Dear Ms. Stewart;

Thank you for your reply.

First and foremost, all of these deaths are tragic. No question about it. The Columbine shooting has become a twisted perversion of the “gift that keeps on giving.”

Last year, around the date of the 20th anniversary of the attack, a young woman from Florida traveled to Colorado. Along the way, she purchased a shotgun in Texas. She was on her way to Columbine the add another chapter to the bloody legacy of Eric Harris and Dylan Klebold. Apparently, she was thwarted somehow and ended her life in a park.

We know that Adam Lanza was fascinated by the shooting and with the shooters. We can add the heartbreaking Sandy Hook massacre to the toll begun by the Columbine killers. We can’t say for sure how many other killers took their inspiration from, but there is a fair amount of evidence showing that shows Nikolas Cruz was among them.

My grandmother’s house was close enough to the University of Texas campus in Austin to hear the shots fired from the UT Tower by Charles Whitman in August 1966. Those deaths, including the murder of a young woman and her unborn child and a man cut down at a range of more than 500 yards, were tragic, too.

But none of these deaths had anything to do with the Second Amendment.

The worst school killing in U.S. history has been largely forgotten. 37 children, ranging in age from seven to fourteen, were killed and another child died later from injuries she suffered. Two teachers were also among the dead when the bomb Andrew Kehoe had planted in the attic exploded, collapsing a wing of the Bath Schoolhouse in May 1927. One little boy survived the first explosion only to die when Kehoe detonated explosives in his truck, killing the school superintendent, the town postmaster, and a farmer who was in the worst possible place at the worst time.

All told, Kehoe was responsible for the deaths of 43 people and injuries to 58 others. He had also murdered his wife.

Had the Columbine killers’ original plan succeeded, the incident might not have been remembered as a shooting. A lot of people forget that Harris and Klebold built propane bombs, intending to collapse the roof of the high school cafeteria at lunchtime. Had they been more skilled, it might have been known as the Columbine Bombing and the body count would have been much higher.

This is why I have over the past several years tried to explain why the Second Amendment isn’t to blame and neither are firearms.

One of the explosives used by Kehoe was pyrotol, an incendiary explosive that was left over from World War I and sold as surplus by the U.S. government. Farmers used pyrotol in combination with or instead of dynamite to remove large tree stumps. After the Bath massacre, farmers continued to use pyrotol until supplies ran out a year later. They then went back to using dynamite, which is still used today.

Contrast that behavior to today when Americans have been told repeatedly that if this law or that one was passed, the mass shootings would go away. This mantra has been repeated so often, for so many years that large segments of the population regard it as truth. People don’t realize that all of these laws have already been enacted at the federal or state level and none of them have shown any evidence of making a significant difference.

Following Elliot Rodger’s shooting spree in Isla Vista, California in 2014, the father of one of the victims tearfully pleaded for these gun control laws to be passed. This is one of the most ironic things I have ever seen; all of the laws the man wanted were already in effect in California and Rodger had complied with them to acquire the pistols he used.

There are so many other things I could say but perhaps the most important is that I understand your fears and sorrow. A shooting incident was averted at the high school our younger son attended; a school that is less than a mile from our house. Santa Fe High School, where a school shooting resulted in eight deaths and ten injuries, including a school district police officer, is less than sixty miles from where we live.

However, I have to be realistic. From everything I have seen over the past seven years tells me that guns and gun laws aren’t the problem and that more gun laws isn’t a solution.

I am not going to say your gun-toting neighbor is the solution. But I will say he’s not the problem, either.

Perhaps the most important thing you can do is learn more. Go beyond the media hype; ignore the NRA and Moms Demand Action; don’t let anyone try to influence you. Learn what you can from authoritative sources with no axes to grind (and question those sources until you’re sure there are no axes being sharpened). Discuss it with your husband; I discuss it with my wife. As a matter of fact, when our children were young we didn’t have any guns in our home. Now, three of our four adult children are gun owners, themselves.

It honestly makes no difference to me what conclusions you make. What’s important to me, and to this whole discussion, is that they be informed conclusions.

Best regards,

Bill Cawthon

Professional writer. Passionately interested in facts. Founder of onewordtexas.org

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