When you’ve been given both the privilege and the responsibility to write a newspaper column piece on a regular basis, there is always a question of what one should write about. Certainly our own City of Santa Monica has challenges and issues that bear examination.
But sometimes when faced with a choice between addressing a local issue or yet another horrific American gun tragedy, it can feel almost irresponsible to ignore the one thing that is on every reader’s mind. With that caveat, and a personal connection of having lived in Denver for 12 years, let’s address the shootings in Aurora.
It’s ill-advised to pretend that this virus of individuals deciding to adjust their fate with a killing spree will somehow never impact our lives here directly. From the London Daily Mail: “James Holmes was described as ‘shy and reserved’ by a fellow counselor at Camp Max Straus near Glendale, California, where he spent a summer while studying at the University of California, Riverside in 2008.” From NBC News online: “While in San Diego, James Holmes lived with his parents Robert and Arlene Holmes on Sparren Avenue in Rancho Penasquitos.” There’s a California element to the story to be sure.
So I once again find myself compelled to write about an incident where one person’s mental anguish has melded with our country’s irrational free and easy access to guns to create an event of painful and senseless loss. Once again we have guns, followed by memorials of roses. Below are some ideas I would like to see enter the national dialogue following the killing spree in Aurora, Colorado. They’re not necessarily my own, but I think they should get to the table.
Guns As A Drug
On Saturday, Aug. 28, just a little more than a week after the Aurora killings, the Los Angeles Times reported that a Maryland man who repeatedly threatened to “blow everybody up” at his former workplace and called himself a “joker” was taken into custody and found to have more than 25 firearms and several thousand rounds of ammunition in his apartment. At one point he was observed to be wearing a t-shirt that read, “Guns don’t kill people, I do.”
We must stop inhaling the vapors sprayed by gun rights advocates that guns are simply a kind of appliance or hardware item and not what we know them to be: A highly addictive source of empowerment for people with weak and vulnerable personalities. I would argue that guns are a drug; a kind of death gear ‘coke’ that when used in combination with other stimulants such as violent imagery in films and television and then folded into frustration and mental imbalance energize potential perpetrators who then kill innocents as a means of finding their new exalted place in society and their own damaged minds.
Our Forefathers Would Just Say “No”
You’ve already heard this, but it most certainly bears repeating: There is absolutely no connectivity whatsoever between the Second Amendment and a 100-round drum magazine for a semi-automatic weapon. Are we really worried that if we keep citizens separated from armaments meant for warfare we will somehow trample the Constitution?
Many have pointed out that the Aurora shooter deployed tear-gas type devices and that he might as easily have come to that movie theater armed solely with homemade bombs. The difference would be that American citizens aren’t being senselessly killed in repeating templates of violence because of a powerful homemade bomb lobby that manipulates politicians and our entire government. People are dying because we currently make it possible. In early reporting on the Aurora tragedy, news anchors repeated that the guns the suspect had were “obtained legally.” That’s not a salute to the Constitution; it’s an indictment of our neglect.
Do We Create These Perpetrators?
I’m not dissuaded by those who point out that there’s no “hard” evidence our violent entertainments and our embrace of the allure and even sexiness of guns contributes to these killings. From 1940 to the present day, producers have freely product-placed cigarettes in movies. We’re not in denial about the efficacy of that. That same product placement has occurred with guns in movies and television. You cannot simultaneously have a society repeating the message “Resolve your conflict with a gun” thousands of times a day in its media and then act surprised when someone does just that. Add that to how the weapons used in Aurora were “legally obtained” and I believe we are left with a level of responsibility for these real-life nightmares that is inescapable.
Let’s be clear: Collectively, we didn’t pull the triggers. I’m saying that it’s high time to stop pretending that the message to pull a trigger and the availability of a weapon having that trigger are things we can do nothing about.