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Teens of the decade are having an easier time obtaining firearms with which they are jaunting around on killing sprees. The most recent incident occured on Tuesday, April 20, 1999 at Columbine High School in Littleton, Colorado. That fateful Tuesday began as any other day with a 6:15 a.m. bowling class which both murderers, Dylan Klebold-17 and Eric Harris-18, attended. Both of prominent backgrounds, Eric’s father a retired Air Force officer and Dylan’s father a geologist, the two belonged to a group called the Trenchcoat Mafia. Members of this group believed in the Goth, black clothing, nihilism, and real rock music, were constantly made fun of by the “jocks who wore white baseball caps.” As reported that morning, Dylan wore a shirt that read Serial Killer, as he always did. By 11:00 a.m. Dylan and Eric had changed into their trademark black wraparound shades and long, black trenchcoats. As they walked toward the cafeteria, which contained about 500 students, they claimed their first victim. One of the murderers walked up to 17-year old Rachel Scott and shot her point blank range in the head. They then continued into the cafeteria where they opened fire. Klebold and Harris were armed with a sawed off double barrel shotgun, a TEC 9 semiautomatic, a sawed off pump shotgun, a 9mm semiautomatic rifle, a propane tank, and more than 30 homemade pipe bombs. After leaving the cafeteria the killers entered the library and roamed the halls of the school while laughing at each shot given off. Students who were hiding nearby the library heard one gunman yell “All jocks stand up!” followed by gunfire, terrified screams, and cruel laughter. SWAT teams finally entered the school around 12:30 p.m., but police wouldn’t start to free people for another two hours. At 4:30 police found the suicide victims of Dylan Klebold and Eric Harris with live ammunition still attached to their bodies. They left twelve students and one teacher dead, and twenty three wounded.

On May, 3, 1999 Mark Manes was arrested on the suspicion that he supplied the TEC 9 semiautomatic to the two killers. Dylan and Eric came into contact with Manes through a mutual friend from the pizza parlor where they both worked. Investigators claimed that Klebold’s girlfriend bought the rifle and the two shotguns used during the killings. Over thirty pipe bombs were handmade by Harris and Klebold for the day of the killing, which was the same day as Adolph Hitler’s birthday. It is believed that the cause of the rampage is a direct effect of violent videogames such as Doom and hate websites from the Internet. A neighbor of Eric Harris reported that he heard the two smashing glass in the garage, which police confirmed as the shrapnel used in the bombs.

Why do such intelligent kids turn into cold-blooded murderers? The question is not easily answered, but some believe it has to do with the mechanics of biology and the homelife. Many conservatives say that experience rewires the brain. A child’s brain is very vulnerable during the early years. Dr. Bruce Perry of Baylor College of Medicine says that “A child who suffers repeated ‘hits’ of stress-abuse, neglect, terror-experiences physical changes in his brain.” Incessant flood of stress chemicals tend to reset the brain’s system of fight-or-flight hormones, putting them on extreme alert. The results are kids who show impulsive aggression, which can lead to dangerous consequences. Having an unsuppotive and abusive parent also raises the risk of teen violence. For the most part, parents who are withdrawn and remote, neglectful and passive, are the main reasons for a child to be overcome with stress. As for the parents of Dylan Klebold and Eric Harris, a police search of Harris’s room yielded a sawed off shotgun and pipe bomb ingredients in plain view. They also recovered a diary detailing the twisted plans of the massacre, including calculations as to the time of day that would yield the highest body count. If the parents of the two killers had been more involved with their sons, maybe they could have prevented the tragic massacre that had occured. As a parent of one of the victims states “Isaiah said these guys kept getting in his face, I went up to the school to talk about it, but I should have done more. It’s tearing up my heart.” Even with a juvenile felony conviction, it would have been legal for 18 year old Eric to purchase firearms. School authorities are prohibiting students from wearing the long black coats because they can be used in concealing weapons. Educators and law enforcement officials now believe that armed guards and weapons sweeps and “intruder drills” must be supplemented with attention to the psychological and social dynamics of high school.

The latest debate over gun control in Congress began because of the incident at Littleton, Colorado. This debate has divided the party lines of the Democrats and the Republicans. The Democrats lead the charges for stricter gun measure which reflects from the contributions they receive from gun control advocates. On the other hand, Republicans are opposed to the new gun laws receiving contributions from the National Rifle Association and other gun rights groups. On Tuesday, May 18 the Senate approved a measure that would require child safety devices with each of the millions of handguns sold by licensed dealers in the United States every year. Although refusing such a bill last July, they are much keener for gun control since the shooting at Columbine High. The Senate propsed a bill that called for mandatory child safety locks, backgound checks of gun buyers, and raising the legal age of purchasing a firearm from 18 to 21. President Clinton argued with House of Republicans for drafting a weak gun bill that he says was written by the NRA. The Senate’s bill would apply a three day waiting period for background checks while the House voted to limit the checks to twenty-four hours, after which the weapon could be sold if the checks weren’t complete. The President stated that The House Republican bill “dramatically waters down” the Senate measures which themselves were modest steps that did not encompass Clinton’s entire gun safety agenda. He also argued that, “It hasn’t even been two months….We ought to speak up and be heard.” Guns sold after the enactment of the proposed legislation would also be sold with safety locks, which could drive up gun prices. Also, lawmakers want to limit the import of high-volume ammunition clips manufactured for weapons currently sold in the United States.

Gun rights groups say the legislation would infringe on the constitutional rights of law-abiding citizens. They argue that strict background checks at gun shows would slow weapon sales. As for the high-volume ammunition clips, they are used by sportsmen who don’t have time to reload when hunting. Most gun manufactures support the safety locks, but the NRA sees it as just another attack on gun owners. They believe if the lawmakers would enforce the current law, firearm control measures wouldn’t be needed.

Handgun control and gun control advocates support the strict provisions of the bill. They call for only one handgun purchase per month and raising the legal age limit of guns to 21 from the current 18.

Weeks after the Colorado shooting, the Senate approved floor consideration of the Senate Juvenile Justice Bill, which amended the background checks and safety locks. The House rejected the legislation but split the gun debate into two separate divisions of legislation-one focusing on youth culture and violent crime and the other dealing with gun shows. The Senate approved new gun control measues by a 73-25 vote with an approval to the three-day background check. The House voted 218-211 to limit the background checks to twenty-four hours and voted down the three-day check. The House then killed the bill with a 208-147 vote.

Until the government can come to a compromise on the extent of gun control, the incident that occured at Columbine High is likely to occur again. In getting guns off of the street, the government should have every right to intervene when the lives of innocent people are at stake. The National Rifle Association argues that lawmakers should enforce the law, but if people carry guns for their own protection against those who carry guns to do harm, it would make sense to remove all guns from the streets, then no one would need a gun. There shouldn’t be a ban on all guns because law enforcement officers need to carry firearms, but to make it safer when off duty, all guns should be left at the station. For sportsmen to be able to hunt, their guns should be registered and not sold without permission and shouls only be sold to other sportsmen. They should keep their guns at the range and have to check them out each time they want to use it. When used properly there should be no argument for the restrictions placed on guns, but when they get into the hands of the wrong people all citizens could benefit from the restrictions placed on them. Guns are very deadly and most people don’t realize how crazy the world is.

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