Colorado shooting scares, saddens and stymies us by Marjorie Arons-Barron

The entry below is being cross posted from  Marjorie Arons-Barron’s own blog.

Shouting fire in a crowded theater is a terrible thing to do. Opening fire is a horror of a whole order of magnitude. Most of America is struggling to make sense out of 24-year-old neuroscience student James Holmes’ rampage, which so far has resulted in the deaths of 12 people and injured 59 others, some of whom may not make it. We want to do something to keep these things from happening, but what?

President Obama and Mitt Romney extended condolences and modified their campaign schedules for the day. But neither wants to risk losing voter support, especially in swing states, by making gun control part of the election debate.

New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg chastised them for not using the occasion to call for stricter gun control. He has a point.  Luke O’Dell of the Rocky Mountain Gun Owners, said that, if someone in the audience were carrying, the carnage wouldn’t have been so great. Now there’s a helpful solution, in the George Zimmerman style! But people are more responsive to O’Dell than Bloomberg. Please note the post-Aurora spike in gun sales reported by the Boston Herald’s Jessica Van Sack.

When you see the ease with which Holmes apparently purchased 6000 rounds of ammunition online and, from gun shops, a military-style assault weapon, a semi-automatic rifle and two .40 caliber Glock handguns, plus cannisters of gas, Bloomberg’s argument makes sense.   The pusillanimous cowering of most politicians in the face of National Rifle Association lobbying stands in the way of gun restrictions and is contemptible.

Criminologist James Alan Fox of Northeastern maintains that mass murder will not be stopped by gun control.  We remember the most notorious incidents: Columbine, Virginia Tech, Gabby Giffords,  Charles Whitman at the U. Texas tower. According to Fox, since the 1970′s, the number of such shootings, on varied scale, has held at about two dozen a year.  Fox says that gun control might reduce the overall level of gun violence but not eliminate the mass murderer,  often a twisted, premeditative, violent loner, who plans and executes the crime and often commits suicide afterward.  Such incidents, Fox maintains, are one of the “painful consequences of the freedoms we enjoy.”

I’m not willing to let it go at that. So great is today’s level of gun violence that Jessica Ghawi, one of the tragic victims in Aurora, had narrowly missed being shot just a month ago in a  shooting spree in a Toronto mall.  As Adam Gopnik wrote in The New Yorker after Virginia Tech in 2007, other countries (e.g. France, England, Scotland, Australia) have passed gun restrictions in the wake of mass murders and none has seen a repeat of the horrific incident which prompted the new rules. Yet here we go again.

Every time there’s a mass murder, we go into a frenzy of debating gun control (versus arming vigilantes), violence in the media- especially video games -, changing security at entrances to public venues. (See Ty Burr’s thoughtful piece in today’s Boston Globe about how violent movies feed the fantasies of people who feel powerless.)  We don’t want to live in an authoritarian environment, but isn’t it time to pass reasonable restrictions on gun ownership? What legitimate hunter or anxious homeowner needs an assault rifle?

Bringing back the assault rifle ban should be a minimum and immediate goal, even before we get to resolving the inadequacies of  the data base used to check potential gun owners, or  addressing the ratcheting up of violence that certain video games and movies are foisting on the public.  This time, can’t we convert the pontificating into action?

6 Responses to Colorado shooting scares, saddens and stymies us by Marjorie Arons-Barron

  1. C R Krieger says:

    It is sad that Ms Jessica Ghawi was killed in the recent shooting in Colorado.  However, her near miss in Toronto had nothing to do with our Second Amendment.

    I like your point about enforcing the laws we have.

    As for crime, it continues to decline, with murders back down to where they were in 1960, at least per FBI Uniform Crime Reporting Statistics I saw this weekend. 

    That said, the drug cartels creeping north from Mexico may return us to the days of prohibition.  Does anyone think we can easily put the toothpaste back in the tube, once we squeeze it out? 

    Enforce the current laws and don’t act like the Second Amendment and US Supreme Court decisions are going to be trashed and we might find some compromise out there.  Having NYC Mayor Michael Bloomberg leading the charge won’t help.

    Regards  —  Cliff

  2. Jay says:

    On the ban;

    I require a pistol to protect me from someone breaking into my home.
    I require a shotgun to hunt.
    I require an assault rifle to protect me from my government.

    I am not afraid of someone breaking into my house, I am not afraid of our food supply collapsing and having to hunt for food and I am not afraid of my government becoming overwhelmingly oppressive. I am only afraid of not being prepared if one of these events occurs.

    When the 2nd amendment was written remember the context, the amendment had the protection from the government in mind. The government has an unfair advantage with their current weapons systems, I don’t care how many hours of the ‘military channel’ you have watched unless you have been to war you cannot begin to imagine the destruction a 50cal, or 7.62 has on a person, house or neighborhood. My measly 5.56 ar-15 “assault rifle” will merely give me a chance.
    Just because things are great now doesn’t mean they will be great 50 years from now. All it will take is one natural disaster to knock out power for 3 weeks and you will wish you had a rifle that will reach out to 100 meters.

    But go ahead; push the ban, the individuals out there who are responsible enough to own these rifles have already gone shopping.

    On Colorado,
    Terrible tragedy, there is a fine line between genius and crazy.
    “I went to see the movie at the same night the same time in a local theater; I can tell you that in the group I was with there were three legally licensed veterans that would have been returning fire if that happened in our theater.”

  3. Jay says:

    And one more item;

    For those of you who take such a hard stance on gun laws but don’t know much about guns. A common ‘assault rifle’ is the AR-15, it shoots a bullet that is 5.56mm around compare this to your grandfathers 12 gauge shotgun that could shoot a 18.53mm slug. The difference is the speed at which the bullet leaves the barrel and the distance and accuracy it can travel. An assault rifle can shoot accurately to a thousand meters or so where a shotgun is good for about 100.

    Now say you are in a mall and some guy goes crazy and he is about 50-75 meters from you, if you ask me, I mush rather be hit by the 5.56 than the 18.53. Perspective. Look up the wounds if you question this judgement, look up examples of wounds from these different guns. So. . . .lets ban shotguns?

    And of course, much of the assault gun ban argument is ammunition capacity. A shotgun can be modified to accept high amounts of ammunition just as easily as an assault rifle can.

    As stated above, ban them both, everyone who is responsible enough to own them and feels the need to have them has already bought them.

  4. DickH says:

    Sorry, Jay, but you don’t know what you’re talking about. The 5.56mm round leaves the barrel of the M16/AR15 at such high speed that when it hit something it immediately pinwheels, causing extensive damage to whatever it hits. And if you don’t mind answering, how many years did you spend in the military? What branch? Active or reserve?

  5. Jay says:

    Cliff is right on – enforce the current laws.

    Dick, thank you for the response and invitation to debate the subject;

    I am no expert but I am somewhat qualified to make an assessment and produce an opinion. And no I will not be discussing my credentials here, consider me a typical US citizen and subscriber to the site.

    You are discussing ballistics post impact; it will vary greatly based on distance, grain and round. A 556, 223 (like most rifle rounds) tends to drop after impact and will split apart or exit a mass sideways. The pin-wheeling or tumbling you describe is one scenario that is greatly dependent on all the variables above (more so grain) as well as what the projectile meets prior to or after impact. At 50-75 meters, having a low arc, I assess that it will punch right through, leaving the damage inflicted by the round and the void generated by the high velocity. I still maintain at this distance (common in urban engagement) I would prefer the 5.56.

    You commented on one opinion that I had, what say ye of the other items mentioned in my post?

    I do not have much knowledge in-depth on the subject but I believe at various points in our history an opposing force believed to a marginal degree that mainland US was not capable of invasion based on personal gun ownership of its citizens. Some guy named Yamamoto rings a bell, maybe this was just a made up quote or urban legend? Again, just because we do not face a threat of this degree at the present doesn’t mean 50 years from now it will be the same.

    Back on subject, I believe the assault rifle ban is not well thought out. I believe that if you want to ban assault rifles then you might as well ban shotguns. And why not keep going, hand carried pistols too. I believe it is a bad idea and I hope that supporters consider how this ban could degrade a citizen’s ability to protect his or herself at range.

  6. C R Krieger says:

    I say it in good humor, having been on the wrong end of too many jibes about not being in the military, but being in the Air Force, but the AR-15 can’t be a “real military weapon”.  The Air Force bought it for Air Base Defense.  I think Curtis LeMay was involved.  Then someone sold the idea to the Army.

    I do think it is as much bullet design as speed that causes the bullet to tumble when it hits flesh.  I think I fired an AR-15 about 50 years ago.

    Regards  —  Cliff