Tragedy In Colorado: The Repercussions
This past Friday, an unbelievable tragedy occurred in Aurora, Colorado at a midnight premiere of the wildly anticipated movie The Dark Knight Rises. An armed gunman dressed in body armor entered theater 9 in the Century Theater and proceeded to throw tear gas grenades and start firing into the audience. James Holmes, a 24-year-old student at the University of Colorado Anschutz Medical Campus, is the sole suspect, and he was arrested outside of the theater minutes after the shootings. Twelve people were killed with another 59 injured, making it the largest mass shooting in the history of the United States. This is a horrific tragedy, and we here at Faith In Action are praying for the victims and their families.
This massacre should be about the victims, but it brings up a large political debate, the one over gun control. Holmes was armed with an AR-15 semi-automatic assault rifle with a 100-round drum magazine, two .40 Glock handguns, and a Remington Model 870 shotgun. He was carrying 3000 rounds that could pierce steel for the AR-15, another 3000 rounds for the handguns, and 350 shells for the shotgun. In addition, he was protected with body armor and was carrying a knife. Every weapon and piece of body armor was purchased legally, as was the ammo. Additionally, buying tear gas grenades like the ones he used is legal in Colorado.
The AR-15 could fire around 60 rounds a minute, and as mentioned before, the gun is very powerful. In fact, the first responders on the scene were only armed with pistols and shotguns, and therefore would have been outgunned if not for the assault rifle jamming. How is it possible that we live in a country where mentally ill citizens can buy weapons of war more powerful than those police officers use? As this informative article points out, buying a gun is easier than driving a car (as no competency tests are given and no SSN is required to buy a gun) and buying alcohol (as the minimum age to buy a gun is 18 compared to 21).
This argument about gun control has been going on for years. In 1994, Bill Clinton signed a bill that banned assault weapons, but the bill was overturned by President Bush. It is said that this is because of the National Rifle Association (NRA), the most powerful lobbying group in the country, which consists of over four million people. The NRA spends around $20 million a year on political lobbying, and has been successful at blocking legislation that would have prevented the mentally unstable from buying guns and the sale of unnecessary gun accessories like the 100-round drum Holmes used, as well as blocking bills that would require background checks at gun shows.
There are many good arguments for both sides of this debate, but people need to start using them, as most are using illogical ones. One popular argument used by pro-gun citizens is that guns don’t kill people, people kill people. As Cody Johnston of Cracked.com puts it, “If the problem is really ‘people kill,’ then the solution shouldn’t be ‘Here, people. Have this instrument that makes it super easy to kill.’”
Another flawed point that is common among people against gun control is that banning guns arms the criminals and disarms innocents. First, not everyone is calling for guns to be banned, just harder to obtain so mentally ill citizens cannot buy one legally. Second, let’s use the Aurora shooting as an example. Imagine that you are in the theater with your legal gun as self-defense. Imagine that you are somehow able to get off a clean shot at Holmes despite the chaos. Well, great, it did nothing but make you more likely to get killed. A handgun shot to someone wearing the kind of body armor Holmes was wearing would feel like a mosquito bite, and the muzzle flash of your 9mm just made you visible to Holmes, who now turns his AR-15 at you and shoots you.
A third one says that if guns are banned, criminals will just find other ways to kill you. Scott L. Bach, a member of the NRA Board of Directors, “When an arsonist lights a match that burns a building, is the match at fault? Are match manufacturers responsible for the fire? Should laws be passed prohibiting you from having and using matches, or restricting which types you can have, and in what quantities? The obvious answer to these questions is no.” Other people say that automobiles or baseball bats will be used instead. The difference between guns and other tools is that the only practical use for a firearm is to kill. Whether it is killing an animal or killing another human being, killing is all guns do. It is pretty much the only tool for which that can be said. Cars are a form of transportation. Matches can light a fireplace. Knives can cut our vegetables. Even explosives can be used to bring down a building or dig holes. Guns do nothing but kill.
So why would an everyday citizen need an AR-15 assault rifle with a 100-round drum magazine? Yes, some hunters use assault rifles, but there is no practical application for a 100-round magazine outside of police work. However, officers do not use assault weapons or drum magazines. So why should any citizen be able to legally buy one? Many people calling for gun control aren’t trying to get guns banned – they’re trying to make the laws logical. Background checks, mental checks, they must be required to buy a gun or to go to a gun show. A class or test to make sure the user knows how to use this tool that could so easily end a life needs to be implemented.
And the people who are calling for assault weapons to be banned have a point as well. Russell Simmons, in a piece written for the Huffington Post, gives an extensive argument for why these deadly guns should be forbidden. By comparing the shooting of Gabrielle Giffords, the Arizona congresswoman, and the Aurora shooting, Simmons makes a strong point. In the shooting of Giffords, a 9mm handgun was used and 31 shots were fired, killing six and injuring fourteen. On the other hand, the AR-15 Holmes used could have fired 100 rounds before reloading, and much more powerful rounds than a handgun at about the same rate. He killed 12 and injured 59, and this was with a jammed gun. Many more people may have been injured if the AR-15 did not jam. Banning these weapons would stop people from killing at the rate they do know.
Imagine that Holmes was only able to use his two handguns and shotgun because the AR-15 was illegal. Yes, some argue that if he really wanted to use an AR-15, he could have acquired it illegally. But he would not have had a 100-round magazine or 3000 rounds of ammo. In addition, assuming his goal was just to kill some people and be “the Joker” (as Holmes said in his own words), then two Glocks and a Remington would have sufficed. He would not have been able to kill as many people as fast, and there would have been the potential of someone wrestling him to the ground as he would have had to reload more frequently. Less total shots would have been fired, and the bullets would not have been as deadly or accurate. Many lives could have been saved and many injuries prevented.
However, there is a solid argument for the legality of assault rifles. The supposed purpose of them is so that citizens can protect themselves and fight back against the government if the government attempts to suppress the people using force. This reasoning actually makes sense, but never has this happened before, and even if it did, not enough people have guns to make a difference. You cannot start handing out AK-47s and AR-15s just for the extremely unlikely chance that this ever happens. Or, if you’re okay with guns like the AR-15 being legal, there are absolutely no negatives to requiring background and mental checks along with a competency test.
In addition, many people reference the Constitution when talking about guns, specifically assault weapons. The Second Amendment says, “A well regulated militia being necessary to the security of a free State, the right of the People to keep and bear arms shall not be infringed.” The first half of that sentence has caused a firestorm of debate, but in 2008, the Supreme Court said that this Amendment allows an individual to own a firearm. However, the court also said this right could be regulated, which means that things mentioned above, like mental health checks, are legal. Our Constitution is a living Constitution, and this Court ruling is not forever. Guns in the 1700s shot about three rounds a minute and could barely hit the broadside of a barn, while taking forever to reload. Compare that to the AR-15. The framers did not have that gun in mind.
Even Thomas Jefferson himself said, in a letter to James Madison, “Every constitution, then, and every law, naturally expires at the end of nineteen years. If it be enforced longer, it is an act of force, and not of right.” Well our Constitution has never been changed, only added to. Life in the 18th Century was very different than life today, and the laws need to be adapted to fit our day and age.
One stat that has been thrown around a lot recently is that “In one year, guns murdered 17 people in Finland, 35 in Australia, 39 in England and Wales, 60 in Spain, 194 in Germany, 200 in Canada, and 9,484 in the United States.” The United States is probably the developed nation with the least gun control, and while this stat seems crazy, it still maintains its point when boiled down to deaths per capita. According to this stat, the US had one death per 32,854 citizens. The next closest country is Canada, with one per 172,413 people. The UK has an unbelievable one death per 1.6 million citizens. The mentally ill should not have access to weapons of war. Some think that nobody should have access to them. But something more is needed to help lower the amount of gun deaths per capita. A tragedy like this needs to be prevented from happening again.