We love our guns, even in the face of our tragic history

Amber Schiavone can't go to a gun-control forum at Winthrop University on Wednesday night. The 22-year-old is dead. A gun was used, police say. It happened last week in Rock Hill.

Ping Chen got shot in the shoulder and hand last week. Some guy already had taken the money from the business she was working in, but he shot her anyway, according to police. This happened about 150 yards from where I sit typing these words. About two blocks from the police station.

Carrying a concealed handgun with a permit is legal in South Carolina. Aficionados say sport, target practice, self-defense.

I say nobody has ever been shot with a clenched fist. Guns, handguns anyway, are made to keep coroners in business. Assault rifles that can be bought from any store or pawn shop are made to kill people.

A Winthrop student helped organize the forum, to be hosted by the school's political science honor society. The forum will feature politicians, police officers, a former prosecuto, a history professor and a political science professor. Talk will center around what the meaning of the Second Amendment of the U.S. Constitution -- the one about the right to bear arms -- and what is happening locally concerning gun control, crime and safety.

"A teenager is more likely to die from a gunshot than from all natural causes of death combined." Know who said that? President Bush in 2003 on the Web site of Project Safe Neighborhoods. I used that in a story once and got slammed by legitimate gun owners.

The former prosecutor, now a private lawyer, is Tommy Pope. Pope prosecuted countless gun crimes for 15 years. Almost five years ago in a courtroom a 16-year-old kid got 10 years for manslaughter. Pope told the court that day he didn't think that kid woke up that morning thinking, "I'm going to kill somebody today." But the kid did shoot and kill somebody. That somebody was 12 years old.

The core issue is balance between the Constitution and accountability in an America that has so many guns in it, Pope said.

Legal guns and millions of illegal guns.

Chris Van Aller, a political science professor who used to teach shooting and has been on a rifle team, said he plans to talk about how rest of the industrialized world handles gun laws. Many countries have both legal gun ownership and about a hundred gun deaths a year, he said, but in America some years we have 30,000 gun deaths.

Eddie Lee is the history professor who will speak. Lee said he's going to stress how, "violence has always been a tragic part of America's culture."

Lee is also the mayor of York -- where a man named Dawud Chester got shot and killed in September.

Forums are for the exchange of ideas. I hope this one attracts a crowd and plenty of ideas. Any idea that might keep guns away from kids, schools and workplaces is OK by me.

By the way, even if you have a permit, don't bring a handgun Wednesday night. It is prohibited, except for officers, on the Winthrop campus and at all schools in the state.

Virginia Tech, a campus, just 10 months ago had 32 people killed by a maniac with guns.