One nation under the gun: Is it time for a cease-fire?

ROGER SIMON

December 20, 1992|By ROGER SIMON

Like a lot of students at tiny Simon's Rock College of Bard in Great Barrington, Mass., Wayne Lo was different.

Simon's Rock caters to students who have not fit in very well in high school, but are exceptionally gifted.

And, at 18, Lo was already an accomplished violinist who had played three seasons with the Billings Symphony in Montana, where his parents own a restaurant.

He was a Yankees fan and a scrappy, though at 5 feet 4 inches, a small basketball player.

There were, however, other notable and much more troubling things about him:

He wrote obscene graffiti in the snow that insulted the handicapped. He hated Jews, blacks, gays and dating between the races. And he once wrote an article for the school paper saying the United States should annex Canada and quarantine AIDS victims there.

"He had turned to some slightly radical ideas like neo-Nazism," one student said of him.

"Everyone just wrote him off as another tough guy who was all talk," said another.

A few weeks ago, a student sorting mail noticed that Lo had sent away for a gun catalog. And last Monday, Lo received some ammunition in the mail.

Later that day he drove 45 minutes north to Dave's Guns in Pittsfield, Mass. There, he showed his Montana driver's license, paid a few hundred dollars and purchased a Soviet-designed, Chinese-made SKS semiautomatic assault rifle.

Lo would not have been able to buy an SKS in Boston, which bans it and six similar weapons as a "threat to police and others."

But a ban on such weapons throughout the state of Massachusetts has failed in the legislature year after year.

(A Schaefer administration bill to ban the SKS assault rifle and similar weapons in Maryland failed in Annapolis this year.)

Had Lo been from Massachusetts, he would have needed a firearms identification card to buy his gun. And it would have taken him 30 days to get one if he qualified.

But he probably would not have qualified because he is not a U.S. citizen, having been born in Taiwan.

Massachusetts has some strict gun laws. But they apply only to the residents of Massachusetts.

Out-of-state residents such as Lo need only comply with the laws of their home states.

Because Montana has no laws limiting firearm purchases, Lo was able to buy whatever he wanted instantly. Now, with his rifle and mail-order ammo, he was ready to go.

(Mail order, you may remember, was how Lee Harvey Oswald got the rifle with which he killed John F. Kennedy. Reform was promised at that time and, 29 years later, you can see how far we have come.)

Lo returned to campus. According to authorities, this is what happened next:

Lo loaded his rifle and stuck a clip holding at least 13 rounds of ammunition in his pocket. He then walked down to the guard booth at the front of the campus and shot the guard twice in the abdomen, critically wounding her.

He then turned and opened fire on a professor of Spanish, who was driving by in his car. The professor died instantly.

Lo then walked down to the library, where he blasted an 18-year-old student in the chest, killing him.

Lo left, entered a dormitory and began spraying fire as students screamed, ducked for cover, and fled through halls that were soon choked with gunsmoke.

After firing at least nine shots and wounding three students, Lo walked to the student union, called police from a pay phone, and went outside to surrender.

The next morning, when he was arraigned and pleaded not guilty to murder and assault with intent to commit murder, Lo was wearing a T-shirt with the words: "Sick of It All."

And who wouldn't be?

This nation's gun laws are so bizarre that you can buy a gun in one town, but not another. You can be denied a gun if you are a resident, but can get one instantly if you are not.

What this country clearly needs is a federal gun law to bring some sense to our current madness. Year after year, Congress has resisted this. But soon a new Congress will convene.

Today we are deciding how we can disarm Somalia.

Perhaps it is time to decide how we can disarm America.

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