Ten years after the Columbine
massacre on April 20, 1999, it is painfully clear that the United
States squandered the opportunity in the last decade to enact policies
to reduce and prevent gun violence. More chilling is that the United
States continues to slide into a dangerous spiral: unable to confront
the powerful interests of the gun lobby and industry that is holding
the American government hostage.
Gun violence prevention advocates
say, however, that solutions in the short and long term are still
immediately available to right this ship, and called for bold
leadership in Congress and the White House to lead the fight. For
example, the Obama administration should enforce the import ban on
assault weapons and press Congress to remove the Tiahrt restrictions
that impede ATF's ability to stop illegal gun trafficking, especially
weapons flowing into Mexico to arm the drug cartels.
On April 20, 1999, two high school
students, Eric Harris and Dylan Klebold, shocked the world with their
grisly school massacre in Littleton, Colorado where they killed 12
students and one teacher, and wounded 23 others before killing
themselves. At the time, it was the deadliest school shooting in
Only eight years later, Columbine
was dwarfed by the sheer carnage of the Virginia Tech massacre that
killed 32 students and professors and wounded 17 others. In just the
last 30 days, rampage shootings have resulted in the deaths of 13
people in Binghamton, New York; law enforcement officers gunned down in
Oakland and Pittsburgh with assault weapons; and a massacre at a
nursing home in North Carolina that killed 8 elderly patients.
Over the last ten years, and despite
overwhelming support from the American people to enact stronger gun
laws, the United States has lost significant ground to confront our
nation's gun crisis.
America's "lost decade"
since the Columbine tragedy can be summed up as an appalling record of
failed leadership, squandered opportunities, blind ideology, and raw
intimidation and power by the gun lobby and industry.
Days after the Columbine tragedy, a
grieving nation focused on the "gun show loophole," in hopes of passing
federal legislation to address secondary, and unregulated, gun sales.
But Congressman Tom Delay, the Republican Majority Leader cynically
said, "This is a pro-gun House."
Such callousness in response to an
American tragedy foretold of a chilling era to come. The gun lobby
cemented its power in the Bush administration, and was able to stifle
reform. At best, only half-hearted measures that barely chip away at
the problem were proposed. Continuing school and workplace shootings
were framed as "nothing can be done" to stop the madness and the debate
was shifted from the larger problem of easy access to guns to the
individual shooters themselves. A feeling of hopelessness to stop what
seemed like an insurmountable problem ensued and a gross malaise of
apathy and denial set in.