Columbine Anniversary Offers Platform for Different Views

July 7, 2008 - 7:02 PM

( - The one-year anniversary of the Columbine High School shooting offers gun control advocates, gun rights groups, and pro-family organizations another chance to herald what they see as the "lessons" of Columbine.

President Clinton, speaking for gun control advocates at an appearance in Denver Wednesday, urged the people of Colorado to pass a ballot measure that would require background checks on all people who buy weapons at gun shows.

"Reducing gun violence is a national challenge. I came here first to say I support what you're doing. Despite all the efforts to put roadblocks in your way, you must not be deterred," Clinton told a rally of 3,400 people who support the proposed the state referendum.

On the other side of the coin, those opposed to gun control are demanding stricter enforcement of existing gun laws, while conservative pro-family groups say Columbine is a symptom of America's moral crisis.

Republican National Committee Chairman Jim Nicholson accuses Clinton and Vice President Al Gore of playing politics and refusing to get tough on gun crime. "Bill Clinton and Al Gore have spent the last seven years campaigning on the backs of national tragedies," he said.

The National Rifle Association insists that more gun laws won't stop tragedies such as Columbine from happening.

In a statement released Thursday, the Colorado-based group Focus on the Family said Americans have learned very little from the lessons of Columbine: "We've seen virtually no change in society's glorification of death and violence," said Dr. James C. Dobson, president of Focus on the Family.

"As long as the cultural elite [media moguls] can keep our nation focused on a red herring like gun control, they relieve parents from the responsibility of healing empty hearts, wounded spirits, and the numbed consciences that lie behind these senseless acts of violence," Dobson said.

Dobson says in the year since Columbine, "If anything, we've witnessed a rise in the barrage of dark, hopeless and annihilative images and words churned out by TV, movies, music, Internet Web sites, and video games."

He said the problem lies with "the culture of death," not the specific instrument by which death is achieved.

The leaders of Colorado's gun show referendum include Tom Mauser, whose son Daniel was among the 13 people murdered at Columbine on April 20, 1999, when students Dylan Klebold and Eric Harris opened fire as part of a doomsday plot they'd been planning for months. Klebold and Harris also killed themselves.

A poll conducted last month indicates that about 80 percent of Colorado voters do favor expanded background checks for gun show buyers - even though the people who provided Klebold and Harris with their weapons would have passed such a background check.

The Colorado initiative requires 62,000 valid signatures before it can appear on the November ballot. Mauser and others joined together in support of a voter referendum after the Colorado legislature -- long opposed to gun controls -- refused to pass post-Columbine gun restrictions, even though the bill had the support of Republican Gov. Bill Owens.

Gun-show backgrounds checks have also proved to be a major stumbling block for post-Columbine gun control legislation now stalled in Congress.

For people on all sides of the guns-and-violence issue, the November election is pivotal: The presumed Republican presidential candidate, George W. Bush, believes the best gun control is more prosecution and certain jail time for offenders.

And Bush has said that to fundamentally change our culture, America needs a spiritual renewal. "Government can hand out money, but it cannot put hope in our hearts or a sense of purpose in our lives...Only faith can do that," he said in one of his many speeches.

Democrat Al Gore backs Clinton's call for gun control, and he also supports photo licenses for would-be gun buyers.