support the hypothesis that concealed handgun or shall issue laws reduce the number of multiple victim public shootings. Attackers are deterred and the number of people injured or killed per attack is also reduced, thus for the first time providing evidence that the harm from crimes that still occur can be mitigated. The much greater level of deterrence for multiple victim public shootings than for other crimes like murder is consistent with the notion that a higher probability of citizens being able to defend themselves should produce a greater level of deterrence. The results are robust with respect to different specifications of the dependent variable, different specifications of the handgun law variable, and the inclusion of additional law variables (e.g., mandatory waiting periods, and enhanced penalties for using a gun in the commission of a crime). Not only does the passage of a shall issue law have a significant impact on multiple shootings but it is the only law related variable that appears to have a significant impact. Other law enforcement efforts from the arrest rate for murder to the death penalty to waiting periods and background checks are not systematically related to multiple shootings. A particularly surprising result is how the death penalty is so important in deterring murders generally, but has no significant impact on multiple victim public shootings.

Dale Todd Speaks Out

To: Don Lee, Colorado State Legislator, District 28 (Columbine)

As my State Legislator I know you have been under a lot of attacks lately for
your principles and stand against "reasonable gun control." I have good news
to share with you today...

83,000,000 (Million) American Gun Owners lived peaceably today, without
committing a crime. They were also secure in their homes.....

Thank you for standing on your principles, the same principles that have made
America great. I find it ironic (and sad) that our State Legislature as well
as our United States Legislature fulfilled the two killers' prophecy about
them: by thinking it was the guns... "bad Arlene, bad gun, no, no...bad gun!"
When the "Time Magazine Tapes" come out, America is in for a sickening
surprise about itself.

Dale Todd
Father of a Columbine Victim
Littleton, Colorado

[Note: "Arlene" was the killers' nickname for one of their guns.]

Testimony of Darrell Scott before Congress

Darrel Scott, father of Craig, who watched two of his friends murdered at Columbine High School and Rachel Joy Scott (murdered in the same school after professing her faith in God), spoke before the Subcommittee on Crime House Judiciary Committee, United States House of Representatives, on Thursday, May 27, 1999, at 2:00p.m. at 2141 Rayburn House Office Building. The following is the speech he gave:

Since the dawn of creation there has been both good and evil in the heart of men and of women. We all contain the seeds of kindness or the seeds of violence. The death of my wonderful daughter Rachel Joy Scott, and the deaths of that heroic teacher and the other children who died must not be in vain. Their blood cries out for answers.

The first recorded act of violence was when Cain slew his brother Abel out in the field. The villain was not the club he used. Neither was it the NCA, the National Club Association. The true killer was Cain and the reason for the murder could only be found in Cain's heart.

In the days that followed the Columbine tragedy, I was amazed at how quickly fingers began to be pointed at groups such as the NRA. I am not a member of the NRA. I am not a hunter. I do not even own a gun. I am not here to represent or defend the NRA - because I don't believe that they are responsible for my daughters death. Therefore I do not believe that they need to be defended. If I believed they had anything to do with Rachel's murder I would be their strongest opponent.

I am here today to declare that Columbine was not just a tragedy - it was a spiritual event that should be forcing us to look at where the real blame lies! Much of that blame lies here in this room. Much of that blame lies behind the pointing fingers of the accusers themselves.....

I wrote a poem just four nights ago that express my feelings best. This was written way before I knew I would be speaking here today.

Your laws ignore our deepest needs
Your words are empty air
You've stripped away our heritage.
You've outlawed simple prayer.
Now gunshots fill our classrooms.
And precious children die.
You seek for answers everywhere.
And ask the question "Why"?
You regulate restrictive laws.
Through legislative creed.
And yet you fail to understand.
That God is what we need!

Men and women are three part beings. We all consist of body, soul, and spirit. When we refuse to acknowledge a third part of our makeup, we create a void that allows evil, prejudice, and hatred to rush in and wreak havoc.

Spiritual influences were present within our educational Systems for most of our nation's history. Many of our major colleges began as theological seminaries. This is a historic fact.

What has happened to us as a nation? We have refused to honor God and in doing so, we open the doors to hatred and violence.

And when something as terrible as Columbine's tragedy occurs--politicians immediately look for a scapegoat such as the NRA. They immediately seek to pass more restrictive laws that continue to erode away our personal and private liberties.

We do not need more restrictive laws. Eric and Dylan would not have been stopped by metal detectors. No amount of gun laws can stop someone who spends months planning this type of massacre.

The real villain lies within our OWN hearts. Political posturing and restrictive legislation is not the answers.

The young people of our nation hold the key. There is a spiritual awakening taking place that will not be squelched! We do not need more religion. We do not need more gaudy television evangelists spewing out verbal religious garbage. We do not need more million dollar church buildings built while people with basic needs are being ignored. We do need a change of heart and a humble acknowledgment that this nation was founded on the principle of simple trust in God.

As my son Craig lay under that table in the school library and saw his two friends murdered before his very eyes. He did not hesitate to pray in school. I defy any law or politician to deny him that right!

I challenge every young person in America and around the world to realize that on April 20, 1999 at Columbine High School----prayer was brought back to our schools. Do not let the many prayers offered by those students be in vain.

Dare to move into the new millennium with a sacred disregard for legislation that violates your conscience and denies your God-given right to communicate with Him.

To those of you who would point your finger at the NRA - I give to you sincere challenge. Dare to examine your own heart before you cast the first stone!

My daughter's death will not be in vain. The young people of this country will not allow that to happen."

Media Ducks Responsibility for Copycats

By Aimee Rathburn

To the Denver Post:

Please help me figure this out because after I stopped laughing I became confused. In your editorial of Tuesday, September 7 (Restraint with Copycats) you take no responsibility for the multitude of copycat crimes following Columbine. You state that "Excessive coverage of Columbine should be curbed....But threats from copycats aren't our fault." You blame "depraved criminals" and say that they should be "prosecuted to the fullest extent of the law." You claim "the media aren't to blame" for the actions of "sick" people.

First, if what the media publishes does not influence behavior, why then do you bother with your editorials? If what you say is being tossed out into a nonreactive vacuum, why do you publish endorsements of one political candidate over another? Clearly your endorsements are intended to influence the behavior of voters.

Your political endorsements appear in one measly issue of the paper, yet your relentless, tiresome coverage of every last emotion-wrenching detail of the Columbine killings appeared every day, for months. How can you say with a straight face that had no effect on people's behavior?

You claim "captivated Coloradans clamored for details." Baloney. I felt more like a hostage in a Fellini film. I stopped reading the papers or watching the news for weeks because I was sick of being verbally assaulted with Columbine-this and Columbine-that.

Second, if "depraved criminals" are to blame for crimes, how can you blame inanimate objects, such as guns? If a constant, months-long media bombardment of communication about Columbine had no stimulating effect on copycat criminals, how can the mere availability of a non-communicative gun cause any crime?

Today's editorial (End police-gun sales) states police should stop the practice of trading in old guns for new ones. Does the fact that the gun was once owned by a police department convey upon it some magical, lethal quality? It's time you stopped giving guns some supernatural power they don't have, and look instead at the power you so casually yield.

Today's Post states panelists at the National Conference of Editorial Writers meeting held in Denver said "By repeating misleading information about youth violence, American news media may be eroding public trust in teenagers while nurturing policy changes that do more harm than good" in a page 1B story. Don't you read your own paper? Oh, that's right, you think what you print has no effect on behavior, so why should you bother to read it?

The Post is guilty of publishing misleading and incorrect information, as long as it fits the anti-gun agenda of its editorial staff. In today's editorial (End police-gun sales), you state that seven teenagers were killed in that Texas church. This is simply not true. At least three of the dead were adults in their 20s and 30s, but this fact does not suit your purpose, that of whipping the public into a save-the-children, anti-gun frenzy. When the facts don't fit, you make them fit, is that it? The means justify the ends, and the truth be damned?

Please, spare us your protestations of innocence in the copycat crimes you and your brethren spawn in your quest for circulation and the almighty advertising dollar. Like vampires, you live on blood, but want none of it on your hands. Sorry, you can't have it both ways.

A Columbine Parent Speaks Out

by Ron Tognetti

I am a parent of a Columbine High School freshman. My son and all of his close friends escaped uninjured, even though friends of friends were injured and in a pair of cases killed.

Point by point, here's how I see it:

The media attention that many deride was to be expected. It was, by the nature of that industry, overdone and overreaching, and is at its best/worst when every talking, sympathetically cocked head attempts to "grieve" with us here in Littleton. Coverage increasingly became more overdone, more condescending, presumptive, liberal and out of touch. Given that the media is a liberal haven, each and every pronouncement of how "something must be done", along with the rapidly-produced stories and reports about guns and our violent culture -- well, they disgust me almost as much as the original event.

Too many of our public figures - I can't bear to call them leaders any longer -- they know where the cameras are, and the exhortative nature of the coverage provides fertile ground for establishing self-serving agendas and plans. As you know, these inevitably produce more irrelevant regulation and control of our lives.

It is easy to get caught up in the details of the tragedy and speculate about it -- or allow someone else to speculate about it for you. Most of us here in Littleton, myself included, very much enjoy the suburban lifestyle that the Columbine neighborhood provides. A few will conclude that it is time to move on in order to escape this sort of thing. What I've come to realize is that the presence of faithful and good neighbors who I have seen and heard from recently, these neighbors could not
be surpassed anywhere in this country. The depth of their strength and grace -- especially the victimized parents and youths -- is amazing and humbling.

Yet, it is a crisis in two related ways. First, the absence of any moral substance in the two killers is what the tragedy was built on. Second, our un-representative but domineering culture considers and equates every value/non-value with any other, and 15 more lives were sacrificed to this twisted notion at Columbine. Many Coloradans know this and many more may suspect it's true.

Other associated influences make it look bad from many angles -- miserable inattentive parenting, school systems which mainstream the worst of youth with the best, making no attempt to separate the rotten apples on a moral basis, a means of protection which you and I would have no problem justifying.

Current state law creates a communication fiasco between law enforcement and school districts. Schools must request info from police reports or court records which might indicate dangerous activities which youth engage in.

Neither the school district or the principal's staff were that curious in this case. The two youths appeared to be able to maneuver inattentive adults at every turn, even gaining enough confidence of a drama teacher at the school to hold and probably duplicate her keys in order to gain access to the building.

That may seem like a small detail, but the County's judicial system also gave the same two a virtual free ride, allowing a breaking and entering charge to be written off without even knowing of or checking for the deadly threats and bomb-making which the two youths were beginning to indulge in at the time.

If you knew this process were at work in your neighborhood or county, you would be disgusted and ashamed of the performance of so many of your public officials -- the ones who aren't out catching bullets. Now, I have found that it is true in my own county.

I haven't grown overly pessimistic about this, because true crises help good people to produce results and force changes in ways that more pacific times do not. The fact that He watches over us and provides for us has never seemed more obvious.

Those of us who disbelieve in the cultural rot will eventually have our say.

It will first add up in our moral register and then become fact in the polling booth and at school board meetings, away from the klieg lights and microphones, with the yellow crime scene tape and the stunned look of our figureheads and experts still fresh in memory.

The Truth About Guns

by Ari Armstrong

A longer version of this article can be found at http://www.co-freedom.com.

Most people who push for more gun controls honestly believe such controls will reduce violence in society. Few who support gun control conduct much research or understand the first thing about guns.

Most anti-gunners thrive on emotional appeals and scare-tactics. Damn the research, damn any evidence that reveals anything good about gun ownership. Statistics, when cited, are given out of context and without available conflicting data. Misrepresentation of even the most rudimentary gun issues runs rampant in anti-gun crowds.

Politicizing a Tragedy

It was inevitable, if unfortunate, that the tragedy at Columbine High School would lead to political posturing. Almost immediately after the shooting, Denver Mayor Wellington Webb, who had been fighting the State Legislature over a gun bill, organized speakers to demonize the National Rifle Association and pro-gun Colorado legislators. But some gun supporters also pushed their political agenda.

Ted Pascoe, executive director of the Colorado Coalition Against Gun Violence, took advantage of the tragedy to trounce the N.R.A. Pascoe reportedly said, "We'd like the N.R.A.... to change its mission. We think a mission that perpetuates the proliferation of firearms is irresponsible....People are outraged that the N.R.A. would come to town at a time like this" (Rocky Mountain News, April 29, 1999, story by Steve Caulk).

Why is it OK for Pascoe to publicly push his own political agenda, but it's not OK for the N.R.A. to hold a private meeting which has been planned for months? It's one thing to criticize the N.R.A.'s timing. It's quite another to criticize the N.R.A.'s timing while at the same time promoting one's own political agenda. What flagrant hypocrisy!

A debate on gun rights is appropriate following the tragedy, as are debates about various other cultural issues. It would have been better if everyone would have waited for a few weeks until the grief had begun to subside. But that didn't happen. So at this point the best we can do is to curb the hysterical political frenzy and try to begin a well-reasoned, civil discussion.

What is the N.R.A.?

The N.R.A. exists primarily to promote firearm safety. N.R.A. instructors across the nation train gun owners how to handle their weapons safely and effectively. To claim, as does Ted Pascoe, that the N.R.A.'s "mission" is to "perpetuate the proliferation of firearms" is either to profess one's ignorance or to willfully slur the organization.

Some who know nothing about the N.R.A. have decided the group would make a fine scape-goat. But haven't we had enough scape-goating in this town?

The Purpose of Owning Guns

Gun rights have little to do with hunting and everything to do with self-defense. Guns are immediately valuable as a way to prevent crime. A widely armed population deters crime without even firing the weapons. Criminals think twice about entering a house in which the residents may be

Guns deter criminals. That's why states with concealed carry laws show decreased levels of crime. That's why the Colorado legislature should pass a concealed carry law next year, even though this year's bill was pulled from consideration.

Gun control measures such as those recently offered by Bill Clinton would do little to disarm criminals but would hinder lawful citizens' ability to thwart crime.

The Phenomenon of Schoolyard Shootings

Why is it that, within the last few years, children have been turning guns and other weapons against their peers at schools? More to the point, why has this violence arisen in recent years,
when gun control laws have been more stringent than in the past?

To blame America's cultural decline on guns, especially when guns are now more regulated than ever, is ridiculous. Equally absurd is the suggestion that regulating guns even more will somehow reverse the cultural trends.

The International Critique of Guns

"...we need strong, sane gun laws," writes Michael D. Nelson in the April 22 Rocky Mountain News." Australia had one mass murder and immediately saw their Parliament pass one of the best gun-control laws in the world." And a year after that law was passed, homicides in Australia were up 3.2%, assaults were up 8.6%, and armed robberies were up 44%.Yes, armed robberies! Maybe there's something to that cliché, "If guns are outlawed, only the outlaws will have guns."

In the same issue of the News, Holger Jensen related a statistic cited by the London Telegraph: "In 1996 handguns were used to murder 30 people in Britain, 106 in Canada, 211 in Germany, and 9,390 in America." The mere fact that these figures ignore population differences suggests they are intended primarily as propaganda. However, it remains the case that, per capita, the crime rate with guns is higher in the U.S. than it is in some other countries. But the general crime rate is higher in the U.S., which suggests that gun crime is merely a symptom of a broader cultural problem.

David Kopel of the Independence Institute points out that such statistics also fail to distinguish between gun violence and other types of violence. If criminals use fewer guns, do they use more knives? Kopel continues:

There is not a country in the world--including Canada, Germany, or Britain--where murder has declined after the enactment of repressive gun laws. If America is really serious about reducing murder and saving innocent lives, then America should start allowing victims to protect themselves. Concealed handgun permit laws have been proven to reduce homicide by 8% to 10% in the five years following their enactment.

The Effectiveness of Guns in Self-Defense

Some opponents of gun rights cite the infrequency with which guns are used in the home to stop crime. Granted, better firearms instruction, such as the N.R.A. provides, would lead to more effective use of guns. However, even without being fired guns have a significant deterrent effect
on crime. If a criminal has only a slight risk of getting shot, he or she will be less likely to commit the crime in the first place. That's the main reason why states with concealed weapons laws show a decrease in crime. The truth of the matter is that those of us who arm ourselves make gun control advocates more safe by scaring away the criminals.

The evidence supporting gun rights is compelling. Would-be gun controllers ought to weigh this evidence carefully before knee-jerking their way into bad laws and a less safe society.

Gun-Control Won't Stop the Madness

by Dr. Paul Gallant and Dr. Joanne Eisen

On April 20, 1999, after a year of planning - and signs of trouble ignored by parents, teachers, and peers - Eric Harris and Dylan Klebold opened fire on fellow students at Columbine High School in Littleton, Colorado. When the shooting stopped, twelve classmates and a teacher were dead. So were Harris and Klebold from suicide. Fourteen others lay wounded.

The response was predictable: guns were used in committing the mayhem, and so somehow, it happened because of them. And, of course, all gun-owners - responsible, law-abiding or not - collectively share in the blame.

More "reasonable" gun laws needed? (Apparently, 20,000 are still not enough.) Too easy access to firearms? (The Brady Law was supposed to fix that.)

To those convinced that the only road to a safer society means getting rid of all the guns, consider this: what if filling your vague prescription for an ideal world fosters the very climate which created Littleton?

According to University of Chicago researchers Drs. John Lott and William Landes, deaths and injuries from mass public shootings - like Littleton - fall dramatically after right-to-carry concealed-handgun laws are enacted. Their analysis of data from 1977-1995 shows that the average death rate from mass shootings plummeted by up to 91% after such laws went into effect, and injuries dropped by over 80%! (Colorado was in the midst of considering just such a law when Harris and Klebold intervened.)

Lott explained: "People who engage in mass public shootings are deterred by the possibility that law-abiding citizens may be carrying guns. Such people may be deranged, but they still appear to care whether they will themselves be shot as they attempt to kill others."

Are you still convinced that guns are the cause? Why, then, the Littletons all of a sudden, when far fewer children today have legal access to guns, and familiarity with them?

Maybe that's part of the problem. A July 1993 U.S. Department of Justice study found that "boys who own legal firearms...have much lower rates of delinquency and drug use [than those who obtained them illegally] and are even slightly less delinquent than nonowners of guns." It concluded "for legal gunowners, socialization appears to take place in the family; for illegal gunowners, it appears to take place 'on the street'."

Stricter gun laws have served only to change the pattern of firearm access, fueling the black market. Forty years ago, kids could buy a gun over the counter, and it was considered normal for them to carry guns around for hunting and recreation. No Littletons, then.

What else is different, nowadays?" Gun-free" school zones are new - could they have played a role? Lott pointed out that these zones, indeed, make schools safer - not for our children, but for those bent on harming them. Would Harris and Klebold still have done what they did, knowing there was a good chance of being stopped dead in their tracks by an armed adult, thereby robbing them of the publicity they sought, and the success they hoped for?

That's exactly what happened at a high school in Pearl, Mississippi, in 1997.Armed with a hunting rifle, 16-year-old Luke Woodham killed his ex-girlfriend and her close friend, then wounded 7 other students. Earlier that morning, Woodham had stabbed his mother to death. Always omitted is one small detail: Assistant Principal Joel Myrick retrieved a handgun from his car, and interrupted Woodham's shooting spree, holding him at bay for four and a half minutes until police arrived.

A similar script played out last year in Edinboro, Pennsylvania, when local merchant James Strand used his shotgun to "coax" 14-year old Andrew Wurst into dropping his gun, and surrender to police. Wurst had just killed one teacher, wounded another and two classmates.

We won't find any simple, single answer. But teaching our children that violence is wrong under any circumstances - even when necessary to protect their own lives - conditions them to be victims, and serves to devalue their lives in preference to the lives of the Harrises and the Klebolds of this world.

The quick and easy knee-jerk response to "gun-violence" and incidents like Littleton - "ban all the guns" - may sound compassionate, at first. But compassion like that is both misplaced and harmful, when truth and common sense are lacking.

Lott said it's "unlikely" these incidents will ever completely disappear. And while they will always be devastating to those concerned - the victims, and the grieving families and friends - the "ban-the-guns" solution will, in the end, be far more disastrous, and cost many more lives.

Emotion aside, considering the facts and not merely wishful thinking, one thing is certain: gun-control won't stop the madness - it will only make it worse!

May 2, 1999
Denver Post
Letters to the Editor
1560 Broadway
Denver, CO 80202
(303) 820-1331
(303) 820-1502 (fax)

RE: The misnamed house editorial "Enforce Gun Laws." Denver Post. May 2, 1999. P. 4G. (It should be called, "More Gun Laws! More! More!")

In your May 2 house editorial, you wrote that "gun shows are the most common source of illegal firearms sales." This false statement is based on nothing more than the Post's willingness to uncritically accept any assertion made by the gun control lobby.

According to the Department of Justice, less than 2% of crime guns come from gun shows [Pamela K. Lattimore, Ph.D., et al. Homicide in Eight U.S. Cities: Trends, Context, and Policy Implications. National Institute of Justice, NCJ 167262. December 1997, p. 99].

That some vendors at gun shows are not licensed dealers does not mean that these people are involved in illegal gun sales. One reason that there are so many unlicensed vendors at gun shows is that on August 11, 1993, President Clinton directed the Secretary of the Treasury to reduce the number of gun dealer licenses by 70%. To make a long story short, through regulation, legislation, and bureaucratic harassment, he succeeded. These unlicensed legal sales at gun shows are a consequence of President Clinton's gun control policies.

The "federal study" you refer to [BATF. "Gun Shows." January 1999] was done in response to a November 6, 1998 order by President Clinton, who stated that he already had "reason to believe that firearms sold [at gun shows] have been used in serious crimes." Its findings of the President's pre-existing beliefs should be looked at with the same kind of critical skepticism the Post reserves for the NRA.

Links to sources cited:

The Denver post editorial is available at:http://www.denverpost.com/opinion/edits0502a.htm

A PDF copy of the National Institute of Justice study, divided into three parts, can be found at: http://www.ncjrs.org/pdffiles/167262-1.pdf


http://www.ncjrs.org/pdffiles/167262-3.pdf. Page 99 is included in the third part (167262-3.pdf).

The President's 1993 memo is available at: http://www.pub.whitehouse.gov/uri-res/I2R?urn:pdi://oma.eop.gov.us/1993/8/11/4.text.1

A PDF copy of the BATF's report, "Gun Shows: Brady Checks and Crime Gun Traces" is available at: http://www.atf.treas.gov/pub/gun_show.pdf

A copy of President Clinton's November 6, 1998 memo is included in the report as "Exhibit 1."

The Honorable Wayne Allard
United States Senate
513 Senate Hart Building
Washington, DC 20510
(202) 224-5941
Fax (202) 224-6471

The Honorable Ben Nighthorse Campbell
United States Senate
380 Russell Senate Office Building
Washington, DC 20510-0605

The Honorable Mark Udall
United States House of Representatives
128 Cannon House Office Building
Washington, DC 20515
Phone: 202-225-2161
FAX: 202-226-7840

The Honorable Tom Tancredo
United States House of Representatives
1123 Longworth House Office Building
Washington, D.C. 20515

April 26, 1999

In the wake of the April 20 shooting at Columbine High School in Littleton, the Colorado legislature tabled several gun control bills (SB 84 and HR 1305). The bills' sponsors felt it would be inappropriate to discuss firearms related policy in the emotional aftermath of the shooting. Of course, there were also political reasons for tabling the bills. Representative Doug Dean, Colorado House Majority Leader and House sponsor of SB 84, said that it was "no time to engage in a political discussion of this issue.'' HR 1305 sponsor Rep. Gary McPherson (R-Lakewood) noted, "This is an emotionally charged debate, and in deference to the families, this is not the time to have the debate.'' Bill Dietrick, director of the Colorado State Shooting Association observed that "Nobody's going to be able to discuss it rationally." [Michelle Daly Johnston. "Concealed Weapons Bill Tabled." Denver Post. [April 22, 1999. http://www.denverpost.com/news/shot0422b.htm].

Apparently, the gun-control lobby not only agrees with Mr. Dietrick's assessment of the political and emotional climate in the aftermath of the shooting, they are counting on it. As is their usual tactic after such a tragedy, they are planning to use it to advance their political agenda. Citing the tragedy to justify stricter gun control measures on Fox News Channel's "Hannity and Colmes" (April 24), Bob Walker, Executive Director of Handgun Control, Inc., stated, "Today was a time of grieving and sorrow in Colorado. And I think that time is going to continue for a while. But the time right now is for action."

President Clinton, in his April 24 radio address, used the tragedy to advocate several "anti-crime" initiatives. The first four he listed were more gun control measures ("crack down" on gun shows, "crack down" on "illegal gun trafficking", banning violent juveniles from buying guns for life, and closing "loopholes that let juveniles own assault rifles").

In a news conference on April 22, Senator Diane Feinstein (D-CA) said that in the wake of the school shooting, "We need to say to the Congress, to the House of Representatives, and to the Senate of the United States: Pass these bills. Pass the McCarthy-Kennedy bill, pass the Durbin bill, pass the Feinstein bill, pass common sense gun regulation." [http://www.senate.gov/~feinstein/releases/co_schoolshooting2.html ] These are references to HR 1342 (McCarthy-Kennedy), S 457 (Durbin), and S 594 (Feinstein).

In an April 22 statement calling for stricter gun control, Senator Edward Kennedy (D-MA) noted that the Kennedy-McCarthy gun control bill, a.k.a. The Children's Gun Violence Prevention Act (HR 1342), was introduced on the first anniversary of the school shooting in Jonesboro, Arkansas. That date (March 24) was obviously chosen by Senator Kennedy and Representative McCarthy (D-NY) for its symbolism.[ http://www.senate.gov/~kennedy/statements/99/04/1999422522.html]

Colorado's SB 84 and HR 1305 were gun control bills based on the idea that the private ownership of firearms by law-abiding persons results in a net benefit to society, and that the right of people to choose to keep and bear firearms - while not absolute - should be protected.

The federal bills - HR 1342, S 457, and S 594; along with Senator Lautenberg's S 319, S 407, S 443, and S 560 - are based on the belief that the private ownership of firearms imposes a net cost to society, and that the right to own guns should be interfered with and restricted as much as possible, if not eliminated outright.

The "pro-gun" side felt - rightly or wrongly - that the emotional atmosphere after the Littleton tragedy makes this the wrong time to debate proposed gun laws. In stark contrast to the "pro-gun" side, the "anti-gun" side feels more emotionalism - and less rationality - is the perfect time to push their agenda.

The merits and demerits of all nine bills, plus whatever legislation the president plans to propose, are certainly topics worthy of debate by elected officials. However, if the emotionally charged atmosphere in the wake of the Littleton school shooting makes this the wrong time for the Colorado legislature to discuss gun control bills, then it is equally wrong for the United States Congress to do the same.

Appearing on "Colorado Inside Out" (KBDI, Channel 12. April 23), Westword editor Patricia Calhoun took the opportunity to vilify the NRA as the "disgrace of the week," for not canceling this weekend's scaled-down meeting in Denver. The real disgraces in this tragedy are Senators Durbin, Feinstein, Kennedy, Lautenberg, Congresswoman McCarthy, and President Clinton. If they refuse to withdraw their bills for the time being, they should be loudly condemned for acting like ghouls who are exploiting the deaths of 12 innocent children and one heroic teacher for political advantage.

Thank you.


Robert Racansky

Recommended reading on the "assault weapons" issue:

Gary Kleck, Targeting Guns: Firearms and their Control. Aldine de Gruyter, 1997. pp. 110 - 128. (An updated version of Kleck's Point Blank: Guns and Violence in America. Aldine de Gruyter, 1991. pp. 70 - 82). Gary Kleck's web page: http://mailer.fsu.edu/~crimdo/cr-fa-kleck.html

David Kopel. "Assault Weapons" in (David Kopel, ed.) Guns: Who Should Have Them? Prometheus Books, 1995. pp. 159 - 232.

David Kopel, Are so-called "Assault Weapons" a Threat to Police Officers? Originally printed in The Law Enforcement Trainer.

David Kopel, Rational Basis of "Assault Weapon" Prohibition. Article in the Journal of Contemporary Law argues that, even putting aside the Second Amendment, "assault weapon" bans are unconstitutional because the guns banned are in no rational way different from other guns.

David Kopel, Assault Ban Chicanery. Op-ed from the Washington Times about "assault weapons."

David Kopel, "Assault Weapon" Ban Wouldn't Have Stopped Texas Massacre. Op-ed on the 1991 Killeen, Texas mass shooting.

Jeffrey Roth and Christopher Koper. "Impacts of the 1994 Assault Weapons Ban: 1994 -96." National Institute of Justice (U.S. Department of Justice). NIJ Research in Brief, NCJ 173405. March, 1999. This Research in Brief is available on the internet (in both text and PDF format) at: http://www.ojp.usdoj.gov/nij/pubs-sum/173405.htm. It can be ordered for free by e-mailing puborder@ncjrs.org ,or contacting: National Criminal Justice Reference Service (NCJRS), P.O. Box 6000, Rockville, MD 20849-6000. Tel: 1-800-851-3420. The full length copy of this report is available at: http://www.urban.org/crime/aw/awfinal1.htm

Twenty Potential Weapons Control Law Violations by
Eric Harris, Dylan Klebold, and Others

Murderers Eric Harris and Dylan Klebold appear to have violated numerous federal and state weapons control laws, as detailed below.

This list differs substantially from a list of weapons law violations which was compiled by the National Rifle Association; while the NRA list includes various crimes which were committed during the course of the murders (e.g., discharge of a firearm on school property), this list includes only offenses which were completed before Harris and Klebold began their murder spree.

It appears that Harris and Klebold violated at least 17 different state and federal weapons control laws. Mark E. Manes, the man who allegedly sold the handgun to Harris and Klebold, may have violated at least one federal and one state law. If Harris or Klebold's parents knew of their juvenile's handgun possession, the parents would be in violation of one Colorado law.

Because Harris and Klebold killed themselves, it is not at this point clear which of them violated the particular laws below. But it is clearly that before Harris and Klebold committed a single violent act, they had already violated enough state and federal weapons control laws to be sent to prison for the rest of their lives.

State of Colorado Laws

Instant Check System. Unlawful Acts and Penalties. Colorado Revised Statutes. 12-26.5-105.
"(1) It is unlawful for:..
(c) Any person to knowingly acquire a handgun for a person who is prohibited by local, state, or federal law from purchasing, receiving, or possessing a handgun;"

Terrorist Training. 18-9-120.
"(1) As used in this section, unless the context otherwise requires:
(a) 'Civil disorder means any planned public disturbance involving acts of violence by an assemblage of two or more persons that causes an immediate danger of, or results in, damage or injury to property or to another person.
(b) 'Explosive or incendiary device' means:...
(II) Any explosive bomb, grenade, missile, or similar device;
(III) Any incendiary bomb or grenade, fire bomb, or similar device, including any device which:
(A) Consists of or includes a breakable receptacle containing a flammable liquid or compound and a wick composed of any material which, when ignited, is capable of igniting such flammable liquid or compound; and
(B) Can be carried or thrown by one person acting alone.
(c) 'Firearm' means any weapon which is designed to expel or may readily be converted to expel any projectile by the action of an explosive or the frame or receiver of any such weapon....
(2) Any person who teaches or demonstrates to any person the use, application, or making of any firearm, explosive or incendiary device, or technique capable of causing injury or death to any person and who knows that the same will be unlawfully used in furtherance of a civil disorder and any person who assembles with one or more other persons for the purpose of training or practicing with, or being instructed in the use of, any firearm, explosive or incendiary device, or technique capable of causing injury or death to any person with the intent to unlawfully use the same in furtherance of a civil disorder commits a class 5 felony."

Possessing a Dangerous or Illegal Weapon. 18-12-102.
"(1) As used in this section, the term 'dangerous weapons' means a...short shotgun...
(3) A person who knowingly possesses a dangerous weapon commits a class 5 felony."

Unlawfully Carrying a Concealed Weapon. C.R.S. 18-12-105.
"(1) A person commits a class 2 misdemeanor if such person knowingly and unlawfully:
(b) Carries a firearm concealed about his or her person."

Unlawfully Carrying a Weapon--Unlawful Possession of a Weapon--School, College, or University Grounds. C.R.S. 18-12-105.5.
"(1) A person commits a class 2 misdemeanor if such person knowingly and unlawfully and without legal authority carries, brings, or has in such person's possession a deadly weapon...in or on the real estate and all improvements erected thereon of any public...high school."
(2). Requires a sentence of 12 to 24 months, as opposed to the normal class 2 misdemeanor sentence of up 12 months.

Possession of handguns by juveniles. C.R.S. 18-12-108.5.
"(1)(a) Except as provided by this section, it is unlawful for any person who has not attained the age of 18 years knowingly to have any handgun in such person's possession."
"(c)(1). Illegal possession of a weapon by a juvenile is a class 2 misdemeanor."
Note: The May 5 issue Denver Post reports that 22 year old Mark E. Manes sold the handgun to Harris and Klebold in Feb. 1999, when both Harris and Klebold were 17. The Post also reports that Manes has a long record of driving offense and underage drinking violations. According to the Post, Manes' mother is a long-time Handgun Control, Inc., activist, who always taught Manes about the "evilness" of handguns.

Unlawfully Providing or Permitting a Juvenile to Possess a Handgun. C.R.S. 18-12-108.7.
"(1)(a) Any person who intentionally, knowingly, or recklessly provides a handgun with or without remuneration to any person under the age of 18...or any parent or legal guardian of a person under eighteen years of age who knows of such juvenile's conduct which violates section 18-12-108.5 and fails to make reasonable efforts to prevent such violation commits the crime of unlawfully providing or permitting a juvenile to possess a handgun."
(b) Class 4 felony.
(2)(a) and (b). If the parent "is aware of a substantial risk that such juvenile will use a handgun to commit a felony offense," the parent's crime is a class 4 felony.

Possession, Use, or Removal of Explosives or Incendiary Devices. C.R.S. 18-12-109.
"(2) Any person who knowingly possesses or controls an explosive device commits a class 4 felony."

Possession of a loaded firearm in a motor vehicle. 33-6-125.
"It is unlawful for any person, except a person authorized by law or by the division, to possess or have under his control any firearm, other than a pistol or revolver, in or on any motor vehicle unless the chamber of such firearm is unloaded."

Note: Most of the above statutes have exceptions, none of which applied to Harris and Klebold.

Federal Law, Gun Control Act

Possession of Firearms by Drug Users. 18 U.S.C. 922(g)(3).
"(g) It shall be unlawful for any person--
(3) who is an unlawful user of or addicted to any controlled substance...
to...possess in or affecting commerce, any firearm or ammunition; or to receive any firearm or ammunition which has been shipped or transported in interstate or foreign commerce."

Gun Free School Zones Act. 18 U.S.C. 922(q).
"(2)(a) It shall be unlawful for any individual knowingly to possess a firearm at a place that the individual knows, or has reasonable cause to believe, is a school zone."

Sale of Handgun to a Minor. Possession of Handgun by a Minor. 18 U.S.C. 922(x).
"(x)(1) It shall be unlawful for a person to sell, deliver, or otherwise transfer to a person who the transferor knows or has reasonable cause to believe is a juvenile--
(A) a handgun;...

(2) It shall be unlawful for any person who is a juvenile to knowingly possess--
(A) a handgun;..."

Penalties for above offenses. 18 U.S.C. 924.
(a)(2). Violation of 922(g) is up to 10 years imprisonment.
(4). Violation of 922(q) is up to 5 years imprisonment, which must be consecutive to any other sentence.
(6). Violation of 922(x) is up to one year imprisonment. Up to 10 years if the transferor know or had reasonable cause to know that the juvenile intended to use the handgun in a crime of violence.

Federal Law, National Firearms Act

The federal Gun Control Act covers rifles, shotguns, and handguns, and was enacted in 1968 (and has since been greatly amended). The National Firearms Act (NFA) was enacted in 1934, and covers a smaller category of weapons. For NFA purposes only, a "firearm" is defined to include sawed-off shotguns, and "destructive devices." 26 U.S.C. 5845(a)(1) and (8). "Destructive devices" include "any explosive...bomb...or similar device." 26 U.S.C. 5845(f)(1). With that definition in mind, here are the NFA violations committed by Harris and Klebold:

Making Tax. 26 U.S.C. 5821.
Requires a $200 tax for the construction each NFA "firearm." The two sawed-off shotguns were made into NFA "firearms" when Harris or Klebold sawed off the barrel to less than 18 inches. Harris and Klebold also failed to pay the $200 tax for each bomb they made.

Making. 26 U.S.C. 5822.
Prohibits making any NFA firearm unless the maker has registered with the Secretary of the Treasury, and identified in advance the firearm that will be made.

Registration. 26 U.S.C. 5841(c).
Requires manufacturers of NFA "firearms" (the sawed-off shotguns, and the bombs) to register each firearm with the Secretary of the Treasury.

Identification. 26 U.S.C. 5842.
Requires that every maker (Harris and Klebold) of NFA firearms place serial numbers on them.

Record and Returns. 26 U.S.C. 5843.
Requires manufacturers to keep certain records.

Prohibited Acts. 26 U.S. 5861.
"It shall be unlawful for any person--
(f) to make a firearm in violation of the provisions of this chapter."

Each violation of the above laws is punishable by up to 10 years in prison. Each sawed-off shotgun and each bomb constitutes a separate violation.

Other Federal Laws

Explosives Law. 18 U.S.C. 842.
"(i) It shall be unlawful for any person--
(2) who is an unlawful user of or addicted to any controlled substance....
(4)....to...possess any explosive which has been shipped or transported in interstate or foreign commerce."

"(j) It shall be unlawful for any person to store any explosive material in a manner not in conformity with regulations promulgated by the Secretary [of the Treasury]."

Explosives Law penalties. 18 U.S.C. 844.
(a) Up to ten year prison term for violation of 842(i).
(b) Up to one year for 842(j).

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