Bill's Speeches and Articles in Favor of Gun Sanity
(Read them carefully, you might learn something about the
gun industry you didn't know)
The Gun Industry Neglects Victims
By BILL JENKINS
Six years after my son’s murder at a
fast-food restaurant, I’m still hard at work against irresponsibility in the
gun industry – and it’s showing no signs of letting up. It sounds crazy,
one grieving father butting heads with the big names of the gun industry and
its auxiliaries, but I keep trying.
In 1997 my education about guns in our
society began and my attitudes changed dramatically. At the time, like
many, I did not see how gun trafficking thrives in states with lax gun laws,
erroneously believed that existing purchase restrictions were sufficient to
inhibit criminal ownership, did not know about the dire health of the
industry, and I even believed some of the more specious myths propagated by
those with a vested interest in buying and selling firearms. Looking back,
I suppose my ignorance was pardonable, but it is embarrassing, nonetheless.
I will no longer believe that
the gun industry can’t do anything about these tragedies for I know now that
if it had a true sense of corporate decency, gun deaths and illegal gun
sales could be curtailed. As manufacturers and sellers of lethal weapons; as
purveyors of a product that is a disposable commodity in the criminal and
terrorist markets; as suppliers of artificial power that can appeal to the
mentally ill, paranoid, and socially immature, it is their duty to monitor
distribution channels to ensure that these products do not fall into the
Instead, they distance
themselves from the end user in order to dodge this responsibility. They
consistently resist efforts demanding accountability. And though they could
significantly dry up illicit markets in weapons by refusing to supply
dealers proven to engage in illegal sales, they refuse, and for only one
reason: Illegal gun sales, just like legal gun sales, make money.
Robert Haas, formerly VP of
Smith and Wesson; and ex-industry lobbyist, Robert Ricker, have both broken
ranks to testify that this multibillion-dollar a year industry attempts to
keep guns as accessible as possible in an ever shrinking legitimate market.
They describe in detail how the industry maximizes profits while minimizing
its own culpability.
The NRA’s propaganda would
have you believe that law-abiding citizens carrying concealed weapons will
come riding in to save the day and that concealed carry reduces crime. But
no one suggests interdicting criminal possession in the first place with
measures already proven effective in other countries and states with tough
gun laws for that, of course, would adversely affect profits.
This insanity stretches
credulity when gun dealers who sell a high percentage of guns traced to
crimes are not prosecuted. At gun shows private “collectors” can still sell
guns to anyone - even criminals - with no questions asked and no background
check. Access to records that would help police and law enforcement
identify illicit dealers has been blocked at the federal level. And some
members of Congress actually want to let the assault weapons ban expire next
year and immunize all involved in the manufacture and sale of firearms from
civil prosecution, ostensibly “To preserve a citizen’s access to a supply of
firearms and ammunition for all lawful purposes…”
So the gun industry’s
intransigence and the resulting proliferation of guns on our streets and in
our homes is leading all of us, including the industry's own honest
customers, down a path of destruction. Never has an industry enjoyed so much
protection at the cost of so many lives.
Deceptively hiding behind the
Second Amendment, and squelching First Amendment rights by trying to
intimidate those who vociferously oppose the industry's reprehensible
practices, the gun industry and its supporters perpetuate a culture of
paranoia and distrust through obfuscation.
In reality, they are shooting
blanks when it comes to constitutional scholarship. One cannot use the
Second Amendment to protect the commercial interests of an industry in
trouble. It is beyond belief that we should not appropriately and
reasonably regulate this industry that does not even have an accepted code
When those who have a vested
interest in buying and selling guns, ammunition and accessories can no
longer buy legislation aimed at keeping gun shops open, then we shall reap
the benefits of a comprehensive and consistently enforceable regulatory
system that will, indeed, reduce accidents, suicides, and murder from easily
accessible and carelessly owned weaponry.
A few years ago, right here in
a Richmond City Council meeting, I was sitting behind a group of middle
school children who were being recognized for their artistic merit. The two
girls in front of me were passing the time by quietly playing a game of
rock, paper, scissors. When I looked closer, I saw that they were not
playing the game I knew. Their game went like this: "rock, paper ... gun."
This is the
legacy the virtually unregulated arms dealers have left our children. And
so, I’m still hard at work against irresponsibility in the gun industry.
And it’s showing no signs of letting up.
OpED published in the Roanoke Times
Friday, February 15, 2002
The man who killed my son had help
gun industry sacrifices safety for profits
By BILL JENKINS
IN 1997, my 16-year-old son was shot and killed by a man who was robbing
the restaurant where William was on his second day of work. As I examined the
details of the crime, I realized that this man could not have done this alone.
He had an accomplice, one who enabled and abetted such a bold robbery,
made it possible for him to terrorize and kill with surprising ease, and gave
him the confident hope of success through unopposable threat of force. This
man's accomplice was a semi-automatic handgun.
Had my son not been positioned at the open end of the barrel, I would
have continued to naively believe that the gun industry couldn't do anything
about these tragedies. I would have continued to trust an industry whose
products my family and I have recreationally used for years. I would have merely
said, "Isn't that a shame, but what can we do?"
when reading about another of the thousands of predominantly preventable
gun deaths each year. I would have believed that nothing could be done.
How foolish I would have been.
I know now that if the industry had a grain of corporate decency, gun
deaths and illegal gun sales would be severely curtailed. As manufacturers and
sellers of products designed to kill; as purveyors of a product that is in high
demand to the criminal and terrorist markets; as the suppliers of artificial
power that appeals to the mentally ill, paranoid and socially immature, it is
their duty to society to ensure to the best of their ability that these products
do not fall into the wrong hands.
Regrettably, they have taken no initiative to do so, and moreover have
resisted efforts on our part to demand such accountability. Though they could
easily dry up the illicit markets in the weapons they produce from the front
end, they refuse, and for only one reason: Illegal gun sales, just like legal
gun sales, make money.
And so, I have joined the millions of victims, educators, legislators,
doctors, social service providers, law enforcement personnel, parents and other
concerned citizens that the gun industry has declared war upon in its effort to
maintain its profit potential. I defy any gun dealer or gun maker to walk 24
hours in my shoes as the father of a child murdered through the use of their
products. I guarantee that none of them would look at their sales practices the
same way ever again.
We can eliminate the illegal markets, the straw purchases and sales to
criminals by holding all gun buyers accountable to responsibly retain in their
possession the gun they purchase and enact laws enabling the effective
prosecution of illegal transfers of these weapons from one person to another.
Today, guns may be privately transferred with impunity. This is known as
the "gun show loophole." No background check, no liability, no fear of
prosecution, because there are no teeth in the laws and no paper trail to
reliably follow. At gun shows, contrary to common sense, unlicensed dealers can
sell guns to anyone - even criminals - with no questions asked.
Even though polls show that even the vast majority of gun owners support
the issue, why is it so hard to close the gun show loophole? Because the illegal
market in guns for both licensed and unlicensed dealers is a vital key to their
economic health in this multibillion-dollar-a-year industry.
The industry's attempts to keep guns as accessible as possible in a
society that has less and less use for their new product lines belie its
When those who have a vested interest in buying and selling guns,
ammunition and accessories can no longer influence legislation aimed at public
safety, then we shall reap the benefits of a comprehensive and consistently
enforceable regulatory system that will, indeed, reduce accidents, suicides and
murder from easily accessible and carelessly owned weaponry.
But the gun industry and its supporters constantly oppose any
accountability measures to strengthen legal gun sales and eliminate illegal
ones. It continues to resist efforts to impose sensible regulation upon the
manufacture of devices designed to kill with maximum efficiency and extend the
threat of force, injury or death far beyond one's personal reach.
Why is this?
Their intransigence is leading all of us, including the industry's own
honest customers, down a path of destruction with the resulting proliferation of
guns on our streets and in our homes. Never has an industry enjoyed so much
protection at the cost of so many lives.
Hiding behind the Second Amendment, of which they fondly quote only the
more useful second half out of context, and squelching the First Amendment
rights through intimidation of those of us who vociferously object to the
industry's reprehensible practices, the gun industry and its supporters
perpetuate a culture of paranoia and distrust through obfuscation.
They are shooting blanks when it comes to constitutional scholarship. To
paraphrase the Second Amendment using a dictionary contemporary to the time of
its writing, it would read as follows: "A well-regulated militia, being
necessary for the security of a free state, the right of the people to keep and
bear arms shall not be abolished, eradicated, canceled, or eliminated." It is
beyond belief that we should not appropriately and reasonably regulate this
industry which, despite the recent initiative of Smith and Wesson, still doesn't
have an accepted code of ethics.
Last year, I was sitting behind a group of middle school children who
were being recognized for their artistic merit. The two girls in front of me
were passing the time by quietly playing a game of rock, paper, scissors. When I
looked closer, I saw that they were not playing the game I knew. Their game went
like this: "rock, paper ... gun."
Welcome to the legacy that an unregulated gun industry has left our
children. Now, I ask you, what are we going to do about that?
Remarks by Bill Jenkins
Educational Fund to Stop Gun Violence
November 15, 2001
Four years ago, my son was shot and killed by a man who was
robbing the restaurant where William was on his second day of work. Having
grown up myself in a family where guns were responsibly used and owned, I was at
a loss to explain the many questions that immediately came to mind. As I began
examining the details of the crime, I realized that this man could not have done
this alone. He had an accomplice. One who enabled and abetted such a bold
robbery. One who made it possible for this man to terrorize and kill with
surprising ease. One who gave him the confident hope of success through
unopposable threat of force. This man’s accomplice was an Accu-Tek .380
semi-automatic handgun and it served him well. It performed perfectly when
called upon. When the trigger was pulled, a bullet was reliably discharged and
killed its objective with certain efficiency.
Had my son not been positioned at the open end of the
barrel, I would have continued to naively believe that the gun industry couldn’t
do anything about these tragedies. I would have continued to trust an industry
whose products my family and I have recreationally used for years. I would have
merely said, “Isn’t that a shame, but what can we do?” when reading about
another of the thousands of predominantly preventable gun deaths that take place
each year. I would have believed that nothing could be done. How foolish I
would have been.
Instead, I have joined the millions of victims, educators,
legislators, doctors, social service providers, law enforcement personnel,
parents, and other concerned citizens in this country that the gun industry has
declared war upon in its effort to maintain its profit potential. And the gun
industry will, make no mistake, the gun industry will change in response to our
outrage for it cannot trump a victim.
When I pulled the covers back with some fundamental
inquiries, I found that this industry has deluded the American public; callously
disregarded the needs of those of us who are tragically affected by its
products; and is far more concerned with staying in business than maintaining a
standard of corporate honor and responsibility.
Concerns about deadly weaponry are not new. In Major
Barbara, George Bernard Shaw describes what he calls the Faith of an Armorer
which reads, in part: “To give arms to all men who offer an honest price for
them, without respect of persons or principles: to aristocrat and republican, …
to Capitalist and Socialist, … to burglar and policeman, … to all sorts and
conditions, all nationalities, all faiths, all follies, all causes and all
crimes.” And this brings us to the crux of the problem – It is not about
morality, nor politics, nor justice, nor even, dare I say, our Constitution.
It’s all about money.
I submit that no legislative initiative that the gun
industry has ever supported would adversely impact their multi-billion dollar
annual profits. I submit that every legislative initiative the gun industry has
ever opposed would. Why oppose the inclusion of all mentally ill individuals in
the Instant Check system database rather than just those adjudicated so by court
order? Why oppose effectively prohibiting perpetrators of domestic violence
from possessing firearms? Why produce products in quantities far surpassing the
legitimate market’s demand, admittedly relying on gun running through states
with lax gun laws to keep their assembly lines producing? Why oppose laws
concerning mandatory training and accountability for all gun sales which would
effectively eliminate gun trafficking and straw purchases? And why vehemently
oppose any public funding for studying the appalling effects of their products
The gun industry’s attempts to keep guns as accessible as
possible in a society that has increasingly less and less use for their new
product lines belies their commercially driven agenda. When those who have a
vested interest in buying and selling guns, ammunition, and accessories are no
longer allowed to influence legislation aimed at public safety, then we shall
reap the benefits of a comprehensive and consistently enforceable system of gun
control that will indeed reduce accidents, suicides, and murder from easily
accessible firearms. The gun industry and its supporters constantly oppose any
enforceable accountability that the gun purchaser will be the end user and that
owner will retain that gun in his or her possession responsibly without unlawful
transfer. This intransigence will lead not only those of us who choose to live
in peace without firearms, but also the industry’s own honest customers down a
path of destruction with an irresponsible proliferation of guns on our streets
and in our homes. Never has an industry enjoyed such protection at the cost of
so many lives.
Hiding behind the Second Amendment, of which they are fond
of quoting only the more useful second half out of context, and squelching the
First Amendment rights through threat of force and intimidation of those of us
who vociferously object to the industry’s reprehensible practices, the gun
industry and its supporters perpetuate a culture of violence and chaos through
confusion and verbal sleight of hand. Yet, with all the analyses of the Second
Amendment I have read over the past four years, none has recognized one simple
fact that I found in the earliest dictionary I could find, Webster’s 1828.
Everyone quibbles over the interpretation of the words “well-regulated militia”
and “the right of the people” but no one will address the incontrovertible
definition of the word “infringe” as it was used in the time that the
Constitution was framed. To “infringe,” from the Latin, infringo, to
break, did not mean simply to trespass upon, restrict, or to limit. No, this
mutation of the definition took place much later, after the Civil War and well
into this century. The word “infringe” in the seventeen and early eighteen
hundreds meant something much stronger. It meant “to abolish, cancel, or break
So you see, the gun industry and its supporters are
shooting blanks when it comes to Constitutional scholarship. To paraphrase the
Second Amendment with an appropriate amplified definition it would read as
follows: “A well-regulated militia, being necessary for the security of a free
state, the right of the people to keep and bear arms shall not be abolished,
eradicated, cancelled, or eliminated.” As long as reasonable, responsible, and
accountable gun ownership is allowed by law the Second Amendment is in no way
violated, and neither are my sensibilities. But when a self-serving industry
continues to resist efforts to impose sensible regulation upon the manufacture
of devices which are designed to kill with maximum efficiency and extend the
threat of force, injury, or death far beyond one’s personal reach with no
thought or concern for the consequences of the use of their products on our
society, I will oppose their efforts for the rest of my life in order to bring
some redemption to my son’s needless death.
I want to tell you one last story and then I’ll be done.
Last year, I was sitting in the audience of Richmond City Council. In front of
me was a group of middle school children who were being recognized by Council
for their artistic merit. The two girls in front of me were passing the time by
quietly playing a game of Rock, Paper, Scissors. I didn’t pay much attention
until my friend sitting next to me whispered, “Look what they are doing.” Sure
enough, they were not playing the game the way we played it when we were
children. Their game went like this, “Rock, Paper, … Gun.” Ladies and
gentlemen, welcome to the legacy that an unregulated gun industry has left our
children. Now, I ask you, what are we going to do about that?
A lot of people find it surprising that I do not blame what
happened to William on the gun itself. In fact, I defend certain pro-gun
interests regularly with many I come in contact with. I do try to be fair.
Having grown up rurally, with guns in the house (hunting exclusively),
learning gun safety and shooting skills in Boy Scouts, and having uncles and
cousins who enjoy hunting, I have always respected legitimate use of guns. I
have friends who have a demonstrated need for self-protection and I would
never deny them that, and I am keenly concerned about the safety of my
police officer friends. I have a brother who breaks 48-49 out of 50 clays
and I am in awe of his skill.
Since my son's murder, however, I have met a lot of people I never should
have had opportunity to get to know. As a result of our common ground, I
have tried to learn as much about the industry and the way it works as
possible. You see, like a lot of people, I used to implicitly trust the gun
industry. I felt betrayed when my son was killed.
When I read about Robert Hass' deposition in Hamilton vs. Accu-Tek,
when he admitted under oath that the gun industry has for years manufactured
and marketed its products without regard to public safety, I began looking
at the issue of supply, not of use. As I looked at the numbers available,
and the industry plays its cards close on this one, I realized that the
industry is supplying product, both new and used, into an oversaturated
legal market. Industries manufacturing a durable product such as this will
bump into this wall inevitably if something isn't done. As I see it, to stay
in business, they had three options:
1. Make new, sexier gotta-get-me-one-of-those models to sell to current
2. Increase the legitimate market by reaching untapped consumer
3. Close their eyes, keep making product like mad, and if the
illegitimate market works its way into the sales picture, deny any
I see that they have done all three. It's the third that I have a problem
Then I saw how many in the gun industry's grassroots support organizations
have developed a nearly cult-like fanaticism which is fanned to greatest
emotional effect by fear and, dare I say, alarmist propaganda. This is easy
to see once you visit the pro-gun websites.
I have sat in on legislative subcommittees and have seen the way the NRA
lobbyist works the committees, patronizing and self-assured that his
interests will be protected despite the testimony of a dozen medical
examiners, doctors, teachers, clergy, public health professionals, parents,
and victims on hand. I have read as many of the laws as I can get my hands
on and carefully examine the ones newly presented each year. I talk with
victims and work to serve their needs. I go to their trials and see guns
taken from the weapons lockers that no one I know would even dream of
purchasing, much less firing.
I've talked to the police officers who were issued vests after shall issue
concealed permits were instituted in our state and we talked about their
fears for personal safety. The irony is, of course that they recognize their
limitations, and yes, perhaps personal gun ownership will work to protect
some people from some criminal activity,
but when will the tactics of the criminals change from accosting and
threatening, to ambushing and killing or maiming? I've talked to the
general public, and their fears are very palpable, because they also have
children that work fast-food restaurants.
And I have taken a hard look at the perception of guns in society and would
like to see the reputation of something that people legitimately love and
care about restored through an industry which knows how to exercise
discipline, restraint, and corporate responsibility.
My vision is not clouded, if anything, it is clearer than it could ever be.
Pain will do that to one. I am involved in gun control issues for many
reasons, but I think it to be the only rational alternative to the virtually
unfettered proliferation proposed by industry supporters. If the industry
proves to be profiteering from our losses, they will be beneath contempt,
but that is not to say I want them out of business. I simply want them to
contribute to the welfare of those in society who not only legitimately use
guns but also are grievously affected by them. I want them to scale back
manufacturing and sales to levels consistent with what can realistically be
sold to the legitimate market. I want them to address design and safety
concerns of the general public, not just their customers. In truth, they
didn't even have a code of ethics until S&W put one together, not that it
did them any good when they were excoriated by their former supporters.
I follow the issue with great interest. And I am content to wait and see. I
do not think the gun industry will win this war. People are quick to blame
the Clinton administration, but where will we be with the next? Will
we see a policy change that will result in the end of the specious and
hollow refrain, "The gun laws we have aren't being enforced!"?
Considering the foxes who are now guarding the henhouse, I think not.
What is amazing is the amount of dialog right now. I applaud
the rise in awareness and will work to promote it. Gun control interests are
not afraid to make this an issue now and there are few distractions worth
noting. If there ever was a time for a coalition and dialog, this is it.
Otherwise, the industry has too many skeletons in its closet to stand too
One thing is sure. If the industry is not willing to
use its expertise to bring something productive and positive to the table to
address the epidemic they have materially contributed to, they can't
complain when someone else stands up and takes the lead.
In closing, I see three sides to this issue, much like many issues. Two
sides on either side of a fence yelling and screaming at each other, and an
insidious third side who built the fence and has a vested interest in
keeping it standing, for that is how they stay in business. I'm out to dig
up the fence. If we do, I think we will see that the two sides are not as
far apart as they seem to be.
Guns should not be used offensively against another human
being. Maybe if we can agree on this, we can find some other things we can
agree on, as well.
Press] [William's Memorial]
I am a college professor and an unwilling expert on the effects of firearms
on our society. Two and a half years ago, I benignly believed the gun
lobby's lines, and why not? I grew up in a house with hunting guns, and
learned how to shoot. My rural family members hunt regularly and my brother
is a competition shooter in his spare time. I naively thought that was the
extent of the interaction with guns in my life.
Then, my sixteen year-old son was murdered while working at his new job at a
fast food restaurant by a man using a handgun during a robbery. I began
researching the instrument of his destruction and tore back the cardboard
facades and specious claims of the gun industry. I looked closely at the
economics and marketing practices of an industry which has enjoyed enormous
protection throughout its history. My conclusions shocked and sickened me.
With 250 million guns in society today, over one million handguns alone are
placed in circulation every year for a legitimate market of merely 60-65
million private gun owners. Over 20,000 gun laws (a
number too many have perhaps taken at face value too often from the NRA's
propaganda machine) have been cobbled together by various localities
in a desperate effort to protect themselves, yet these are often trumped by
state laws where lobbying efforts are more focused and well-financed.
Indeed, no concerted legislative action has ever been allowed to adversely
affect the industry's bottom line directly. Instead, attention is diverted
to post-sale issues of possession and use. I see a silent and insidious
third party to the issue, the one who built the fence between the vocal
factions and whose primary goal is to keep the argument raging for their own
economic benefit. I see an industry which has allowed itself to be seduced
by the easy money of a burgeoning illegitimate market. It resists
voluntarily marketing products ethically and responsibly, incorporating
sensible safety measures, establishing specific training requirements for
buyers, and even guaranteeing that the purchaser of these products will be
the end user.
A brief history is in order. In the 1970's and 80's, facing a rapidly
saturating market and foreign competition, the gun industry seems to have
re-invented itself. It doesn't require much effort to observe the following
unethical, yet profitable practices: It began marketing military and
police-style weapons to private citizens. Firearms which are not for
defense, nor sport, but are for attack and urban warfare. It began following
the market trends of the illegitimate market, incorporating features which
appeal to the criminal user. It began capitalizing on a growing attitude of
uneasiness and paranoia in society, supplying a false and dangerous hope for
protection from people using their products, effectively profiting from both
sides at once. And it began manufacturing product far beyond any reasonable
ability to sell it to the limited legitimate market. Make no mistake, this
small group of people has benefited greatly and has blatantly used their
profits to perpetuate their commercial and legal protection.
Who has suffered? The sports-men and women have suffered as the reputation
of something they have dearly loved and enjoyed has been ruined by
irresponsible marketing, sales, and use. The police have suffered, having
been shot at and ambushed by those with more firepower than the officer has
ever carried. Families have suffered as children find a gun and kill
unwittingly, or guns bought ostensibly for protection are turned on another
family member or self. Society has suffered as ready access to a limitless
supply of disposable guns enables and emboldens criminals. Our state
legislatures have suffered as rural interests are pitted against urban by
manipulating lobbyists. The gun industry has truly soiled its own nest.
Sadly, it is our nest also.
Despite claims to the contrary, our children are not being sacrificed on the
altar of personal freedom and protection. Our children are not being
sacrificed on the altar of constitutional rights. Our children are not begin
sacrificed on the altar of patriotic, democratic, and lifestyle values. Our
children are not being sacrificed on the altar of any ideology whatsoever.
No, our children are being sacrificed on an altar dedicated to nothing more
than base profit and commerce. And that I will not excuse.
In 1997, my son was one of over 20 homicide victims in our county in
Virginia. One of 115 Virginia children and teens who died from firearm use
and misuse. One of 902 Virginians of all ages who met their end at the
barrel of a gun. And one of the 32,436 Americans who died with a bullet in
them that year.
From 1990 to today, over 9700 people in Virginia and over 343,000 people
nationwide have been killed with firearms. And for every firearm related
mortality, the Centers for Disease Control estimates another three people
have received non-fatal injuries.
Want to have some more fun with numbers? Let's say that each of those
fatalities in the past ten years has between five and six close family
members or intimate friends in their lives, and that is a low estimate. That
is nearly 2 million grieving parents, siblings, grandparents, children,
spouses and best friends, and I am one of them, and perhaps some of you are,
There are two ways to hunt. One, is the hunter takes time to learn of the
quarry, it's habits and life. The hunter enters the forest alone and tracks
the quarry for hours or even days hoping for a clear shot. This is how the
gun industry has been fought in the past. Dedicated lawyers and lobbyists
who have learned its every move have been fighting one on one. Sometimes
they have gotten clear shots and scored minor victories.
But there is another way to hunt, and while less elegant it is far more
effective. The entire village enters the forest. Not highly trained, just
willing participants. They beat the brush, driving the quarry to open ground
and surrounding it, and the hunt is over.
On Mother's Day, the village enters the forest.
The Million Mom March will succeed through honest education of the facts,
unflagging determination, and a sincere desire to bring about change. I
believe and lay my hopes on this. And if the Million Mom March is not
successful this year, next year perhaps the two million mom march will be,
and the next year, perhaps the three million mom march will be. For this is
an effort which will not easily be turned aside.
We have the right to demand action. We have a right to demand safety. And
above all, we have a right to demand peace. I am in awe of the success of
your determined efforts to make these demands known. I appreciate it more
than you could ever know. Thank you.
Press] [William's Memorial]