(This column was published in the North Shore News on April 28, 1999)

 

Shootings are a symptom

By Leo Knight

FOR many who watched the gripping images, broadcast live in our living rooms, of the shootings in Littleton, Colorado, little sense could be made of it all.  

 

Unfortunately, too many will adopt an ostrich attitude and say it couldn't happen here.  

 

Could it?  

 

In a New York minute.  

 

Sadly, with the inevitable calls for gun control emanating from within the U.S. and around the world, it's too easy for us in Canada, with our strict gun controls, to say it's an American problem. While it's true that guns are easily available in most of the United States, it is simply not true to suggest stronger gun control laws make our children safe.  

 

In the first place, according to news reports, the guns used in the Columbine school shootings were unregistered, illegal firearms. In other words they were already the subject of gun control.  

 

Despite our considerably stricter gun laws in Canada, it is as easy to get an illegal firearm in Lynn Valley as it is in Littleton, Colorado.  

 

When a North Vancouver man was shot three times at point blank range in front of a couple of hundred horrified witnesses at an Esplanade cinema, it wasn't with a registered, legal handgun. In fact, in virtually all crimes committed with firearms in our fair city, none are with legal weapons.  

 

Now, the obvious visceral reaction to horrifying crimes is to call for the eradication of all guns. A noble thought, but not inherently practical.  

 

There are an estimated 220 million guns in circulation in North America. If the ownership of all guns was outlawed completely, it would take decades, at least, to get all the guns off the streets. With the gun lobby groups remaining as active as they are, the possibility of getting any such legislation in Canada, let alone in our giant, gun-loving neighbour to the south, is remote indeed at any time in the foreseeable future.  

 

At the end of the day, the lunatics who choose to take out their anger on innocents would easily find other ways to wreak their havoc.  

 

In Britain, for example, another deranged individual ran amok in a small town elementary school in sleepy little Dunblane, Scotland.  

 

Fourteen kindergarten kids and a teacher were gunned down in 1996. The Blair government reacted by bringing stricter gun controls to a country with already stringent laws.  

 

Yet, last week another collection of looney-tunes set off a nail bomb in a crowed open-air street market in Brixton, a racially divided area of south London.  

 

A week later, almost to the hour, the same group claimed responsibility for a similar bombing, this time in Brick Lane in the heart of London's east end, an area populated heavily by Pakistanis and others from the south Asian subcontinent.  

 

Two Saturdays, two bombs, both created with little more than garden chemicals and nails, material easily available at any Revy or Home Depot retailer. Forty five people injured. Do we now outlaw fertilizer?  

 

Realistically, what is the difference between the so-called "Trench Coat Mafia" from Littleton, Colorado, and "Combat 18" the racist blockheads who claimed responsibility for the London bombings? Very little, I suspect, barring their method of delivering death and destruction.  

 

Within a day of the Littleton shootings, reports began to surface in various newsrooms around Vancouver of a similar thing in a Surrey high school.  

 

A 17-year-old "loner," banned from using school computers because of a fondness for neo-Nazi Web sites was threatening his teacher and other students, "jocks" who shunned him.  

 

Sound familiar?  

 

The youth was kept in school while he "underwent counselling."  

 

In the wake of the Colorado massacre, the teen's principal decided he should finish out the school year studying from home. Just in case.  

 

One of the youths who perpetrated the horrors in Littleton had also undergone counselling.  

 

According to his probation officer's report, he "appeared to enjoy his anger management course." No doubt he was doing well, posting his hate messages and threats on the Internet on the same day as he successfully completed his counselling.  

 

Our schoolyards today are hotbeds of violence and potential mayhem. What used to be settled with fists is now just as likely to draw a knife or a gun in response.  

 

In Victoria, the trial of the killers of Reena Virk is horrifying watchers with details of unrepentant violence and racism.  

 

The same mindset that caused those social misfits to crush cigarette butts out in her face and kick her unmercifully before throwing her tortured, half-naked body into the murky water under the Craigflower bridge, is as explosive and dangerous as anything demonstrated by "the Trench Coat Mafia."  

 

Kids today are inundated with messages of violence and hatred in their music, electronic games and movies. Far too often they are left to their own devices to deal with the troubles they incur.  

 

But, unfortunately, society gives them the message they are not responsible for their actions.  

 

It is only when they do something completely outrageous does society take notice of their extreme anti-social behaviour.  

 

The social workers tell us that kids as young as 14 should be allowed to make their own "lifestyle choices." Then they ensure appropriate legislation exists to guarantee kids rights over parental authority.  

 

In the same week as the Colorado massacre, the B.C. Supreme Court took a small, first step in reversing the dangerous trend, by awarding civil damages of $63,000 to Paul Glover, a victim of a senseless, brutal attack by two teens in 1993.  

 

The criminal courts did nothing to those thugs, so for the first time, civil redress was sought and won.  

 

Kids must be made responsible for their actions. Parents must adequately interact with their children's lives to ensure the appropriate life lessons are learned. And government should give parents the authority to do their job.  

 

To do otherwise will virtually guarantee a repeat of the Littleton horrors. Likely in a neighbourhood near you.  

 

* * *  

 

Clarification:  

 

In my March 17 column, "Bet on casino truth surfacing," I mentioned a successful casino licence bid was made by Dimitrios Pilarinos, carpenter, and Steve Ng, pub owner.  

 

Later in the column I mentioned that Tony Ricci was Mr. Ng's business partner. Mr. Ricci advises that he is not a partner with Mr. Ng in the pub but, rather, Mr. Ricci manages the Marble Arch, a pub owned by Mr. Ng. They have been associated in other business ventures.  

 

Their dealings do not amount to a formal partnership.  

 

I regret any embarrassment or inconvenience that may have arisen from my description of them as partners.  

 

 

  -30-

 

 

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