(CNSNews.com) - The recent spate of school shootings across the country has escalated the debate over gun control, with one group claiming that the incidents over the past week are the result of "too many guns" being available, while another organization claims that gun control laws are "literally killing our children."
Pointing to the incidents on Sept. 27 in Bailey, Colo., two days later in Cazenovia, Wis., and on Oct. 2 in Nickel Mines, Pa., Thom Mannard, executive director of the Illinois Council Against Handgun Violence (ICHV), said in a news release: "The common denominator in all these horrific school violence incidents was the use of guns to kill innocent people."
While noting that "innocent students have been swept up in a tidal wave of violence in the last week," Mannard admitted that "there is no way to stop every incident like this from happening, but think about how many fewer people would have been injured or killed in these brutal attacks if the perpetrators had not been armed with guns."
"Communities may only be mourning one person rather than five or 10," Mannard said.
"We at ICHV acknowledge that there is no 'magic bullet' to stop every potential gun fatality or shooting incident, but there are overall solutions to stop the escalating gun violence problem," he stated.
"Recognizing the warning signs presented by individuals is a key to preventing such incidents," said Mannard.
"Those who have guns in their homes and who see their loved ones exhibiting severe distress, depression or other signs of mental illness should take action immediately to ensure that any weapons in the home are inaccessible to those individuals," he added.
"We need a comprehensive plan to reduce gun violence in America," Mannard said. "Fundamentally, we have to step back and ask: 'Are we going in the right direction as a country to reduce gun fatalities and injuries?'
"These latest incidents clearly show that we're not, and it's time we start treating this epidemic in terms of saving lives instead of politicizing violence in America," he said.
"It is incumbent upon all Americans to realize that gun violence is still a critical problem in our country, especially for our children who continue to be the victims of such senseless and brutal attacks," Mannard added.
However, Mannard's claim that there are "too many guns" was contradicted by an ally in the movement to enact strict gun control -- Pennsylvania Gov. Ed Rendell, who noted that stronger gun laws would not have prevented the Oct. 2 shooting at an Amish school in Lancaster County.
"I believe with all my heart that we need more gun control," the Democratic official said during a press conference on Tuesday, but he also acknowledged that tougher gun laws would not have prevented Charles Carl Roberts IV from carrying out his attack.
"You can make all the changes you want, but you can never stop a random act of violence by someone intent on taking his own life," Rendell said.
Alan Gottlieb, chairman of the Citizens Committee for the Right to Keep and Bear Arms (CCRKBA), had a quick response for Pennsylvania's top official. "Welcome to the party, Gov. Rendell," Gottlieb said.
"While the Brady Campaign to Prevent Gun Violence has been wringing its hands and declaring that 'somebody has got to do something,' we have consistently maintained that such crimes are impossible to predict and equally impossible to prevent with passage of yet another gun law," Gottlieb said.
"And finally, Gov. Rendell agrees with us," he added.
"The gunman had no criminal or mental health background," Gottlieb said, "so he would pass any criminal background check. His family and friends described him as a loving family man. Nobody saw this coming.
"This shooting -- and the ones last week in Colorado and Wisconsin, and every school shooting in the past 10 years -- all had one thing in common," Gottlieb observed. "They all happened in so-called 'gun-free school zones,' where students and adult staff are essentially helpless.
"Gun control extremism has disarmed the wrong people and created risk-free environments for those who would commit murder and mayhem," Gottlieb said.
"It is time to re-consider gun-free school zone laws and the zero-tolerance mentality such laws foster," Gottlieb noted. "We can no longer afford the empty-headed Utopian illusion that gun control and gun-free zones will keep children safe.
"Like all other gun control laws, this one has been a monumental failure, and it is literally killing our children," Gottlieb added. "If it saves the life of just one child, abolishing such laws will be worth the effort."
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