Tuesday, March 31, 1998
Are gun lovers ready
to take consequences?

BY LAURA PULFER
The Cincinnati Enquirer

Did you watch the funerals in Arkansas over the weekend? Awful, wasn't it? Music at services for the children was by Hootie & the Blowfish. A pink toy rabbit was placed in the casket of one; a baby doll and a teddy bear in another.

And the teacher. What a tragedy for her husband, for her little boy, for all the kids who saw this happen.

Andrew Golden, 11, and Mitchell Johnson, 13, stand accused in the killings. They're in Craighead County jail, where the sheriff angrily corrects reporters. ''They're not guys,'' he says. ''They're children.''

And so they are. I wonder how they found orange jumpsuits small enough to fit.

Put the adults in jail

We should be measuring some adults for orange jumpsuits. If the gun lovers in this country insist on owning weapons that will drill holes into the concrete-block walls of a school, if they insist on their right as sportsmen to blow animals to smithereens, they should be prepared to take responsibility.

Andrew Golden's grandfather appeared on network television to shake his head sadly about the killings and to say the guns used by the boys belonged to him. He should be in the cell next to his grandson. He told police the guns taken from his house included a .30-06 rifle, a .44-caliber Magnum with scope, a .30-caliber carbine, a pair of small semiautomatic pistols, a .38-caliber revolver and a .22-caliber Magnum two-barrel Derringer.

He said he feels just terrible.

Too bad, Gramps. These were not master criminals or safecrackers. You didn't protect us from your guns. You are an accessory to a big, bloody crime.

So is Andrew's father, Dennis, the registered representative for the Jonesboro Practical Pistol Shooters Acquisition, who taught his son marksmanship, preparing him to put four little girls and a teacher in the cross hairs. Before you teach a child how to draw a bead on a living creature, you should think about whether you want to be responsible for what he shoots. Rabbits. Deer. Other children.

Whitney Irving, a sixth-grader recuperating from a gunshot wound in the lower back, said Andrew was ''always in trouble, and he was always talking about hunting.''

But he was - and is - a little boy. He was aided and abetted by his father, who made it possible for him to be a troublemaker trained to use a lethal weapon, and his grandfather who made them available.

Don't get even, get mad

Any owner of a gun used in the commission of a crime should be regarded as an accessory. And prosecuted.

Daniel Perek at the Jewish Federation said soldiers who lose their guns in Israel face prison time, regardless of whether a crime is committed.

''If someone from your house takes your gun and uses it, (the soldier) will be punished, even if he has nothing to do with the crime,'' Mr. Perek said. While on leave, soldiers are required to keep their guns and ammunition locked in separate places where children cannot find them.

In this country, we should wipe away our tears and get mad. Gun control hasn't worked here. If the sight of Jim Brady, his head cratered by a bullet, his wife at his side, didn't persuade us to take guns away, then we just have to leave it to the people who insist that they are an integral part of life here.

The hunters, the collectors, the marksmen. And they have to be willing to take the risk that they will be held accountable. Too tough? It's a tough old world out there, gun guys. Isn't that why some of you think you have to have them in the first place?

If you don't want your guns controlled by the government, then you had better take control of them yourselves. Keep them out of the hands of children. And if you don't, well, we have plenty of orange suits in adult sizes.

Jonesboro shooting coverage from Associated Press

Laura Pulfer's column appears in the Enquirer on Sundays, Tuesdays and Thursdays. Call 768-8393 or fax 768-8340. She can be heard Monday mornings on WVXU radio (91.7 FM), and as a regular commentator on National Public Radio's Morning Edition. E-mail her at laurapulfer@enquirer.com

PULFER ARCHIVE