God not Guns: DeLay’s Answer to Columbine

“God, not guns,” is House Whip Tom DeLay’s answer to gun violence. Presumably his catchphrase is a better alternative to the modest gun law reforms in response to Columbine that he killed legislatively; another victory not for God, as he claims, but for the NRA.

Instead of a meaningful law to help prevent felons from getting guns without background checks at gun shows, America got a law to allow the Ten Commandments to be displayed in public schools, right where the Columbine killers could have seen them. “Thou shall not kill,” they could have been reminded as they mercilessly hunted down their classmates with illegally gotten weapons. DeLay is exactly right when he said guns don’t kill people. People with guns kill people.

God not Guns is our new slogan to help solve the problem of gun violence, another bright idea like “Just Say No.” Like morals can be instilled by any slogan. Like this pandering to special interests is going to solve the problem.How many more tragedies like Columbine have to occur before something is done about the easy availability of guns in this country? DeLay and those who worked with him have done something terribly immoral and will hopefully account for it. What’s moral, and better yet, sane, is to respond to a national tragedy by doing something about it other than make slogans. What’s immoral is to work in the dark, in the name of power brokers like the NRA, to protect the needs and enforce the will of the few. It’s another example of how money and narrow interests have corrupted American politics. And an example of how some politicians wrap themselves in self-righteousness to justify unrighteous actions.

After a schoolyard shooting in England a few years ago, that country’s politicians responded by passing stricter gun laws than they already had, and the laws worked to prevent more such incidents. Some people and groups with a lot of money and influence opposed the laws, but the British people asked for a response and they got it. There haven’t been any more school shootings, but in America the bloodbath continues. The American people asked for a response to Columbine and they got it: “God, not guns.” Give us more of what doesn’t work.

It became obvious we were going to get this kind of response when the House leadership first delayed voting on the bill to close a loophole that allows firearms to be purchased at gun shows and pawn shops without background checks. The delay allowed the NRA time to pass around a lot of money — more than a million dollars — and twist a lot of arms (Ol’ Tom is the master of Delay). Then the leadership split off the gun provisions from the larger juvenile crime bill to be voted on separately, with the intention of killing the gun reforms while still claiming to be doing something about juvenile crime by passing harsher sentencing laws on juveniles.

As the political stew cooked, the odor of corruption filled the Washington air. News reports filtered out about what was going on, but nothing could stop the foul result. The people stirring the pot can cook up one thing and serve another to the unwitting public and get most of them to swallow it, showing a sort of contempt by getting away with something because they can. As long as they come up with some plausible explanation, it’ll prevent such an uproar that Congressional phones light up, or journalists raise a huge fuss.

Another reason why even modest gun reforms like those proposed after Columbine fell like a shot duck is too few congressman had the guts to stand up to the NRA. Democrats lost control of the House in 1994 after passing a ban on certain assault rifles, partly because the NRA gunned hard after vulnerable Congressman who supported the law. Like a crack in the night the message resonated through Washington: oppose us and we’ll make it harder for you to be reelected — a lot harder. So when gun reform came around this time, fewer politicians had the stomach to vote for it, even though polls showed strong support. The answer we get is “God not Guns.” Keep praying, Mr. DeLay.

A few politicians made some good suggestions while the debate about gun control caught the nation’s attention, like presidential candidate Bill Bradley. He called for registering and licensing guns like cars, and banning hand guns, an unnecessary weapon for home defense. A tight registration system and even a preliminary ballistics test would help to track weapons and discourage the kind of free-flow that is the environment today. Maybe it would discourage people from buying guns for minors, which is how the Columbine killers got most of their weapons. Only about 50 percent of guns used in crimes can be traced these days, because of laws written by the NRA that prevent the ATF from tracking firearms and firearm crimes. That’s right, no one is counting because they aren’t allowed.

A ban on handguns makes sense because most of the 10,000 or so yearly deaths in America from firearms are caused by people using handguns. Besides, a shotgun is a much better weapon for home or personal defense and is much harder to conceal. And we need to close the loophole that prevents a felon from buying a gun in a store but allows them to buy one (or many) at gun shows or pawn shops. Such a modest proposal, such a simple request — such an impossibility as long as DeLay and the NRA are running the show. Preventing sanity in gun laws is only delaying the inevitable. I just hope inevitable isn’t much longer.