My family and I were at the movies on Thursday night, a few hours before the Aurora shooting occurred in Colorado. While this may not be the worst shooting rampage in recent history, it will probably be the one that sends the largest collective shudder down the backs of the multitudes of us who relish the national past time of movie watching.
The next day, on watching the news, my daughter asked me why the shooter behaved the way he did. Did he really mean to harm people? When I said that his intention was definitely to kill, she insisted that "He must have been drunk…..Otherwise why would he do it?" In the innocent mind of my ten-year old, the only possible cause for deviance and irrational behavior is excessive alcohol. To her, perversity existed solely in the realm of story-books. The only real-life manifestation of sociopathy was perhaps in the form of the impersonal and faceless ‘terrorist.’ I explained that like terrorists who wreak havoc as a group in the name of their cause, there are individuals who are driven to carnage by their own agendas and experiences.
I hadn’t imagined that I would need to have a conversation with my daughter about guns. I reminded her about the purpose of the lockdown drills that are performed regularly in her school along with the fire drills. I wasn’t aware of the lockdown drills until last year, when at the beginning of the school year my 4-year old son related to me the events of his day, which included a lockdown drill. His class of pre-schoolers practiced hiding in the classroom with the lights switched off in case “bad guys” came to their school. Usually I ask questions and encourage elaboration, but I balked at the idea of extending this topic of conversation.
I asked my daughter if she knew the purpose of the lockdown drills. She had a vague idea. Had she heard of Columbine? She hadn't. So we embarked on a journey to inform ourselves. Together we watched video news clips and read about the present shooting. And I realized, before long, that I had pulled the trigger on some part of her innocence.
President Obama and Mitt Romney have both reacted with pathetic inadequacy to the murders. “If there’s anything to take away from this tragedy, it’s to remember that life is fragile….” the President said. The idea that life need not be so fragile because such tragedies are entirely preventable with better gun control, escaped him.
“This is a time for each of us to look into our hearts and remember how much we love one another. And how much we love and how much we care for our great country…” said Romney. It’s clear that Romney cares more about not upsetting his voter-base (41% of Republicans own guns, as per the NRA.)
Obama and Romney urged that we reflect on the tragedy, the loss and pain of victims and their families, and offer each other our love and support, - a message that would have been appropriate after a natural disaster, and not a genuine, home-grown, American-made fiasco.
“There are going to be other days for politics…” said the President. “There will be justice for those responsible, but that is another matter for another day…” said Romney. Both were too cowardly to acknowledge that the consequence of having assault weapons easily accessible to practically anybody, is exactly an incident like the one in Aurora.
There will be more incidents. Many more. And perhaps that is exactly what we need before the average gun-owning, second amendment worshipping citizen is shaken out of his stupor of stupidity. The NRA’s fear-mongering that any form of gun control will result in the second amendment being revoked is bewildering, especially in the face of actual U.S. gun statistics. There are almost as many guns as people in the United States. The population of the U.S. is 311 million. The NRA puts the total number of firearms owned by US civilians at 300 million. With the continuing trend of mass murders, this gap will surely be bridged!
The assault weapons used in this week’s mass murder were purchased legally. The weapons used by the Tucson shooter who fired 32 bullets in 15 seconds were purchased legally. The assault weapons used in the next incident will also have been purchased legally, and easily. And without so much as a background check for prior violence, for psychiatric illness or any questioning as to why a civilian requires an automatic weapon with a capacity to annihilate a dozen lives in a matter of a few seconds.
A country that would rather coach its children to prepare for potential shooting rampages rather than prevent them with adequate gun control deserves Aurora, deserves Columbine, deserves Virginia Tech. Only the victims did not deserve to be in the wrong place at the wrong time.
Next time it could be you.