Have the shootings of Dr. Michael Halberstam, John Lennon, Ronald Reagan and Pope John Paul II increased concern about handgun control in the United States?
By one measure, the answer is "yes." At Handgun Control Inc. in Washington, membership stood at about 80,000 at the end of last year. Following the string of celebrity shootings, Handgun Control attracted 70,000 new members and received hundreds of thousands of letters of support.
One reason is the publicity garnered by Handgun Control's director, Pete Shields, a former Dupont executive in Delaware whose son was the final victim of the so-called "Zebra" killer in San Francisco in 1973. Shields began examining the issue of gun control after the murder of his son and and eventually focused his interest on handguns. He did some volunteer work for the fledgling Handgun Control group, then quit his job and soon became head of the organization.
After the shooting of Reagan, "60 Minutes" repeated a 1977 segment on handgun control that featured Shields. That led to a book contract, and this week marks Arbor House's publication of a book written by Shields with the help of Washington writer John Greenya. Its title plays on an American cliche: Guns Don't Die, People Do .