Why? Why Aurora, Ft. Hood, Gabby Giffords, VA Tech...

Will it ever stop? Not at the rate we’re going. Will it stop with absolutist arguments from either side on the gun debate? Not with the ‘You’ll-only-pry-this-weapon-out-of-my-cold-dead-hands’ mentality nor with the ‘Make-all-guns-illegal' argument either.


Why does Aurora happen?

What does it say about us as a culture, that this kind of thing happens here? That it happens here more than it happens any other place in the world?

We’re not at war at home. We’re not in a place where suicide bombings happen, and we’re not currently engaged in a religious or territorial war within our own borders.

Why does it happen here?

What does it say about us as a culture that it does happen here? What does it say about us as a culture that we glorify guns, even eroticize guns, and market them in the way the billboard image I’ve used with this column does?

What does it say about us as a culture that some people seek out fame, infamy or a perceived glory by going down guns a’blazing, in a hail of bullets and a stream of gunfire?

What does it say about us as a culture that there are people who turn to that? And what does it say about us as a culture that they can easily get the means to do that? That every move made by the Aurora shooting suspect James Holmes, up until the moment that he tossed his first smoke bomb in the movie theater, was legal?

He obtained the guns legally, including an assault rifle that had been banned for sale to civilians until that ban expired in 2004. He obtained the ammunitio — 6,000 rounds of ammo — legally.

In our culture, we do have an ongoing verbal and political battle over the freedom and right to bear arms, and perhaps it needs to be reframed as a question between the right to bear arms and the freedom and right to go to a movie theater without getting shot. Just as important as the right to bear arms is the freedom and the right to life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness.

I’m not saying that the right to bear arms is not something that deserves to be protected. I am not against the Second Amendment. Let me state that again, loud and clear, especially for those of you who in the past have thought I was, (including those who put me on a pro-gun, anti-gun-control ‘Bang List’): 

I am not against the Second Amendment.

However, what is it about our culture that allows bad people to easily have access to such destructive weaponry? Why didn’t somebody purchasing 6,000 rounds of ammunition set off some kind of alarm somewhere? Why don’t we have that built into the structure of how someone can legally and safely obtain that amount of terror?

Didn’t anyone wonder why someone might need to have that much automatic weaponry? Is that rational, even for someone who just wants to hunt legally, or shoot target practice legally.

One Denver columnist posed the question asking if James Holmes had instead been named Ibrahim or Mohammed, would someone have stopped to ask ‘why?’ then.

In the days after Holmes walked into that midnight screening of The Dark Knight Rises, there were critics who said, “Oh sure, this tragedy is just gonna get politicized.” And I know someone will accuse me of politicizing it because I’ve written this column. But discourse, debate and discussion is exactly what should happen after this kind of awful, horrible event—rational dialogue about how our country and our culture handles this idea of what having the right to bear arms really means.

In fact, to me, shutting down that conversation would be politicizing it more so than any kind of examination of how much arms are too much.

Undoubtedly, someone will make the argument that our nation’s forefathers and founders wanted to protect the right to bear arms in the U.S. Constitution. I’m sure they did. However, the rational thinker in me has to counter-argue that I can’t imagine they could have dreamed up the kinds of weaponry and arms we now find available.

We, as a nation, have to have this conversation. On behalf of the 12 victims who were killed by James Holmes’ bullets, and on behalf of the 59 other victims who were injured by James Holmes’ bullets, and on behalf of the hundreds of those 71 victims’ family members, and on behalf of the millions of other people who all weekend asked, “Why?”—we need to have this conversation.

We need to have this conversation because of people like Texas Rep. Louie Gohmert from TX, who questioned why people in the movie theater didn’t have a gun to defend themselves. Or because of former Arizona State Senator Russell Pearce, who posted on Facebook about those moviegoers in the Aurora theater that they should have been more brave and prepared—in other words, armed.

Those statements—which amount to blame-the-victims—is just what we need, right? We need the return to the Wild West inside that darkened movie theater, with more bullets from all sides flying across the theater in the pitch black dark.

Has that ever worked? Has anyone in the middle of a mass shooting massacre ever been stopped by a gun-wielding hero who wasn’t a police officer called to the scene?

Obviously, I’m impassioned and emotional about this, as we should be when 12 people are killed in senseless gunfire. We should be saddened, we should be horrified, and we should be moved to have rational discussion about how to make this less likely to happen again.

Will it ever stop? For sure, not at the rate we’re going. Will it stop with blind, absolute arguments from either side on the gun control debate?  Not with the ‘You’ll-only-pry-this-weapon-out-of-my-cold-dead-hands’ mentality nor with the ‘Make-all-guns-illegal’ approach either.

How about we start by taking both of those options off the table.

But let’s find some middle, rational ground. 

Let’s listen to sane voices like Jim and Sarah Brady, who said in a statement after the Aurora shootings:  “Congress has done nothing since the mid-1990s to keep guns out of the hands of dangerous people. We pledge to keep fighting the NRA and entire gun lobby in an effort to strengthen our background checks to include all firearm purchases, ban assault clips with large magazines that enable mass killers, and to make it more difficult to obtain concealed carry permits.”

Or even conservative columnist Bill Kristol, who said “People have a right to handguns and hunting rifles,” he said. “I don’t think they have a right to semi-automatic, quasi-machine guns that can shoot hundred bullets at a time. And I actually think the Democrats are being foolish as they are being cowardly. I think there is more support for some moderate forms of gun control.”

Or even New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg, who called on each of the Presidential candidates “to stand up and tell us what they’re going to do about it.”

So that we may someday have fewer and fewer of these conversations. So that we may have fewer times we have to ask, ‘Why?’  Why Aurora? Why Ft. Hood? Why Gabby Giffords? Why Virginia Tech?

We need to ask, ‘Why?’ a lot less, and we need to say ‘No more. Let’s make this stop.’

John M. Joy July 24, 2012 at 10:03 AM
But you ARE against the Second Amendment, for the purpose of that Amendment is the recognition of our right not only to personal self-defense, but defense against a tyrannical government. That would imply weapons that can shoot lots-and-lots of bullets. As for Aurora: it bothered me that, in a theater full of people NOBODY was carrying concealed, and thus possibly in a position to stop the shooter. Then I learned Aurora had a municipal ordinance making concealed carry ILLEGAL, and thus rendering all those people sitting ducks. The world will always have its share of malicious people and nutjobs. The best we can hope to do is even the odds a bit, and the surest way to do that is by NOT disarming those who are not malicious people and nutjobs.
Casey R. July 24, 2012 at 02:20 PM
The second amendment was written LONG before weaponry capable of LOTS & LOTS of bullets was invented. Secondly - even IF there was someone in the theater that were "carrying" - there is no proof that they wouldn't have been taken out as easily as the little 6-yr old girl. Just because you HAVE a gun doesn't make you a good shot, or more inclined to be a hero. RESPONSIBILITY for one's actions is something that starts with children. Understanding the signs that someone is troubled and needs help takes concern and attention. A rare commodity in this world. No one "has the time" - not parents, siblings, teachers or anyone else. Stopping the sprawl of evil across the world will be A LOT of work. Are you ready to do something or just kill somebody?
John M. Joy July 24, 2012 at 02:32 PM
Re: Second Amendment: that may be, but human nature hasn't changed any, and it was written to address that. Re: Responsibility - true that, however once you find yourself in a situation where you are facing an obvious threat to life and limb, the time for understanding, concern and attention has passed. The threat needs to be removed. And while there may be "no proof" that the presence of an individual carrying concealed would have stopped the shooter in this instance, common sense dictates that there would have been a better chance of doing so than was the case with a theater full of (legally disarmed) sitting ducks.
Janis Hardy July 24, 2012 at 04:15 PM
This kind of event DOES NOT happen here more than anywhere else in the world! Listening to several cable news programs yesterday, I heard litanies of other mass killing sprees elsewhere in the world... many in countries deemed more 'peaceful' than the US. I am not sure there is anything anyone could do to protect humankind from the kind of individual who perpetrates this kind of event. Most of us would say they are 'crazy', 'unhinged' or possessing of some other form of mental defect, and many of these 'defects' are undetectable until it is too late... The Ft. Hood, VA Tech, and Gabby Giffords shooters were all found to be mentally defective in some form or another. Will the Aurora, CO shooter be the next? And not to trivialize anything, but if someone wants to get a weapon of any kind badly enough, they will find a way to get one, leagally or otherwise.
Samantha July 24, 2012 at 07:17 PM
I'm not against gun control, or tightening the leash a little on those who can own a gun. I agree with the fact that there should be serious limitations on anyone, not just civilians, who can own a semi-automatic of any kind. People will always cry "no guns" or "the government is going back on its word, because that's just politics. I would love to hear them say they would do further checking and, not necessarily make it more difficult, but make it safer that way. Who are the "bad people" who get to own guns? Who gets to decide who the "bad people" are? How do we do that? You can suggest to keep guns out of the hands of people who are not stable enough to be using them, but until you suggest a better way of detecting who the "bad people" are, it's null and void.
James Smith July 24, 2012 at 07:33 PM
There is a white elephant in the room(no pun intended). It is the white male's psychotic obsession with guns. The FBI profile of the mass murderer is the white male. Why are people afraid to say that? Well I am going there! White Males,particularly in the south, teach their 5 yr old males how to shoot a gun before they learn to read. This is a problem that needs to be addressed in the light of the FBI profile. No amount og un control or legislation will stop these mass shootings unless the profiler is a addressed.
John M. Joy July 24, 2012 at 07:44 PM
Joe Blow July 25, 2012 at 03:04 PM
From the Government statistics in the link provided by Mr. Joy it appears your numbers are slightly off. Apparently, based on the government statistics, blacks commitment far more homicides in the U.S. and they only constitute 1/5 as many people per population as white people. For the record, I learned to shoot a firearm at age 7 and all my children at that age as well. It's called responsibility and respect of a firearm, something that seems to have been lost with the rise of liberalism. It was always done in a safe environment for the purpose of preparing for the defense of my country and hunting purposes to provide food. Now, I would be willing to bet that most of the 7 y.o. black children got their "training" in firearms when Leroy shot Jamal in a drug dispute or while robbing the liquor store.
Janis Hardy July 25, 2012 at 05:38 PM
I'd be willing to bet that very few (if ANY) of the 'white males' in the FBI profile were your Southern white males trained from the age of 5 in the proper and correct use of firearms. I'd venture a guess that they are among the least likely to be mass murderers....
John M. Joy July 26, 2012 at 01:32 AM
Oh, and Ms Herve, since you asked "Has that EVER worked?" http://abcnews.go.com/US/florida-man-71-shoots-alleged-robbers-internet-cafe/story?id=16800859


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