This is the aftermath of the tragic and senseless shooting in Theater 9 in Aurora, Colorado. Our country has witnessed yet again another act of mayhem brought on by gun violence.
This is not exclusively an American issue. We are not the only country with gun violence, but we are at the epicenter. Norway, a country with some of the most rigorous gun laws on the planet was targeted on July 22, 2011 when a gun and bomb rampage killed 8 at a government office and another 69 at a Labor Party youth camp on Utoya Island.
We must also remember the Oklahoma City bombing of April 19, 1995 that took the lives of 168 Americans, including 19 children under age 6. Here is an example of mayhem caused without guns, but such situations much less prevalent than incidents of gun violence.
We need some serious answers. We need to move beyond bumper sticker slogans and partisan answers to look unflinchingly at the circumstances that confront us. Michael Bloomberg, mayor of New York, has called upon the presidential candidates to face the issue and to off their solutions. We need to set aside political bickering and to find solutions to a life and death issue.
More Guns More Security?
The NRA would tell us that more guns equal more security. After every senseless tragedy the NRA will tell us that there “should” have been armed civilians on site in the theater who could have taken out the bad guy. But such arguments defy the facts, logic and common sense.
The theater was a scene of mass chaos. There were smoke bombs, lighting issues, noise, confusion, fear and a general lack of situational awareness. Let us assume that there was an armed civilian who could have returned fire. Under the circumstances, just what could this armed civilian expected to accomplish? Is not it likely that the well-intended civilian would simply increase the carnage in a spray of bullets? Real life seldom follows the movies that we all love to watch.
Also, we need to realize that the gunman was wearing bullet-proof clothing and a ballistic helmet. Also, he was armed with a series of four guns, including a military assault rifle with a 100-round drum magazine. This gun allowed the gunman to shoot 70 people within minutes. Fortunately this gun jammed, saving the lives of perhaps hundreds more people. What use would a small-caliber handgun be against such a well-armed and well-protected gunman? There is no defense against such weaponry save for well-trained SWAT teams carrying sniper rifles and a host of other specialized equipment.
The time to stop these tragedies is before they start. We need to look at how we can prevent any more of these slaughters.
What Kind of Society do We Want?
Do we really want to live in a society where everyone walks around armed? Would you feel safer in a movie theater, a grocery store, or a school board meeting, knowing that there are armed people in the room? Would you really want your children to go to a theater where the gun violence just not be confined to the screen?
Recently there was a robbery in a jewelry store in my county. The owner of the jewelry store chased the suspects into the central concourse of the shopping center and fired his handgun into the crowd. It was a miracle that no-one was injured or even killed. Such vigilante justice puts us all at risk. What would you say to grieving parents who could have lost their child due to such thoughtless heroics?
The Trayvon Martin homicide was the ultimate argument against armed vigilante justice. While we do not know the full details and circumstances surrounding the shooting, a few points are clear. The assailant was carrying a concealed weapon. He contacted the police to report that Martin was out on the street. The police told the assailant to stay in his car and not confront the so-called suspect. But the assailant chose a different course, stalked the victim and fatally shot him. It turns out that Trayvon Martin’s only crime was to go to the store to buy a pack of Skittles while wearing a hoodie. But now at 17 years old he was dead.
Perhaps Trayvon Martin did try to fight off his assailant, causing some minor injuries. But under the circumstances Martin’s potential resistance certainly seems to be justifiable. Had the assailant only followed police department orders and stayed in his car, this conflict would never had happened and a 17 year old boy would still be alive.