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Sunday, July 22, 2012

Gunning Down the Masses



A man from Colorado purchased four guns at local shops and more than 6,000 rounds of ammunition on the Internet in the past 60 days. He spent $3,000 for his personal arsenal that included a Remington 12-gauge shotgun, a .40 caliber Glock handgun, and an AR-15 rifle, a semiautomatic assault weapon that would have been banned at the time if the Violent Crime Control and Law Enforcement Act of 1994 had still been in force. The AR-15 is capable of carrying 100 rounds, and with its drum magazine, it can shoot 50-60 rounds within one minute.

"All the ammunition he possessed, he possessed legally, all the weapons he possessed, he possessed legally, all the clips he possessed, he possessed legally," Aurora, Colorado Police Chief Dan Oates said.

All of this the man did legally in a world where among the 23 wealthiest countries, 80 percent of all gun deaths are American deaths and 87 percent of all kids killed by guns are American kids.

All of this the man did legally in a country, the United States, where the gun murder rate is almost 20 times higher than the next 22 richest and most populous nations combined.

Is was obvious this man spent his money within the rights guaranteed to him by the laws of Colorado and the rights of the U.S. Constitution. In fact, his only known brush with the law had been a traffic ticket for speeding. Unfortunately, he had plans to use his authorized purchases to contribute to the carnage of mass murder.

On July 20, 2012, at 12:35 A.M., James Egan Holmes, a 24 year-old grad school dropout, walked into a Colorado movie theater during a screening of The Dark Knight Rises, a new Batman sequel, and sprayed patrons with gunfire, killing at least 12 people and injuring scores of others. When detained by arresting officers, Holmes, described by acquaintances as a quiet, intelligent “nerd,” identified himself as “the Joker.”

Jack Levin, the director of the Brudnick Center on Violence and conflict at Northeastern University in Boston, author of more than two dozen books on murder and criminology says, "We're still in the dark about where this comes from."

Levin co-wrote Mass Murder: America's Growing Menace, in 1985. At the time, he recalls, "there was zero" research about mass killers, serial killers and the like. Since then, many people have studied mass murderers, writing conclusions about a possible profile. Scientists have done lots of brain research. Studies using MRIs report some mass murderers have high levels of neurotransmitters like dopamine and plunging levels of serotonin. There's even research into the limbic system, a primitive part of the brain that controls emotions and behavior.

But, according to Levin, none of it really touches the psychology of mass murder.

My Take
The exact identities of mass murderers only become clear in the aftermath of their crimes. Even if criminologists develop a profile for mass murderers, how would it be employed? Would enforcement round up all the potentially dangerous people? And, even if they could do this, what would they do to prevent them from carrying out their deadly intentions? In a democracy, all of this seems ridiculous.

I think that the suddenness, randomness, and unpredictability of these attacks makes it nearly impossible to employ security measures that would eliminate them. Mass murderers are determined and deliberate. They have methodical plans that facilitate their strong will to kill. Certainly, security can be improved; however, mass murderers scheme elaborate ways to confound the best efforts.
Pro-gun groups will look at the Colorado incident as a perfect example of why people should be allowed to possess and carry guns. They consistently promote legislation allowing ordinary citizens to carry concealed weapons in public places. They say that an armed citizenry would deter criminals or, at least, reduce the death toll when a mass murderer strikes.
But, would counterattacks be successful in crowded places when a murderer unleashes an attack and mass chaos ensues? In these cases, it seems it would be difficult to distinguish the criminal with a gun from a “good guy” with a gun. And, what about when the police arrive in the middle of such a firefight? How would they do their job safely and effectively without injuring some hero behind a weapon?

Most likely, nothing besides a thorough security inspection could have prevented James Egan Holmes from entering the Century 16 movie theater in Aurora, Colorado, and carrying out his terrible massacre. Even if security agents had found him armed, Holmes could have killed them and entered the crowded theaters.
Should we submit everyone to security checks in all public venues? Are Americans even willing to subject themselves to invasions of privacy in order to better secure their public gathering places? I know that bags and carry-in items are routinely checked at professional sports events such as Major League baseball games and NFL football contests. Do we now do this in even smaller gatherings? The expense alone would be astronomical.

YET, TO ME, ONE THING REALLY STOOD OUT ABOUT THIS LAST HORRIBLE EPISODE OF MASS MURDER. Please reread the first five paragraphs of this post and see if you agree with me.
High-ranking legislators like Senator Ron Johnson (R-Wis.) still promote the right of individuals to buy magazines that carry 100 rounds because they believe limiting them would infringe on the Constitutional rights of the American public. Where do the Constitutional gun rights end for the common citizen?

Senator Johnson, how about 200 round magazines? 1,000 round magazines? Are RPG rocket launchers OK too? I assume you would say “yes.”
12 people died and 58 others were wounded in the Aurora, Colorado shooting.

Six people died in the January 8, 2011 attack in Tucson, AZ. that wounded Representative Gabrielle Giffords and 18 others. The weapon used was reported to be a 9mm Glock 19 semi-automatic with a 33-round magazine.
On August 3, 2010, Omar Thornton, armed with a Sturm, Ruger SR9 semi-automatic pistol and high-capacity ammunition magazine, opened fire on his co-workers at beer distributor Hartford Distributors in Manchester, CT, killing eight and wounding two.

On November 5, 2009, Nidal Hasan, armed with an FN 5.7 semi-automatic pistol and 30- and 20-round high-capacity ammunition magazines, killed 13 and wounded more than 30 at the Fort Hood military base in Fort Hood, TX.
On April 16, 2007, Seung-Hui Cho, armed with a Glock 19 semi-automatic pistol, Walther P22 semi-automatic pistol, and 15-round high-capacity ammunition magazines, killed 32 and wounded 17 on the campus of Virginia Tech in Blacksburg, VA,

On April 20, 1999, Eric Harris and Dylan Klebold, armed with an Intratec TEC-DC9 semi-automatic assault pistol, Hi-Point 9mm semi-automatic Carbine, two Savage shotguns, and high-capacity ammunition magazines, killed 13 and wounded 23 at Columbine High School in Littleton, CO, before taking their own lives.

On and on and on and on....
The assault weapon mania of American citizens is partly fueled by irresponsible policy. I am not suggesting a ban on all handguns or even a change in the concealed-carry rights of responsible people. I am saying that America can cut down on senseless slaughter by restricting weapons with high-capacity ammunition magazines such as assault rifles. I know all about the rights of a militia, etc. But, I believe these weapons cause too much destruction.

Judging from the over 250 million guns in America today, it's obvious that the gun control legislation currently in place is not working. Assault rifles are weapons of war. Now citizens and police officers are daily facing these rapid-fire guns.
Mass murders may be a consequence of the many freedoms we enjoy in America. Perhaps nothing can stop the tragedies from occurring, yet some measures can be taken to reduce the large tolls of deaths and injuries when a mass murderer attacks.

If assault weapons are necessary and effective, perhaps all public areas should be guarded by trained security armed with these guns. Can you imagine seeing officers with fully loaded assault rifles roaming all public gatherings? Schools, malls, stadiums, concert halls, theaters, churches – more guns would surely make these places safer, wouldn't they? Is that the best defense in the land of the free?
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