Guns R Us

October 15, 2006

Hear that? It's the deafening silence of politicians not talking about how the way to deal with gun violence is to deal with guns.

A Baltimore 8-year-old brought a loaded gun to school last week that his classmate accidentally fired about the same time an Amish school in Pennsylvania was being razed in memory of five girls shot to death there by an intruder the week before. Those events closely followed fatal school shootings in Colorado and Wisconsin and the arrest of a Missouri middle-schooler armed with an assault rifle.

Official reaction to these outrages has focused on calls for greater school security, such as installing metal detectors and arming teachers. President Bush hosted a school safety summit in Maryland last week that featured notions such as drafting strong school emergency plans, urging fathers to get more involved in school, and providing character education for kids.

There seems to be a bipartisan conspiracy to ignore the obvious: Gun violence is so high in this country at least in part because there are so many guns so easily available. The United States is home to more than 200 million firearms, with one or more available in at least a third of American households.

No amount of beefed-up security, better parenting or improved access to mental health care can offset the danger posed by the sheer proximity of these weapons.

Yet the Republican-led Congress has spent the past decade derailing gun-control measures and dismantling those on the books. And Democrats, seemingly so close to regaining some measure of majority control, appear in no mood to take on the gun lobby at this critical juncture.

A resurgence of the gun-control movement is reported at state and local levels in some parts of the nation, which may be a healthy sign. Violent gunfire won't ever fall silent until enough politicians speak up.

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