Clocking the toll

November 15, 1993

The National Rifle Association may have taken satisfaction from the recent election results, but pressures on the gun lobby continue to mount.

In Baltimore, Mayor Kurt L. Schmoke says he sees a chance to create a new "climate of intolerance" for guns. Taking heart from movements in some of the city's black-majority neighborhoods to get rid of ubiquitous billboards for tobacco and alcohol, the mayor told a group of school children recently that guns could be the next target of a community tired of murder and bloodshed.

Meanwhile, in Washington, D.C., Sen. Daniel Patrick Moynihan, D.-N.Y., has called for a tax on ammunition to finance national health care reform. The proposal is not just a way to curb gun violence, it also recognizes the role guns play in the rising financial cost of violence in this society.

And just to drive home the deadly price that Americans are paying for their love affair with guns, a foundation is planning to unveil a "Deathclock" in Times Square on New Year's Eve. Along with the usual end-of-1993 festivities shown on TV, this Dec. 31 Americans will get a more somber greeting for the new year, a billboard clocking the rising death toll from guns in this country.

The Dehere Gun Fighters of America, a foundation begun by Robert Brennan, a New Jersey financier whose brother was shot and killed 25 years ago, has announced a plan to erect "Deathclocks" in New York and several other cities in an effort to dramatize the guns issue. The three-story-high electronic billboard will also count the number of guns in circulation in America and advertise a toll-free telephone number where people can get information, including their legislators' voting records on gun control issues.

In announcing the "Deathclocks," Mr. Brennan noted that more than 35,000 people were killed by guns last year, and at least one-third of them were homicide victims.

Some years ago, scientists devised a "doomsday clock" to illustrate the dangers of nuclear war. Handgun violence doesn't happen in one big cataclysm. But the steady toll of one shooting after another is eroding this society. "Deathclocks" can't stop the violence in our streets, but they can remind us that each day the cost of our currently weak gun laws rises.

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