After Aurora: the Good, the Bad and the Predictable

I’d like to propose that a new term be added to the vernacular: The NRA Minute. As you may know, a “New York Minute” is the proverbially brief interval of time between when a stop light turns green and the (allegedly rude and impatient) New York driver behind you honks his or her horn. By the same token, I offer the following definition:

NRA Minute (n) The interval of time between the news of a mass shooting and the gun culture’s response that we shouldn’t “blame the gun”.

Of course, nobody is literally “blaming the gun”; we all know that they don’t just fire themselves. But a lot of people do blame the ready availability of guns. And the gunsters are always eager for an opportunity to shoot down this notion, even on the heels of a massacre like the one in Aurora. (The media always refer to such a massacre, rather euphemistically, as a “tragedy”. Isn’t that a word better reserved for the accidental sinking of a ferry with passengers aboard? As my nephew astutely commented, the tragedy of an incident like Aurora is that nothing will change.) They always insist, while the smoke is still dissipating at the shooting site, that the answer is even more guns. This line of “thinking” is based on three incredibly naive assumptions.

Incredibly Naive Assumption # 1: There is an impermeable line of demarcation between Armed Good Guys and Armed Bad Guys.

The gunsters are quite willing to stake their lives (and yours) on the belief that it’s easy to distinguish one from the other; and that only the latter use their guns for malice, while the former always use them in defense.

Incredibly Naive Assumption # 2: Gun owners will be armed and ready when an attack occurs.

I keep hearing that even in places where concealed carry laws are in effect, many owners often don’t bother, because it’s just so awkward. Do you really want to tote your piece to the beach with you? Or the movie theater? Actually, many people no doubt will be doing the latter for a while, and with any luck none will shoot himself in the foot during a love scene. But it’s a good bet that once the sensation of Aurora fades, the great majority of them will stop babysitting their hardware during a flick.

Incredibly Naive Assumption # 3: The Good Guys will be able to outgun the Bad Guys effectively and efficiently.

The shooting in the movie theater happened quickly and amid a great deal of confusion. Many other shooting incidents happen much more quickly and with even more confusion, leaving little if any time to stop it. Furthermore, there is always the possibility that trying to shoot a gunman will result in shooting innocent people. Just imagine how much worse the scene in a crowded movie theater would have been if, in accordance with NRA objectives, everyone in the theater had been armed! Gunsters seem quite willing to assume that all gun owners (except the bad guys) will be perfectly responsible, perfectly in control, perfectly accurate in their marksmanship, even under the most panicky circumstances. Maybe they’ve spent too much time in movie theaters themselves, watching cops shoot guns out of the hands of criminals — which never, ever happens in real life.

Sure, it’s possible that in some cases an armed citizen can stop an armed criminal without doing more harm than good. Indeed (as no doubt your gun-totin’ friends and relatives have informed you many, many, many times) it happens rather often. But just how often is very much a matter of debate. The million-dollar (or million life) question is whether it happens often enough to justify the consequences of flooding the streets with guns.

If there’s a silver lining to what just happened in Colorado, it’s that at least one news network (MSNBC) made it a policy not to name the shooter except where necessary. And its reporters mentioned that a number of government officials — including President Obama — were following the same policy. I say it’s about time; I’ve been urging this kind of blacklist for years, as I can’t help suspecting that forcing anonymity upon the gunmen would reduce their numbers. And as a bonus, the NRA would bark a little less often.


  1. I could have sworn that I already commented on this post, or at least, that many other readers had commented on it. I must have been busy with personal business of some kind which caused me to overlook it.

    What I find most offensive about right wing reactions just after a massacre like that at Aurora, is the apparent lack of real concern and how, instead, gun advocates respond with a bunch of empty platitudes, or attempt to defend unregulated gun ownership with catchy, but shallow one liners like, “Don’t blame the gun.”

    One of my cousins seriously injured himself with what we used to call “blasting caps,” when he was a child in the 1950’s. No one hushed anyone else’s concerns about the appropriateness of allowing children to have access to such dangerous explosives, either from neglect, or, just from not being aware that there was a serious problem which resulted from thinking that such explosives were only a danger to those who used them improperly. Neither was anyone foolish enough to say, “don’t blame the blasting caps.”

    The truth is that there are many products and types of weapons that are just too dangerous NOT to regulate, such as, in the case of guns, by taking care to use adequate background checks before selling them and keeping them in safe places where curious young hands cannot get a hold of them. I know most gun advocates would immediately inform me that the Aurora shooter bought his semi-automatic rifle legally after undergoing a back ground check, and that any responsible gun owner would never leave a gun where his children or any other child might find it. But the Aurora shooter DID order cases of ammunition and body armor On- line. So a system that allows these sales to be so easily made is, in my opinion, lacking in a fundamental way when it comes to any safeguards that might have prevented John Holmes from ever getting his hands on a gun in the first place. One good thing would be to establish a National registry for guns, and a renewal of licensing for private ownership of weapons—including testing for proficiency on the part of owners, and assuring that they act cautiously while using guns.

    Gun advocates never tired of proclaiming that any such a thing is impossible, and that it places 2nd Amendment rights in Jeopardy. However, my conception about the right to own weapons is that, with great power comes great responsibility. Corny as that may sound, a weapon that can fire metallic objects trough human flesh, (and sometimes even thorough solid armor) certainly represents a great deal of power to entrust anyone with, especially without proper precautions–just as allowing anyone to hurl down highways at speeds in excess of 60 MPH also involves the possibility of great danger and hazardous consequences resulting from frivolous or improper use of motor vehicles. And, can any gun advocate provide us with anything more than a handful of stories, involving someone losing their licence or vehicle unjustly–especially when making sure NOT to drive with blood alcohol levels of 1.6 percent or more etc? Other than cases like that, as well as plethora of other infractions, that can cause one to lose ones licence, the government has never willfully confiscated anyone’s vehicle without a just cause—just as it won’t take anyone’s guns away without evidence of their willful misconduct or deliberate misuse of force. Gun regulations are meant to promote safety for the public–not to penalize law abiding citizens in any unfair way.

    Those of us who have engaged in this debate know that there are a great deal of differing taking points and ideas concerning what should, and should not, be legal. But I grow tired of those voices who say it is impossible to reduce the availability of weapons to crazies, since, just like the stipulations concerning social responsibility that come with the First Amendment, there are also good reason to place some restrictions on guns and other weapons that can be dangerous in the hands of the wrong people. For one thing, the founding fathers were used to single shot rifles that could only fire two, maybe three rounds per minute in the hands of a skilled shooter. They had no idea that eventually weaponry would be created that could fire multiple rounds each second, or others that could be fitted with barrel magazines holding 100 rounds or more. We need to be realistic about he weapons we have, and the ways they should be regulated—not taken away—just regulated in some common sense ways. And, no, neither Obama, nor any other president, past, present, or future, would ever dare try, or even want to try, confiscating weapons from lawful gun owners without good reasons. And, if those reasons didn’t exist, the President would be impeached before you could say, “second amendment.” Neither the Congress, the Pentagon, the members of the opposing party, or even, the members of the President’s own party would put up with such an idea for one minute–they just wouldn’t!

    If we just realized how misleading so many of the government conspiracy and doomsday arguments really are, from that point of understanding the debate can go forward. And perhaps sanity will prevail

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