"The doors opened and the stretcher came out with a little tiny girl lying on it covered in a white sheet with blood all over the place.”


beyond the bullet

Local View: Gun advocates ignore lessons of Columbine
Sunday, April 16, 2006
By Heidi Yewman

This summer I will attend my 20-year high school reunion, and Topic A 
will be as it has been for the past seven years the massacre and what 
hasn't happened since.

Seven years ago, this Thursday (April 20), two teenage gunmen 
massacred 12 students and one teacher at my school, Columbine High in 
Colorado. That teacher, my high school basketball coach Dave Sanders, 
bled to death after being shot in the chest; 24 other people were 

It was a terrible, sad day that sparked massive debate regarding guns 
and gun laws in the United States. Much discussion also centered on 
the nature of high school cliques and bullying, violent movies and 
video games, but mostly on guns like the two shotguns, the assault 
rifle, and the TEC-9 assault pistol that the two troubled kids at 
Columbine used to shoot their victims before killing themselves.

So what exactly has changed as a result of all that despair, 
discussion and debate?

Virtually nothing.

Colorado and Oregon immediately passed initiatives requiring 
background checks at gun shows. Today 32 states still do not require 
background checks on gun purchases at gun shows including Washington.

The Federal Assault Weapons Ban expired in 1994 and was not renewed, 
putting guns like Tech-9s back on the streets.

In 2005 Congress passed and the president signed into law a measure 
that, astonishingly, provides immunity from prosecution for gun 
manufacturers and sellers.

The National Rifle Association is pushing hard to pass "take-your-
guns-to-work" laws in all 50 states that would turn companies into 
criminals if they barred guns on their private property. So far the 
legislation has been introduced in 11 states.

Seven states have passed legislation that eliminates a citizen's duty 
to avoid a threat, and allow the use of deadly force before other 
options when a gun user simply feels threatened.

You've got to give the NRA credit. It is an effective lobbying 
organization that fights hard for its beliefs and has enjoyed 
remarkable success in the past seven years. But at what price? If 
only common sense had lobbyists.

A massacre every day

Since the Columbine tragedy, 210,000 people have died in America due 
to gun violence, and school shootings continue to occur without much 
notice. Can you even remember the names of the schools where kids 
were shot and killed in the past seven years? It's become routine 
news, sandwiched between the latest from Iraq and the weather.

Since 9/11, America has monitored library cards, listened in on cell 
phone calls, tracked fertilizer purchases, and made us take our shoes 
off before boarding an airplane, but it has done almost nothing to 
make it harder for either terrorists or criminals to buy guns. We 
continue to put the right to own a Tech-9 over common sense 
precautions to protect our nation and our kids. I find such inaction 

Columbine did mobilize millions of moms across the nation, and a 
small, vocal minority is railing against this country's gun culture. 
In March, 32 states received grades of D's or F's in the Brady 
Campaign's 2005 annual report card. Washington state earned a D-plus 
and Oregon got a C-minus because they haven't passed common sense gun 
laws that protect our children and families. Do we perhaps think 
that, because our memories have faded, the threat is any less real? 
Don't we know that 10 of the 19 school shootings since Columbine 
happened in the spring? Didn't Benjamin Franklin say that the 
definition of insanity is doing the same thing over and over and 
expecting different results?

On April 20, 1999 I saw my high school turned into a morgue for 
innocent teenagers. I truly thought the carnage would prompt some 
meaningful change.

I was wrong.

I guess we're all just hoping that our child, our school isn't next. 
But wishing won't make it so. What we can do is call on our 
legislators to pass a law requiring background checks at gun shows in 
2007, legislation that we have been trying to pass in Washington 
since Columbine.

I wonder if at my 30-year reunion the massacre at Columbine High 
School will still be "the worst school shooting in U.S. history."

Sadly, I doubt it.

Heidi Yewman is the president of Citizens for a Safe Community- a 
Vancouver, a group working to reduce gun violence. She lives in 
Vancouver and is writing a book about the impact of gun violence.

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