All That Can Be Said About Another Assault Weapon Tragedy

By Becky O'Malley,Carol Polsgrove, Dorothy Snodgrass, Ron Lowe, Romila Khanna, Jagjit Singh, Bennett Markel, Carol Hamilton
Friday July 27, 2012 - 11:45:00 AM

This week we’ve had a number of letters from readers around the country about the latest incident of mass murder by assault weapon. In a variety of ways, they cover most of what needs to be said, for all the good it will do. 


From Carol Polsgrove in North Carolina: 

Since you've written so eloquently on the problem with guns, you won't want to miss this bit of the New York Times story on the Colorado shooting: 

“Mayor Michael R. Bloomberg of New York, who has waged a national campaign for stricter gun laws, called on President Obama and Mr. Romney to address more concretely the issue of gun violence in their campaigns. 

‘You know, soothing words are nice,’ Mr. Bloomberg said during his weekly radio program, ‘but maybe it’s time that the two people who want to be president of the United States stand up and tell us what they are going to do about it, because this is obviously a problem across the country.’ “ 


Dorothy Snodgrass in Berkeley agrees: 

I'm a great admirer of President Obama. I find him a man of keen intelligence, compassion and strong moral values. His eloquent talk following the Colorado massacre moved me to tears. But I do wish, however, that he would take on the NRA, limiting the sale of guns and ammunition. It appears that only New York Mayor Bloomberg has enough guts to oppose this loathsome organization! 


Ron Lowe, of Grass Valley, isn’t fooled by the excuses politicians make:  

Don't tell me there is no solution to murderous rampages and guns blazing! Japan, Europe and the rest of the civilized world know there is a solution that prevents Aurora, Colorado type killing fields. Gun control laws that keep assault weapons and Glock semiautomatic hand guns out of society's way. 

Republicans claim guns are for hunting. Do you need assault rifles or a .04 Glock hand gun to shoot a rabbit or deer? You don't. The gun culture has created an image that plays on the ego and this image is used and perpetuated by the weapons industry to sell more of their product. 

The problem of ever more guns and the constant barrage of killings in America can be laid at the doorstep of the gun lobby, NRA and Republican Party, which have been complicit, even zealous, in the passage of more ridiculous and permissive gun laws. 

The truth: The killings in the theater in Aurora, Colorado could not have happened without guns. It would be impossible for one person to kill and wound that many people without guns. And the NRA's answer, arm all Americans to the teeth and this will not happen. And chickens won't lay eggs. 

The NRA and its surrogate, the Republican Party are making it ever easier to have a gun, claiming that guns are for hunting and self-protection. Somebody forgot to mention that to James Holmes or any of the others who have gone on wild killing sprees. Guns are used for killing, whether its animals or humans. 

Countries that have gun control laws don't have the problems America has: over 100,000 people were killed and injured with guns last year. And you just know there are others out there already planning to one-up James Holmes. How will they do it; Guns, Guns, Guns. 

The gun fetish writers are at it again telling us the Aurora tragedy would have been averted if an audience member had been packing heat (gun). 

Of course this gun-toting member of the audience would have had armor-piercing bullets, since the suspect wore full body armor. And like the shooter he would have needed a gas mask to avoid the tear gas. 

Most people have trouble even finding their seats in darkened theaters, so our armed audience member would have needed night vision goggles. 

Obviously hitting a moving target with a handgun across a panicked, darkened, tear gas filed theater is a bit challenging, so the audience member would have to be a world-class marksman or a Rambo. 

We don't need more delusional spin from the "guns everywhere" crowd; semi-automatic weapons need to be banned from society. 


Romila Khanna in Albany challenges the constitutional theories that are used to justify gun violence: 

Once again? Untimely deaths brought on by someone's craziness? No place safe? Not even a movie theater? 

What was the fault of those who wanted to spend an evening watching a newly-released movie? In my view, they died because our country lacks strong gun control laws.

I hear some people saying, "The Second Amendment of our Constitution allows people to bear arms." I would like to ask our lawmakers: How shall the rest of us be saved from the sort of violence unleashed in Aurora, Colorado? Can our laws be changed so that it becomes very difficult for ordinary people to own guns?

I wish we would think about bringing rational and meaningful changes in our Constitution for the safety of all citizens, including those who might forget to pack a pistol for a night out at the local movie theater. 


Jagjit Singh of Los Altos is even more specific: 

The horrific terrorist attack in Aurora, Colorado should reignite the national debate on gun control. The alleged shooter was able to purchase more than 6,000 rounds of ammunition online and a high-capacity "drum magazine" large enough to hold 100 rounds and capable of firing 50 or 60 rounds per minute – all with a few clicks of a keyboard mouse. How can we allow our highly paid, Rip Van Winkle legislators to stall pending legislation that would have prevented such mayhem? President Obama and president wannabe Mitt Romney both chose to avoid calls for tighter gun control. Such is the power of the NRA gun lobby who vowed to ' take down any legislator in an election” if they campaigned against the interests of the lobby.  

The country is awash in guns and assault weapons of every description. 

According to FBI statistics there are over 200 million privately-owned firearms in the U.S. 

It is time to jettison the Wild West mentality of our nation and challenge the archaic laws of our nation. The second amendment of the US Constitution “A well-regulated militia, . . . the right to bear arms shall not be infringed. “ is an anachronistic obscenity and must be repealed. We already have well-regulated militias; we call them law enforcement agencies. 


In case we forget, Berkeley psychiatrist Bennett Markel’s poem reminds us that we’ve been here before: 

A shoot um-up in a movie house in Colorado,
Twelve people die.
The country seems to come to a halt.
President Obama and Candidate Romney run to the scene,
And speechify.
Shock and surprise!

Wait a minute.
Wasn’t there Columbine?
Wasn’t that in Colorado?
And what about Waco?
And Oklahoma City?
And those students in West Virginia?
And wasn’t there some playground in Stockton?

We are living in mad times.
This last joker, called himself THE JOKER, and seemed to be
Under the influence of a movie.
Of course, he wasn’t doing well in graduate school,
Or well enough.

The FBI, the CIA, Home Security, the whole
Protect America industry are called in.
Of course, the NRA (National Rifle Association) is busy
Explaining something or other.
Why should NRA even be in all of our vocabularies?

Let’s be clear.
This is not tragedy.
It’s farce.

You want tragedy?
People are violent.
Man is a suspicious, willful, grandiose, power-seeking mammal.
He wants to be special.
Numero Uno – not some one who fails as a neuroscience graduate student.
Man is a dangerous beast.

There you have to be joking.
There is no place for them.
Maybe in an amusement park. 


And finally, Carol Hamilton in Pennsylvania bitterly satirizes the farcical excuses which are used to justify assault weapons : 

In the wake of the latest Colorado massacre, pundits are leaping to their keyboards to argue against gun control. 

On CNN James Alan Fox wrote: 

“Mass killers are determined, deliberate and dead-set on murder. They plan methodically to execute their victims, finding the means no matter what laws or other impediments the state attempts to place in their way. To them, the will to kill cannot be denied.” 

Urging us to wait until our heads have cooled. Oliver Burkeman reminded his Guardian readers: “some people will go to extreme lengths to do unthinkably terrible things.” 

I leap to my keyboard to agree and elaborate. Because if a homicidal maniac is determined to commit mass murder, he (and I do mean “he”) is going to figure out a way. 

Suppose we banned assault weapons and automatic rifles tomorrow. We might still wake up to the following horrific headlines: 



An unidentified white male dressed in camouflage clothing burst into a movie theater tonight and assaulted the audience. Armed with four crossbows, three strapped over his shoulders, he launched his deadly bolts at the stunned and frightened crowd. Reloading swiftly, he mercilessly picked off victims as they cowered in the rear of the theater.  


Students were assembled peaceably in the cafeteria of Aaron Burr Junior High today, eating lunch and texting, when a fourteen-year-old boy armed with a slingshot burst into the room. The boy, who has not been identified because he is under age (although he will be tried as an adult) got off twenty-two rounds before the football coach rushed from the field and subdued him. “I was studying for my geometry exam,” wailed one student. “I was so scared. I hid under a table but I got a really bad bruise on my leg.”  


Hurling watermelons from a corporate booth, into which he had gained improper access, 22-year-old Paul Walter Smith decimated an unsuspecting crowd, crushing dozens of baseball fans and staining the clothes of others. Smith had apparently smuggled the watermelons up in an unguarded, unsupervised freight elevator. “They always find a way,” sighed a police officer. “It’s just useless to take precautions.”  

So I’m just sayin’: guns don’t commit mass murder. Very well-prepared and determined lunatics commit mass murder. And they’re going to do it even if all they have is a pointed stick or a banana. Chew on that, Mayor Bloomberg! 


I don’t have much to add to these eloquent voices. 

I simply can’t understand how Americans can deny the abundant evidence that assault weapons like those used in the recent Colorado tragedy and all those which preceded it have no purpose except to kill human beings.  

The last time I wrote about this, I got irate letters parsing the subtle distinctions between guns, revolvers, automatic, semi-automatic etc. etc, etc. Some people just don’t get it: there is absolutely no use for any devices of any kind which are designed to rapidly fire numerous deadly projectiles which kill people—or for the ammunition used in them. None. 

Americans seem insanely capable of deep denial of easily observable facts. After all, don’t we lead the supposedly educated world in numbers of citizens who “don’t believe in” climate change? But that’s a topic for another day.