25 Years After Columbine, Gun Industry Greed And Lawmakers’ Cowardice Still Prevail Over America’s Grief And Outrage

By Marc H. Morial 

(Trice Edney Wire) – “When the Columbine High School shooting happened twenty-five years ago, it was an unimaginable tragedy. Now, as gun violence continues to traumatize students and devastate our schools, families, and communities, we cannot afford to become numb to this crisis. We’ll keep fighting to honor the victims and survivors of Columbine with the common-sense solutions that we know work.” – Angela Ferrell-Zabala, Moms Demand Action Executive Director

Even before the slaughter of students and a teacher at Columbine High School stunned the nation, mayors like myself were taking action against the unchecked greed of gun manufacturers.

New Orleans, where I served as mayor, was the first to sue. In the months to follow, 30 more cities followed our lead. 

That summer, the U.S. Conference of Mayors met in New Orleans and called on Congress to enact common-sense gun safety measures including raising the minimum age for purchasing and possessing a handgun from 18 to 21, requiring background checks at guns shows and limiting gun purchases to one a Whmonth per individual.

The same day we announced our demands, in a show of defiance against the gun industry, Louisiana Gov. Mike Foster made a show of his cowardice and sighed a law banning cities from suing gun companies.

Even though a small fraction of the hundreds of thousands of lives lost since Columbine were lost in school shootings, such incidents underscore the shame of our nation’s inaction on gun violence. The gun industries main lobbying arm for decades, the National Rifle Association, was well aware of the “horrible juxtaposition” of “kids fondling firearms” at its upcoming convention even as the teenage victims of Columbine were laid to rest.

They held the convention anyway, turning the event into a massive slap in the face to the grieving survivors.

Over the years, as mass shootings grew more frequent and ever more deadly, the N.R.A.’s defiance and contempt grew as well. After each tragedy, the gun industry seized on baseless fears of a total gun ban to weaken gun regulations and push more and more powerful guns on the public.

But the same greed that built the gun lobby may have destroyed it.

After a lawsuit filed by New York Attorney General Letitia James exposed top executives’ rampant financial misconduct, NRA members lost faith in the organization dropping out by more than a million and leaving its coppers depleted by more than 40 percent. 

It remains to be seen whether the NRA’s waning influence will allow the nation to enact the measures we need to prevent future columbines. Despite its opposition, Congress was able to pass the Bipartisan Safer Communities Act in 2022, the first major piece of federal gun reform legislation in nearly 30 years.

A significant step forward, the Act requires background checks on gun purchases for young adults, increased mental health funding, expanded prohibitions on gun ownership for domestic abusers and created incentives for states to pass “red flag” laws. But it does not address more significant gun safety measures such as universal background checks, a ban on the sale of assault weapons, and longer waiting periods for gun purchases.

As President Biden noted in his statement on the 25th anniversary of the Columbine massacre, the families who have lost loved ones to gun violence have only one message: Do something.