Just after midnight on Friday at a movie theater in Colorado, a heavily armed individual in body armor opened fire with an assault rifle, killing 12 and wounding 58. James Holmes purchased all of his ammunition and weapons legally, which begs the question: Could any kind of regulation or action have prevented this tragedy?
Democratic Senator Dianne Feinstein and Tea Party Senator Ron Johnson appeared on Fox News Sunday to discuss the violent event and how government should respond to it to prevent a similar tragedy from happening in the future.
Feinstein argued that it’s far too easy for anyone to get their hands on weapons and ammunition, even people who are unstable.
“I believe people use these weapons because they can get them,” Feinstein said. “I believe that a revolver, a rifle, a hand gun isn’t going to do the damage. It’s the big clips, a hundred rounds. You can’t get to him to dislodge the gun because he can fire so rapidly and has so many bullets.”
Feinstein does have a point. Since the Federal Assault Weapons Ban expired in 2004, there has been little regulation on high-capacity ammunition magazines. While all guns are dangerous, those with large clips give anyone the ability to massacre crowds of people. The fact is, any unstable person can buy a weapon and a large magazine. Homes made his purchases of four weapons, tactical body gear, large magazines, and 6,000 rounds of ammo over a period of months and apparently nobody thought anything about it. No red flags went up, and as a result, a mentally unstable person could stock up and then wage war inside a movie theater against a crowd of people he had never met. It’s a terrorist attack that could have been and was easily preventable with proper oversight and regulation.
Tea Party Senator Ron Johnson, however, thinks differently. He thinks it is perfectly acceptable to allow anybody to have a gun, even if they are buying an unusual amount of ammunition, magazines, and gear. And even if they are unstable. In fact, Johnson believes that the tragedy in Aurora would have not happened had another person possessed a gun in the theater.
“People will talk about unusually lethal weapons, that could be potentially a discussion you could have,” Johnson remarked. “But the fact of the matter is there are 30-round magazines that are just common. You simply can’t keep these weapons out of the hands of sick, demented individuals who want to do harm. And when you try to do it, you restrict our freedoms. ???If a responsible individual had been carrying a weapon, maybe, maybe they could have prevented some of those deaths, some of those injuries.”
Here’s the video:
What Johnson is saying is that we shouldn’t attempt to prevent deranged people from acquiring firearms and that we should counter gun violence with MORE guns. There’s a few problems with that logic.
First, let’s say a movie-goer in the back row of the theater had carried a gun into the theater. Now let’s say that the shooter opens fire with his assault rifle with the large magazine and our lone movie attendee draws his own gun, stands up and starts firing back. Have you figured out where this is going? All those other people in the theater are now caught in a cross fire and in the midst of the chaos, which has now doubled, the shooters are now indistinguishable to the people caught in the middle and more importantly, the police officers rushing to the scene.
In other words the situation has just become even more dangerous.
Pro-gun advocates constantly claim that all we need to do is counter gun violence with more gun play as if America is some old Spaghetti Western. As prepared as Holmes was to commit a massacre, it’s highly unlikely any mere handgun would’ve done much. Unless Republicans are saying Americans should start carrying assault weapons everywhere they go, like many people do in areas of the Middle East and other places, the only real way to prevent these incidents is with regulations, oversight, and vigilance.
Believe it or not, there’s an even bigger hole in Johnson’s argument and it smacks of hypocrisy. Johnson thinks it’s an affront to freedom to prevent deranged or unstable people from possessing weapons and ammo. He’s basically saying it is acceptable for those on the terror watch list to have guns. Let’s say Holmes’ had a different name and wasn’t white. Let’s say his name was Muhammad and he’s of Middle Eastern descent. I would bet everything I own that the Tea Party would label him a terrorist and call for restricting guns to Arab-Americans. Translation: Because Holmes is a white American, Johnson is willing to defend his right to have firearms, even if he is a lunatic. But if an Arab-American committed this attack, Johnson and the rest of his Tea Party cohorts would be quick to use the terrorist card and call for restricting arms to people of that community. The Tea Party would gladly strip second amendment rights from Arab and Muslim Americans.
And there’s yet another big problem that Republicans have because of this attack. Across the country, Republicans are slashing police forces and first responders. If Republicans have their way, and are able to cut police officers like Mitt Romney has promised to do, it is highly unlikely that police departments will be able to respond to similar incidents in the future. An understaffed, underfunded, and under-trained police force cannot respond to situations such as these in a minute and a half like Aurora’s finest did. In order to protect the safety of Americans across the country from psychotics like Holmes, perhaps Republicans should focus less on trying to arm every man, woman, and child, and focus instead on keeping trained police officers on the streets so that we don’t have to rely on the gun enthusiast in the back row who wants to play cowboy.
More guns and more unfettered access to guns is not the solution to prevent tragedies. What this country needs is responsible and reasonable gun control regulations and a well funded and well trained police force equipped to respond to any situation should one occur. The ignoring of this debate has gone on for too long in this nation. Backed by a gun crazy NRA and other pro-gun organizations, Republicans have dismantled gun control laws that could have prevented many tragedies that have happened over the years. The GOP has even tried to make it legal to shoot people under the guise of self-defense. Self-defense laws have been on the books for years, but Stand Your Ground laws actually do make murder possible. Just ask George Zimmerman. Republicans are even waging war against police officers, passing a law in Indiana giving residents the right to kill police officers they THINK are unlawfully on their property. America has the most guns in the world. And despite that, we are also number one in gun violence. Clearly, increasing guns is NOT the solution. So why not try a different approach. After all, lives are at stake, and shouldn’t we be open to reasonable gun control measures if it keeps even one nutjob from obtaining a gun?