Columbine anniversary should inspire revisitation of gun laws

On April 20, 1999, the mass shooting at Columbine High School in Colorado shocked the nation and ignited a fierce debate about the Second Amendment that has raged in Congress and state legislatures ever since. Fifteen years after two armed students took 13 lives and then their own, this country continues to grapple with the politics of gun control. The long history and place of guns in American culture has all but ruled out a ban on handguns or assault weapons. However, lawmakers have not implemented appropriate measures that coincide with general public opinion.

During the past year, a mass shooting took place about once every two weeks. The shootings became so commonplace, in fact, that the mainstream media did not cover all of them. In the highly politicized months following the killing spree in Newtown, Conn., that left 20 children dead, there were moments in which the nation believed that Washington would finally deliver the gun reform it deserves. But hope was quickly lost, leaving President Barack Obama and proponents of stricter gun control — the majority of Americans — empty handed. As the death toll caused by gun violence continues to rise, Congress should commit itself to gun reform before more Americans are harmed by inaction.

A poll conducted in the first two weeks of April shows that 79 percent of Americans support “criminal and mental background checks for all those buying guns” and 49 percent favor “more strict” gun laws. Although “more strict” is vague, and there is disagreement about how legislators should approach reform, the statistics point toward a rising consensus that some federal, wide-sweeping action must be taken to decrease the possibility of repeating past tragedies.

Columbine was the tragedy that focused the nation on the amount of damage and grief that can be wrought from strict adherence to a conservative reading of the Second Amendment, but since then, lawmakers have shown little devotion to serious gun reform initiatives that most Americans support. Last year, the Senate rejected a bill that would have forced stricter background checks for gun buyers. The reintroduction, and hopeful passage, of similar legislation would ensure that the lessons learned from Columbine and subsequent shootings are not forgotten.


A version of this article appeared in the Monday, April 21 print edition. Email the WSN Editorial Board at [email protected] 



  1. Sorry, the term assault weapon is any weapon a politician or politically correct hack reporter get scared of when he sees it. The fact of the matter is you cannot own any automatic firearm without a tax stamp and fees paid to the ATF, More bogus nonsense from a reporter with an agenda, not facts. And, no the public does no support his gun grab agenda. The gun control politicians in Colorado were recalled and booted out of office.

  2. Re: “A poll conducted
    in the first two weeks of April shows that 79 percent of Americans
    support “criminal and mental background checks for all those buying

    These polls where large numbers of people support background checks ask questions like “Do you favor or oppose a federal law requiring background checks on all potential gunbuyers “? That is not the same question that is relevant with regard to the proposed federal gun legislation which is “do you support or oppose US Senate Bill 649 or any of its amendments”? Read the bill (SB-649) and the amendments. The title of the bill is word doctored to be innocuous but the devil is in the details and what was being proposed as part of the background check process was a litany of vague, abstruse and onerous restrictions on friends and family members that could trip them up and subject them to intimidation and entrapment by overzealous and unscrupulous authorities who are aligned with an anti-gun agenda. In addition, the hastily written Toomey amendment was worded in such away that existing gun laws that currently protect gun owners (like a prohibiting a registry) could be circumvented by the President simply having the BATF report to DHS instead of the Attorney General.

    If the totality of what you really want is universal background checks, the answer is simple and easy – give anyone free, anonymous, public access to the federal NICS background check database of persons prohibited from owning firearms and then tell private sellers if you sell or give a firearm to someone and don’t retain a piece of paper that documents you did a favorable NICS check on the buyer, you could be held liable if they commit a gun-related crime. There is no reason to get the government involved any further in the process unless you have other goals in mind like a federal registry of all firearms.

  3. The Columbine killers broke a dozen or so laws in their shooting of their fellow students., including making homemade bombs that blessedly failed to function. This writer believes that passing “more laws” will somehow keep people from holding evil in their heart and acting upon it.

    This is the kind of magical thinking that says when people are speeding in a 35 mph traffic zone the best response is to reduce the speed limit to 15 mph and make all the law abiding people suffer, instead of merely catching the speeders and dealing with them.

  4. [As the death toll caused by gun violence continues to rise]
    In heavily gun-controlled Mexico that’s true. Here in the U.S. “gun violence” and violent crime rates have been falling since 1993.

  5. Why does everyone think the bill rejected in 2013 would have forced stricter background checks? It did not change the process in any form or fashion. All the bill would have done is required checks for certain transaction not currently required, but without any real indication on how those checks would have been executed.

    Bad Bill = Bad law = Something we should all be glad was not passed.


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