On July 20, 24-year-old James Holmes armed himself with an assault rifle, a 12-gauge shotgun and two semiautomatic pistols. He allegedly walked into a midnight premiere of “The Dark Knight Rises” in Aurora, Colo., and opened fire into the audience, killing 12 and wounding 58. This event not only wounded Americans deeply, but it also brought the gun debate back to the forefront of American politics.
I’m a firm believer in the theory that there are two sides to every story, and in this instance I can reasonably see both sides of the gun debate. On one side of the spectrum is the claim that this event would not have occurred if more members of the audience were armed, and on the other side is the claim that if guns were made even less accessible these events could have been prevented. It’s all really speculation at this point; the fact of the matter is that we don’t know if anything could have prevented Holmes from a devious plan that was months in the making.
The morning after this catastrophic event, President Barack Obama and presumptive Republican nominee Mitt Romney paused their presidential campaigns to offer condolences to the victims, their families and the American people. However, it wasn’t long before the presidential candidates were criticized for the lack of gun control policy discussion throughout their campaigns.
According to a July 22 Huffington Post article by Sabrina Siddiqui, New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg openly criticized President Obama and Governor Romney. The article quoted Bloomberg as saying, “This really is an enormous problem for the country, and it’s up to these two presidential candidates. They want to lead this country, and they’ve said things before that they’re in favor of banning things like assault weapons. Where are they now and why don’t they stand up? And if they want our votes, they better.”
I hate to say it, but I agree with Bloomberg, who is a staunch supporter of gun control. While I do not completely side with either view, I do believe that after a tragedy like the Aurora shooting, it will be necessary for the presidential candidates to beef up their campaigns with their views on gun control.
Obama has largely avoided the gun debate. According to a July 20 CNN article by Jessica Yellin, “talk of gun rights was largely absent from Obama’s speech in the aftermath of the Fort Hood shooting in 2009,” and he refused to even mention the word gun during his speech following Friday’s shooting.
While I support both of the presidential candidate’s decisions to take a pause from the politics during this time of mourning, this tragedy should also cause the candidates to consider their stance on the issue.
Holmes obtained the weapons legally over a six-month span and 6,000 rounds of ammunition over the Internet, bypassing background checks, according to a July 22 New York Times article by Jack Healy. The article also stated that Holmes bought bulletproof vests and other tactical gear, purchases “that would have been restricted under proposed legislation that has been stalled in Washington for more than a year.” It was also noted that “sellers are not required in most cases to report sales to law enforcement officials, even unusually large purchases. And neither Colorado nor federal law required [Holmes] to submit to a background check or register his growing purchases.”
A July 22 CNN opinion article by John Donohue stated that gun policy is currently made by the National Rifle Association, and “no serious effort at gun control can currently get past its veto.” The article also pointed out that legislation passed during the Clinton years, known as the Brady Bill, required “background checks at the time of gun purchases, or the assault weapons ban,” but the NRA succeeded in inserting gaping loopholes into the laws.
This is why it is necessary for the presidential candidates to establish a strong stance in the gun debate, because if they keep maintaining noncommittal responses or wishy-washy promises of action, the NRA will continue to shut down any and all gun control efforts. In addition to that, the American people need to develop a stronger voice in the matter. The CNN article by Yellin showed that Americans are divided on the gun rights issue; a Pew survey showed that 49 percent found it more important to protect the rights of Americans to own guns, and 45 percent said it’s more important to control gun ownership.
The Aurora tragedy has now been added to the list of the worst mass shootings in the United States, preceded by the Fort Hood shooting in 2009, according to a July 20 timeline featured on CNN. Catastrophes like this have emerged throughout history, and while we mourn the tragedy at the time and clamor for change, time passes and we become silent until the next tragedy.
While more laws might not be the answer to preventing these catastrophes from occurring, especially when criminals are usually breaking the laws, if the debate isn’t brought to light at all then nothing will be accomplished. If the problem isn’t discussed, then there is no possibility of any solution. Perhaps its time for the presidential candidates to stand behind their shiny promises of change and actually make one.
Kelsey McClelland is a senior in journalism and mass communications. Please send comments to firstname.lastname@example.org.