Bill Moyers
June 12, 2009
Bill Moyers Essay: Gun Violence

BILL MOYERS: Finally, you know by now that in our nation's capital on Wednesday, an elderly white supremacist and anti-Semite is alleged to have walked into the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum with a rifle and killed a security guard before being brought down himself. 88 years old!

You will know, too, of the recent killing in church of Dr. George Tiller, one of the few doctors in the country still performing late term abortions. It was evidence that violence works. His family has now announced that his Kansas clinic will not be reopened.

You may be less familiar with the June 1st shootings in an Army recruiting office in Little Rock that killed one soldier and wounded another. The suspect in question is an African-American Muslim convert who says he acted in retaliation for U.S. military actions in the Middle East.

Soon, however, these terrible deeds will be forgotten, as are the three policemen killed by an assault weapon in Pittsburgh, the four policemen killed in Oakland, California, the 13 people gunned down in Binghamton, New York, the eight dead in a North Carolina nursing home. All this year alone.

There is much talk about hate talk and hate crimes, about violence committed in the name of bigotry or religion. But why don't we talk about guns? Friends, we are arming ourselves to death. Even as gun shots ricocheted around the country, an amendment allowing concealed weapons in national parks was snuck into the popular credit card reform bill. Another victory for the gun lobby, to sounds of silence from the White House. Fact is, neither party will stand up to the National Rifle Association, the best known front group for the arms merchants. In Virginia, just across the Potomac River from the Holocaust Museum, the winner in this week's Democratic primary for governor was a man who supports allowing concealed weapons in restaurants that serve alcohol and opposes limiting handgun purchases to one a month. I'm not making this up.

And I'm not making this up either: after that shooting at the Holocaust Museum a conservative organization immediately offered those of us on television a chance to interview the founder of the organization Jews for the Preservation of Firearms Ownership. His expertise, it is said, is in helping people understand why gun control doesn't belong in a civilized society. Thanks, but no thanks. And no thanks to his counterparts among Christians and Muslims who use every violent shedding of blood to promote the worship of guns.

Guns don't kill people, they say. People kill people. True. People kill people -- with guns.

So, let the faithful of every persuasion keep their guns for hunting and target practice, for collecting. And their permits for a gun to protect their business or home, even though it's 22 times more likely to shoot a member of their family than an intruder. But, please, every year there are 30,000 gun deaths and more than 400,000 non fatal gun-related assaults. Enough's enough.

That's it for the Journal, we'll be back next week. In the meantime, our work continues on the Moyers website when you go to and click on Bill Moyers Journal, you can celebrate Tom Paine by reading his classic works online and learn more about the American tradition of dissent. You can also read more from Robert Reich on health care and the economy. Just log on to I'm Bill Moyers and I'll see you next time.

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