Honor the dead with tighter gun controls
The Kansas City Star
At first they thought it was fireworks.
That is understandable, considering that the victims of America’s latest gun massacre were packed into a theater to see a midnight showing of a movie highly anticipated for its special effects and simulated violence.
But the real life carnage in Aurora, Colo. — at least a dozen people dead and more than 50 wounded — is not remotely understandable. And neither is the fact that events like these have happened before, they will happen again, and our nation is too polarized to even discuss common-sense gun control measures.
President Barack Obama and presumptive Republican nominee Mitt Romney offered condolences Friday, but New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg was on point.
“Soothing words are nice,” Bloomberg said. “But maybe it’s time the two people who want to be president of the United States stand up and tell us what they’re going to do about it, because this is obviously a problem across the country. And everybody always says, ‘Isn’t it tragic?’”
We don’t yet know enough about the person responsible for the deaths, whom police identified as 24-year-old James Holmes. He recently withdrew from a doctoral program at the University of Colorado Medical School. He apparently had no criminal record, but police found his apartment booby-trapped with explosives on Friday.
We do know that the gunman in the theater would have been able to locate and purchase the weapons he used — an assault rifle, a shotgun, two pistols and tear gas cannisters, according to law enforcement officials — with ridiculous ease.
The nation is awash with guns. Background checks required for purchase are cursory, and even those are protested by gun groups as an attack on freedom.
In many cases, people known to be potentially dangerous get a pass. According to a recent report issued by the Mayors Against Illegal Guns coalition, too many states and federal agencies fail to comply with federal law to fully report records of mentally ill and otherwise disturbed individuals to the National Instant Criminal Background Check System.
Americans value their freedom to purchase a gun if they choose. But reasonable attempts to promote safety and keep deadly weapons out of the hands of potentially unstable people aren’t an attack on the Second Amendment. Yet that is how they are often portrayed.
It was only two months ago that a gunman killed seven people at a small college in Oakland, Calif. Eleven people, including the gunman, died during a rampage in Alabama in 2009. Nine victims and a gunman perished in 2007 in a department store shooting in Omaha. And earlier that year, a Virginia Tech University student killed 32 classmates.
Underscoring these massacres is the killing with guns that goes on day after day, all over the United States.
Unchecked gun violence is not freedom. Freedom is being able to attend a movie and come home safe. The nation’s leaders must not continue to evade the discussion.