The horrific tragedy in Aurora, Colorado this morning, leaving at least 12 dead and 58 wounded, stands beyond belief in the annals of state mayhem. Hundreds of people throng joyously into an Aurora Century 16 cinema, to see the midnight premier of 'The Dark Night Rises' only to be greeted by gunfire 25 minutes into the film. The shooter, evidently armed with two large (0.40 cal) Glock automatic handguns, and a Smith and Wesson MP15 assault rifle, mowed down fleeing theater goers at will, as blood spattered all over the cinema floor. Many of those who survived did so not by fleeing (because the shooter waited for victims to bolt to the exit), but by lying low or playing dead between the seats.
We have seen such scenes play out before, as with the April, 1999 Columbine massacre at Columbine High School in Littleton, barely 20 miles down the highway from Aurora. In the wake of that tragedy in which 12 were killed and more than a dozen injured, there emerged a faint hope that once and for all the zealots of U.S. gun culture would be brought to heel. But it was a mirage. Quickly, the NRA called its main meeting in Denver, featuring spokesman Charlton Heston who gave his usual full-throated cry: "You can pry this gun from my cold, dead hands!"
Then there was the Virginia Tech massacre, and again a hope emerged to contain the zany zealots of gun culture, but nothing was done. The NRA lobby once more exercised its powerful influence on our lawmakers, but as usual they capitulated. It doesn't take a lot to capitulate, even a passive failure to veto an onerous piece of legislation that promotes gun insanity. Case in point, the 2009 credit card bill (which reined in interest rates and fees) but for which a "rider" amendment was attached by the Repugs allowing people to carry weapons into National Parks. By all rights this perfidy ought to have been forthwith vetoed by Obama, but it was signed into law. An opportunity to send a message to the insane gun zealots had passed, message not received. Bring whatever guns you want, into National Parks! We believe in "the Second Amendment"! Horse manure!
Given such wimpishness in facing the gun lobby and its defenders it's little wonder we stand out as having so many massacres, such as Columbine, Virginia Tech and now Aurora. It is evident that we are a nation that treats gun ownership, and by that I mean any kind, as more important than the lives of citizens. This perhaps is no surprise. Of all the nations on Earth, ours is the most lax in providing protection for citizen information, privacy. No wonder then we yearly suffer from a plague of not only identify theft, but serious incursions into our information and files. We don't even see a problem with the NSA setting up a monster 2 million square foot spy -atorium in Utah to spy on everything from Twitter messages, to cell phone texts to ....you name it. Hey, it's "national security'"! In our best interests! If we don't protect citizens at this basic level, why protect their life and limbs from insane gun- toting nuts? Bottom line: our politicos are more worried about "politics" and how it'll play in Peoria, or Pensacola...than the national welfare.
Then, no surprise at the spate of record -setting wacko gun legislation in individual states, such as we beheld in Florida- implementing a reckless law known as "Stand your ground". This nutso law basically confers the right of ultimate self protection (as in being judge, jury and executioner rolled into one) if a person feels or senses that his life is threatened. On this basis, we then beheld George Zimmerman acting "pre-emptively" to neutralize a vague threat that had become entrenched in his sense perceptions - triggering the fear circuits in his amygdala.
Zimmerman encountered Trayvon Martin (a young black kid in a hoodie) passing through his gated Sanford, FL neighborhood - and suddenly felt his life threatened. He insists Martin threatened to kill him by planting some blows on his head so he had to act, but then insists it was "God's plan" that he did so. (In an interview with Sean Hannity). Sorry, Georgie, but you don't get to invoke "God's plan " when you off somebody!
Now, think of laws like this all over the nation (we also have one in Colorado called "Make my Day" after the famous catch phrase in the first 'Dirty Harry' flick - where you can shoot and kill anyone entering or already inside your home if you believe he poses a threat to your life) and the inevitable results. Those include the perception that retribution is only a carry permit away.
My point is that the ease with which extremist gun culture is dignified by legislation, makes it feasible that gun use is legitimized in the public square. Add then one more ingredient: a wacko with grudges galore - maybe against his wife or girlfriend, maybe against a thesis advisor or boss, or perhaps against his peers....or even against life....and you have the formula for mass tragedy as beheld at Columbine, High School, at Virginia Tech and now at Aurora.
We still don't know what the Aurora shooter (James Holmes) back story is - other than he was supposedly pursuing a Ph.D. in neuroscience (if you can believe it), but we know the Columbine killers - Eric Harris and Dylan Kliebold- had grievances saved up for two years against the entrenched "jock culture" at Columbine, and also against the students (mainly girls) who adored it, fawned over it. In their televised diary Harris and Kliebold frothed at the mouth at what they intended to do, and the vengeance they'd wreak against jocks and jock lovers. They were as good as their word.
The Virginia Tech killer, Seung -Hui Cho, who killed 32, had a similar laundry list of grievances against those who bullied him. Add to that a serious mental instability and purchasing a Glock 19 and Walther P22 with the ease of buying chocolate bars, and you had the formula for massacre. The refrain heard by the NRA puppets in the wake was the usual one: "Guns Don't Kill People! People Kill People!" Yeah - nice try, but the part left out is that guns kill people more efficiently when used by people to kill other people.
If Harris, Kliebold or Cho had been limited to large knives, they'd never have wrought so MUCH carnage. Maybe five at most would have been killed before the perps were taken down. It was the availability of the automatic or semi-automatic weapons that conferred the massive kill numbers and kill -to-wounded ratio. Ditto in the case of the Century 16 slaughter.
And no, once more I am not an anti-gun lib. I have owned and used rifles and fired off shotguns as well in target practice. However, I've never owned anything automatic, with multicapacity clips!
I am not for banning all guns, but for regulating the use and magazine capacity to a rational standard. In other words, IF you really are a hunter, you don't require an AK-47 or an UZI! A true hunter, out for deer say, can get by very nicely with a good, old -fashioned Remington 30.06, the tried and true standard. If you need a weapon for protection, you do not need a Glock 9 or a Glock 19, you can get a .38 revolver and with enough shooting practice be just fine.
In other words, I am arguing for rational standards on gun ownership, not anything goes. I argue by similar analogy for rational pet ownership. No, you ought not be able to own as many jaguars, anacondas, Burmese pythons, or tigers as your little heart desires! THAT is irrational, and moreover those WILD animals can't be contained properly in captivity. That is also why so many pythons (estimated at 30,000) have now made their home in the Florida Everglades, not to mention hundreds of monitor lizards, because pet owners couldn't control them once they grew too large, or too feisty. (I won't even go into the character in Colo. whose pet python ate him several years ago, while he was sleeping with the snake in his queen bed.) Now, the "liberated" -by- owners pythons are upsetting the whole ecology of the glades.
In the same way, zealot gun crazies have upset rational gun ownership "ecology" and culture in this country by their extreme demands and desires. They make the rest of us appear also like crazies, because of their inordinate demands for weapons which do not fit any normal use for citizens.
Until our legislators finally get some balls, as opposed to kowtowing to the NRA and kissing their butts, we can expect to see more tragedies like today's here in Colorado. And that is a damned tragedy!