Last Friday, America woke up to the news of another mass shooting in Colorado. A man dressed in black body armour, helmet and gas mask open fired in a packed movie theatre in the Denver suburb of Aurora.
The perpetrator lobbed smoke canisters into the crowd before open firing with an AR-15 assault rifle with a high-capacity drum clip, a twelve-gauge shot gun and two pistols. The end result was 12 dead and a staggering 58 wounded with 9 still in critical condition.
This sort of scene is all too familiar in a country with 250 million licensed firearms, an immensely powerful gun lobby (National Rifle Association) and a two hundred and twenty-one year old amendment to the constitution that allows citizens the right to keep and bear arms.
Normally in the wake of this kind of tragedy, the media re-opens the gun control debate. This time around the talk has been less about actual gun control and more about politicians’ refusal to discus the topic, especially the presidential candidates . Not so long ago, Barack Obama was a big advocate of gun control and Mitt Romney as governor of Massachusetts passed a ban on assault weapons (Romney has since flip-flopped of course). Now in the middle of an election year they both offered their sympathies to the victims without addressing the root cause of the massacre or even mentioning the word “gun.”
Over the weekend I’ve heard some of the same old weak talking points coming out of the mouths of Republicans. “If only every one in the theatre was armed, this type of tragedy could have been avoided.” In reality, everyone in the theatre would have needed body armour and gas masks to even have a chance. What do you think would have happened in a packed room full of smoke with armed and scared citizens?
Republicans also prefer to converse about punishment rather than prevention and are not able to understand that people who engage in this type of slaughter don’t care about the repercussions. Many, in fact, take their own lives after their “mission” is complete. No amount of sentencing or executions are going to prevent this type of tragedy from occurring in the future.
While conservatives are getting out there and defending the second amendment, Democrats are remaining disturbingly quiet. Republicans have long been the party of the NRA (National Rifle Association) and receive 88% of the NRA’s political donations; it’s no surprise then to see the GOP speaking on their behalf.
Democrats on the other hand are terrified of the gun lobby group and the political consequences that can occur from standing up to them. Both parties have effectively been muted from speaking out in favour of tougher gun laws.
The Democrat’s fear of introducing gun control laws is not completely unfounded. Back in 1994, Congress approved a 10-year ban on 19 types of military-style assault weapons. A few months later Democrats lost control of the House of Representatives for the first time in forty years, many Democrats blame the loss on the assault weapons ban. George W. Bush allowed the assault weapons ban to expire in 2004 with little opposition.
Politics aside, public support of stricter gun control laws in the United States has been in decline over the last twenty years. According to Gallup back in 1990, 78% of those polled believed gun laws should be stricter. That number decreased to 54% in 2004 and down to 43% last year. These numbers might explain why gun control is such a political hot potato, not even the public supports it.
I’m completely dumbfounded by the double standard certain Americans have on this issue. The United States as a country does everything in their power to keep potential foreign terrorists from obtaining weapons that can harm their citizens. On the other hand they do absolutely nothing when it comes to keeping guns away from potential domestic terrorists; in a sense, Republicans and the NRA proudly encourage the opposite.
Average Americans are so brainwashed and steadfast in their philosophy on liberty and freedom that they don’t see the social cost of their beliefs (that can be said about more than just gun control). Around 10 000 people are killed each year with guns and around a 100 000 are wounded, but the amount of human suffering is secondary to the freedom to buy an AR-15 assault rifle with an extended magazine.
Sadly, this latest incident is destined to become just another story the media can exploit for a few days before moving on to less dramatic events. Without more politicians (like Mayor Bloomberg) trying to alter the national dialog on this topic, no change will come.
The American people and their law makers will continue to sit by deaf and dumb to the real tragedy. The real tragedy being that nothing positive will come out of those who lost their lives in that theatre and it will happen again… and again.