Sunday, November 2, 2008

Guns DO Kill People

This column originally appeared in the Sun Chronicle on November 1, 2008.

In this country and this state, we protect children. We insist they be strapped into car seats. We urge parents to make them wear helmets when riding bicycles. We regulate what snacks they can eat in school.

Yet this past week, 8-year-old Christopher Bizilj was allowed to go to a private gun club in Westfield with his father and fire a fully automatic weapon on his own. Not surprisingly, this weapon, designed for no purpose other than killing people, was too powerful for this innocent young child. Unable to handle the recoil, he shot himself in the head and died.

Now I fully admit I am not a gun person. I do not own one. I do not shoot them. I believe they should be heavily regulated - quite a bit more heavily than seatbelt wearing and bicycle helmets.

But I do not support eliminating all guns. I favor responsible gun ownership. I respect the rights of hunters, collectors and enthusiasts to own certain weapons. I back the right of individuals to protect their domicile and property by responsibly keeping a weapon in the home.

But gun shows where 8-year-olds are allowed to shoot Uzis? Sorry NRA - I definitely draw the line there.

While I do not necessarily support a ban on all guns, I see no earthly reason why anyone who is not in law enforcement or the military needs to own a fully automatic weapon. And it is disgusting and confusing to me when those who own them vigorously defend their right to do so.

We have the right to bear arms in this country. That should never be interpreted as the right to possess fully automatic weapons in residential communities. Any argument that it does is, quite frankly, absurd.

I know the gun lobby will spin this incident with this poor child. They will rightfully blame the instructor for lack of supervision. They will rightfully blame the parent for failing to watch over his child properly. They will rightfully blame the gun club for not having proper security.They will blame everyone and everything - except the gun. It is never the gun's fault.

You see, if they allowed blame to be placed on the gun it would be a threat to their industry, their philosophy, and their beliefs. Guns don't kill people - people kill people, goes the famous tag line. That is nice glib advertising, and it gets their point across quite well.

But dead 8-year-old children shot in the head by weapons that should only be used in war make a pretty serious point in the opposite direction.

Guns do kill people. So do cars, planes, and knives. We don't ban cars just because some people do not operate them properly and harm others. Why should guns be any different?

The answer is because they do not serve other purposes as well. People own cars because they make our lives possible. They transport us to and from places. They allow us to make our livings.

Automatic weapons kill people. That is why they are made. That is all they do. They are machines designed for no other purpose.

We are not talking about hunting rifles, or collectible muskets, or target pistols. You don't take an Uzi out deer hunting and gun down an entire herd in five seconds flat. So why in the name of all that is sane do we not ban these weapons across the country?

The NRA and others tell us there should not be bans on automatic weapons and hollow point ammunition. If you do that, they reason, then only the criminals will have them and the good law-abiding folks of this country will be overrun. Also, if you let them take our Uzi's, then they will come after our other guns next. You can't let "them" get a foot in the door.

That argument is as sad as it is wrong.We should ban automatic weapons. We should not allow them at gun shows where you don't need a permit to shoot them. We should more strictly regulate places where guns are shot. And if anyone wants to know why, we should tell them:

Christopher Bizilj.

BILL GOUVEIA is a local columnist and a staunch supporter of responsible gun control and healthy 8-year-olds. He can be reached at

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