- The Washington Times - Sunday, May 14, 2000

Readers pro and con take aim at march, guns

I am not a mother, but I will join many of them in the Million Mom March today. I will hold a placard that says, "Children's rights before gun rights."

I am not marching as a parent who has lost a child to gun violence, but as a child who has lost a parent. My father, Allen, was killed in a violent act at the hand of a crazy man with a gun. Early in December 1987, a man who would profoundly affect my life was fired from his job at Pacific Southwest Airlines (PSA) at Los Angeles International Airport. David Burke retained his security badges and pass codes, which allowed him to freely and independently move around the airport.

Burke bought a life insurance policy for himself, naming his wife as beneficiary. Then, before boarding a commuter flight from the airport to San Francisco, he borrowed from his friend the last item he needed a .44-caliber pistol.

On Dec. 7, 1987, Burke arrived at the L.A. airport. Using the security badges and pass codes that were given to him as a PSA employee, he easily slipped through security and around the X-ray machines, which would have detected the handgun he was carrying.

He boarded the flight, knowing that his former boss also would be on the airplane. Out of vengeance, he planned to murder his former boss and crash the airplane with his borrowed handgun. In carrying out his deadly plan, he also selfishly and violently took the life of my father and 41 others.

According to the National Transportation Safety Board, "at 16:13 the pilot reported to Oakland [Air Route Traffic Control Center] that he had an emergency and that shots had been fired in the airplane." The cockpit voice recorder further "revealed the sounds of a scuffle and several shots which were apparently fired in or near the cockpit."

The pistol, along with a note from Burke, were found in the wreckage. My father's burnt wallet, with my baby pictures melted and warped into his credit cards and driver's license, also was found in the wreckage and sent to me.

I was 17 at the time, and he was 45.

Since my father's death nearly 13 years ago, I have often wondered how my life would have been different if my father had not boarded that plane.

I blamed the security company at the airport for letting Burke carry a loaded gun onto the plane. I blamed PSA for not collecting Burke's ID cards and pass codes when they fired him. I blamed the Federal Aviation Administration for regulations that permitted airline employees to bypass security checkpoints. I blamed Burke for plotting to kill his former boss and taking my father's life with him. But, the blame and accountability stopped there.

I never blamed the gun industry nor the National Rifle Association (NRA). I never blamed the government for allowing guns to permeate our society and for allowing gun companies to sell firearms to whomever wants to buy them. I never blamed Congress for not passing common-sense gun-control laws to demand background checks, trigger locks and thumb-print identification that may have stopped Burke from using a borrowed gun.

Recently, I have come to see my father's death in a different light.

After the shootings in Columbine, Colo., and other tragedies caused by guns, the complicity that silenced me for 13 years began to wear thin.

I have started to strip off layers of denial and have found that I am no longer willing to adjust my life to gun violence in our society.

I have found comments by NRA President Charlton Heston and NRA-backed members of Congress to be personally offensive.

A borrowed pistol killed my father. He didn't get to see me graduate from high school or college. He never got to visit me during the six years I lived in Japan. He is not around to take care of his aging mother or to see his brother's new house.

I want the NRA and Congress to know this is unacceptable. I want them to know that I have awoken, and I will be marching today with the majority of Americans who support common-sense gun laws. People like me, who had been numbed to the violence and anesthetized to the cause of it are waking up and are ready to hold Congress accountable for the 12 children who die every day from guns in America.

My father was a victim of gun violence. I am a victim of gun violence. This is why I am marching today. I am marching to redefine my understanding of this tragedy and to pay homage to my father. I am marching to be in solidarity with other victims of gun violence and to demand common-sense gun laws and bring an end to the complicity of Americans to gun violence that is rotting our society.

Children and parents are dying in homes, streets, preschools, high schools, gyms, banks, libraries, post offices, restaurants, zoos and airplanes all across America because of guns.

JENNIFER SWANSON

Alexandria

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Today, which is Mother's Day, and in coming weeks the public will be inundated with misinformation about the use of guns in our society. We will not be told about responsible citizens who use guns to protect themselves and others from criminal activities.

We will hear about school shootings but nothing about the times a gun was used to prevent or interrupt a shooting.

We will hear about the number of "children" killed by guns per day but nothing about how those "children" are in the 15 to 19 age bracket, belong to a gang and were killed as a result of some criminal activity.

We will hear stories of catastrophes that tug at our heartstrings but do not address how a proposed law could have averted that particular catastrophe.

We will hear about how a gun was used to kill a woman or a child but not about the many times a gun was used to prevent such a killing.

In other words, we will hear one side of the story, most probably by a biased news media in concert with gun-control advocates and the Clinton administration. Please take the time to study the issue and become familiar with all sides of the controversy.

More than 20,000 gun laws are on the books already. In almost every instance of gun violence, at least one of those laws was broken during the planning and commitment of the violence. Ask yourself this: Do we really need another gun law that will be ignored by criminals and, in the case of federal crimes, the Justice Department?

ALDEN H. OSE

Arlington

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Rep. Bob Barr's critique of the Million Mom March movement is insulting and flawed ("Million media march," Op-Ed, May 9).

The Georgia Republican seems to think that because Donna Dees-Thomases is an effective organizer, she must be a self-serving promoter. The National Rifle Association (NRA) is a master at media and political manipulation. I am proud of the Million Mom March for tapping into a groundswell of support for gun control and creating a forum to give us a voice to counteract the disproportionate influence of the NRA.

As for Mr. Barr's assertion that the "facts" show gun-control advocates are overreacting to the problem, I shudder to think that I live in a society where more than 32,000 deaths a year from gun violence is viewed as acceptable.

AMY TIEMANN

Los Altos, Calif.

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Attention marching moms:

A Frank Luntz poll from April showed that 72 percent attribute youth violence and school shootings to either a decline in parental quality or violence in entertainment. Eleven percent singled out guns. Eighty-four percent said increasing parental involvement would have a greater impact on reducing gun violence than more gun control. An April poll by the Pew Research Center for the People and the Press found that only 6 percent think stricter gun laws would prevent future tragedies such as at Columbine High School.

Mother's Day is about mothers. Mothers nurture. They bond families together. They are a rock and a feather bed. They are unselfish, caring, wonderful creatures. They are always there when we need them the most.

How can we stop gun violence? Support all government or private programs that help families stay together and allow parents to be intimately involved in their child's lives. We need to help dysfunctional families, particularly those in the poor and minority communities.

Feel-good marches are a useless diversion. Please, mothers, stay home today. Your children want to celebrate you.

GEORGE MIKOS

Concord, Calif.

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I called the Million Mom March headquarters to ask the organizers if they were pushing family values, mothers staying home to raise their children, etc., as major deterrents to children committing crimes with guns. I was told that there is absolutely no correlation between the two issues, and then my call was immediately disconnected.

I called back and told the woman answering the phone that I must have been mistakenly hung up on and that I wanted to continue my questions. (This was the same woman I spoke to before.)

She told me they don't have time for people like me and hung up on me again.

I wonder if the Million Mom March organizers have the same opinion or if I just startled the woman with an issue that actually had real relevance.

MEREDITH KEYSER

South Riding, Va.

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