Guest Column: Rebuttal to Eric R. Sonnenberg

A column is therefore opinion, so your local gun dealer/columnist (whose ad conveniently appears on the same page as his “column”), can’t be expected to write objectively about citizens and guns. But his “with guns we’re citizens” rant becomes tired and almost irrelevant, and your Aug. 29 “illustration” with the headline “Mass Murderers Agree—Gun Control Works” accompanied by photos of Hitler and Stalin and Mao Tse Tung is a bit over the top—it makes your paper read more like the Harvard Lampoon than a serious newspaper. Gun control in Germany led to the extermination of Jews?

Even your letters seem skewed: “A gun is no more dangerous than a hammer unless you have a careless person or criminal using it.” In the early morning hours of April 16, a kid with a gun went on a rampage on the Virginia Tech campus. By the time he was done, more than 30 students and faculty members were dead. Can anybody seriously believe that, in the absence of a gun, the attacker would have tried this armed only with a hammer? He was, we guess, “careless” with the gun? He didn’t become a criminal until after the carnage.

You seem never to publish hard truths about America’s gun-centric culture. Here’s a sample:

Children and Gun Violence ( In a single year, 3,012 children and teens were killed by gunfire in the United States, according to the latest national data released in 2002. That is one child every three hours; eight children every day; and more than 50 children every week. And every year, at least 4 to 5 times as many kids and teens suffer from non-fatal firearm injuries. (Children’s Defense Fund and National Center for Health Statistics)

America and Gun Violence ( American children are more at risk from firearms than the children of any other industrialized nation. In one year, firearms killed no children in Japan, 29 in Great Britain, 57 in Germany, 109 in France, 153 in Canada, and 5,285 in the United States. (Centers for Disease Control)

Guns in the Wrong Hands ( Faulty records enable terrorists, illegal aliens and criminals to purchase guns. Over a two-and-a-half-year period, at least 9,976 convicted felons and other illegal buyers in 46 states obtained guns because of inadequate records. (Broken Records, Americans for Gun Safety Foundation http://www., 1997)

Between 1994 and 1999, there were 220 school-associated violent events resulting in 253 deaths—74.5 percent of these involved firearms. Handguns caused almost 60 percent of these deaths. (Journal of American Medical Association, December 2001)

In 1998-99 academic year, 3,523 students were expelled for bringing a firearm to school. This is a decrease from the 5,724 students expelled in 1996-97 for bringing a firearm to school. (U.S. Department of Education, October 2000)

Nearly 8 percent of adolescents in urban junior and senior high schools miss at least one day of school each month because they are afraid to attend. (National Mental Health & Education Center for Children & Families, National Association of School Psychologists 1998)

The National School Boards Association estimates that more than 135,000 guns are brought into U.S. schools each day. (NSBA, 1993)—Guns in the Wrong Hands

A 2003 report that reveals that 20 of the nation’s 22 national gun laws are not enforced. According to U.S. Department of Justice data (FY 2000-2002), only 2 percent of federal gun crimes were actually prosecuted. Eighty-five percent of cases prosecuted relate to street criminals in possession of firearms. Ignored are laws intended to punish illegal gun trafficking, firearm theft, corrupt gun dealers, lying on a criminal background check form, obliterating firearm serial numbers, selling guns to minors and possessing a gun in a school zone. To access The Enforcement Gap: Federal Gun Laws Ignored, visit For a state-by-state chart of gun crimes (FY 2000-2002), click here

Studies show that 1 percent of gun stores sell the weapons traced to 57 percent of gun crimes. According to the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms (ATF), the dealer that armed the DC-area sniper is among this small group of problem gun dealers that “supply the suppliers” who funnel guns to the nation’s criminals. (Between 1997 and 2001, guns sold by this dealer were involved in 52 crimes, including homicides, kidnappings and assaults. Still open today, it also can’t account for 238 guns or say whether they were stolen, lost or sold, or if their buyers underwent felony-background checks.) As a result, these few gun dealers have a vastly disproportionate impact on public safety. The ATF can recognize such dealers based on: (1) guns stolen from inventory; (2) missing federal sales records, needed by police to solve crimes; (3) having 10 weapons a year traced to crimes; (4) frequently selling multiple guns to individual buyers; and (5) short times between gun sales and their involvement in crimes. Yet ATF enforcement is weak because of a lack of congressional support and resources. For more details, click here

Terrorists have purchased firearms at gun shows, where unlicensed sellers are not currently required to conduct background checks or to ask for identification. According to the Middle East Intelligence Report, for example, a Hezbollah member was arrested in November 2000, after a nine-month investigation by the FBI’s counter-terrorism unit. Ali Boumelhem was later convicted on seven counts of weapons charges and conspiracy to ship weapons and ammunition to Lebanon. Federal agents had observed Boumelhem, a resident of Detroit and Beirut, travel to Michigan gun shows and buy gun parts and ammunition for shipment overseas. Boumelhem was prohibited from legally purchasing guns at gun stores because he was a convicted felon. Additional cases involve a Pakistani national with an expired (1988) student visa; a Lebanese native and Hamas member with numerous felony convictions; and a supporter of the Irish Republican Army. (USA Today, Wednesday, Nov. 28, 2001 Americans for Gun Safety source:

Gary Haynes is a former journalist who used to work for UPI, The New York Times and the Philadelphia Enquirer.

from the Oct. 24-30, 2007, issue

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