It feels like I'm stating the obvious and beating a long-dead horse by saying that this country is long overdue for more stringent gun restrictions. The events of the theater massacre in Aurora, Colorado on Thursday night make this claim all the more legitimate. Each time a national tragedy occurs predicated on the acts of a random gunman, it prompts serious analysis and consideration of the laws we hold so dear about "bearing arms." There is a tenebrous intersection between individual rights afforded to every citizen in the United States and the implications of those very rights on the enforcement of gun laws. What could result from this random act of violence during a screening of The Dark Knight Rises is the implementation of metal detectors in theaters across the country.
Now that in and of itself doesn't seem like too bad an idea. Especially in consideration of the old, somewhat morbid adage, "better late than never," it's most certainly a safety measure that would piss people off, but nevertheless something that could prove to be valuable. But then again, who wants to directly address the notion of safety in recreational venues like movie theaters? Putting metal detectors at the entrance of a theater is only informing people that there is a chance someone is trying to bring a gun along for the ride. As a country, it certainly doesn't seem like we are ready to acknowledge that there is a constant safety risk at most locations to which we effortlessly venture.
In a place like Israel however, it's almost second nature to have to empty one's pockets and pass through a metal detector in a majority of everyday locales. The question that remains then, is at what point the United States will take preventative measures like this to help ensure that another Aurora doesn't happen. I think what it boils down to is the simple fact that we don't want to be policed. Everything in the United States is consistently imbued with the concept of individual rights. As that ideal permeates the lifestyle of this nation, having to implement security measures at places like movie theaters would seem like an infringement of the tenets of independence we hold so dear. But why arbitrarily have preventative security measures in places like airports as opposed to movie theaters? The likelihood of a random act of terrorism on an airplane is far lower than that of a mass shooting. Yet, TSA does everything in its power to ensure that we do not bring containers of Garnier Fructis on board.
As the law currently stands in Colorado, citizens are legally permitted to carry firearms in a vehicle, as long as the weapon is intended for the use of personal protection or the protection of property. This law extends to both loaded and unloaded guns. That's like giving a toddler lipstick and assuming that he'll use it on his face, as opposed to drawing on the walls. Is there some sort of contractual agreement where people like Aurora shooter James Holmes, can sign their names and pinky swear that they'll only use guns for the protection of their houses? It seems only logical that Holmes' legally-owned assault rifle would be used for that very purpose.
Colorado counts itself amongst approximately 38 states that are referred to as "shall issue" states, meaning that a permit for carrying concealed weapons is remarkably easy to acquire. There are a few factors that will prohibit people in these areas from being given the opportunity to walk around with guns. These include previous felony convictions, documented mental illnesses or protective orders. It's sort of like being denied health care based on preexisting conditions.
The Denver Police Department website actually has a gun permit application form online, as well as instructions as to how it can be obtained. Now there are a few hoops through which one must jump in order to obtain the permit. One must have a scheduled appointment at the department in order to review applications, the application cost itself amounts to a total of $152.50, and above all else (printed in all-caps red ink on the site), one must not bring any weapon to the station during the application review appointment. That's a long-winded, stringent application process, if I've ever heard of one.
In light of all of this, the Rocky Mountain Gun Owners group (self-described as Colorado's Only No-Compromise Gun Rights Organization) is still championing for the right for individuals to bear arms. Executive Director Dudley Brown made sure to note that Holmes was not affiliated with his organization. He also alleged that New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg was utilizing the deaths of these innocent movie attendees to further a "radical political agenda," one which would entail the general disarmament of citizens, creating "gun-free criminal-safezones across the country." And just to add insult to injury, Brown is also calling for action against "proven anti-gunners" and Colorado U.S. Senators Michael Bennet and Mark Udall, in an overall effort to vote down the UN Small Arms Treaty. Provisions of this treaty would potentially entail stricter gun licensing requirements, confiscation and destruction of all unauthorized civilian weapons, and the creation of an international gun registry. All of this amounts to a philosophy to which people like Brown are diametrically-opposed. Because after all, what could be better to ensure the safety of innocent people going to movie theatres, than allowing each and every single one of them to be armed?
I hate that the United States has even reached this ideological juncture, where we have to consider preserving individual rights as a priority over collective safety. Making gun laws even more lax than they currently are, is by no means anywhere near close to the right answer to the plaguing weapons conundrum this country faces every day. Logically speaking, you don't add gasoline to a fire in order to put it out. There's a lot left to be said on both sides of this argument, as more will be revealed about the intentions of and ramifications for James Holmes' vicious actions. But when the dust settles, it would be nice to consider this nation as a progressive society, one which doesn't have to retell a similar story to the families of victims in order to protect an outdated ideal.