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Bob Herbert writes: "We need fewer homicides, fewer accidental deaths and fewer suicides. That means fewer guns. That means stricter licensing and registration, more vigorous background checks and a ban on assault weapons. Start with that. Don't tell me it's too hard to achieve. Just get started."

Portrait, New York Times columnist Bob Herbert, 06/15/09. (photo: NYT)
Portrait, New York Times columnist Bob Herbert, 06/15/09. (photo: NYT)

How Many Deaths Are Enough?

By Bob Herbert, The New York Times

18 January 11

Petition: Congressional Action on Political Violence Advocacy

On April 22, 2008, almost exactly one year after 32 students and faculty members were slain in the massacre at Virginia Tech, the dealer who had sold one of the weapons used by the gunman delivered a public lecture on the school's campus. His point: that people at Virginia Tech should be allowed to carry concealed weapons on campus.

Eric Thompson, owner of the online firearms store that sold a .22-caliber semiautomatic handgun to the shooter, Seung-Hui Cho, did not think that his appearance at Virginia Tech was disrespectful or that his position was extreme. He felt so strongly that college students should be allowed to be armed while engaged in their campus activities that he offered discounts to any students who wanted to buy guns from him.

Thompson spun the discounts as altruistic. He told, "This offers students and people who might not have otherwise been able to afford a weapon to purchase one at a hefty discount and at a significant expense to myself."

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+12 # Rick Reiley 2011-01-18 11:28
Perhaps the arms dealer is a really fine guy doing good works. I keep thinking about Jesus. How much violence did he encourage? Why didn't he and his disciples carry weapons?
+28 # Walther 2011-01-18 11:48
We need less death from WAR! Start with ENDING OUR IMPERIAL WARS and PROTECTING AMERICANS RIGHTS and the culture of violence will end.
+12 # Lee Black 2011-01-18 11:54
I agree with Jon Stewart who said that the rest of want a 1,000 foot gun free zone around ourselves, as proposed by Rep. Peter King.

Surely a start would be the Automated Weapons Ban
+12 # Beth Sager 2011-01-18 12:08
Did anyone see the special about Remington and how they have known about a misfiring malfunction in their guns since 1947? But the US has no laws governing gun manufacturing and the industry police themselves. That's always worked so well in the past-industries who govern themselves, that is. This malfunction has killed hundreds of people.
+6 # restore2america 2011-01-18 12:12
Everyone wants to restrict or ban things they don't like because a few other people might do things they don't like - guns, alcohol, drugs, abortion, condoms, Sudafed.

When will we all learn that prohibition does not stop the things we don't like?

Look at the war on drugs - it has created violence and filled our prisons. Now we imprison more people per capita than any other nation.

Look at prohibition - it created the mafia and caused an explosion of crime and violence.

Ban or further restrict guns? The government and criminals will have guns.

Look at the facts. A few people who own or steal guns kill other people. Mostly when gun ownership increases, crime decreases. Criminals like gun-free zones too.

Let's address poverty, education, the housing crisis, lack of jobs, mortgage and other financial company fraud, government corruption, etc. Progress in those areas will reduce anger and violence in our society much more than taking guns away from people like you and me.
+16 # DrAnne 2011-01-18 12:52
We are NOT talking about prohibition!! We are talking about sensible regulation. A most cursory review of the requirement for gun ownership in Canada will reveal no loss of ability for "Law-abiding citizens" to own guns in that rather heavily armed country that enjoys the sport of hunting. Interestingly, one does not see the relative amount of gun violence death in our neighbor to the north as is seen in the U.S.

It is vitally important that gun-related violence be considered more reaching that "stranger shooting stranger" mayhem. It includes accidental shooting, suicide, homicide-suicid e (frequently domestic, workplace, school and similar).

What harm would come to "law abiding citizens" if they had to take a mandatory gun safety course, experience a waiting period, thorough background checks, and not be allowed to purchase guns and ammunitions designed solely for mass destruction? Nobody needs a glock and a extra-large capacity clip to shoot gophers or do target practice!
+3 # betty 2011-01-18 12:58
Can you please provide me with the source of your facts. I'm trying to understand this issue more. thanks
0 # DrAnne 2011-01-18 13:05
Whose facts do you want?! I am (sort of!) kidding.

If you want my sources, I am happily supply them.
+6 # DaveW. 2011-01-18 17:04
restore2america , "Everyone wants to to restrict things or ban things they don't like because a few other people might do things they don't like- guns, alcohol,drugs,a bortion,condoms ,Sudafed. When we will we learn that prohibition does not stop the things we don't like." You REALLY are mixed up aren't you? It goes like this: As people developed the first communities they realized (remember, this was thousands of years ago) that generally speaking, people would NOT "police themselves." So, in order for "civilization" to advance, different societies created different laws/safeguards in order to insure that humanity's basic and inherent desire to pursue a self-aggrandizi ng agenda would at least have some constraints. NO ONE is proposing, so far as I know, to take anyone's precious guns AWAY. Many ARE proposing to limit access to weapons that are SPECIFICALLY designed to KILL mass amounts of people in a few seconds. We PROHIBIT certain uses of an automobile because used IRRESPONSIBLY the potential for tragedy becomes greater. Why PROHIBIT driving speed? TO save LIVES! Why prohibit alcohol to minors? Because many are not prepared to act RESPONSIBLY when using alcohol. You say, "Ban or further restrict guns." What "BAN OR RESTRICTIONS" stopped Loughner from buying a weapon no RESPONSIBLE gun owner should want to own. I agree with your last sentence. Let's address those things. CONT.
+4 # DaveW. 2011-01-18 17:26
Let's also address the FACT that mass gun ownership in this country has led us to a "gun related homicide rate" that no other industrialized/ civilized? country even comes close to. Protection of home/property seems to be the BIGGEST reason many individuals want UNRESTRICTED gun access. Yet study after study shows that more people are shot WITH THEIR OWN GUNS during some sort of home invasion than the other way around. Arizona now permits a guy to sit in a bar and get hammered with a GUN strapped to his side. Would YOU feel safe next to him if he becomes irate for some reason? Do you want your KIDS around this guy? Wasn't it better when NO ONE was walking around in public with a gun except LAW ENFORCEMENT officials? Weren't we ALL safer then? The government will ALWAYS have guns and if you're thinking about some mass insurrection I'd advise against it. You'll lose and a lot of innocent people (including many you may care about) will quite possibly die. The sheer volume of guns and their ridiculously easy acquisition are WHY criminals have so many guns! In frontier America civic leaders DIDN'T take people's guns away. They DID put boundaries on when and where, in the interest of public safety, those guns could be carried. Again, please KEEP your guns you enjoy for RESPONSIBLE hunting and target shooting. And JOIN all of us who realize Weapons of mass destruction are not RESPONSIBLE!
+1 # rf 2011-01-19 08:03
I agree. The reason we are having a gun problem is because we are having a government problem. Get our government working again. With better education and services for people who are no longer abused by corrupt businesses we will see less of the desperation that gets people shooting!
+7 # Texas Aggie 2011-01-18 12:35
If we took away their assault weapons, where would they get their emotional solace (think Linus' blanket)? Furthermore think how they would then need some sort of sexual organ enhancement if they didn't have their guns as an artificial one. They would go back to buying Hummers even if they couldn't afford to actually drive them.
+2 # e urdanoff 2011-01-18 12:41
regardless of the difficulties in enforcing such restrictions, they are a step in the right direction;
+4 # josé wellington 2011-01-18 13:20
In my college years, in my country, some individuals carried guns. Most of these was police officers. Most of people, at the end of classes, got drunked, students, teachers...
After some boozing, often happened some clashes. Can you imagine if a high number of persons would carrying guns and got involved in these clashes?
Happily, ain't there high number of firearms stores in my country and there's no discount sales. That owner of firearms store that sold a .22-caliber semiautomatic handgun to the shooter, Seung-Hui Cho, is gone mad. Students and booze plus guns seems equal to a hurricane effect... What could it be if one son of that owner could had caught in aiming of a gun in a clash ocurring in a school, he´ll gonna kill his customer?
-29 # BBFmail 2011-01-18 13:25

How many deaths are enough?

Planned Parenthood received $363.2 million in government grants and contracts, a $13.6 million increase from the previous year, which resulted in 324,800 abortions.

+9 # charsjcca 2011-01-18 14:25
You might remember that abortions are legal events, sometimes biological actions that remove hoped-for outcomes. Our Constitution has not assigned personhood to the result of abortions so the numbers do not correspond.
+20 # Montana 2011-01-18 15:37
To: BBF mail:

"Planned Parenthood received $363.2 million in government grants and contracts, a $13.6 million increase from the previous year, which resulted in 324,800 abortions."

I love it when people who are pro-gun compare the issues of regulation to a pro-life position. Such hypocrisy. And these same pro-life people tend to be pro-war, and anti-anybody who is not white like them. People with guns kill people. Regulation of such devices is a good idea. Allowing people sanctity of their own bodies and lives is a good idea: we used to call it freedom. And by the way, most PP money is used for health services, including the prevention of pregnancy ---- something so-called pro-lifers would deny to many people while complaining about the loose morals of the pregnant. If you are sincerely pro-life, then promote sex education and the free dissemination of birth control devices. If you are sincerely pro-life, you should be doing everything in your power to stop illegal wars. If you are sincerely pro-life, you will support universal health care for everyone. If you are sincerely pro-life, then you would protest torture of the many political prisoners held by our government without charges. And you would demand gun controls.
0 # BBFmail 2011-01-19 15:42
BBFMAIL is NOT pro-war or are making false assumptions.
-3 # BBFmail 2011-01-19 15:53
The method of abortion that Christ Hospital uses is called "induced labor abortion," also now known as "live birth abortion." This type of abortion can be performed different ways, but the goal always is to cause a pregnant woman's cervix to open so that she will deliver a premature baby who dies during the birth process or soon afterward. The way that induced abortion is most often executed at my hospital is by the physician inserting a medication called Cytotec into the birth canal close to the cervix. Cytotec irritates the cervix and stimulates it to open. When this occurs, the small, preterm baby drops out of the uterus, oftentimes alive. It is not uncommon for one of these live aborted babies to linger for an hour or two or even longer. One of them once lived for almost eight hours.
In the event that a baby is aborted alive, he or she receives no medical assessments or care but is only given what my hospital calls "comfort care." "Comfort care" is defined as keeping the baby warm in a blanket until he or she dies, although even this minimal compassion is not always provided. It is not required that these babies be held during their short lives.
+3 # DaveW. 2011-01-19 19:40
BBFmail, The "issue" I believe was gun related violence in America.I'm sure "womb worship" or "slaughter of the innocents" or whatever else you call it will come up on another article. I am assuming you're prepared PERSONALLY to take care of each of these aborted "children" until they reach the age of eighteen? Finding the proper forum upon which to postulate your ideas is crucial to their acceptance. This WASN'T the proper forum. Republicans want to slash a plethora of "social services." Are YOU speaking out to see that all these "children" you so desire to be born are going to be taken care of if the parents/parent abdicates that responsibility? Have you "adopted" a crack baby or the child of an interracial coupling? I mean, there's only so many "Gerber babies" to go around. Do you have any conception of how many "babies" this country has killed with its Manifest Destiny/Native American cleansing/Imper ialistic forays? Are you protesting those actions? Most importantly, are you as concerned with what happens to these "children" after they are born? Or will the "Lord provide" or some other such gibberish? Just wondered. By the way, "women are NOT "incubators." Also, since you've "thoughtfully provided" such graphic details on this abortion procedure, you might want to give equal space to the graphic nature of what many women and girls go through attempting to abort their own child.
+12 # Jim Houle 2011-01-18 13:28
There is no rational explanation for America's lack of tight control over concealed weapons. Those who intentionally misinterpret the Second Amendment to allow hand guns to be routinely carried by any nut with a grievance should feel responsibility for the slaughter in Tuscon. The 2^nd Amendment referred to the necessity for a well-regulated militia to provide security back in a time (1791) when we had no standing army, no public arsenal of weapons, and minimal local law enforcement. The second phrase of that one-sentence amendment to our Constitution emphasizes the fact that it was the ordinary citizens who would form such a militia and would bring their own rifles when necessity required they so assemble. It does not restrict the right of citizens to have guns for hunting or for uses beyond those of a well-regulated militia.

The National Rifle Association has re-interpreted and expanded the 2^nd Amendment so as to allow for concealed weapons and the suspension of licensing laws. Now, in Arizona, they want to allow concealed weapons even into school rooms! The result is that in a single year 9,484 US citizens were killed with guns. In Canada, only 200 were killed, in Germany: 194, in Spain: 60, in England: a mere 39. We have more than 235 million guns in the United States. It is time to ban the use of hand guns.
+17 # bnerin 2011-01-18 13:29
Martin Luther King said that we must view ourselves not just as citizens of our country, but citizens of the world. I agree and thus as a citizen of the world I would add to Herbert's idea that we must add the same to our Federal Government and begin to reduce our military-guns-e mpire. Bring the troops home now and store the guns for when someone tries to invade us as we are now invading foreign countries and based in many other countries ready to invade them too.
+5 # lexx 2011-01-18 14:20
Rick Reiley,

I keep thinking about Jesus. How much violence did he encourage? Why didn't he and his disciples carry weapons?

They weren't Americans.
+3 # Todd Williams 2011-01-18 14:38
Right on Planned Parenthood!!!!! ! Ban assault weapons now!!! Register guns now!!! Right wing gun nuts suck!!! Down with the Tea Party!!!
+1 # Herbert D. Rosenbaum 2011-01-18 17:06
Mr. Herbert,
Please don't let your spirit become discouraged by the aggressive, angry responses to today's column in the N.Y.Times. One day, your own outrage and your commitment will be shared, l hope and trust . Meanwhile, we need you to continue to speak for our side.
Best wishes,
Herb R.
+1 # James Marcus 2011-01-18 18:45
I second 'Walther'.

Less 'Culture of War', Less Imperial Attitude. More caring for people at home and abroad. And the culture of Violence, Fear, and Absolute Ignorance will cease.

Guns don't kill people without help. PEOPLE KILL PEOPLE.

Our Leaders are Ignorant and Our People are sleeping Sheeple.
+4 # josé wellington 2011-01-18 19:01
Now, reading news about a L.A. school shooting, today at Gardena High School, where two students were shooted and remembering that Wednesday, in Nebraska, at Millard South High School, the principal and assistant principal were wounded by a former student, who had attended the school for no more than two months, I ask: what would it be if one son of the gun salesman could be shooted by a gun purchased in his store, he´ll gonna kill his customer?
-6 # skylinefirepest 2011-01-18 23:09
Once again Herbert pontificates on a subject he knows little about. Assault weapons are already illegal in this country for the average citizen. How about checking the FBI statistics before mouthing off about how many are killed each year by firearms?? Try NONE. The person holding the gun is the person responsible. People use firearms as tools and some two and a half MILLION crimes EACH YEAR are stymied by law abiding persons with firearms. Citizens stop more crimes than the police do!! Firemen rarely prevent fires... they put them out after they have been started. Cops rarely prevent crime...they take a report and clean up the mess. Dave W...the disciples did carry weapons. And you really need to get your "facts" from someplace other than the Brady Bunch. NONE of the horrendous scenes proposed by the anti-gunners, if concealled carry was passed, came to pass. There were no gunfights in the streets over fender-benders, etc. And where in the world do you find that crap about people being killed by their own guns?? Simply not true. I'm not calling you a liar, simply way mis-informed. Once again, check the FBI uniform crime statistics. When a conservative doesn't like guns, he simply doesn't buy one! When a liberal doesn't like guns, he doesn't want ANYONE to have them!!
+4 # Ken Hall 2011-01-19 00:27
The "crap" about people/friends/ family being killed/injured by their own guns is the result of statistical analysis. The real crap, about how citizens stop more crimes than police do, is the result of an NRA poll. People in the US use guns indiscriminatel y and are not punished for "accidents" and "misuse". I remember an incident in DC where a gun owner killed his own daughter because he heard a noise outside his door; it was his daughter, saying goodnight to her boyfriend. Guns, in the hands of people, kill people. It's not the guns at fault. I've lived in other countries at times, countries where gun ownership is more regulated than in the US, and the homicide/violen ce rates were MUCH lower.
0 # DaveW. 2011-01-19 10:54
Ken Hall, Thanks for the back-up! "Actual facts" don't matter to someone "consumed" by an ideology. The mass proliferation of guns in this country has not made us "safer." We are regressing as a nation, which on the face of our history would seem a hard thing to do! The word and concept of "Freedom" will be taken to its most heinous and illogical conclusions. Ones that will eventually kill us. In reality, they already are. Take care Ken.
+1 # DaveW. 2011-01-19 10:37
skylinefirepest , Where did I say I was a liberal? Where did I say I didn't want ANYONE to have guns? Other than your basic "war zone" we lead the world in gun related homicides.Has mass gun ownership helped to alleviate that fact? Do countries with more stringent gun control measures have LESS gun related homicides per capita? Where did I mention the "disciples?" I mentioned ancient civilizations and the steps they took to insure public safety leading up to current times. "None of the horrendous scenes proposed by the anti-gunners,if concealed carry was passed, came to pass." You,of course, KNOW this to be an irrefutable FACT.
"There were NO gunfights in the streets over fender benders,etc." Ever heard of ROAD RAGE? And again,you speak with complete authority in regard to facts. Got my CRAP about people being killed by their own guns on Rachel Maddow's show two nights ago. You can check that out. I'm reasonably convinced SHE would not have made that claim without FACT CHECKING herself.She doesn't work for Fox News.You state that claim is simply NOT TRUE.Provide me your FACTS, please. I never really was into the BRADY BUNCH. I watched Star Trek,The Avengers,Sanfor d and Son to name a few.I'm 54.You seem prone to making grossly erroneous and exaggerated assumptions.I'm merely suggesting guns designed SPECIFICALLY for mass killing of humans be prohibited.
End of line.
+4 # bubbiesue 2011-01-19 00:36
I just say Amen. Let's get started. Register weapons, ban anything that can do more than a six-shooter. We don't need another weapon in this country just because somebody has a right to sell them. Scares me silly.
+3 # Cathy 2011-01-19 10:05
I heard on the news today that a young high school girl in the US has a bullet in her head and is in critical condition for simply sitting in her classroom. How? Well it seems that a classmate had a gun in his backpack and when he put it down (likely threw it down), the concealed weapon discharged and it ended up in this young girl's head.

What a sorry state of affairs.
-1 # skylinefirepest 2011-01-19 15:47
Dave W...the disciple comment was not directed to you. My facts come from the FBI uniform crime statistics...I have no idea where Rachel Maddow sources her comments. Ken...the statistics did not come from an NRA poll. You both need to seriously check your facts. Road rage?? The concealed carry permitholders who have had their permits revoked for cause is less than one tenth of one percent. It is absolutely not true that most persons are killed with their own guns. I have no idea where you both are finding that garbage. Yes, you may be assured that I own guns and am very proficient in their use. I also have worked with law enforcement for over twenty years ( as a civilian volunteer) and I get my facts from irrefutable sources. I simply do not care if "you" don't want guns but don't lie or spread untrue "facts" about them. The violent crime rate of the U.S. has dropped by a large percentage since the concealed carry laws have been strengthened. That means that yes, we are safer with more law abiding citizens carrying weapons. The police can't be everywhere but citizens are!! Figure it out for yourself, but try to use reliable sources. Rachel Maddow??? Jeez!!
0 # DaveW. 2011-01-19 20:07
skylinefirepest , "I have no idea where Rachel Maddow sources her comments...but try to use reliable sources.Rachel Maddow??? Jeez!!" This is non-sequitur. You failed to answer a number of questions put to you but made sure to tell Ken and I that "Yes, I own guns and am very proficient in their use." Was this some sort of threat? I'm shaking believe me. I'm happy that you're a "wannabe" cop and that your sources of info are "irrefutable." To repeat for the tone deaf I NEVER said anything about not wanting guns. I merely said that guns designed to kill PEOPLE, quickly and efficiently, such as the weapon used in Arizona should not be available to the public. I stated NO objection to hunters and sportsmen and home/property protectors owning firearms. Just not weapons designed for the military and law enforcement. I don't know where you live but the violent crime rate is not dropping. Your sarcasm, prejudice, acrimony and inability to address simple questions are indicative of a closed mind. I happen to own some guns myself. I don't NEED a machine gun to hit something. Perhaps you do.
0 # skylinefirepest 2011-01-20 23:49
You guys take a deep breath...I don't threaten anyone. I am definitely NOT a wannabe cop...I'm a fireman. I mean even the cops have to have heroes!! I have worked with the cops as a FIREMAN!! Since most of the people in RSN seem to worship at the altar of the Obama administration just maybe you can give a few minutes to the FBI uniform crime statistics, which is where I get my "facts" not assumptions and certainly not erroneous! What is the comment about machine guns?? Yes, I have fired several different kinds of fully auto firearms as I was in the Air Force during the VN era and have over twenty years working with the Special Forces "Robin Sage" program. The problem that I have with you guys is that you seem to want to blame a certain kind of firearm for the actions of a madman and, in doing so, it seems that you want to ban a whole family of these arms, not from the criminals, but from the law-abiding. I don't know what questions you are asking that I haven't answered but if you will ask them again, concisely, I will try to answer you. Bear in mind, when talking about leading the world in deaths that you are lumping in the drug culture of this country. If you can show me where law abiding gun owners are the problem then I'll be glad to give it a second look.

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