By Dave Kopel. Mr. Kopel is research director of the Independence Institute.
4/12/00 12:45 p.m., National Review Online. More by Kopel on Columbine.
Just before the Bill Clinton Tragedy Exploitation Tour arrived in Colorado, the Colorado Senate rejected a push to crack down on firearms possession by ordinary citizens.
On Monday, the State Senate debated a "safe schools" bill. Democratic Sen. Ed Perlmutter (who represents part of the Jefferson County suburbs west of Denver) offered an amendment to ban gun possession on all school property, including at universities. Under current state law, people with concealed handgun licenses may possess handguns on school property; parents dropping students off at school may possess firearms in their cars for lawful protection; and college students or teachers who live in campus apartments may possess firearms in those apartments. Perlmutter's amendment would have outlawed all this.
In a party-line vote, Perlmutter's amendment was rejected 20 to 15. A similar bill was defeated in the House State Affairs Committee in January.
Perlmutter has a well-deserved reputation as one of the most intelligent men in the state legislature, and would be selected for a leadership position should Democrats gain control of the State Senate. (They need to pick up three seats.)
But Perlmutter's argument for his amendment was ridiculous: a ban on possession by law-abiding citizens was needed because of Columbine. In fact, Columbine was the 99.9% gun-free utopia sought by the anti-gun groups. At 11:20 a.m. on April 20, 1999, there were over two thousand people at Columbine High School, and only three (the two killers, plus a "school resource officer") had guns.
Besides violating laws against murder, the Columbine killers and their gun suppliers appear to have violated 20 separate U.S. and Colorado laws. Making it a crime for a nursing student to possess a handgun in her campus apartment is an unjust response to Columbine. The main effect would be to embolden rapists and other predators who target campus victims.
Meanwhile, Denver Mayor Wellington Webb is working with the Clinton administration to maximize the publicity and political benefit from Clinton's Columbine exploitation speech. Yet last April, Webb made himself a national figure by telling the National Rifle Association that it should cancel its annual meeting in Denver, in order not be insensitive. Webb's display of mean-spirited partisan hypocrisy shows why he is expected to receive a cabinet post in a Gore administration. In 1991, Webb won his first term as mayor while promising to issue concealed handgun carry permits to any citizen who passed a background check (with no safety training requirement).