I don’t like to tackle political issues here. But I’m very troubled by what happened in Aurora, Colo., last week.
I have family that live there, and I visit there as often as I can. When I heard the news about the shooting I was relieved to know that my relatives and friends in that city weren’t hurt.
It didn’t take long for the issue of guns to come into the forefront. Some have argued that stricter gun control is needed. Others have argued, as they did after the Virginia Tech shootings, that a better armed populace – and more precisely, an armed person in the immediate vicinity of the shooter – could have stopped the bloodshed much quicker.
I’m very conflicted on this issue. I’m a gun owner and a supporter of Second Amendment rights.
I’m also appalled at the ease in which James Holmes obtained a nice little arsenal and found his way into a crowded theater to mow down unsuspecting moviegoers.
The United States has one of the most heavily armed civilian populations in the world. Tens of millions of Americans (including me) legally own firearms.
The U.S. also has one of the highest rates of gun-related deaths in the world. The majority of those deaths are caused by criminals, who also find it quite easy to obtain weapons in a nation that is awash in them.
It should be noted that the 70 million or so legal gun owners don’t kill or injure others with their weapons. Most of them are hunters, others are sport shooters. Some buy weapons for self-defense.
But again, Mr. Holmes was not (until Friday) a criminal. He obtained an assault rifle (why does anyone really need one of those?), a shotgun, two handguns and 6,000 rounds of ammunition legally. He played by the rules, armed himself and shot 70 defenseless people, killing 12, including a 6-year-old girl.
I don’t want to be the guy who denies others the right to arm themselves for self-protection. There are some rough neighborhoods out there, and indeed, some people live in fear of others who have threatened them.
But how far do we let that go? What weapons are too lethal for civilian ownership? Or is there such a thing? Firearms now are much different than they were when the Constitution was written more than two centuries ago. The contrast between muskets and MAC-10s is pretty stark.
There are a lot of voices advocating for stronger gun control laws. But it should be noted that Norway, with stricter gun control laws than the U.S., fell victim a year ago to a mass shooting that was significantly more lethal than what happened in Aurora.
There are spurious arguments here that need to be brushed aside. As well armed as our citizenry is, it is not a deterrent to government tyranny. If our government went out of control and then faced armed resistance from the people, all of the small arms in the U.S. would stand no chance against much-better armed police and soldiers. So that fantasy should be put to rest.
And then there’s notion that if we got rid of all guns people would still keep killing other people with knives, arrows, clubs or whatever they could get their hands on. While this may be true, those weapons cannot kill with the ease and efficiency of guns. It’s a dumb argument.
So that brings it back to my central question. What can we do? Is there anything that can be done that would really help? How can we curtail gun violence without trampling a constitutional right? How can we be safer without forcing ourselves to arm ourselves even more?
Would anyone feel safer with a law on paper on the books? Or seeing more people packing heat on their hips?
It’s a vexing issue. I just wonder if we’re stuck in a mode where no action is taken, a status quo maintained, and a population eventually feels safe again until the next sociopath arms himself, walks into a crowded place and opens fire.
And then we’ll be asking the same questions all over again.
On Twitter @RMHigh7088