Last week's movie theater shootings in Aurora, Colorado brought out in Americans the usual stages of grief--shock, reflection, acceptance, and complete stupidity. After all, what would a senseless shooting of a crowd of movie-goers be without people trying to advance some dubious political agenda?
One congressman suggests the shootings were the fault of ongoing attacks on Judeo-Christian beliefs. Of course! Clearly the (accused) killer, James Holmes, was not reading enough of the Bible except for the parts about wiping out neighboring tribes with God's blessing. ABC news initially linked the killer to the Colorado Tea Party, which is some great journalism there until you realize that there may be more than one James Holmes out there. Fortunately, the first name "Orenthal" is fairly rare, or else a number of sad sacks sharing the name "O.J. Simpson" would have been vigilanteed back in the '90s.
Let's dispense with some of this stupidity:
1) Whether you favor stricter gun control or not, you shouldn't need a massacre like this to prove your point, unless you didn't realize until now that guns in the wrong hands can result in tragedy. This was always the issue--how to best prevent weapons from getting in the hands of (sane or otherwise) people with ill intentions? Pro-gun controllers will say this could have been prevented, as more lethal high-magazine weapons wouldn't have been available, or better background checks might have prevented this guy from getting any weapon. Anti-gun controllers will say it wouldn't have made a difference, as someone determined enough to get a weapon without any criminal record would have found a way to arm himself, legally or otherwise. Expect nothing to change on this front.
2) Will movie theaters be expected to search patrons before they enter? Probably not yet, but if this sort of thing becomes a trend you will see that just as sure as we still remove our shoes at the airport before getting to our flights. I expect that to prevent approximately zero future massacres though, as potential killers will stick with malls or restaurants until those places also feature pat-downs. More security theater!
3) Would a theater full of concealed carry permitholders have stopped the shooting sooner? Color me skeptical on this one--sure, someone might have been able to shoot back, but in a dark, crowded theater it seems more likely that more victims would have been killed in the crossfire. And I doubt a determined killer would be deterred by the idea that some of his victims were also armed.
4) Even if it turned out that the killer was a member of a Tea Party (or an OWS group, for that matter) should that make any real difference? Short answer--no. Long answer--NOOOOOO. In any broad based group with open membership, you're going to get murderous nuts and it's not as though there's a researched membership list that can be scrubbed from time to time. And while a lot of Tea Partiers tend to be armed--and favor gun rights--that's a pretty far cry from encouraging indiscriminate slaughter of movie-goers.
5) Why did the killer do what he did? I have absolutely no idea, but the nature of the crime suggests he's bonkers. If that turns out to be the case--such as when Jared Loughner turned out to be motivated by his belief that money is a lie--then the main lesson of this sad chapter is to look out for the warning signs of mental illness before they lead to a horrifying end.