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Gun Debate’s Twisted Logic

ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. — I was planning to write today about state Rep. Nora Espinoza’s bill that tells the federal government to keep its lily-livered hands off our guns.

Then a 15-year-old boy named Nehemiah Griego allegedly went on the kind of shooting spree that gets your town – like Aurora, like Newtown, like Webster – plastered all over the national news.

In the Old Testament, Nehemiah rebuilt the walls of Jerusalem.

In the South Valley early on Saturday morning, he dealt with building anger, authorities say, by taking a .22-caliber rifle from his parents’ bedroom closet and shooting his mother, Sarah, in the head. Next, he fatally shot his 9-year-old brother, Zephaniah, 5-year-old sister, Jael, and 2-year-old sister, Angelina, before getting more firepower – his father’s AR-15 semiautomatic rifle – and riddling him with bullets as he returned home.

Nehemiah reloaded the weapons, put them in the back of the family van and thought about going to Walmart, where he intended to kill a lot more people and go out with guns ablaze in a shootout with the cops.

Instead, he ended up at his church and, thankfully, the death toll stopped at five.

Now that we have our own massacre, let’s look back at where the gun control debate has taken us since the Newtown massacre.

♦ Because Newtown happened at a school, the NRA suggested the best response would be armed guards at schools.

♦ Some conservatives lamented the problem was not a lack of gun control but a lack of evil control: If God were worshipped freely in public schools, kids would not get twisted and reach for guns.

♦ The president proposed reinstating a nationwide ban on assault weapons and on high-capacity magazines, among other reforms.

♦ A conspiracy theory sprouted -Newtown truthers – that the massacre was an elaborate hoax with fake children and actors playing grieving parents. Who would perpetrate such a sick fraud? Some Internet sites implied a government conspiracy to set a more receptive stage for the president’s gun control legislation. The video that has gone viral says, “Isn’t something like Sandy Hook just what the government needs to start disarming the public?” and in message boards people have said the grieving parents were actors supplied by FEMA

♦ In Santa Fe, Espinoza, a Republican from Roswell, responded to the president’s initiative with House Bill 114, which would criminalize the enforcement of federal firearm laws in New Mexico. In the wake of the Albuquerque quintuple homicide this week, she didn’t reconsider. Instead, she told this newspaper that her bill “is trying to send a message to the federal government that we are not going to just sit and allow the federal government to do as it pleases.” An elected body in New Mexico must make a law that tells an elected body in Washington that it has no business making a law – got it?

It would be a refreshing change if each new horrific crime committed with a gun clarified our thinking on gun violence, but as Espinoza’s fuzzy logic shows, it only winds it into kookier knots.

There are two parts of gun violence – the violence and the gun. Of the 16,000 or so homicides in this country each year, about 11,000 are committed with guns. Of the 38,000 or so suicides in this country each year, about 19,000 are committed with guns.

That’s the gun side of the equation. Simple arithmetic would tell you that if some of those angry, depressed or impulsive people hadn’t had access to the gun at the critical moment, those numbers would go down.

The violence side of the equation is much harder to parse.

Nehemiah Griego did not receive his education in the godless halls of public school. His father, Greg Griego, was a former pastor at Calvary church. His wife home-schooled their children. The kids, including Nehemiah, were active in church.

We can spend a lot of time speculating on what was going on in Nehemiah’s heart last weekend. But we know that Jesus did not protect the Griego family, Nehemiah included, from evil.

A locked gun safe with a hidden key or a house where guns were not allowed might have.

As we wander around the dark rhetorical corridors of this gun debate, each of us clothed in our own cultures and political ideologies and following our own moral compasses, can we at least agree on that?

UpFront is a daily front-page news and opinion column. Comment directly to Leslie at 823-3914 or Go to to submit a letter to the editor.
— This article appeared on page A1 of the Albuquerque Journal