It’s already been two weeks since the tragedy at Aurora,Colorado as a dozen people were killed and over three dozen were wounded in a calculated attack by the mass murderer James Holmes. Putting this event into context, the situation was unique. A mild mannered PhD student, with a history of mental illness, accumulated an arsenal of over six thousand rounds of ammunition, two high powered pistols, a shotgun and an assault rifle fitted with a 100 round drum, making that weapon, for all intents and purposes, a military support weapon. After initiating his attack, Holmes left the theater, calmly walked to his car and surrendered to waiting patrol officers. Now he has been arraigned in court and formally charged with multiple counts of murder. Meanwhile, television interviews have been conducted on the survivors, an army of lobbyists and policymakers are hard at work to spin the story to their advantage, hysteria is being thrown around as weapon sales have now reached an all time high in this country. The question remains: what about those that are left behind?
In the aftermath of tragic events it is natural to attempt to apply logic, reasoning, or blind emotion in order to come up with an answer. Perhaps we should consider the background of our nation’s mixed relationship with the firearm. During the time period of Colonial America, A gun was a multi-purpose tool that could either be used to hunt game of defend a household from bandits of all ethnicities. It was written in the constitution that an American citizen has the right to be part of “A well regulated Militia, being necessary to the security of a free State, the right of the people to keep and bear Arms, shall not be infringed.” And so here lies the conundrum: How does this law apply today? We already have a free standing military and a National Guard system that stands ready to defend our people. Our country has not been invaded for 200 years. Clearly a weapon’s purpose is to protect the community, period. So why are weapons a necessity? Hunting still requires the use of weapons as does home defense. A bolt-action rifle or pump-action shotgun is more than enough to take down wild game. A handgun is a practical weapon for someone to defend their home, should they choose to accept the responsibility and consequences of deadly force. So where do military grade weapons fit into this strange situation?
In speaking with friends of mine in the Army, Marine Corps, and Air Force, most came into agreement that an AR-15, the civilian model of the M16/M4 rifle family is fairly impractical for a n0n-soldier to use. When bringing up the topic of a 100 round drum magazine for the same weapon, they viewed such an attachment with distrust. It was explained to me that the direct impingement system of an American rifle cannot sufficiently handle that type of ammunition capacity, unless it had an automatic selection. Without automatic cycling, the magazine is almost always prone to failure. Making it practically useless in a civilian setting. It was also agreed that a military based weapon is only applicable when being faced by 15+ opponents, something that rarely happens outside of a combat zone. Yet that does not fully answer the question of the victims and their families.
In spite of our nation’s history in needing these weapons, constitutional rights, and political routines does any of this truly matter to the young men and women that fill the hospital beds? To the grieving parents and spouses that lost their loved ones? Perhaps what is necessary is an institutionalized system of accountability. The responsibility of figuring out what exactly triggers these episodes should be at the forefront of these preventions. I have read news reports of how shootings like Aurora, Tucson and Columbine high school could have been stopped if individuals listened to the warning signs. These included erratic behavior by the suspect, a history of peer or family abuse, misuse of medication or alcoholism and social isolation. Perhaps the answer is not to retaliate as individuals but to come together as a community and address these problems in therapeutic manner. That being said, we as a society should not parade this story as a curio for a week and then revert back to our day time programming as though it never truly happened, leaving a grief stricken community in the wake.