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Tristine Skyler Headshot

When the Hollywood Horror Film Is Real Life

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On July 20, 2012, members of a suburban community outside of Denver, Colorado went to the movies. They went to a midnight movie in fact, intending to catch the first screening of the latest anticipated Batman film, in which a caped crusader fights crime and saves innocent people.

But on this night, there was no superhero, and now two weeks after the tragic shooting in Aurora, Colorado, there still isn't one. What happened in that theatre even the most sadistic screenwriter's mind would have trouble dreaming up: 12 innocent people dead, 58 injured, not to mention the hundreds of people in or near the crime scene who will likely suffer the effects of psychological trauma their whole lives. All innocent people, there to watch a film about a superhero who saves innocent people. But if the story of our country is a movie, we have a clear villain in our ineffective gun laws, but we still have no hero.

As outraged New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg continues to state, the fact that the gun laws in this country are not being revised is "preposterous." He, along with Boston's Mayor Tom Menino, co-creators of the 700-strong coalition Mayors Against Illegal Guns, is the closest thing to a superhero we have. And a formidable one. If he continues to voice his outrage daily as he has been doing, perhaps he will finally get the president's attention. One can hope.

But how many more people have to die? The Center for Disease Control -- illegal gun fatalities are considered an 'epidemic' -- averages deaths by illegal guns to be 34 a day. That is 34 innocent people. Often they do not make the news, or at least not in the way the unfathomable horror of mass shootings like Columbine, Virginia Tech, Tucson, and now Aurora. When a country's own congresswoman fights for her life after a shooter with an apparent mental illness had his hands on a gun, and yet Congress itself still does nothing to pass any new laws, there is a disconnect here that is unacceptable. This is a "common-sense issue" the mayors' coaliton cries -- keep guns out of the hands of criminals, mentally ill, and known drug users. Outlaw assault rifles. Update the national database, and require background checks for every purchase at a gun show. We live in an age where technology allows every aspect of our lives to be linked, yet suspect James Holmes was able to purchase an AR-15, and buy 6,000 rounds of ammunition online. And yet, because of our antiquated gun laws, nothing happened. (To the credit of James Holmes' psychiatrist, she did try to alert the University of Colorado's recently formed "Behavioral Evaluation and Threat Assessment" team, formed to try to prevent violent student crimes on campus. Unfortunately the team did not respond as he was no longer a student.)

The mayors' point is this: it is unacceptable that innocent students going to school (Columbine, VA Tech), innocent citizens engaging in the democratic process (Tucson), and innocent parents, children, sisters, brothers, neighbors and friends going to a movie (Aurora) are subject to this real-life horror.

As a screenwriter I can say that if the story of our country were a movie, we are only in the first act. Columbine, Virginia Tech, Tucson and Aurora have set the stage. We have established the villain of this film: our ineffective gun laws. If our story were a movie, the hero -- reluctant or not -- would accept his calling by the end of act one. He would accept that he needs to act. It is called a turning point.

Mayors Bloomberg and Menino are asking on behalf of our nation. Mr. President, the time is now to act, and this country needs a hero.