Tuesday, November 5, 2002

If guns are the question, what's the answer



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OK. I'm convinced. Guns don't kill people. People kill people. The people in this country have about 200 million guns. And, Lord knows, we use 'em.

Monday, a young woman and man were shot to death in Westwood, police say, by another man who turned the gun on himself. That makes a total of 55 homicides in the city this year, virtually all of them shootings. And that's just people killing other people. Lots more kill themselves, accidentally and on purpose. Not just in Cincinnati, of course.

There are 100 gun deaths a day in this country - 15 of them children and teen-agers. The U.S. homicide rate is 12 times that of Germany and 285 times that of Japan.

A curious silence

You'd think we'd have heard more about this during the past few weeks. You'd think somebody might have run for office promising to improve these terrible statistics. Instead, we saw judges in party hats and candidates on football fields and arm-in-arm with current and past presidents. There were candidates who quacked and candidates who talked about taxes.

There were candidates who promised to be honest and hard-working, candidates who promised to protect 401Ks and Social Security. There were candidates who talked about their dogs and their children. But nobody talked about guns.

Nobody.

Then I went to a movie I thought would talk about nothing else. Michael Moore's Bowling for Columbine was about guns in the same way My Big Fat Greek Wedding is about nuptials.

In other words, not as much as you'd think.

"I started out with the typical liberal viewpoint that if we had less guns and more gun-control laws, we'd have less violence," the filmmaker said in a TV interview.

But he decided the answer was more complicated. "In Switzerland, by law there's a gun in every house because they don't have a standing army. Last year, they had 75 murders. We had about 11,000."

He interviewed Marilyn Manson and Charlton Heston. He traveled to Littleton, Colo., and to Canada, where they have more guns than we do per capita, but a tenth as many shooting deaths.

His film received a 10-minute ovation in Cannes last May and a five-minute ovation in Clifton last Friday. "I'll bet you're a bunch of Clifton liberals," I teased a woman leaving the Esquire Theater.

"Nope," responded Paulette Meier, a staffer at Beech Acres who lives in Northside, "I know people here from Anderson and Loveland. I wish everybody would see this movie."

Maybe if more people came to see it, Fairfield teacher Steve Herbold said, they'd "talk to each other about why there's so much gun violence here."

Racism? Foreign policy? Poverty? Anxiety? The Second Amendment? The evening news? Michael Moore doesn't have the answers. Nor does Charlton Heston. Nor do, apparently, the people who want our votes today. Nobody has all the answers.

But that doesn't mean we should stop asking the questions.

E-mail Laura at lpulfer@enquirer.com or phone 768-8393.