Last Friday, after the early news reports finally ironed out the major details of the shooting in Colorado (If you don’t know what I’m talking about, send me your address and clear a room. I’m moving in), I have to admit that my interest waned quickly. 12 dead, 59 injured, one shooter, body armor, crowded theater, smoke grenade, and multiple guns. All that was left to report was the shooter’s identity. While I had absolutely no interest in tracking the media tornado sure to develop around the attacker, I was interested to know who had committed such a heinous act.
I wasn’t sure what kind of person I expected it to be. But I knew what kind of person I didn’t want it to be. I did not want the assailant to be in any way perceivably Muslim or Arab for fear of reinforcing the all too accepted and ignorant stereotypes that all Muslims/Arabs are violent people. And I certainly didn’t want another Anders Breivik, where we’d find out that the shooter had been holed-up in his apartment for months drafting a political manifesto and creating the delusion that murdering a theater full of people would somehow provide him the platform needed to share it with the world.
I really needed this to be a crazy act by a crazy person, and I basically decided that since there was no way to make it not happen in the first place, then I wanted the attacker to be some crazy comic book nerd who really wished someone would just make a fucking Aquaman movie already. Aren’t there enough Batman movies by now?
Coming in summer 2028, Brad Pitt returns to the big screen in “BATMAN, The Retirement Party.” Don’t worry. It will be a comedic storyline by then.
By the end of the day on Friday, police had the alleged shooter in custody. He was not cooperating with the investigators (which reduced my Breivik concerns) and he’s not Arab or Muslim. I was done listening to the story. It was a crazy act by a crazy person. Get back to me after the trial and let me know how it turns out.
But it wasn’t that easy to ignore in the days following the shooting. Even without television access, I could not escape the media tracking every move the police made while dealing with his booby trapped apartment, and digging up every possible detail of his personal life, and tracking every blink of his eyes during his arraignment. In addition to all of the rubbernecking, there was also an immediate and overwhelming influx of gun control comments and memes (read: photos/images with simplistic quip printed on them) all over the internet.
I had naively not even thought about the issue of gun control in response to the theater shootings. I’m slow sometimes. And until two days later when a friend asked me specifically what my gun control views were, I don’t think I had ever really tried to express them.
My gun control views are admittedly underdeveloped, but I’m working on it. I think it’s not too different than the “free market” myth. No sane person can say that they don’t believe in any regulation of gun sales and availability. Should someone be able to personally own a nuclear weapon just because they can afford to buy one? How about a surface to air missile launcher? I think most people would say “no,” so we can probably agree that there should be some level of arms regulation. But where do we draw the line? That is where so many people get ridiculous, throw reason out for talking points, and start pretending that any “line” is a tyrannical attack on their constitutional rights. I wonder how comfortable they’d be when I towed a giant 200 mm gun home behind my truck and parked in the driveway coincidently aiming it into the living room across the street.
There is the argument that criminals don’t adhere to gun laws so it doesn’t matter, but by that rational we should abolish all laws. That argument is stupid on its face. Speeders don’t follow speed limits, but we don’t abolish them. Traffic laws provide the parameters needed to maintain a level of safety on the highway and define the limits needed to indentify and stop those who are endangering everyone else with their disregard of those laws.
Organizations like the NRA have muddied the waters of the debate so much that it is almost out of the realm of reason. I recently read an issue of the NRA magazine, and that thing is a political propaganda pamphlet way more than it is a magazine about guns, for gun owners. The cover article of the issue I read was a political fund-raising commercial (selling some silly coin) for the NRA to raise money to fund anti-Obama campaigns, and the fear mongering and paranoia of the article was absolutely ludicrous. I don’t believe that message of fear is based as much on the concerns against an oppressive government as it is based on the fact that it increases national gun sales and fund raising for gun-supporting organizations. Despite the current administration near silence on gun control issues, hyperbole about Obama’s secret agenda has made a lot of people a lot of money. It’s a financial policy more than constitutional politics.
I cannot think of a legitimate reason why the average citizen should need an assault rifle. But I cannot think of a legitimate reason why the average citizen should need a car that goes 200 mph either. Some people just have different hobbies. Some people like to fire a machine gun on a range or on their own property. I’ve done it. But I also don’t see why gun owners and hobbyist see registering those guns, waiting for a background check to buy them, and other regulations as some slippery slope of government threatening their personal liberties. As far as I know, if someone wants to buy a machine gun (depending on the state), they can. They might not be able to do it in 30 minutes at the local Wal-Mart, but it is possible. And if you need a machine gun in a hurry, you probably aren’t going to do anything positive with it. It can be argued that over-regulation has and can lead to a larger black market gun trade, but as with so many things, I believe a balance can be achieved if only the two sides would agree on a common reality. I hate how unlikely that is.
The vast majority of comments and memes coming out in the hours and days following the Aurora shooting expressed a steadfast belief that more guns in the theater was undoubtedly the best way to have prevented or minimized the impact of the incident. And the state of Colorado experienced a huge spike in gun sales over the weekend following the shooting. So clearly, More guns = Safety. More Gun Laws = Dictatorship. It’s as simple as that.
I don’t take issue with the possibility that a legal and responsible gun owner may have been able to end the mayhem sooner (even though the shooter was apparently wearing full body armor). I take issue with the overconfidence of that belief. There is absolutely no guaranty that another gunman would’ve done anything but added more bullets to an already very chaotic, loud, dark, and smoke filled room full of frantic people running for their lives. To deny the possibility that another legal and responsible gun owner could have very well added to the innocent casualties is arrogant and reckless. If everyone is so sure that a second shooter would’ve prevented so much of the casualties, why not put snipers in every theater’s projection booth? Think of the job creation that would be.
According to what I’ve read, the Aurora shooter bought all four of his guns and his thousands of bullets 100% legally. Could he have still acquired an assault rifle if the ban on them had not been lifted in 2004? Maybe. Maybe a 24 year old college student could have found the connections needed to buy a machine gun illegally. But maybe he wouldn’t have. Maybe that ban being in place would’ve been the parameters needed for law enforcement personnel to detect an illegal gun dealer selling assault weapons and prevent that sale. Maybe that ban would have done nothing to slow him down at all. OR maybe the entire assault rifle debate is just a distraction from the fact that the large majority of gun related deaths, and homicides in general, in this country are the result of hand guns and not assault rifles. I do not know. And neither does anyone else. And the more I see and hear people pretending to be so certain that a gun law would or wouldn’t have affected the event, the more frustrating it is.
Is it impossible to recognize the very limited need for certain types of weapons and therefore the possible merits in regulating their sale more stringently? Is it necessary? I fully support the second amendment. It is an incredibly important part of the U.S. Constitution. I’ve shot several different guns, including assault rifles. It is interesting to feel the power of a gun in your hand. I respect that power. I just don’t know if imposing any regulations at all on the access to higher risk weapons necessarily equates to limiting one’s overall right to keep and bear arms. Just like the first amendment does not protect every single word that can be uttered (i.e. yelling “Fire” in a crowded theater), the second amendment does not necessarily protect possession of any and all types of “arms.” I’m not suggesting a new ban on anything. I’m just questioning if a higher level of regulation could better aid in keeping such powerful weapons in the hands of knowledgeable and responsible people. It could be compared to the special commercial driver’s license (CDL) required to drive a tractor trailer. That is a huge and powerful automobile capable of massive casualty if mishandled, and that is why there are more stringent requirements to legally operate one. Is that same idea completely irrational when one desires to own and operate a large and powerful weapon that is actually designed to do massive damage more efficiently? I don’t think so. But I will acknowledge that this could also be an issue of proper enforcement of existing regulations.
No matter the issue, nothing will be done as long as people refuse to be reasonable with each other. I’m not sure when the word “regulation” automatically became synonymous with “tyranny,” but if it is going to be continually cast that way, what is the answer? Anarchy? I don’t think so. I don’t even think the majority of people mischaracterizing all regulation as oppressive are anywhere near anarchists in their beliefs. I just think the rhetoric in all political debate has gotten so far out of control that it’s become very difficult to maintain a reasoned debate about even the most important issues. Everything is either “good” or “evil” and there is no in between.
It is impossible to legislate away the risk of dangerous people doing dangerous things. So far I have heard of absolutely no mention of clues or warning signs in the Colorado shooter’s past. Sometimes those warning are there. Sometimes they are not. The idea that we will ever be able to legislate away the risk of crazy people doing crazy things is unrealistic. It is impossible to guaranty anyone’s safety 100 percent of the time. Hell, we’ve put huge efforts into protecting the Presidents of the United States and six of them have been shot, four fatally. But that doesn’t mean that we should abandon efforts to maintain some level of reasonable control of dangerous weapons and who is using them. There has to be a way to achieve a balanced debate on this issue. Should I be able to buy or build my own nuclear weapon? The government has them, and I have to be able to defend myself against the government. Right?
The image below was the only one I’ve seen since the shooting that I liked. I like it because it is simply an expression of perspective aimed at reminding people that there are in fact A LOT of responsible gun owners in this country that are not hurting anyone, and that do not want to. It seemed to be the only one that wasn’t making an overconfident comment about what could’ve or should’ve happened differently in that theater. I appreciated that.