In a virtuosic display of self-defense a gunman with an assortment of firearms and a gas emitter killed a dozen people and wounded dozens more last Friday night in Aurora, Colorado. No doubt they posed a threat of joining the villains of the Batman movie The Dark Knight Rises and had to be stopped before they could turn into a murderous mob out to get him.
Is that a terrible way of looking at what happened? In the topsy-turvy world of gun “rights” such a defense is only an extension of George Zimmerman’s defense that he killed Trayvon Martin to save himself. In the mind of a disturbed (and probably deeply depressed) person such as the Aurora suspect, James Holmes, a feeling that the world is against him can come to seem a positively physical threat.
What is worse than the unreality such killers operate under is the astonishing irresponsibility of an organization like the National Rifle Association. In any rational world the NRA would stand for sensible restraint in the availability of types of firearms and strict guidance as to their use. That Holmes’s arsenal was reported to include assault rifles as well as 6,000 rounds of ammunition, all apparently obtained legally, surely goes far beyond what is reasonable for a civilian citizen to possess. That all of his stuff could be acquired without any sort of license or registration would be unbelievable almost anywhere outside the United States.
A Colorado gun owner offered the interesting argument that more people should carry guns. If someone in the movie audience had had a gun handy and able to return fire, the death toll might have been less, he suggested. One can only imagine the shootout in that darkened theater!
But that is the kind of thinking endorsed by the NRA, whose power far exceeds its actual membership, as it evidently has altogether too many Americans in thrall. The dispiriting truth is that this particular slaughter — like the numerous others that have preceded it — will have no effect on what Congress or a majority of states (or the U.S. Supreme Court) will do about it. There will probably be no reduction in the number of Stand Your Ground laws. The general pessimism about prospects for any intelligent limitations on guns, including assault rifles and the carrying of concealed weapons, is truly disheartening.
Henrik Krogius is editor of the Brooklyn Heights Press & Cobble Hill News