http://www.ajc.com/opinion/content/opinion/tucker/stories/2007/04/07/0408edtucker.html Slayings sting â€” still love affair with guns lasts Published on: 04/08/07 Last Tuesday, a man followed a woman into a downtown Atlanta hotel â€” in the same complex as CNN's headquarters â€” and shot her in the face and upper body, leaving her fatally wounded. He, in turn, was shot by a security guard and remained hospitalized late last week. The victim, Clara Riddles, worked at the hotel, but the rage that radiated from her assailant, Arthur Mann, was apparently personal. Family say the two had been dating, but Riddles had recently broken it off. What propelled the shooting into national headlines was that it happened in the same building occupied by hundreds of CNN staffers, and it was also near a major sports venue, where college basketball's Final Four tournament had ended the night before. Every week in this country, men shoot their wives, workers shoot their bosses, gang members shoot their rivals. Most of those crimes barely merit a mention in the day's news mix. Gun assaults are rising, but you're unlikely to hear anything from the top-tier presidential candidates about improving gun safety laws. Republicans, of course, are wholly owned by the National Rifle Association, which advocates a howitzer in every home. Democrats, meanwhile, have been persuaded that gun safety is the suicide bomb of domestic politics; mention the subject, and your campaign explodes. So this folly will continue, fueled by a perplexing cultural ethos that worships individual gun ownership. A century from now, anthropologists will look back and wonder what in the world this was all about. They'll sift through the ruins and the historical record, in much the same way anthropologists today puzzle over cannibalism and the sacrifice of virgins in long-dead civilizations. They'll wonder how a highly advanced and sophisticated culture allowed unchecked personal gun ownership, despite the carnage. After years during which creative policies and lucky demographics combined to produce dramatic drops in violent crime, law enforcement officials are reporting a rise in violence â€” fueled by the gun. Violent crime peaked nationally in 1992, and then began falling dramatically over the next several years. But in 2005, police officials began to see an increase. A report released in March by the Police Executive Research Forum stated that the murder rate had jumped by more than 10 percent since 2004 in dozens of large cities across the country. Police attribute the increase to several factors, including an epidemic of methamphetamine, a casual acceptance of violence among a subset of aimless young men and a flood of illegal guns. Since Sept. 11, the FBI has begun to devote more resources to terrorism and fewer to local crimes, including gun felonies. But the bigger problem is the influence of an irrational gun lobby that insists that there should be no laws regulating gun use. In 2005, Congress handed firearms manufacturers a huge gift when it passed a law that shields the industry from virtually all liability lawsuits. It was intended to stave off a spate of court actions aimed at holding manufacturers responsible for some of the carnage that comes from the barrel of a gun. But the gun lobby is never satisfied. Now, its members are miffed that New York City authorities were able to prove that out-of-state gun dealers were flouting laws that mandate background checks and limit the number of firearms purchased by a single buyer. After New York's Republican mayor, Michael Bloomberg, took action against several Georgia gun shops, the NRA starting lobbying Congress to prevent the release of the gun trace information that helped New York police make their case. (Bloomberg was trying to stop illegal guns, many of which were traced to out-of-state shops, from flooding his city.) But it's not just illegal guns that kill the innocent, and it's not only hardened felons who pick up a gun and wreak havoc. A surfeit of guns gives gloomy adolescents a handy tool for suicide and turns harried fathers, angry and stressed over traffic, into road-rage killers. Still, the cult of gun ownership remains strangely seductive. Despite opposition from police officers, the Legislature is considering a bill that would allow gun owners to tuck their firearms under the driver's seat. The Legislature may also ignore the concerns of business owners and overrule their right to prevent employees from keeping guns in vehicles parked on company property. Sorting through this insanity will no doubt inspire reams of literature of anthropologists and social historians a century from now. Perhaps by then the American love affair with the gun will be a curious moment in history; for now, it's a lethal and inexplicable reality. â€¢ Cynthia Tucker is editorial page editor. Her column appears Sundays and Thursdays.