Terrance Heath

After Aurora, Nothing Will Change: Part 3

Filed By Terrance Heath | July 31, 2012 2:30 PM | comments

Filed in: Living
Tags: Aurora, Colorado shooting, gun control, gun violence, Mayors Against Illegal Guns

In my previous post about the Aurora shooting and shooter, I wrote:

ammo.jpg

So, we don’t have to ask how he could have amassed such a large personal arsenal. We know how. The same way the rest of us order shoes from Zappo.Com, or gadgets from Amazon.

Yet, there’s another question that’s never ever asked by our elected officials. It’s never asked in the media either: Why ?

And, no, that’s not a typo.

The “Why?” is not “Why did James Holmes turn a movie theater in to a shooting gallery?” Not even, “Why would anyone do something like this?

The question is this: Why would anyone need that many weapons or that much ammo? That's the question no one will ask. None of our elected leaders will ask it, because they’re afraid to lead.

Even Democratic supporters of efforts to keep a tighter rein on weapons were relatively mum after the shooting.

 Democrats in conservative and rural states fear alienating gun owners and the NRA, and crucial presidential battleground states like Ohio, Pennsylvania, Wisconsin, Virginia, Iowa and North Carolina have large populations of enthusiastic gun owners.

“We’re in the summer before a presidential election and I really don’t foresee any serious discussion of gun control,” said Kristin Goss of Duke University, the author of “Disarmed: The Missing Movement for Gun Control in America.”

Some supporters of Democrat Al Gore still believe his support for gun control laws played a role in his loss of the 2000 presidential election, and “memories of lost elections loom large for politicians,” Goss said.

Evan Bayh, a former Democratic senator from the conservative state of Indiana, described the dilemma facing Democrats who favor gun control and live in Republican-leaning states.

“You have a lot of people who feel passionately about that issue. … So, many members of Congress are faced with the decision: Do they sacrifice all the other good they hope to accomplish for this one issue? And do they sacrifice their own careers for this one issue?”

No. No one will make that argument, or even suggest that anyone should even question why anyone outside of a swat team would need that kind 6,000 rounds of ammo, let alone guns like those Holmes had on him. In this atmosphere it’s impolitic to even ask just what someone might be planning to do with all that firepower. Deer hunting? Self-defense? Against what? An army?

Actually, it’s not entirely true that no elected officials or candidates for office are willing to ask questions like these, or even suggest legislative changes that might help reduce gun violence — even if they might have stopped Holmes (and there are some that might have stopped him, by bringing him to the attention of law enforcement before the shooting started.

Four Democratic lawmakers —Sens. Frank Lautenberg and Bob Menendez (NJ), Reps. Dianna Degette (CO) and Carolyn McCarthy — recently spoke out in support of Lautenberg’s bill to ban large capacity ammunition clips. Notably, Degette’s district borders on Aurora, and McCarthy’s husband was killed and her son injured in 1993, when Colin Ferguson opened fire on a Long Island commuter train, killing six and injuring 19 others. McCarthy was inspired to run for Congress when her congressman voted against the assault weapons ban. 

In the aftermath of Aurora, McCarthy spoke up about politicians’ lack of spine in responding to shootings like this one.

 Rep. Carolyn McCarthy (D-N.Y.) blasted the political arena on Sunday for its inaction on gun control.

“A lot of politicians know it’s the right thing to try to fight for something to save lives,” said McCarthy in an appearance on NBC’s Meet The Press. “They don’t have a spine anymore. They pander to who’s giving them money.”

Senate candidate and progressive champion Elizabeth Warren has spoken up for a renewal of the assault weapons ban.

Elizabeth Warren is staking out strong, common sense ground on gun violence, and is willing to say so out loud, supporting a renewal of the assault weapons ban that expired in 2004.

“There is a huge difference between the guns of a sportsman or homeowner and high-powered assault weapons with 100-cartridge magazines,” she said. “I grew up around guns and gun owners, and I will work to protect the rights of law-abiding citizens. But the law must reflect the reality that, in the wrong hands, guns can be used for violent crimes, disrupting communities and making families and neighborhoods less safe.”

The above are the exceptions. When our elected leaders and candidates for office have opened their mouths, they’ve fallen into two basic categories.

Some are flat out wrong, as was Mitt Romney, when he asserted that James Holmes “shouldn’t’ have had any of kind of weapons,” and that “It was illegal for him to have many of those things already.” It’s already been determined that the weapons James Holmes used in the Aurora shooting were obtained legally. If Mitt had said  that it should have been illegal for Holmes to have his arsenal, he’d at least be making sense.

It may be that Romney was merely confused, given the various positions he’s held on gun control, including having signed “one of the toughest assault weapons laws in the country,” as governor of Massachusetts. Maybe that’s what Romney meant when he said, “There are differences between myself and the NRA.” After all, the organization gave him a “B,” when he ran for governor in 2002, despite having supported a few NRA-approved measures. 

However, it’s just as likely that what Romney was trying to say when he claimed Holmes acquired his weapons illegally, was that “existing laws” are “already sufficient” to stop people like Holmes, “if only they were enforced.” In that case his position isn’t all that different that President Obama’s. Days after the shooting, Obama spoke not about guns but about “violence reduction.”

The president declared that any restrictions “shouldn’t be controversial,” but just “common sense.” Just to make it clear, Press Sec. Jay Carney told reporters in a briefing last week that the White House will focus its efforts on tweaking existing laws. (HuffPo reports that Carney repeated the phrase “existing law” at least three times.

“I would say that the president’s views on this are as he has stated and as he spelled out in the op-ed that was published in an Arizona newspaper,” said Carney, “which is that he believes we need to take steps that protect Second Amendment rights of the American people but that ensure that we are not allowing weapons into the hands of individuals who should not, by existing law, obtain those weapons.

“The president’s view is that we can take steps to keep guns out of the hands of people who should not have them under existing law,” he added later. “And that’s his focus right now.”

Of course, as we’ve already determined that Holmes was pretty much in compliance with existing law right up to the moment he pulled the trigger.

White House offered such infinitesimally small steps on gun control, that not only was it difficult to impossible to the president’s position from Mitt Romney’s, but John Boehner could even publicly agree with the president, that no new legislation is needed. 

Meanwhile, Republican Rep. John McCaherty made headlines when the media got wind that he would be auctioning off a gun of the tame type as the one used in the Aurora shooting — one said to have been donated to McCaherty by the NRA. McCaherty at least had the decency to try to keep the association between the Aurora shooting and his fundraiser under wraps, and even sent a email to supporters, asking them to refer any media types who ask about the fundraiser to him — and then saying that he will not be making any comments in the media.

Most responses bore a resemblance to that of the House of Representatives, which condemned “in the strongest possible terms” the shooting in Aurora, offered condolences to the victims and the community, thanks first responders, etc., and not much else.  Rep. Diana Degette, one of the four Dems who supported Sen. Lautenberg’s ban on high capacity ammunition clips, noted that the House has held 25 moments of silence for the Aurora victims, and that there would probably be more to come.

Twenty-five moments of silence is nothing compared to the silence in Washington, DC, regarding any kind of gun control legislation, or anything remotely related to it. That silence, it turns out, comes at a premium only an organization with the deep pockets of the NRA could afford, and is a result of the fear that only an organization with kind of influence wielded by the NRA could inspire. Digby links to a post at GQ indicating just how and why it is that what the NRA wants the NRA gets.

I asked a Democratic legislative staffer for a first-person description of the NRA’s power on the Hill. Here’s the response I got, on the condition that I not provide any further identifying information. It’s pretty breathtaking.

We do absolutely anything they ask and we NEVER cross them—which includes asking permission to cosponsor any bills endorsed by the Humane Society (the answer is usually no) and complying with their demand to oppose the DISCLOSE Act, neither of which have anything to do with guns. They’ve completely shut down the debate over gun control. It’s really incredible. I’m not sure when we decided that a Democrat in a marginal district who loses his A rating from the NRA automatically loses reelection. Because it’s not like we do everything other partisan organizations like the Chamber [of Commerce] or NAM [National Association of Manufacturers] tell us to…

Pandering to the NRA is the probably worst part of my job. I can justify the rest of it—not just to keep the seat, but because I believe most of the positions he takes are consistent with what his constituents want. But sucking up to the NRA when something like Colorado happens is hard to stomach.

The other side is free to make all the claims it wants, without having to pay a political price. A full accounting of the dead and injured had only just begun, when from the right we heard statements blaming the massacre on “ongoing attacks on Judeo-Christian beliefs,” blaming the “liberal media,” blaming the victims for not being armed or not tackling the gunman, blaming the left for “disarming” the victims, and most ironically on the “enabling attitudes of the political left.

The only “enabling attitudes” involved in Aurora are the same attitudes that enable Washington’s continued silence on gun control, and perpetuates the need for endless “moments of silence” for and endless roll call of victims.

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