- The Washington Times - Friday, April 21, 2000

It's been one year since youthful gunmen Dylan Klebold and Eric Harris shot up Columbine High School in Colorado. Students, teachers and parents indeed all of us are still struggling to make sense of this awful event, the likes of which have become depressingly familiar. Answers, however, have often been facile, opportunistic and political, leaving this still a deep national wound.

One cannot fault the parents who lost children in this horrible affair the emotional and psychological aftershocks of dealing with the violent death of a teen-age child cannot be imagined by those who have not suffered such a tragedy. But loss and tragedy cannot excuse the repellent importuning, posturing and potential profiteering that's been on display by trial lawyers, anti-gun activists and their amen corner in the media.

The lawyers, needless to say, are having a field day. Attorneys for Michael and Vonda Shoels, the parents of one of the 13 students slain by Klebold and Harris, have filed suit against the local police department, alleging that sheriff's deputies did not do enough to prevent the slaughter. The Shoels have also filed lawsuits against the parents of the youthful killers. They are not the only ones stepping into court. Several other families of children killed or injured in the April 20, 1999 attack are expected to join the Shoels' suit, which says that deputies "made a deliberate decision to limit the response… . to 'securing the perimeter' " and "made no effort to rescue the students." The lawsuit goes on to affix blame on the police for not aggressively pursuing "warning signs" that the young men supposedly displayed, including the notorious Web site which included descriptions of pipe bombs and violent, suggestive language. "This tragedy would not have occurred" had the police pursued these leads, the suit claims. So far, no reply from the Jefferson County Sheriff's Office.

However, the fact is that the events of April 20, 1999, were the tragic by-product of two evil yes, evil young men, who methodically planned their attack and its suicidal denouement. Their actions could not have been anticipated by law enforcement, their parents or anyone else. High school administrators, middle-class parents and suburban sheriff's deputies cannot be expected to "read" the intent of suburban, middle-class teen-age kids as might mental hospital administrators, prison guards or cops who work in inner cities. Klebold and Harris may have been sullen loners, mouthed dark imprecations and had a nasty Web site full of sturm und drang. But sullen teens are not especially unusual. After the fact, it's easy to point fingers; before the attack occurred, any attempt by either law enforcement or school administrators to "do something" about these young men would have met with outraged cries by their parents and civil libertarians.

This page has, in the past, addressed the exploitation of the Columbine tragedy by anti-gun rights groups as well. It's hardly necessary to revisit the counterargument in its entirety but worth pointing out, once more and for the record, that Klebold and Harris used old shotguns to do their work not handguns of any kind. Neither the Brady law nor any of the anti-gun restrictions presented by the demagogic Bill Clinton or anyone else would have done a thing to prevent this tragedy or others like it from occurring in the future. Even a total and comprehensive firearms ban cannot be expected to stand in the way of determined psychopaths no matter how tender their age.

What happened in Columbine a year ago this April was a manifestation of evil and unless we wish to reorganize our society on the premise that most ordinary people are capable of such conduct, and impose restrictions accordingly, we will have to accept as part of the human condition that sometimes demons walk among us.

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