Almost immediately after the recent tragedy in Colorado, reports began to surface on ABC suggesting a “right wing” or Tea Party association with this senseless act. Three hours later, numerous blog posts claiming the shooter was actually a member of Black Bloc, a radical fringe of the Occupy movement, began to spread throughout the Internet. To date, neither claim has been substantiated but the fact that accusations were flying before the blood had even dried points again to the growing divide in our society.
Rather than seeking answers or explanations, our first response is now to point fingers as we race to assign blame to the other side. Once a convenient political affiliation had been ruled out, gun control advocates began mobilizing in a national effort to spin the horrific scene into an argument for greater limitations on the 2nd amendment.
New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg decried the violence and demanded that the presidential candidates address the issue,
“Soothing words are nice, but maybe it’s time the two people who want to be president of the United States stand up and tell us what they’re going to do about it, because this is obviously a problem across the country.”
He went on to add, “I mean, there are so many murders with guns every day. It’s just gotta stop.”
OK, so, “It’s just gotta stop”. Suggestions? Answers? Solutions? None to be found but you can rest assured that we’ll be hearing the debate for weeks to come. I’d be curious to hear what the mayor and others might suggest.
All major networks and virtually every form of media have taken up the torch in an effort to reignite the gun control debate. Perhaps it’s just me, but I fail to see what any law affecting gun ownership has to do with the violence in Aurora. I have not checked the local statutes, but I’m confident that it’s already illegal to gun people down in a movie theater. Reports have also hinted that the shooter had taken drugs – perhaps he sped on the way to the theater and parked in a handicapped zone as well?
The standard retort to gun legislation is the argument that even if all guns were outlawed, criminals would still find ways to acquire and use them. We cannot stem the tide of drugs and aliens across our borders – why would guns be any different? The fallacy of the “gun free zone” line of reasoning has been demonstrated time and time again in numerous cities with some of the most stringent anti-gun laws on the books. Washington, D.C., is known for having what are arguably the toughest anti-gun laws in the country, yet they led the nation in both firearm robberies and murders in 2011.
New York and Chicago are also bastions of strict gun-control laws and both are veritable war zones today. NY had seen a modest reduction in gun violence after initiating their controversial “stop and frisk” program, but after repeated cries of racism and harassment, the policy has been drastically curtailed.
The 2nd amendment seems very clear on the legality of gun ownership despite decades of repeated attempts to muddy the waters. Control advocates have set their sights on local municipalities relying on the sheer volume of blue voters to turn their visions into reality. Unfortunately, the streets in these designated gun-free havens continue to be littered with bodies rather than plowshares.
Another tried and true adage is, “Guns don’t kill people, people kill people.” In the case of the Aurora shooter, his apartment was a literal minefield of booby-traps and IEDs. If for some reason James Holmes was unable to acquire a firearm, there are countless ways he could have brought about lethal mayhem. Given his educational background and obvious intelligence, some sort of nerve agent or chemical weapon was probably well within his capabilities – constructing a powerful explosive certainly would have been a fairly simple task for such an individual. Simply removing one option will not deter a psychopath from wreaking havoc.
Perhaps the best counter for gun violence is a competent individual with a valid CCW permit. This would have been a difficult situation in Aurora as the assailant was wearing body armor, but even in the worst case scenario, his attention would have been diverted and many others may have escaped harm. In cases such as the Norway massacre last year, police were 90 minutes away and the helpless victims sat like so many fish in a barrel. Columbine, it could be argued, was much the same and the Fort Hood incident was only stopped when Nidal Hasan was confronted by other weapon fire.
No one is suggesting we return to the days of the Wild West with armed citizens settling their differences in the dusty, tumbleweed strewn streets, but evidence would suggest that crime rates do indeed decline when CCW permits are available and gun restrictions are less prevalent. The opposite has also been demonstrated time and time again. Kennesaw, Georgia, implemented a policy of mandatory gun ownership in 1982 and they have one of the lowest crime rates in the country. For what it’s worth, Family Circle Magazinealso named Kennesaw as one of the 10 best towns for families. Granted, this is a small town but it demonstrates that the mere presence of firearms alone is not an automatic trigger for gun violence.
Many might recoil at the suggestion but is it possible that our problem with gun violence arises not so much from a lack of laws but rather deeply rooted societal issues? We are a warlike species, prone to aggression from the start. Even our recreation is woven with threads of the same savagery that unravel the very fabric of our humanity when tugged upon by unstable individuals. As with recent anti-smoking campaigns, a far more effective strategy might be to remove all references to gun violence from television and cinema although I think people would be clamoring to download every Clint Eastwood or Sylvester Stallone movie they could get their hands on.
I think that reasonable people everywhere support sensible precautions in the permit process. Although controversial, mandatory sentences for gun crimes would also do much more to reduce future gun violence than any new law aimed at the elimination of firearms in general.
The answer to these problems is seldom more legislation and definitely not confiscation. The criminals would indeed find access to guns and law abiding Americans would be left cowering at their mercy. We need to be able to have an honest conversation about the epidemic of violence that’s sweeping our nation. It’s ok to say “target” or “cross hairs” again – these were ridiculous distractions after the Gifford’s incident and besides, our new tone of civility seemed to dissipate faster than you could say furious, but that’s another topic altogether.