Friday morning’s gunfire massacre at an Aurora, Colorado, midnight screening of The Dark Knight Rises may feel like a peculiarly American tragedy, but the United States is far from being the only country in the world where some deluded, deranged and very, very self-important asshole kills masses of people who are simply going about minding their own pursuit of happiness.
- Norway’s Anders Behring Breivik killed 77 people on July 22, 2011, in coordinated bomb and gun attacks on government buildings and at a camp for teenagers outside Oslo.
- In March of this year, 23-year-old Mohammed Merah shot to death four people, including three children, outside the Ozar Hatorah Jewish day school in Toulouse, France.
- Christopher Husbands, 23, is charged with shooting two people to death and wounding six others on June 2, 2012, at the Eaton Centre Mall in Toronto, Canada.
- Attacks in Yemen, Afghanistan, Syria, Pakistan and Iraq are numerous, but seem less aberrant for having occurred in festering war zones.
So the USA is not alone in harboring individuals who take it upon themselves to murder groups of people who pose no bodily threat, but we are accustomed to doing things on a larger scale than the rest of the world.
Friday’s Dark Knight Rises massacre is the sixth random mass shooting to occur in the United States in 2012. And we’re hardly halfway through the summer.
- On February 27, a teenager shot into a Chardon, Ohio, high-school cafeteria and killed three people, injuring three others.
- On April 2, a gunner in Oakland, California, shooting into a classroom at Oikos University, killed seven people and wounded three others.
- On April 7, five Tulsa, Oklahoma, pedestrians were shot arbitrarily, three of them fatally. Two men have been charged with the shootings.
- On May 30, a Seattle, Washington, shooter fired into a café and carjacked a woman, killing five people and injuring one more.
- On July 17, a Tuscaloosa, Alabama, bar took fire from a single gunman; 17 people were wounded.
- And early this morning, July 20, failed 24-year-old PhD candidate James Holmes, masked and in costume, presumably killed at least 12 people, injuring 50 or more, at an Aurora, Colorado, screening of The Dark Knight Rises.
Americans are stocked with roughly 90 guns for every 100 people. Regions with higher rates of gun ownership suffer elevated homicide rates. On average, gun violence kills fractionally more than 84 people in the U.S. every day, and injures more than twice that number.
There is an apparent correlation to be drawn between the relative ease of access to firearms in the United States and the country’s rate of gun violence. This correlation appears to be lost upon the National Rifle Association’s social media manager. Just as America was waking up to news of the Aurora shooting tragedy, the American Rifleman, the official journal of the NRA, announced its disconnect with current American reality over Twitter. See below.
If not for the organization’s intense and sustained opposition to stricter gun control legislation, it might seem unfair to single out the NRA’s tone-deaf good morning to the Dark Knight catastrophe.
Celeb Boutique issued an equally crass or stupid response. The online purveyor of sleazy frocks squeezed out a tweet claiming that one of its Kim Kardashian-inspired garments was responsible for the trending hash tag #Aurora.
Major news media outlets also strayed from real and pertinent coverage, exemplified by George Stephanopoulos distilling America’s number-one post-killings priority on ABC News:
“The real concern now?” said Stephanopoulos. “Potential copycats across the country.”
Rather than cock a brow incredulously and demand “Where? Who? On what authority?”, Pierre Thomas, ABC News’s Senior Justice Correspondent, expanded upon Stephanopoulos’s “real concern”:
“Law enforcement officials will be having conversations with major city police chiefs around the country looking at the premier of this movie,” said Thomas. “It’s expected to be one of the biggest movies of the summer, long lines out, ‘the perfect soft target’ as one official told me. You may see stepped up police presence outside of theaters around the country today, George.”
But the United States is a country of “perfect soft targets,” and we want to remain that way. We want our summer block parties. We want our New Years Eve mobs in Times Square. We want our music festivals, our NASCAR circuits, our Malls of America and our Million Man Marches. Civilized society, in the U.S. and abroad, should be defined as any place where great masses of people feel perfectly secure bumbling about all the live long day as “perfect soft targets.”
In the hours after the nation became consumed with this latest assault upon our senses of safety, hope and identity, President Obama promised “my administration will do everything that we can to support the people of Aurora in this extraordinarily difficult time. We are committed to bringing whoever was responsible to justice, ensuring the safety of our people [emphasis added], and caring for those who have been wounded.”
Hundreds of law enforcement experts had descended upon the Aurora Mall within mere hours after the bloody horror at the Century 16 Theater.
A shooting that did not happen will always have a better outcome than a homicide investigation can hope to result in—no matter how expertly run.
It’s heartening to see city and federal protectors hop to the rescue in the aftermath of these inexplicable, unpredictable, impossible to repel attacks. No one is questioning that, after the shots were fired, cops in Seattle, Tulsa, Tuscaloosa, Oakland and Chardon moved adroitly and quickly to pick up the pieces.
But if the guns had not been in the shooters hands, these crimes may have been averted. A shooting that did not happen will always have a better outcome than a homicide investigation can hope to result in—no matter how expertly run.
It is true that Timothy McVeigh didn’t employ a single bullet in killing 168 people and injuring 680 more at the Alfred P. Murrah Federal Building in downtown Oklahoma City on April 19, 1995. Guns are not the only way to kill people; they are only among the most convenient.
According to three separate polls, conducted by Time, ABC/Wall Street Journal and NBC News/Washington Post in 2011, a majority of Americans favor stricter gun-control laws.
A field of options exists between tightening the flow of firearms to U.S. citizens and gutting the Second Amendment. Gun ownership is a guaranteed American right—granted. Also a given: Some system for reducing those 86 daily fatalities of U.S. gun violence is surely within reach of America’s collective reasoning and will.
If someone just had the guts not to block the conversation, it might lead to a solution 86 people a day could live with.
Now, while the bloody atrocity of Aurora is fresh, seems, once again, like the perfect time for that discussion to happen.
Can the United States preserve the Second Amendment and still reduce gun violence deaths? Say what you think in COMMENTS.