New gun debate site: Mea culpa or public service?

These perspectives are not new or unique to me, but they are getting a wider audience with a new web site from a surprising source. It's www.gundebate.com and its sponsor is Eric Thompson, the Green Bay, Wisc., man who runs a number of virtual gun stores. His www.topglock.com was the source for high-capacity magazines and a holster used by Stephen Kazmierczak, the Northern Illinios University grad student who killed five people last month. The Virginia Tech shooter, Seung-Hui Cho, obtained a Walther P22 from Thompson's www.gunsource.com.

Does that make Thompson complicit in gun violence? He doesn’t think so, but his role in two of the most recent school shootings, the “unfortunate twist of fate” that made him the common denominator in the shootings, prompted the launch of gundebate.com. Thompson says he wants to move the national conversation about gun control, public safety and gun violence into a broader context, to promote what he calls “constructive dialog” about guns. He is inviting gun writers on both sides of the issue to contribute to the site, which features reader forums, a news tracker and background information on gun control, gun-carry laws and 2nd Amendment issues.

Will it make a difference? Will mass shootings in America’s schools be a disturbing footnote to history? Will America’s students someday be able to drive guns to school? I’m not betting on it, but Thompson is taking a brave and necessary first step to promote an open, unbiased conversation about guns, gun violence and public safety. Because of his proximity to the issue, he’s the right person to launch this discussion. His site deserves attention, no matter which side of the issue you’re on.

- Andrew McKean