The argument about handguns continues and so do the shootings, the deaths, the suicides - and the documentaries.
The latest small screen look at the big picture on handguns comes from NBC in a documentary titled "Guns, Guns, Guns," to air tonight ( p.m., Ch. 2).This is the second documentary in NBC News's Summer Showcase series and it is a much more serious effort than the series opener, the laughable but not very funny "Of Macho and Men."
Connie Chung hosts the show, which includes reports from correspondents Chung, Bill Schechner, Maria Shriver and Lucky Severson.
The documentary makes its points by concentrating on two days this year, May 20 and 21, traveling to Illinois, California, Texas and Florida.
Why those two days? The first segment of the show, reported from Winnetka, Ill., by Schechner, provides the answer. It was on May 20 that a woman named Lori Dann walked into a second grade classroom at the Hubbard Woods School and started shooting children, killing one and wounding five others.
It is heartbreaking to hear the parents of the victims - and little second graders who witnessed the event - describe the loss of innocence and the beginnings of fear.
It is frightening to realize that under the Illinois gun control law Lori Dann did nothing illegal when she bought three handguns.
The Winnetka segment is followed by a report from Shriver in Los Angeles on teenage gun-toters in a city where, through May, 96 people had died in gang-related incidents.
"There's something about a gun, you know. It just takes all your fear away," Kevin Butler tells Shriver. Butler, 18, is serving time for murder.
The Winnetka and Los Angeles segments are separated by a film clip of the assassination of Robert F. Kennedy, Shriver's uncle.
In Gainesville, Texas, Chung talks to the grieving family of Sharon Wilson, whose husband was going to file for divorce. On May 17 she pawned her and her husband's wedding rings in exchange for a snub-nosed, five-shot revolver which she used to kill her two children and herself.
Her brother says she was always afraid of guns.
The scene shifts to Miami, where Severson reports that last year the Florida Legislature abolished local handgun laws. The publicity about gun-toting citizens was bad for tourism, so the law was changed. It is still easy to get a gun, but now it must be concealed.
Severson said that before the new gun law, Dade Country had 1,300 registered concealed weapons. Now it has more than 9,400.
There are statistics galore and gory in "Guns, Guns, Guns." Among the numbers cited:
There are an estimated 60 million legal handguns in American homes - probably only one-third of the country's total private armory. There is a handgun for every two homes; one for every four citizens.
Americans killed by handguns in the commission of crimes, in suicides and accidents, total 22,000 a year. More Americans have been killed with handguns than have died in all the wars of the 20th century.
At least four youngsters, age 19 or younger, are killed every day by handguns. Firearms are the second leading cause of injury death in children under 19 and they are the leading method of teen suicide. This year 3,000 children will use a gun to take their own lives.
Nine out of 10 handgun deaths are caused by people who are angry, drunk, careless or depressed. Only one out of 10 is caused by criminals in commission of a crime. Only one death in every 118 can be termed a "justifiable homicide" in self-defense. The holder of a handgun is eight times more likely to be shot than an intruder.
"Handgun proponents argue that guns don't kill, people do," Chung says. "Opponents say guns don't die, people do.
"The political debate goes on, the number of guns continues to rise, and so does the number of casualties."
"Guns, Guns, Guns" offers a frightening look at armed America and makes a strong case for tougher gun control laws. It offers the National Rifle Association a token opportunity to speak out in favor of guns in an unconvincing brief statement.
Carl Rowan, a liberal Washington newspaper columnist who has repeatedly called for a total handgun ban, made a better case for the NRA than its own spokesman.
Rowan recently shot a teenage intruder coming out of his swimming pool at 2 a.m. Rowan's explanation, in part: "Anybody who is threatening my family becomes my enemy."