Saturday, July 21, 2012

Violence In America

As you might expect the Aurora, Colorado shooting has sparked a heated debate over our constitutional right to carry firearms.  Gun advocates strongly believe that having more guns in the hands of the populace makes the nation safer.  The anti-gun crowd is just as adamant that the more guns there are on the streets the more opportunities there are for tragedies to occur.  This debate at a time of tragedy is to be expected as national tragedies are often the only time that important issues like this are discussed.
So let’s have the debate, and let’s start with the most common rationale for less restrictive gun laws being expressed in the wake of the Aurora shooting;  that had there been armed patrons in that theater they would have shot James E. Holmes before he could hurt so many innocent people.
The people who believe this see themselves as a Jason Bourne figure, who in the midst of all the smoke, noise and panic rises from his seat…draws his weapon…takes the appropriate two handed shooting stance…and calmly fires one lethal shot which strikes James E. Holmes right between the eyes…all while his significant other swoons in admiration from the adjoining seat.
There is a different scenario.  There is a darkened theater lighted only by the light flickering from the movie screen.  Suddenly a man appears.  He is dressed in Kevlar and brandishing a number of weapons.  He sets off some type of gas canister and begins firing indiscriminately into the crowd. The room fills with suffocating smoke, and the noise is so loud you can’t hear yourself think.  Panic ensues and people are running in every direction trying to get away from the shooter. It is utter chaos.  Then 2, 3, 4…10…20 armed people sitting in different areas of the theater, draw their weapons and begin firing through the smoke toward where they believe the shooter to be.  Some have soiled themselves out of fear; and yet they keep firing.  Others have squeezed their eyes shut to block out the horror; yet they indiscriminately fire round after round after round.  This isn’t the way they thought it would be.  Shooting at paper targets and empty beer bottles is far different than defending yourself in a real life or death situation.  Holmes is dead.  How many others are hit by unintended fire.  Imagine the carnage!
Both scenarios are possible.  Which one is more likely to occur?
American is a violent country. Our violent crime rates far exceed those of our economic and cultural peers.  Those who believe that this fact warrants the infusion of additional firearms into circulation should check out our violent crime rates compared to those countries that ban gun ownership. There is no comparison. Our violent crime rates far exceed most similar nations because we allow our citizens to carry firearms.  That’s not an ideological statement.  It is simply a factual one.  The path to reducing this country’s incidents of violent crime is to take guns off the streets...not make gun ownership easier.
Our family will undoubtedly take in a movie some time; and the Aurora shooting incident is bound to cross our mind.  We won’t be worried that some guy all “geared up” in Kevlar will burst through the door and open fire.  But we WILL wonder what the guy sitting next to us holding a big gulp and giant popcorn may have tucked in his waste band.                     

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