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Posted at 7:35 AM ET, 01/14/2011

On guns, we need a Sen. Kilcannon

By Matt Miller

John Boehner says we don't need more gun laws to stop the slaughter. Democrats are proposing only tiny tweaks. If we're serious about stopping Tucson-style bloodbaths, it's time we listened to Sen. Kerry Kilcannon.


As I first wrote in a column back in 1999, Kerry Kilcannon is the hero of "No Safe Place," the 1998 political thriller by Richard North Patterson. Kilcannon is a senator from New Jersey who's running for president. He's also an eloquent fighter for sane gun laws, a quest made poignant because Kerry lost his older brother, a presidential aspirant himself, to an assassin's bullet.

Re-reading my old column as our timid leaders serve up another round of post-carnage policy pablum, I realized how desperately I want to hear a real-life politician talk about guns the way Kilcannon does.

His big speech comes before the California primary, at a park in Sacramento. The crowd is filled with gun zealots who threaten Kerry at every stop.

"Today," Kerry began softly, "is the anniversary of a death."

The crowd hushes, expecting that Kerry means his brother's.

"His name was Carlos Miller," Kerry went on, "and he was nine years old. He was murdered in this park in a drive-by shooting, committed by a racist with an AK-47.

"He died, as people die every day in this country, cherished by his family, little noticed by the rest of us, quickly forgotten by the media." Kerry paused, and then his voice rose. "Because the carnage is so great that only a mass slaughter, or the death of a celebrity, even makes us pause.

"Over 40,000 American were killed with firearms last year. One hundred and ten people every day....

"'Guns don't kill people,' the gun advocates tell us, 'people do.' So let's ask how many people around the world last year killed other people with, say, handguns.

"Thirty-six people in Sweden.

"Thirty-three in Great Britain.

"One hundred twenty-eight in Canada.

"Thirteen in Australia.

"Sixteen in Japan." For an instant, Kerry paused. "And, in the United States, thirty-thousand four hundred and ninety-five.

"In our country, people armed with handguns committed over one point one million violent crimes.

"In our country, guns are the leading cause of death for black males under thirty-five.

"In our country, fifty-three percent of the victims in spousal murders died from gunshot wounds.

"In our country, the annual firearm-injury epidemic -- due largely to handguns -- is ten times larger than the polio epidemic in any year in the first half of the twentieth century....

"What causes this terrible slaughter?" Kerry asked. "Are Americans less humane than the Japanese, or the Australians, or the Swedes? Do Americans consider mass murder a small price to pay for the unfettered right to buy and sell arms?...

"We do not. These tragedies occur because, despite the wishes of the vast majority, our efforts to control the flow of weapons are among the most feeble in the world. So there is something else which must be said, out of respect to Carlos Miller and the countless others who have died for no good reason.... The notion that James Madison wrote the Bill of Rights so that racists and sociopaths and madmen could slaughter innocent men, women and children with assault weapons or handguns is one of the most contemptible notions that an irresponsible minority has ever crammed down the throats of its potential victims."

Kilcannon would license handguns, requiring applicants to take a course in firearms use and pass a safety test. He'd ban weapons or bullets whose sole purpose is to kill people. He'd limit gun purchases to one a month, helping put illegal traffickers out of business. And he'd make manufacturers install a code in every gun, like a home alarm, so that only the licensed owner can use it.

Together, these measures make the mealy-mouthed current reform talk look laughable.

As I said back then, it's crazy that we need to look to fictional heros for leadership on guns, but that's the state of our politics. So it goes, twelve years and too many deaths later. How many more well-armed lunatic loners will it take before our real leaders sound like real leaders?

By Matt Miller  | January 14, 2011; 7:35 AM ET
Categories:  Miller  | Tags:  Matt Miller  
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Wow. Why stop at microchips in guns? How about chipping gun owners so moral elitists like yourself and your make-believe hero know where all gun owners are at all times?

Then again, that won't do anything against assassins or thugs, since they will blow off your "sane" laws.

Mexico has LOTS of gun control laws for its citizens. Why don't you move there? Very very sane lockdown laws. Then again, the narcos might cut off your head while your family is forced to watch, but whatever.

Posted by: Please_Fix_VAs_Roads | January 14, 2011 9:49 AM | Report abuse

Approximately 16,000 Americans are killed annually in recent history in homicides. The other 15,000 - 16,000 are suicides using firearms and/or accidents. And we have extensive gun laws and the number of gun deaths is decreasing. Over 195,000 patients die annually from medical malpractice, we do nothing to regulate doctors. Over 1,500 children die every year due to physical abuse. There are a lot of things wrong in the US but we need to realize that the hype on gun deaths is just that hype. Can we do it better and still preserve the 2nd Amendment rights of individuals yes. We can enforce existing laws, we can fully fund the FBI to have a functioning computer system to ensure the background checks are accurate. We can not let the "privacy" of a dangerous mental patient out weigh the safety of the general public (VA TECH). But screaming about a 2nd Amendment right will solve nothing only sane debate will...but we seem to not have much of that running around these days.

Posted by: staterighter | January 14, 2011 10:06 AM | Report abuse

I have no problem with gun ownership & the 2nd amendment.

But why do we need a 30 bullet chip to defend one's home.
Why do we need an AK 47 to hunt deer?

I own rifles & hand guns & see not need for either.
Common sense is dead in this country..........
no wonder we find all us in such a mess.

Does either side of the political spectrum take anything in moderation?

Oh I am NOT a liberal either ..... but a very concerned American.

Posted by: bkarpus | January 14, 2011 10:10 AM | Report abuse

Mr. Miller -

Your emotional rant regarding gun violence makes about as much sense in the real world as 3/5ths of a person.

Issues with firearms includes their use as tools to deal with an individual's responsibility for their personal security. You are responsible for that for yourself, and by inference the security of the space and time you are in.

Active Shooters, such as Colin "Coo Coo" Ferguson, their Patron Saints Klebold and Harris, and now Jared Lee Loughner, have the intention to make a statement about an institution and/or a list specific people. What happens after the event is not an element of their thought process.

Criminals, on the other hand, use guns to facilitate criminal acts - give me your dough or stuff and/or your bod - then escape. Hint - they are criminals, and have decided to break laws.

Why should law-abiding citizens be harrassed because of criminal and other inappropriate acts by people who would ignore this law, since it stands in the way of their goals?

Posted by: GHF_LRLTD | January 14, 2011 11:05 AM | Report abuse

"Kilcannon would license handguns, requiring applicants to take a course in firearms use and pass a safety test."

OK, what about the millions of those already in circulation?

"He'd ban weapons or bullets whose sole purpose is to kill people."

Any bullet can really he is for banning bullets.

"He'd limit gun purchases to one a month, helping put illegal traffickers out of business."

It would also take away data from ATF and local law enforcement that comes from dealers anytime someone buys two or more handguns within 5 business days.

"And he'd make manufacturers install a code in every gun, like a home alarm, so that only the licensed owner can use it. "

I'd go for this but only after they install fingerprint and breath analyzers in cars to prevent drunk people from driving.

Posted by: ahashburn | January 14, 2011 11:11 AM | Report abuse

Politicians’ pondering pontificating phony poignant platitudes placate perplexed perturbed plebeians.
...meanwhile at the local gun show, sales are up and someone is loading his new gun.

Posted by: dsb1 | January 14, 2011 12:10 PM | Report abuse

Mr. Miller says he wants to "hear a real-life politician talk about guns the way Kilcannon does." Mr. Miller quotes Kilcannon as saying "The notion that James Madison wrote the Bill of Rights so that racists and sociopaths and madmen could slaughter innocent men, women and children with assault weapons or handguns is one of the most contemptible notions that an irresponsible minority has ever crammed down the throats of its potential victims." I'd like an attribution on that notion please "real-life" or fictional, or is the fictional Mr. Kilcannon engaging in hyperbole and strawman arguments. There are plenty of "real-life" politicians already who play those silly games, we don't need any more, thanks.

Posted by: GnirJ | January 14, 2011 1:11 PM | Report abuse

So, you have ideas?

Talk to people.

Write some more.

Get a Constitutional amendment movement going.

Change the Constitution and get what you (and many others) want.

That is how we should do change.

Posted by: GaryEMasters | January 14, 2011 2:34 PM | Report abuse

"But why do we need a 30 bullet chip to defend one's home."

Removing a need to reload helps those in defense since they may have time only to grab the gun and not the extra ammunition that may or may not be close.

It also removes the delay to reload that may be used by others on the attack. I know of no reason to consider it more or less offensive than the weapon.

Posted by: GaryEMasters | January 14, 2011 2:37 PM | Report abuse

The angry comments disagreeing with Matt's column are amusing. They accuse Matt of making wholly emotional arguments, yet don't respond to his reasoned position.

Please answer Matt's question of why the US has the highest murder rate among industrialized democracy.

Posted by: cdunc123 | January 14, 2011 3:25 PM | Report abuse

So your argument is that we should follow the example of a ficticious Senator who used the ficticious killing of a ficticious latino killed by a ficticious racist killer. The ficticious Senator is, by the way, hounded by ficticious violent gun owners.

The ugly truth is that conservatives get their teeth knocked out by SEIU members when they show up at town-hall meetings to ask their congressman a question.

The ugly truth is that bank executives have SEIU members camp out on their property with bull-horns threatening their family while the police stand there and watch.

The ugly truth is that it's a liberal president who threatens people when he tells them "I'm the only thing standing between you and the pitchforks."

I think it's time you liberals wake up from your fantasy. It's like a bad episode of Law&Order.

Posted by: leatherman1 | January 14, 2011 3:27 PM | Report abuse

I can understand you want to ban guns. However I'm not convinced. And I will state for the record that I do not own a gun. I can also see the need for some sort of controls on weapons purchases however I do think that first we should be enforcing the laws that are on the books before rushing to add new laws to the legal swamp that our legal system has become.

However to do so requires changing the U.S. constitution by amending it by removing or changing the text of the second amendment. However you are going to have to convince the majority of the U.S. population to do so first.

Count me as a skeptic about gun controls quite frankly I've found a lot of the arguments in it's favor all to often riddled with faulty assumptions. Give me a logical reasoned argument to do so and I might change my mind however most of the arguments I've seen so far are based on appealing to peoples emotions not to their logic and reason.

And in this case you undermined your entire thread of argument about wanting to only tweak the laws by quoting a character from a novel. You want to convince better be prepared to cite statistics and facts and not be coking the books by making assumptions based on faulty logic. For an example assuming that the suicide rate would go down if we banned guns is one of those assumptions quite frankly somebody wanting to commit suicide will find a way to do so regardless of the availability of means to do so.

Also let me point out that final line as far as banning bullets intended to kill people is laughable in it's own right. A bullet regardless of design is intended to kill people.

Posted by: werehawk | January 14, 2011 3:36 PM | Report abuse

We do indeed need politicians to stand-up for gun regulation and stop furthering the juvenile image assumed by many that guns exhibit toughness.

It's precisely because legal firearms do little but project an image that ownership of them is so indefensible. There's no positive value to offset the negative effects to society, let alone an enormous number of positive events eclipsing the negative ones (as there is with doctors, automobiles, etc).

The whole argument for them is full of contradictions, starting with the Supreme Courts repeated decisions upholding restrictions on those firearms that are most effective, those that are truly dangerous - the military grade weapons. The public is permitted only those weapons deemed to pose little danger, contradicting the pro-gun argument that guns are needed for self-defense. Guns, in this sense, need to be dangerous after all. In addition, this totally puts to rest the idea that guns are needed for people to defend themselves against the government with its actual military weapons.

Then the other big contradictions arise as the typical pro-gun argument proceeds to the idea that having a gun enables one to personally defend oneself. The problem here is that it requires assuming the aggressor is exempt from normal human behavior and the victim exhibits perfect behavior. The aggressor doesn't have a gun or doesn't use it or is inept or too scared to act. While the victim has perfect, well trained reflexes, and actually doesn't have to do any more than show his/her gun to cause the aggressor to flee.

The reality is the aggressor is so named because he/she acted first. So who's most likely to be shot and disabled? The victim is, while reaching for his/her weapon. Or does the victim just shoot first based on…what..the sight of a gun? So how many people are shot for simply having a gun. Why are the victim’s means and motivations any different generally than the aggressor? And that's just a start. Even hypothesizing that both guns end up drawn and aimed, there's nothing preventing each person from filling the other with bullets. But of course, as the gun advocates go, the victim is the good shot while the aggressor is completely incapable – just nonsense.

Unfortunately, human nature is to believe in heroics and not be mature and rational and realize the safest way out of such typical situations is just to avoid any threatening act. And that tools expand people's capabilities and likely paths of action, sometimes for good, often not. Justice does not work on the principle of instance gratification that many people can't seem to shake.

Posted by: kc31kgal | January 14, 2011 5:19 PM | Report abuse

The fact is that the states with the least restrictive gun control laws have the highest homicide rates in the country.Southern states have very lax gun control laws and very high murder rates committed with a firearm.The US murder rate is also significantly higher than any other industrialized,first world nation which have much stricter gun contol laws.My guess is that most Americans want reasonable,sensible gun control laws requiring licensing,permits,training in gun use and safety,and the ability for police to trace guns and bullets used in a crime.Isn't it absurd that an individual listed on the terrorist no fly list can purchase an AK47?Most liberals do not want the government to take away guns from hunters,collectors, and those who want a gun for self protection.Progressives just want reasonable controls over the type of weapons sold and who can purchase those weapons.

Posted by: johnbird1 | January 14, 2011 5:22 PM | Report abuse

To the firearm supporters for no restrictions..
May I bring a sidearm to a job teaching grade school( a socialist program that all Americans help pay for) and openly walk around school with it in a holster?
How about high school? Should a student be able to carry a gun?
There are a lot of students over 18 in high school.
I can see church as God is watching the flock but grade school??

Posted by: gliderflyer | January 15, 2011 9:23 AM | Report abuse

The author is ludicrous. Why? In 1995 the BATF estimated that there were in excess of 300 MILLION firearms in private hands (whereabouts Unknown).
Banning any type of Firearm or requiring a License to own one, will only encourage the Black Market in selling Firearms.
There are many many more Hi Capacity Magazines in private hands than firearms.
I would imagine quite a few owners of these hi capacity magazines would be all to willing to sell them to a buyer should such a ban on them to occur.
I recommend that our Politicians carry out the safety program advocated by the Brady Bunch: Carry a Cell Phone (maybe Pepper Spray), hang up a sign that says: "Gun Free Zone", and wear a Whistle.

Posted by: Bostonterrier97 | January 17, 2011 12:27 AM | Report abuse

to Mr Miller et. al.,

fwiw, i'm a retired Army officer, who spent most of my 28 year career as an investigator for the Department of Defense, and NO "gun control" LAW of ANY SORT whatever will lessen the number of homicides in the USA or anyplace else, despite the KNOWING LIES told by the "gun control" nitwits & LIARS.
IF a "weapons confiscation law" was passed (HIGHLY unlikely given the SCOTUS decisions of late), the only real change would be that "the criminal element" would still be armed (being a criminal means that you are a law-breaker & criminals care NOTHING for breaking "gun control laws"!) & the law-abiding citizens would be helpless victims.
(THE TRUTH is NOT subject to wishful thinking, arrogant ignorance of the facts, personal opinions, religious convictions, "group think/speak", political opinions or any other similar thing. instead THE TRUTH is simply/always THE TRUTH.)

IF "guns in civilian hands" was "an actual problem" that causes violence, Switzerland would be the BLOODIEST nation on earth (rather than one of the most peaceful), as essentially EVERY male between 18 & 60 years of age has at least one machine rifle & several hundred live rounds stored at his home.
MOST men, who are current/former members of the Swiss Militia also have one or more pistols, revolvers & shotguns in their domicile as well.
(CARRY CONCEALED PERMITS are easily available to essentially every adult, on a "shall issue basis". in point of fact, ALL hunting licenses AUTOMATICALLY come WITH a CCW!)

therefore, ANYONE who believes that "owning and/or carrying a gun" causes violence is either terminally IGNORANT of THE TRUTH and/or brain-DEAD. - in the case of "the mainstream media" the facts are that they generally KNOW the TRUTH & CHOOSE TO LIE to further their political agenda. = FACT!

note: in case you are curious how i know as much as i do about the Swiss system, i "entertain" senior members of the Swiss military at my home on at least a yearly basis (at one time or another, i've had almost every retired/active Swiss COL or General as a "houseguest" since 1987.) & we have discussed "the Swiss armed militia system" at length. furthermore, "my best buddy" is a retired General Officer of the Swiss Militia.

so, please, all you "liberals", "progressives", "statists", SELF-important nitwits & everyone else "who knows NOT & knows NOT, that they know NOT", go "peddle" your lies, wishful thinking, "spin", uninformed opinions, errant nonsense, bilge & foolishness elsewhere, as i'm buying none of it.

just my personal views/opinions. - i do NOT & can NOT speak officially on any subject as a coordinator of our county's TEA PARTY, absent a vote on each issue by our membership.

yours, TN46
MAJ, USA, Retired

Posted by: texasnative46 | January 21, 2011 5:53 PM | Report abuse

to all,

btw, in about ten minutes, i can make a really deadly weapon that is MUCH more fierce in criminal hands than ANY pisatol/machinegun/etc. = a "sawed-off shotgun".
(each round has from 9-200 "deadly pellets" & a "sawed-off" takes LITTLE skill to make/shoot.- the "shot pattern" is LARGE!)

"the bottom line" is that "gun control" is a FICTION.
yours, TN46
coordinator, CCTPP

Posted by: texasnative46 | January 21, 2011 5:59 PM | Report abuse

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