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July 23, 2012

Finding a Solution

Richard B. Weldon Jr.

They say that guns don't kill people, people kill people. On that fundamental point, advocates of the Second Amendment to The United States Constitution are right. In fact, they're dead right.


The latest mass shooting horror falls on the Denver suburb of Aurora; the setting, a darkened multiplex movie theater showing the brand new Batman movie.


It doesn't take a rocket scientist to imagine who filled those plush reclining theater seats. Other than the handful of middle-aged comic book generation geeks, many of the tickets sold for that special midnight premier screening would have been to excited adolescents, children who talked Mom and Dad into allowing them to stay up late on a summer night to be the first to see The Dark Knight Rises.


We don't yet know what demons haunted this particular monster. No doubt we'll be listening to the psycho-babble for months to come; how this poor individual was mistreated, malnourished, and under-appreciated as a child.


Here's what we do know. He planned his crime with frightening precision. He chose arguably the most popular film screening of the summer. He knew to wait for almost a half hour after the start of the film. He exited and then re-entered the theater through an emergency door. He deployed a canister of gas/smoke, then unleashed a fusillade of ammunition from an assault rifle into the confused, choking crowd.


Dressed in black, outfitted with a gas mask, walking in during a scene of celluloid mayhem, eyewitnesses reported that they first thought it might be part of the show.


Until their seat mates started collapsing from gunshot wounds, that is. Hopefully, we'll hear reports of bravery in the face of danger, as heroes always seem to emerge from the darkest circumstances.


In the meantime, we're left to ponder the imponderable.


Gun control advocacy groups will leap to the position that we need to take guns out of Americans hands. They'll claim this wouldn't have happened had we denied the right to own a firearm that can shoot multiple rounds without reloading.


Second Amendment enthusiasts will argue the opposite – that unfettered gun ownership makes us safer, using the argument that if the theater had been full of concealed-carry handgun owners, the shooter would have been stopped as soon as he started.


Setting aside the logical response that a darkened and crowded movie theater might not be the best place to replicate the OK Corral shoot-out, one is left to wonder how these nuts, sickos and psychos keep getting their damaged hands and brains on assault weapons. Isn't there some way to ferret out the whack jobs, some basic connection between an inability to function in normal society while at the same time purchasing a gun to turn on it?


Here's where I am: It is true that people kill people. In fact, people can also kill other people with a knife, rock and fist.


How far into that dark theater would this jackass have gotten if he was killing with a knife, rock or fist? How many movie-goers would be dead today by any means other than a firearm equipped with a large magazine?


The Constitution protects our right to own a firearm. The Declaration of Independence ensures our right to “life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness.” The balance between the freedoms promised in the Declaration and the rights afforded through the Constitution is tricky. It requires a civil society to weigh the importance of allowing a psychopath to purchase, carry and discharge an assault weapon against the rights of a father to take his little boy to the midnight screening of a super hero movie.


It's time to finally design a system of identifying and limiting potential killers from exercising rights such as gun ownership. Just as it was essential to re-evaluate our approach to commercial air travel when terrorists learned to fly planes into skyscrapers, now is the time to acknowledge that while people, not guns, kill other people, sick twisted freaks kill other people at an alarming rate.


Let's stop giving them the chance.


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