Questions in the Aftermath of Aurora


I’m pleased to have another posting from my guest blogger, Jerry Thompson of Columbia, MO. These thoughts are his own, edited slightly for brevity.

While twelve mostly young people have died, a few are still being treated in the hospital and the rest have been released with lesser injuries, I understand.  Many people have expressed condolences in various ways for the injured and the families of the victims, while those families are dealing with their grief and trying to move on with their lives.  An uncooperative, orange-haired young man is in custody for the Aurora massacre, one of the worst shootings in our country‘s history.

Gun control advocates have revved up their efforts to reinstate a 1994-2004 ban on assault rifles and/or the required ammunition for those rifles, while second amendment rights advocates have hunkered down to prevent such efforts.  The general public has no strong desire at this time for gun control.  Gun sales have risen dramatically since the massacre.  The reason expressed for buying guns according to one article was for the buyers to “have a chance” in case an Aurora-type incident were to happen to them.  Concealed pistol training has also increased.  So—a  massacre with guns has increased the demand for guns. 

Coincidentally, I just received the current edition (August 5) of Time magazine, which is titled “How Guns Won.”  An article by the same title discusses some of the thoughts and questions which I have posted, and I would recommend that you read that article.

Presidential candidates from the right and left have expressed the need to wait awhile before discussing gun control as a solution for such tragedies.  President Obama has indicated that he will stick with the current gun laws for now.  In the meantime, maybe the general public’s short memory will move on to other pressing issues.

Nevertheless, I suggest we consider a few questions: Would the audience have been safer with other theater goers pulling their pistols and shooting back at a perpetrator in the theater?  That seems unlikely in a darkened room with tear gas and panic in the room.  It would probably have resulted in more injuries and death.

Have the media been fair in portraying the tragedy?  I understand that a news commentator on one television channel falsely implied that the shooter may have been a tea party member because there was another person in Colorado with a similar name.  Apparently, he didn’t corroborate his story before sharing it with the public.  I didn’t see that newscast, but it doesn’t seem to be sound journalism.

What are the current gun laws and are they enforced to prevent the mentally ill and criminals from buying guns?  Is the general population as likely to commit crime as is a person with mental illness? Would limiting guns to the general population be a better idea?  It may be that we as citizens could help prevent future mass shootings by advocating the elimination of gun law loopholes now available to gun show dealers.  In 2009, four hundred mayors sent a letter to House Speaker Pelosi and Majority Leader Reid requesting the closing of legal loopholes for gun show dealers.  The following is an excerpt from that 2009 letter:

“Currently, licensed gun dealers are required to run criminal background checks on all buyers, but criminals can simply avoid these checks by buying from unlicensed gun-sellers. As a result of this loophole, gun shows have become a major venue for illegal gun trafficking.

“Closing the gun show loophole should be an urgent priority. Just last month, the Government Accountability Office (GAO) released a report that identified unregulated sales at gun shows as a significant source of guns that “are commonly trafficked to Mexico” and earlier reports by the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives (ATF) identified gun shows as the second leading source of trafficked guns within America. In addition, a report released by our coalition in December 2008 found that states that have not closed the gun show loophole are the sources of crime guns recovered in other states at more than twice the rate of states that have closed this loophole. “  Source link:  http://www.mayorsagainstillegalguns.org/downloads/pdf/gsl_letter.pdf

The upshot of what I have read and heard recently is that the Aurora massacre suspect planned his attack a year or more in advance, buying guns from more than one dealer.  He apparently was not on any watch list and would not have raised red flags of a current danger.  Maybe, then, we can’t prevent all of the potential mass shootings in the future, but we should all pursue a course of action to try to prevent future tragedies.  I welcome your thoughts and discussion.

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About samuelehall

A follower of Jesus, husband, father of 3 adult children, writer and learner.
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12 Responses to Questions in the Aftermath of Aurora

  1. Jerry says:

    Marilyn, thanks for your posting and comment. Did you have thoughts or opinions to share?

  2. Jerry says:

    I see what you mean, Sam. Unfortunately, the door has been left open by Scalia’s comment that someday the Supreme Court may have to decide whether it is constitutional for the general public to own a shoulder-carried surface-to-air rocket capable of taking down an airplane. Maybe that deserves a “duh”. My suggestion regarding “bearing arms” is that we in this generation may have to use our own brains as our founding fathers had to use their brains to write the Constitution and Bill of Rights in their generation. They had no concept of our killing capacity in this generation. We may have to base our “right to bear arms” decision on modern weaponry concepts rather than just the flintlock musket generation’s concepts.

    • samuelehall says:

      Jerry, I don’t agree that “the door has been left open by Scalia’s comment.” He didn’t invent the idea of hand-held rocket launchers; he was just being realistic–someday, someone is going to try to use the 2nd Amendment to justify having a hand-held rocket launcher, and the SCOTUS will have to deal with it.

  3. Jerry says:

    Sam, there may be as many left-wing as right-wing folks who advocate for strong gun rights. I think of it more as a right-wing concern, though.

    Anton Chekhov is attributed with saying that in a drama, if a shotgun is hanging on the wall in the first act, it must be fired by the end of the play. Justice Scalia’s comment about extending the right to bear arms to include rocket launchers could be the “shotgun hanging on the wall.” I’m sure that there are arms dealers who would like to including that weapon within the Second Amendment right to bear arms. Having that as a right would be like firing the shotgun at the end of the play. It’s farfetched, perhaps, but not inconceivable. The concept of assault weapons as a right for the general public to own seems inconceivable, but true.

    • samuelehall says:

      Jerry, from viewing the video of the interview of Scalia, there’s nothing in his comments about extending the right to bear a rocket launcher. He was addressing an extreme case that someone is bound to bring up–hand-held rocket launchers. But he made no judgment on the propriety/legality of rocket launchers.
      Maybe you need to look at the link I posted in an earlier comment today. This is a red herring.

  4. Jerry says:

    I hadn’t heard about Justice Scalia’s rocket launcher comment, but I’m glad that he made it. I have wanted to ask how far the right wing folks want to carry their Second Amendment argument. Justice Scalia has now answered my question. It should be a call for some sanity in our interpretation of that amendment. Since those who interpret in that fashion are often also the ones who call for living by the Constitution’s original intent, let me provide this thought:

    If the founding fathers were asked about their intent in writing the Second Amendment, they could not conceive of movie theaters, Batman, the Joker, airplanes, rocket launchers to shoot them down, or 100-clip rapid-fire assault weapons. So, it is my opinion that their original intent was something that they could conceive. That would be the single-shot flintlock musket, requiring a while to load. That is original intent regarding the Second Amendment, in my opinion. That also would save many lives in criminal attacks on theater audiences. How many in the audience would be killed if the shooter had to reload after the first shot? Not many, I’ll bet.

    • samuelehall says:

      Jerry, your insights are almost always valuable and I thank you again. As one of “the right-wing folks,” see my response to Ken Hamburger’s comment. We all have selective hearing, myself included, so I don’t condemn Ken but Justice Scalia did not say hand-held rocket launchers should be legal.

  5. Ken Hamburger says:

    Very well-done, but I think futile. Guns and fundamentalist Christianity are the American way. Anybody who says any American citizen should have some kind of restriction on the firearms he owns is automatically a sissy, probably a Commie, and definitely not a real American; Justice Scalia just this morning said rocket launchers should be legal if they are hand-held. He would probably allow hand-carried nukes if they could be made that small. [Actually, the minimum size for a nuke is about the size of a volleyball — but really heavy — we can hope that keeps it from being ‘hand-held.]

    I am sorry, but I see all this as wasted motion, no matter how fervently I agree with what Jerry is saying. Picking up a gun, or owning one, gives instant power to the person in a way that is very satisfying to anyone who feels that things are wrong in his world. Americans are just fundamentally irrational on the subject of guns – not as irrational as the NRA, but politicians are scared enough of the NRA that they will not vote for sensible restrictions any more than a Republican would vote to raise taxes. Policies change, but generally only after a bigger shock than Columbine-VaTech-Aurora-etc. – otherwise incrementally at a glacial pace.

    • samuelehall says:

      Thanks, Ken, for your participation on this volatile subject. I have three points to make in response:
      1) Justice Scalia, appearing on Fox News, did NOT say rocket launchers should be legal. What he did say was that the right to bear arms would apply to hand-held weapons–not cannons, for example–as the 2nd Amendment is about the “right to bear arms.” In what seemed to be an attempt to address limits on what that could mean, Scalia said, “I suppose there are hand-held rocket launchers that can bring down airplanes that will have to be decided.”
      That was it. The right to bear arms = hand-held weapons, but with the understanding that since some rocket launchers can be hand-held–it will have to be decided how to presumably exclude such weapons.
      I located that at this site: http://dailycaller.com/2012/07/29/scalia-limitations-could-be-imposed-on-guns-in-the-future/?utm_source=MadMimi&utm_medium=email&utm_content=The+Campus+Caller&utm_campaign=Campus+Caller+&utm_term=6__29+Justice+Scalia_3A+Hand-held+rocket+launchers+may+be+permissible+under+Second+Amendment+
      2) How do you make “fundamentalist Christians” as part of the problem? You don’t say so directly but the implication seems intentional. I don’t call myself a fundamentalist Christian but suppose some might view me as such.
      There’s an extreme danger in labeling. For the life of me, I don’t understand how fundamentalist Christians can or should be paired with guns. Particularly in light of the horrific tragedy at Aurora.
      Can you clarify why you used such phrasing?
      3) I disagree that this is wasted motion. What you and Jerry are raising is the issue of availability of guns to qualified citizens. I think many Americans want to discuss this and I thank you both for stating your thoughts. While I hold to a different position, it’s productive to discuss this issue and listen to what the other side has to say. Neither the NRA or the anti-gun folks have a corner on the truth.

      • Ken Hamburger says:

        Thanks back for your thoughtful comments. I’ll address what I can.

        ‘Hand-held rocket launchers’; was something I saw in a column, I don’t recall reading the transcript but may have. It may have been sloppy journalism, but I expect that the reporter was combining the two statements into one opinion, which I believe is logical and consistent with the way Justice Scalia would do himself. — very directly and sometimes offensively so, badgering a lawyer before the bar in a way no other justice does. I can see him with an entirely logically worded syllogism something along the lines: ‘You say Alfa would allow Beta and in the next sentence you tell us Charley is a Beta but somehow you don’t want to allow this particular Beta? That’s not what the original wording of the Constitution says.’

        ‘Fundamentalist Christians’ was a dumb thing to say: it’s my own impression, but not a fact and I apologize to anyone — all — of you who were rightfully offended. As to where I got the impression, I would say nothing really but my own observations, based on everyday dealing with weapons enthusiasts of all kinds during thirty years of Army duty. I know of no one else dumb enough to put such an impression in print, so I won’t appeal to any more authoritative source. I can’t think of much further to say on that topic that would not exacerbate the situation to no good end.

        ‘Wasted motion’: just a distaste now in my dotage, of tilting at windmills. I used to be passionate about a lot of things, but life cured most of that. I’ve been very wrong several times before, and that gives a little humility.

        I hope I’m wrong and that some good comes of all this.

      • samuelehall says:

        Great response, Ken. That fortifies my impulse to maintain dialogue. Apology accepted.
        No TV so I haven’t seen Scalia in action but understand he can be quite confrontive, so understand where you’re coming from.
        Yes, let’s poke at this a bit more–as long as there’s interest.

  6. Thank you for explaining this.
    I appreciate the new info.

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