This column is an attempt at humor, most of the time, because that’s what I like to write. It’s more fun to make stuff up than to look up facts, and it’s definitely fun to include mistakes on purpose, and see if anyone complains about them. My purpose, after all, is entertainment.
But I don’t feel very funny right now. There are a dozen families grieving over lost loved ones because of the senseless shooting in an Aurora, Colorado movie theater last week, and many more worried about friends and family members who were injured in the attack. There’s nothing funny about death, even when the deceased was evil, such as Adolf Hitler, or Ted Bundy. When the victims are innocent of crimes, as those in Aurora were, it’s much worse. We all want to reach out, to help, to offer comfort.
Except there isn’t any comfort. When someone we love is taken away, especially for no reason other than being in the wrong place at the wrong time, there are not words that will ease the pain. Laughter, it is said, is the best medicine. Well, not for this.
When Lydia Bixby, a widow, was thought to have lost five sons during the American Civil War, President Lincoln wrote her a letter of consolation. He eloquently expressed his inability to soften her grief, and offered hope that God might assuage her anguish. I am sure the letter did no good whatever. Nothing would have.
Adding insult to this loss are those who have, predictably, decided to use the tragedy to call for stricter gun control laws. This is basically an opportunistic, knee-jerk reaction, and is typical of those who misplace blame for the actions of the unhinged onto inanimate objects. Unfortunately, this attitude only assures that this type of horrible attack will occur again.
An event similar to the movie theater shooting occurred on the campus of Virginia Tech about five years ago, when a disturbed young man killed over 30 people. In March of 2012, a Virginia jury found Virginia Tech negligent in the shooting, because the administration failed to promptly notify the campus of the danger after the first two victims were shot.
On the surface this might seem to be a victory for advocates of the Second Amendment, but it isn’t. Virginia Tech was definitely guilty, but not because of any failure to let everyone know they were suddenly transformed from students into targets. The crime committed by the school was in ensuring none of the targets would be able to defend themselves.
A similar crime was committed by the city of Aurora, although the law there is unenforcable, because it is preempted by state law. The town has an ordinance against carrying concealed weapons, even by licensed individuals. Because of this rule, many of the movie-goers may have thought they could not legally carry firearms into the theater.
If any of them had been armed, they would have broken a city law if they’d fired at the James Holmes, the attacker. Not that that would have stopped them, I hope.
This incident may have been more personal for me, because my son, Paden, and I went to a movie in Colorado Springs about a month ago. The same thing could have happened there. Of course, I had a small pistol in my back pocket at the time.
Which brings up the question of whether anyone would have been able to stop the shooter, even if they’d been armed. Many have said that one person in the theater with a gun would have made no difference, and that’s probably true. The odds are against it.
But the fact is that if everyone in the theater had been legally carrying firearms, there’s little chance that Holmes would have managed to kill more than one or two people, let alone a dozen. An armed society is a polite society. It’s also much safer from psychos.
A telling aspect of this sordid story is the incredulity with which the media seems to view the ease with which Holmes, a man with no criminal record or history of mental problems, was able to buy guns. As if there should have been some way to know he was going to go crazy before he did. Short of a crystal ball, I can’t think of a guarantee of such a prediction.
The media also, inexplicably, continues to call Holmes’s four guns an ‘arsenal.’ Four guns is, realistically, a starter kit. I know plenty of kids under ten who have more than four guns. And if Holmes’s parents had bought him four guns before his tenth birthday, and taught him to handle them responsibly, I guarantee you would not be reading this column right now, because this tragedy would not have happened.
I agree with those, such as New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg, who are calling for President Obama and Mitt Romney to revisit the issue of gun control. The laws need to be changed. All heads of households in America should be required to carry guns at all times. That’s the only way to keep the loss of life to a minimum in these insane attacks.
And a little compassion toward the victims and families wouldn’t hurt, although I see no way to force people to care for one another. If Americans insist on being as unfeeling, uncaring, and disdainful of their fellowman as Bloomberg and his cronies are, we’re doomed, anyway . . .
Kendal Hemphill is an outdoor humor columnist who believes James Holmes is solely guilty of the deaths he caused, but was aided by those who advocate gun control. Write to him at PO Box 1600, Mason, Tx 76856 or firstname.lastname@example.org