Our relationship with guns

In the wake of the horrible shooting massacre in Aurora, Colorado, I am compelled to once again dust off the questions we ask every time one of these tragedies happens – questions we inevitably forget and refuse to answer. But I will pose them once again.

Before I do, I want to point out that we have had a lot of discussion already about whether violent video games are to blame, or violent movies, or even the Batman movie itself. I find these particular questions interesting and absurd. As human beings, we all have access to a darker side within us. Young boys, include myself, play with toy guns. They’ve done so for generations. It’s almost instinctual. Many of today’s games are so grotesquely violent, that perhaps that is something we should address – but to only speak of those would be to dismiss much more obvious questions, and here they are:

Why do civilians in this country have access to tear gas and weapons that are clearly NOT for hunting animals, but for killing as many people as possible and as efficiently as possible?

Here are the facts:
– “the weapons were bought from two local stores of two national chains, Gander Mountain Guns and Bass Pro Shop…” – Denver Post
– “Holmes was wearing “full ballistic gear,” including a helmet, vest, throat protector, gas mask and black tactical gloves…” – Denver Post
– He had a “12-gauge shotgun, an AR-15 assault rifle and a .40-caliber Glock handgun” – Denver Post
– “The AR-15 was first built by ArmaLite as a selective fire assault rifle for the United States armed forces.” – WikiPedia
– He also “discharged two canisters of gas that clouded the room and stung people’s eyes and throats. – Denver Post

There will be many questions in the days to come, many of which we have asked before: were there signs missed regarding what he would do, and the level of his mental illness? Could any one have done anything to prevent this horror? Are we as a society doing an adequate job in identifying those with serious mental illness and treating them?

But we can’t escape the most basic reality. There are too many dangerous weapons – weapons easily available at a local store – that are not meant for hunting or basic self defense. These weapons are meant for military and law enforcement use, and they have no business in the hands of civilians.

If the perpetrator of these latest massacres did not have access to tear gas and assault rifles, would he have still committed his crimes? Unfortunately, it looks like he would have. But perhaps there would have been far fewer casualties.

We all know that our right to freedom of speech does not extend to falsely yelling “fire” in a crowded movie theater. Similarly, our right to bear arms should not extend to being able to carry horrible mass-killing instruments into crowded movie theaters. It’s time to change.

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