Republicans to blame for Colorado shooting deaths

by Jim Longworth

Over this past weekend, every major TV news outlet covered the tragic shooting in Aurora, Colo. and nearly all of their anchors and analysts agreed that now is not the time to affix blame. Actually now is the perfect time to affix blame.

First and foremost we must blame James Holmes, a sicko grad student at the University of Colorado-Denver working in (of all things) neuroscience. On Friday, Holmes bought a ticket at the Century 16 Cinemas to see the midnight show of the new Batman movie, The Dark Knight Rises. A few minutes into the film he slipped out the back exit and propped the door open so that he could get back in. He went to his car which was parked just outside the exit, and there he donned SWAT-like battle gear and a gas mask. Holmes then re-entered the theater, set off some kind of smoke-laden gas and proceeded to open fire on the crowd with his AR-15 assault rifle. He also used a shotgun and a Glock 9, and he carried with him much of the 6,000 rounds of ammunition he had recently purchased on the internet. A few minutes later, 71 people had been shot and 12 were dead. James Holmes is directly to blame for the carnage, and should be put to death for his crimes. In the meantime, however, it is incumbent upon us to do all we can to prevent another such massacre from occurring, and to do so, we must also affix blame to those who enabled Holmes.

In 1994, Congress made it illegal to sell or possess an assault rifle. But in 2004, the GOP controlled Congress let the ban expire. It was a victory for right-wing Republicans and the NRA, but it also opened the door for James Holmes to purchase an assault rifle with a 100-round magazine clip which fires off 60 bullets per minute. Facts are facts. Had Holmes not owned the AR-15, it would have been impossible under the circumstances for him to shoot 71 people.

Thus, the Republican Congress of 2004 is partly to blame for the Colorado shootings of 2012. So are subsequent Congresses who failed to reinstate the ban on assault weapons. And so, too, is the Judiciary. In 2010, the conservative Supreme Court struck down a Chicago ban on gun possession, effectively ruling that local gun bans could not supersede our Constitutional right to bear arms.

Over the past two decades, Republican lawmakers, tea party activists, the courts and various special-interest groups have man aged to hijack the Second Amendment and turn it into a partisan battle cry. Only today, it is the families of James Homes’ victims who are crying, and nothing will ever begin to bring them closure until Congress reinstates the ban on assault weapons.

In the weeks to come I’m sure we’ll hear right-wing media pundits opine about how, if Aurora theatergoers had only been armed, they could have stopped Holmes dead in his tracks. It is the same reactionary argument that was proffered immediately after the Virginia Tech massacre. But more guns is not a sane solution to the problem of gun violence. Each year in America there are 30,000 gun deaths, and 300,000 gun-related assaults. And so, in addition to reinstating a ban on assault weapons, the real solution to the problem of increasing handgun violence is threefold. First, restrict the number of gun purchases per family. Second, invoke lengthy waiting periods once an individual has been approved to own a gun. And third, make it illegal to purchase ammunition except from licensed, local gun dealers, with a limit on boxes of ammo sold. Had these measures been in place prior to last week, James Holmes wouldn’t have owned an AR-15, he might still be in a 90 day waiting period to receive his one and only handgun, and he might have entered the Century 16 Cinemas with only a bag of popcorn in his hands.

Sick, twisted people will always find a way to harm others if they are inclined to do so, but that doesn’t mean we should make it easy for them to act out their fantasies. Right now there’s plenty of collateral blame to go around for the tragedy in Colorado, and this is the perfect time for those responsible to undo the damage that they’ve had a hand in causing. Unfortunately this is an election year, which means neither party is going to do anything about gun violence. That means it’s up to us to change things by using the most powerful ammunition available to us: our vote.

JIM LONGWORTH is the host of “Triad Today,” airing on Saturdays at 7:30 a.m. on ABC45 (cable channel 7) and Sundays at 11am on WMYV (cable channel 15).