Tougher gun law is just self-defense

Thursday, April 2, 1998

The Cincinnati Enquirer

Marty has revised his opinion. He no longer thinks I'm "stupid, stupid, stupid." Now he thinks I'm a "stupid, stupid Communist." He'd like to remind me, he said in his usual semianonymous call to my voice mail, that this country was "built on guns."

I would have argued that this country was built on laws, but I never get a chance to talk back. He has never told me his last name, so I can't find him when I have something to say. He was responding to my suggestion after the Arkansas shootings that adult gun owners should be held accountable for their possessions.

Several other callers were concerned about my heart. (They think it's bleeding.) And my education. (They fear I have not had enough violence in my life, so I do not appreciate how essential guns can be to my protection. "If you were in dire straits, you'd be grateful to have a gun.")

A few readers invited me to their gun clubs to "meet the kind of people who enjoy this sport. The camouflage types do us a lot of harm."

Just so you'll know, I grew up in a rural area and handled guns when I was a kid. Mostly we assassinated tin cans. I was actually a pretty good shot, even with my Uncle Bud's gun, which pulled high and to the right.

Thanks to the local FBI office, I have had the opportunity to try otherguns, including assault rifles not available to the general public. And I may be stupid, stupid, stupid, but even I noticed you don't have to be a very good shot to hit the target with modern equipment. Even a child can do it. That would be the point, of course.

A "lifetime member of the NRA" called to say, "I'm an avid gun enthusiast. But I have six kids in my house, and I keep my guns and ammunition locked up. Parents should be held responsible. They're the ones that bought the firearm."

A Madeira woman writes, "Andrew Golden's father did what every responsible parent who has guns in their house should do. He taught his son gun safety and how to be around guns without harming himself."

Well, no argument there. Andrew Golden, the 11-year-old accused of killing four classmates and a teacher, survived without a scratch.

It's tempting to select the most vicious and absurd calls, letters and faxes from among the more than 100 received so far. "These boys should be treated like the animals they are and killed. Right now." And "I hate you, you liberal (very personal and gender-related expletive deleted)."

Listening to the opposition But the majority of correspondence was from thoughtful people who have an intelligent point of view, some simply at odds with the opinion I already had the privilege of expressing. So I'll try to pass along the gist of what they had to say.

1. Guns do not kill people. People kill people.

2. Law-abiding citizens need guns to protect themselves against criminals.

3. Children who commit crimes are the product of broken homes and two-paycheck families.

4. The media are to blame for glorifying violence.

5. I am a slime-sucking enemy of the Constitution, in particular, the Second Amendment.

Others called and wrote to say they agree with stiffer gun laws. "I know you'll be getting calls from the loonies," said a Blue Ash woman, "so I want you to know I think this is the best column I've ever read." Although I'm grateful for the kind words, I think she is wrong. The column I wrote was a failure. As far as I can tell, I didn't persuade a single person to get rid of a gun or even lock one up. "My children know better than to touch my guns," said a Kentucky woman.

So, Marty and everybody else who took the time to get in touch, I promise to read every letter, e-mail and fax and listen to every call. Even when they make me blush or grit my teeth. I'm trying to understand your point of view. Because I want more than your gun.

I want to change your mind.

Laura Pulfer's column appears Sundays, Tuesdays and Thursdays. Call 768-8393 or fax 768-8340. She can be heard Monday mornings on WVXU-FM and as a commentator on NPR's Morning Edition.

Laura Pulfer's column appears in the Enquirer on Sundays, Tuesdays and Thursdays. Call 768-8393 or fax 768-8340. She can be heard Monday mornings on WVXU radio (91.7 FM), and as a regular commentator on National Public Radio's Morning Edition. E-mail her at