Gun freedoms vs. the Aurora massacre

Posted: July 23, 2012

AFTER FEELING the horror and grief of 12 murders in a darkened Colorado movie theater, we felt tired: tired of the argument we could already hear about the issue of guns in this country. We've heard the argument endlessly, prompted by both "everyday" violence and spectacular mass shootings — at least 20 major events since 2007. We won't grace it with the term "debate" because there is no debate; there are just sides.

Maybe the two presidential candidates felt the tiredness when they failed to talk about guns in the Colorado slayings — though we're disappointed in both for not finding a way to slam home the point that however deranged this shooter was, his deadly mission was aided by his ability to stockpile an arsenal in a short amount of time, an arsenal including the type of assault weapon that is designed to do nothing but kill a lot of people quickly.

We're not against guns or the Second Amendment. But we are against how the gun lobby and their supporters have distorted the Second Amendment — not as a freedom for a citizen to own a gun, but as permission to own as many guns as he wants. Reasonable limits or controls on stockpiling firearms, for whatever reason, become curtailments of precious "rights" and "freedoms."

So James Holmes was able to buy four guns, including an assault rifle, in two months. No one batted an eye. He was able to order 6,000 rounds of ammunition, some with expedited delivery. No one batted an eye. He bought high-capacity magazines that would let him get off 60 shots a minute. No one batted an eye. Because we're "free" to own as many guns as we want. And it's nobody's business how many guns we want to buy.

Think of that the next time you have to take off your shoes in an airport.

Holmes had no arrests or history of mental illness, gave no warning signs that he would walk into a theater and kill adults and children. No warning signs, that is, except for the purchase of four weapons and 6,000 rounds of ammunition in the space of a few weeks. Too bad for the victims of the massacre that he didn't have a Muslim surname; such frenzied activity would no doubt have shown up on some Homeland Security watch list.

But no one noticed anything. And now, once again, many people are dead. Experts are claiming that even this won't move the needle on gun control. We don't agree. But it is clear we have to stop thinking of "the gun issue" in such monolithic terms and get more specific.

For example, banning the type of assault rifle — AR-15 — and high-capacity magazine that Holmes used. Such a weapon ban was enacted in 1994 and expired in 2004. Congress let it expire.

Also, a one-gun-a-month law, now current in just three states, could slow down the rapid accumulation of deadly weapons. It might not make a difference in the end, but it could.

Finally, aspects of the Tiahrt Amendment continue to thwart law-enforcement efforts, such as the requirement that National Instant Criminal Background Check records be destroyed within 24 hours, and restrictions on authorities using gun-trace data.

None of them will stop criminals or lunatics bent on mass murder. But they could make it harder for these acts to be committed. And they could mean that today, Colorado would have 12 more living citizens.

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