In 1977, horror novelist Stephen King published his first novel, Rage, under the pseudonym Richard Bachman, about a high school student named Charlie Decker who shoots and kills his algebra teacher.
On 2 February 1996, 14-year-old student Barry Dale Loukaitis shot and killed his algebra teacher and two other students at Frontier middle school in Moses Lake, Washington. After Loukaitis committed the murders, he waved his gun in the air and declared, "This sure beats algebra, doesn't it?" The quote is from Rage.
The following year, 14-year-old Michael Carneal took a semi-automatic handgun to Heath high school in West Paducah, Kentucky, and killed three students and injured five. A copy of Rage was found in his locker.
That was the final straw for King, who then asked his publishers to cease publication of the novel.
Fast-forward to January 2013. In response to the Newtown, Connecticut, shootings, and the hugely powerful US National Rifle Association's refusal to discuss a ban on assault weapons, King published a 25-page essay called Guns, in which he explains why sensible gun control is crucial in the US.
King owns three handguns, but he questions why gun advocates need deadly weapons like the Bushmaster or the AR-15:
I have nothing against gun owners, sport shooters, or hunters, but semi-automatic weapons have only two purposes. One is so that owners can take them to the shooting range once in awhile, yell yeehaw and get all horny at the rapid fire and the burning vapour spurting from the end of the barrel. Their other use – their only other use – is to kill people.
In the wake of the Sandy Hook shootings, gun advocates have to ask themselves if their zeal to protect even the outer limits of gun ownership has anything to do with preserving the Second Amendment as a whole, or if it's just a stubborn desire to hold on to what they have, and to hell with the collateral damage.
He goes on to cite the Port Arthur massacre in Tasmania in 1996, where shooter Martin Bryant killed 35 and wounded 23:
Afterwards, the Australian government either banned or restricted automatic weapons and authorised a huge buyback that eventually netted 600,000 weapons. Since then, homicides by firearm have declined almost 60% in Australia. The guns-for-everyone advocates hate that statistic, and dispute it, but as Bill Clinton likes to say, it's not opinion; it's arithmetic, honey.
King says he pulled Rage from the shelves because it was the right thing to do, and he appeals to gun advocates to do the same with assault weapons:
I didn't pull Rage from publication because the law demanded it; I was protected under the First Amendment, and the law couldn't demand it. I pulled it because in my judgment it might be hurting people, and that made it the responsible thing to do. Assault weapons will remain readily available to crazy people until the powerful pro-gun forces in this country decide to do a similar turnaround.
Learn more: Get briefed on why common-sense gun control can't wait.
Sources: New York Times, Atlantic, Avaaz, Guardian, Democracy Now, Miami Herald