Sunday, July 22, 2012

Assault Weapon Madness

   One of the things that I take for granted in my life but enjoy immensely is going to the movies.  I've been to hundreds of them.  Sci-Fi, Action, Drama, Comedy, Animated, on and on.  One thing I've never thought about until Friday morning is that I could be shot by some lunatic with an assault weapon because I simply happened to be sitting in the movie theatre he chose to use as his personal firing range.  Now, I have no attachment to the people who were killed and wounded in Aurora, Colorado late last Thursday.  I don't know any of them.  I live over a thousand miles away in the Dallas, Texas area and doubt I will ever visit the town.  But, I'm now connected to them because I happen to go to the movies.  The movie theatre is a place of entertainment, of social interaction, of arcade games and popcorn and candy and soft drinks.  It is not supposed to be a battle ground.  It is supposed to be a place where I, as a kid could be dropped of on a Saturday morning and spend all day watching different movies and just hanging out with my friends.   It is supposed to be a place I can drop my kids off to watch movies and have them hang out with their friends.  It is supposed to be a place we can go without thinking about being killed or having us or our kids in danger.

When James Holmes kicked in the emergency exit door of the theater showing the premier of "The Dark Night Rises", no one in that theater was expecting to get shot.  Likely the biggest complaint anyone would have is the concessions were too expensive or the sound too loud.  But, in the moments after he broke in, lobbed his tear gas cannisters and then began to indiscriminately shoot over 70 people, killing at this point 12, their lives changed forever.  So did mine.  I will remember this.  Oh, over time it will wane in my memory, and I might not think about it every time I go see a movie, but sometimes I will, and it will make me both sad and wary.  When events like the ones in Aurora occur, we are indelibly marked by them.  They may have little impact overall, but nonetheless, we all will carry a scar from this wound on our society.

Mr. Holmes motives are unclear at this point.  We do know he meticulously planned this attack.  He also booby-trapped his apartment with a direct intent to kill anyone who entered.  The man was intelligent, he was in a medical school in Colorado studying neuro-science.  He is also a monster.  Of what the genesis of his insanity is, I do not know, nor do I care.  He has no excuse that forgives this act in my opinion.  He needs to be locked up until his last breath and needs to be consigned to that heap of human detritus that commits these acts of horrible result.

It is a cold hard fact of life that we will have murder, murderers and victims, grief and rage.  This will never stop.  What can stop is putting the tools of mass-murder into the hands of these people.  Mr. Holmes launched his killing spree with several weapons, a handgun, a shotgun and an AR-15 semi-automatic rifle that can easily be turned into an automatic weapon, and can hold high-capacity magazines which allow the shooter to continue to shoot without reloading over and over again.  Some of these magazines can hold upwards of 100 rounds. 

I would like to understand how in the world, anyone justifies the selling of these weapons, magazines and their accessories in this country?  You can, by reports, walk into major retail outlets (sporting goods stores) and purchase these weapons.  Why?  Honestly, we know why.  Money.  Money and profits drive all of this.  The desire to sell as many of these weapons as possible because of their popularity seemingly overcomes any level of judgement the owners of the companies that manufacture these guns might possess.  Just because you have the capacity to do something (sell these weapons of mass destruction) doesn't mean you should.
Since the assault weapons ban expired in 2004, we have seen several killings where large numbers of people were either killed or wounded.  Just a few that we know about include:
  • Thursday, July 19, 2012 - James Holmes kills (at least) 12 and wounds 50 in a movie theater in Aurora, Colorado
  • April 3, 2009 - Jiverly Wong, a Vietnamese immigrant walks into a citizens class at a immigration center in Binghamton, New York and kills 13, wounding 4, using an assault weapon.
  • March 10, 2009, Michael McLendon goes on a killing spree killing 10 in Alabama.  His weapons of choice?  A SKS Assault rifle, a Bushmaster Assault rifle and a handgun.
  • April 16, 2007, Seung-Hui Cho, age 23, kills 32 at the Virginia Tech campus using assault weapons with high-capacity magazines.
The idea that it is OK for Americans to walk into a store, purchase a weapon that can kill literally hundreds of people in just a few minutes is totally lost on me.  Why would anyone think this is a good idea?  Hunters don't need weapons that can fire 30 or 50 or 100 rounds a minute.  It simply doesn't make sense.
I don't want to get into a screed about the 2nd Amendment.  That is settled law.  Americans can buy guns.  For for the love of Pete, let's put some sanity around this.  I think we can all agree that an ordinary American cannot by a ballistic nuclear missile, right?  At least we an agree on that.  Let's take it down a couple of notches and get these assault weapons off the street.  Here is a modest proposal that, if enacted, might make these tragedies like the one that occurred last week in Colorado less likely to happen:
I think these are some reasonable solutions, but it requires a lot of people to put aside the idea that someone is trying to take away their freedoms.

1. First you have to start with the idea of boundaries. It seems reasonable to me that the average citizen in this country doesn't need an automatic or semi-automatic weapon. If you are a sportsman and hunt, honestly, do you need a fully or semi automatic weapon? If you are a competitive shooter, would you be willing to go through a more rigorous background check and limit where you are able to shoot? Think of it like a race car. If you want to drag race, you can, but it requires conforming to a set of rules relative to where you do it.

2. Limit the amount of guns that can be sold to a person in a given period of time. What I fear that happens here is one may purchase multiple guns, not have them registered, then and go and sell them on the secondary market at significant prices because they essentially cannot be traced.

3. Tight registration and background checks for people who purchase them. Have them, like their cars bring them to an "inspection" center (could be a gun shop) once a year to have them inspected. Makes sure the owner still has the gun, and if he wants to sell it, must have the bill of sale and who purchased it (similar to a car title).”
It is insane in my view to allow the status quo to continue.  I don't ever want to see another instance of what happened in Aurora last week occur again.  We should be able to attend a movie theater without thinking about whether or not we should wear a Kevlar vest or "pack heat".  By the way, all of these fools who suggest that if someone was armed in the movie theater would have made a difference don't understand this at all.  Several police officers have recently said that had someone been armed and starting firing, the only result would have been more people being killed. 
I love going to the  movies.  I really do.  I want to be able to go without fear of getting killed.  Is that too much to ask?  NRA, when will you decide even this is too much for you?  We need responsible dialog about this issue and we need responsible legislation, and we need it now.

Tell me what you think.