Columbine inspires tougher gun laws |

Columbine inspires tougher gun laws

In the year after the Columbine High School shooting in Colorado, gun control activists have gained new energy and strict new laws are being created across the country.

What California Gov. Gray Davis called “the toughest package of gun-control legislation in America,” took effect in January only to be surpassed by even tougher laws in Massachusetts.

Those new rules, which took effect earlier this month, ban cheap handguns and require childproof locks on any handgun sold in the state. They also require safety warnings with each handgun, tamper-resistant serial numbers and indicators on semiautomatic handguns that tell if a bullet is in the chamber.

Only some guns made by Springfield-based Smith & Wesson meet Massachusetts’ new regulations and such legislation has emboldened activists who want to see handguns banned completely.

On the South Shore, the Douglas County Sheriff’s Office has given away thousands of free trigger locks in the last four months, and two shootings involving South Tahoe High School students in the same period have brought the issue close to home for many people.

Joshua Parker, 18, was shot in the stomach by a friend at party in February but was not seriously injured. Two weeks earlier 16-year-old Brad Parent was killed when a man he was living with, 23-year-old Thomas O’Connor, allegedly shot him in the chest. Both victims were students at South Tahoe High School but the incidents happened outside of school.

According to a Justice Policy Institute study, 99 percent of children’s deaths happen away from school, and the National Center for Education Statistics said 43 percent of all schools reported no crime at all in 1998.

The institute’s Vincent Schiraldi wrote last year in the Washington Post, “There is no ‘trend’ toward shootings at schools. In fact, such attacks have been on the decline. The good news is that schools are some of the safest places in America.”

Meyers Elementary School was shocked a year ago, however, when two 9-year-old boys brought a gun to an after-school dance. The gun was not loaded but several parents said they were frightened.

“We feel that we are safe in our little community, but it’s happening everywhere,” said Denise Perucci after the incident in February 1999. “We are not immune.”

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