Another Massacre In The Land Of Easy Guns

By now you’ll have read of the horrible events in a Colorado movie theater today, where a lone nut opened fire on moviegoers watching the new Batman flick, killing at least 12 and injuring more than 50.

I’m fully aware that the British are the reason for the Second Amendment, but that was a long time ago in a very different world so here’s an ex-pat Brit’s two cents.

Firstly, the decision handed down by the rightwing majority in District of Columbia vs Heller was plain wrong, a product of ideology rather than just and precise interpretation of the Second Amendment as stated.

A well regulated militia being necessary to the security of a free state, the right of the people to keep and bear arms shall not be infringed.

The U.S. has a well regulated militia, it’s called the National Guard. Title 10 USC § 311 defines the militia of the US as all able-bodied male citizens at least 17 years of age and under 45 years of age and all female citizens of the United States who are members of the National Guard – but the militia other than the Guard aren’t “well regulated”, they’re officially described as “unorganized”. No right to guns at home for you!

Secondly, even if this were not the case – for the love of heaven have you no humanity? In the UK it took exactly one incidence of a nutcase walking into a classroom of young children and shooting them to create an overwhelming groundswell of support for stronger gun control. Let me tell you, if you’ve never been at the site of such a massacre, I was in Dunblane two days afterwards. I went to university a few miles away and had several friends living in the small town, including one couple who’s apartment overlooked the scene. The emergency services were still clearing up, the media were everywhere and I spent several hours with two good friends who had heard and seen things no-one should be asked to witness. Which is more important to you – the words written in a very different age or young lives right now?

Look, my homeland of Scotland is supposed to be the most violent country in Europe. Even so, there were 93 homicides in the entire country of 5.2 million last year. people were outraged because that was a 30% increase on the year before! The place I consider my home city in the U.S. – San Antonio, Texas – by contrast had 97 homicides for 1.3 million people. Don’t tell me that the U.S. being the most heavily armed nation on earth doesn’t have anything to do with that, with 90 guns in private ownership for every 100 people – ahead of even Yemen and Iraq.

Massacres are the price America pays for easy gun ownership and massive arms stockpiles in private hands. Americans need to decide whether that price is acceptable.

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Steve Hynd

Most recently I was Editor in Chief of The Agonist from Feb 2012 to Feb 2013. My blogging began at Newshoggers and I’ve had the immense pleasure of working with some great writers there and around the web ever since, including at Crooks & Liars. I'm a late 40′s, Scottish ex-pat, now married to a wonderful Texan, with Honours in Philosophy from Univ. of Stirling, UK 1986. I worked most of life in business insurance industry (fire, accident, liability) including 12 years as a broker/underwriter/correspondent at Lloyd’s of London. Being from the other side of the pond, my political interests tend to focus on how US foreign policy affects the rest of the planet. Other interests include early and dark-ages British history, literature and cognitive philosophy/science.

23 CommentsLeave a comment

  • The good people of the United States of America don’t care. Twelve victims or 120 victims – it would make no difference. The people in this country simply do not care what happens to their fellow citizens. Callousness is the cause celebre of the day.

    The way we know this is true is by the reaction of our politicians. Do you hear all those calls for a solemn day of prayer for the victims? That doesn’t cost anybody anything, and almost 100% of Americans will ignore it.

    If you absolutely had to find fault in any of this, Peter C already has given us the answer: it’s the fault of the victims. Why weren’t they armed? And what was that 3 month old doing at a theatre in the first place? Let’s have a big discussion about that, so we can ignore the other discussion about guns that has already been settled.

  • be it Healthcare for those poor and not covered . . .
    be it Torture at GITMO and other places of rendition . . .
    be it multiple and excessive deployments on GWOT . . .
    be it suicides of the Military . . .

    Americans just don’t care.

  • Christianity V. Empathy

    It didn’t take long for me to discover that I didn’t care much for Christianity.

    Alternet, By Pepe Lopez Waldron, July 17

    “I don’t know, what do you think,” was my mother’s standard reply for all of my metaphysical inquiries as a young child. Santa Claus? The Easter Bunny? God? “I don’t know, what do you think?” She is agnostic, and her answer expressed her connection to the unknowable. She believed it was important and encouraged me to engage the great mysteries of existence and to decide for myself what may or may not hold true.

    I decided early on that I didn’t believe in the existence of God. I didn’t see the need for a celestial personality in my pantheon of love, family and the wonders of the physical world. Furthermore, the idea frightened me. I didn’t want to believe in God. It was much more comforting to live in a world where I understood there to be a natural, earthly order.

    But the idea of God became an interest of mine. Mostly, I wondered why and how so many people believed in God. From my perspective, Christianity was like any of the other ancient myths, which I thought were not meant to be taken literally. If our ancestors had ever taken myth literally, as in religion, we should have long outgrown it in our human history given all that we know about reality through science – what we gain by closely examining the physical world. And yet, many of the people I interact with on a daily basis are Christian, and hold varying degrees of faith in its supernatural explanation of existence.

    It didn’t take long for me to discover that I didn’t care much for Christianity. I saw the Jesus fish bumpersticker next to an NRA bumpersticker one too many times not to wonder why Christians were so ideologically out of tune with what I’d read about Jesus as a loving figure. Christians I met most often thought sex was vulgar and celibacy wasn’t; that humans are born with sin and prone toward evil; that we are either going to heaven or hell. Hell always stood out to me as being the most poisonous idea in Christianity. I would never want to have the experience of believing that someone I know and love might be headed for an eternity of suffering. That for me would be hell.

    Back then I used to think the reason Christians could stomach the idea of hell was because they were xenophobic. Now I’m convinced it’s because the doctrine of Eternal Punishment weakens the empathic drive.

  • The thing is that there are plenty of weapons available in a lot of western nations and this kind of incident happens quite rarely in most of those, and more routine single murders & other violent incidents less frequently as well. We need to look more at the psychological impact of state violence on all of its citizens… Obama killed an innocent US citizen, Anwar al-Awlaki’s son. Does that kind of violence percolate downwards?? This is what’s glossed over in the typical gun control political reaction to these tragedies.

  • I believe the Swiss, for example have military-grade arms in most homes, since military-age males (maybe female too now?) are on call for military service at a moment’s notice. In emergency, they grab their gear and head for a pre-determined duty location.
    The availability of the weapons doesn’t seem to cause a problem.

    I doubt the urge to kill come from political example – it’s been happening as far back as I can remember (and I ain’t young). It’s worse now partly because the weaponry is more deadly – there’s a big difference between a bolt-action 30-30 and an assault rifle.
    But I think you are right that it is a psychological issue and Numerian is right about the callousness of society in general.

    Why has society grown callous? We have built a lifestyle in which a sense of commonality is not pertinent.
    We put millions of people cheek-by-jowl our cities and never speak to the other tenants in our apartment buildings; build upscale developments and don’t bother to visit with our neighbors.
    Our sense of community comes from trivia: cheering for a sports team, watching a TV show, wearing this season’s chic.
    If we got it from working together, supporting each other through difficulties, depending on one another, we might feel differently about our fellow citizens. Folks who get together for a barn raising; who have a rotating potluck dinner/hoedown every Saturday night; who actually talk to each other over breakfast in the cafe – these people have a sense of community based on human values and human interaction.

    When we lose the connection to the rest of humanity, we lose our own humanity.

    …a dream that was dreamed in the heart, and that only the heart could hold.
    – Pádraig Pearse

  • Sadly, Nation Knows Exactly How Colorado Shooting’s Aftermath Will Play Out

    July 20, 2012 | ISSUE 48•29

    WASHINGTON—Americans across the nation confirmed today that, unfortunately, due to their extreme familiarity with the type of tragedy that occurred in a Colorado movie theater last night, they sadly know exactly how the events following the horrific shooting of 12 people will unfold.

    While admitting they “absolutely hate” the fact they have this knowledge, the nation’s 300 million citizens told reporters they can pinpoint down to the hour when the first candlelight vigil will be held, roughly how many people will attend, how many times the county sheriff will address the media in the coming weeks, and when the town-wide memorial service will be held.

    Additionally, sources nationwide took no pleasure in confirming that some sort of video recording, written material, or disturbing photographs made by the shooter will be surfacing in about an hour or two.

    “I hate to say it, but we as Americans are basically experts at this kind of thing by now,” said 45-year-old market analyst Jared Gerson, adding that the number of media images of Aurora, CO citizens crying and looking shocked is “pretty much right in line with where it usually is at this point.” “The calls not to politicize the tragedy should be starting in an hour, but by 1:30 p.m. tomorrow the issue will have been politicized. Also, I wouldn’t be surprised if the shooter’s high school classmate is interviewed within 45 minutes.”

    “It’s like clockwork,” said Gerson, who sighed, shook his head, and walked away.

    According to the nation’s citizenry, calls for a mature, thoughtful debate about the role of guns in American society started right on time, and should persist throughout the next week or so. However, the populace noted, the debate will soon spiral out of control and ultimately lead to nothing of any substance, a fact Americans everywhere acknowledged they felt “absolutely horrible” to be aware of.

    With scalpel-like precision, the American populace then went on to predict, to the minute, how long it will take for the media to swarm Aurora, CO, how long it will take for them to leave, and exactly when questions will be raised as to whether or not violence in movies and video games had something to do with the act.

    The nation’s citizens also confirmed that, any time now, some religious figure or cable news personality will say something unbelievably insensitive about the tragic shooting.

    “Unfortunately, I’ve been through this a lot, and I pretty much have it down to a science when President Obama will visit Colorado, when he will meet with the families of those who lost loved ones, and when he will give his big speech that people will call ‘unifying’ and ‘very presidential,'” Jacksonville resident Amy Brennen, 32, said, speaking for every other person in the country. “Nothing really surprises me when it comes to this kind of thing anymore. And that makes me feel terrible.”

    “Oh, and here’s another thing I hate I know,” Brennen continued, “In exactly two weeks this will all be over and it will be like it never happened.”

    The Onion

  • Los Angeles Times, By Mark Z. Barabak, July 20

    In all the reams of reaction over the cinema shootings in Aurora, Colo., California Sen. Dianne Feinstein was one of the few to introduce politics—albeit glancingly–into the national outpouring of sadness.

    “It is with great sorrow that I follow the news of today’s tragedy in Colorado,” Feinstein said in a written statement. “My thoughts and prayers are with the victims and families of this senseless violence.

    “Today is a time for grieving,” Feinstein went on, “but my hope is the country will also reflect on the roots of gun violence that has again visited terror on an American community, claiming the lives of more innocents.”

  • I’ve listened to a couple of what these guys (they are predominantly guys) have said over the years – for me the unifying factor was their sense of having been wronged and that they “deserved” more. That they didn’t get what they “deserved” clearly wasn’t due to them, it was everyone else. And that means that the “everyone else” needs to be punished. Social connectedness is likely a part of this, likely in a range of ways – one would be the positive, the belonging and supports, but one of the others would be the reality check awareness that there are lots of folks in the same boat and that there is a significant discrepancy between what folks weaned on a diet of lifestyles of the rich and famous think they deserve and what the universe thinks they deserve.

    Everything around you that you call life was made up by people that were no smarter than you and you can change it, you can influence it, you can build your own things that other people can use.” ~ Steve Jobs

  • …they won’t be that out of whack from nation to nation. My gut sense is that spree / mass killings are likely to have a relatively constant relationship with the gross homicide rate. That said, I very much doubt that state sponsored violence is the key driver. There are myriad other things that the state (and other social “entities”) does that will be much, much more potent than violence, particularly external facing violence.

    Everything around you that you call life was made up by people that were no smarter than you and you can change it, you can influence it, you can build your own things that other people can use.” ~ Steve Jobs

  • external violence is just one symptom of a planet under siege, environmental devastation is another.

    “OTP – Occupy The Patriarchy” ~ me

  • Police looking for second “person of interest” in theater shooting

    KDVR Fox31 Denver, July 21

    Aurora, CO — Sources tell FOX31 Denver reporter Justin Joseph that a second man is now a person-of-interest in the Aurora theater shooting investigation. We are not disclosing his identity because he has not been charged.


    Sources tell Justin Joseph someone made either a call or a text from the person of interest’s phone threatening violence if James Egan Holmes was not released from jail. That call prompted police to issue an alert to find and detain him.


    As for the person of interest, all law enforcement jurisdictions, local, state and federal, are looking for him.

    Neighbors say he and his roommate left their home hours before the massacre. They haven’t seen him since.

    Aurora police declined to comment on this report due to the active nature of the investigation.

    Rumor has it that this is the person who let Holmes into the theatre.

  • Aurora police chief: No other “person of interest”

    CBS News, By Leigh Ann Caldwell, July 21

    Aurora police chief Daniel Oates rejected media reports that a second person of interest is associated with Friday’s massacre in Colorado. He said James Holmes is the only suspect responsible but they are interested in speaking to anyone who knows or has had contact with Holmes.

    “All the evidence we have, every single indicator, is that… this is all Mr. Holmes’ activity and that he wasn’t particularly aided by anyone else,” Oates said in an exclusive interview Sunday on “Face the Nation. “We’re building a case to show that this was a deliberative process by a very intelligent man who wanted to do this.”

    Oates said the person brought in to be questioned on Saturday “was a casual consequence.”

    “The relationship was real inconsequential,” he said. “[I]t’s really an inconsequential matter.”

    Oates Also discussed the sophistication of Holmes’ apartment which was rigged full of explosives. “I think it speaks volumes about his intelligence and his deliberation and his cold-bloodedness. I could not believe the pictures I saw from the robot about the way this thing was designed.”

  • Michael Bloomberg Criticizes Obama, Romney On Gun Control After Colorado Shooting

    Huffington Post, By Sabrina Siddiqui, July 22

    New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg said President Barack Obama has spent his first term avoiding the gun control debate, as he continued to press Obama and presumptive Republican nominee Mitt Romney on the issue following Friday’s mass shooting in Colorado.

    “The president has spent the last three years trying to avoid the issue, or if he’s facing it, I don’t know of anybody who has seen him face it,” Bloomberg said Sunday on CBS’s “Face the Nation.”

    A vocal proponent of gun control, Bloomberg has renewed his push for stricter gun laws since suspected shooter James Holmes allegedly opened fire in a packed Aurora movie theater during a midnight screening of “The Dark Knight Rises” Friday, killing 12 people and wounding 59 others.

  • Maine State Police: Man arrested says he carried gun into Batman movie showing, By Sarah N. Mattero & Travis Andersen, July 23

    A Maine man who was stopped on the highway for speeding over the weekend had a number of guns in his car, including an AK-47 assault rifle, and told State Police that he had taken a loaded gun in his backpack into a recent showing of the latest Batman movie, authorities said.

    Timothy Courtois, 49, of Biddeford, who was stopped Sunday morning after being clocked at 112 miles per hour on the Maine Turnpike, also had clippings of the recent Aurora, Colo., movie slayings in his car, according to State Police.

    Courtois told troopers he was on his way to Derry, N.H., to shoot a former employer, the Maine Department of Public Safety said in a statement Monday. Authorities did not identify the employer.


    The theater referred questions to its New Hampshire-based operating company, Zyacorp. Bob Collins, a company spokesman, could not immediately be reached for comment on Monday night.

    He told the Bangor Daily News that patrons are not permitted to bring backpacks or large bags into the theater, and the company had not determined whether Courtois attended a Batman screening on Saturday or brought a bag inside as he claimed.

    AP: Maine man tells police he was en route to shooting

    “We don’t know what his true intentions were,” said Steve McCausland, spokesman for the Department of Public Safety. “Based on the arsenal that was confiscated, we brought in our counterparts from the FBI and ATF to assist with the investigation.”

    Later Sunday, police searched Courtois’ home and found a machine gun, several other guns and thousands of rounds of ammunition.

    Authorities were still trying Monday to confirm whether Courtois actually attended the movie, but state Police Lt. Kevin Donovan said Courtois appeared to be telling the truth when interviewed by investigators. A spokesman for the movie theater chain did not immediately return a call Monday.

    “I guess we’re taking everything at face value,” Donovan said. “It’s very scary.”

    In New Hampshire, Courtois’ former boss said he heard from the FBI on Sunday night and was told that Courtois had named him as his intended target. The man, who asked not to be identified because of the ongoing investigation, said Courtois worked as an insurance agent in his firm from 1995 to 2000.

  • Maryland man arrested with dozens of weapons, says he’s the Joker

    NBC News, By M. Alex Johnson, July 27

    Police arrested a Maryland man and recovered numerous guns from a home Thursday night after he allegedly made threats referring to the Joker this week.

    Julie Parker, a spokeswoman for the Prince George’s County police, said Friday that authorities had “thwarted a terrorist threat.”

    Prince George’s County Police Chief Mark Magaw said the man, whom authorities identified as Neil Edwin Prescott, 28, of Crofton, Md., made a threat toward his employer, Pitney Bowes, in two phone calls to his supervisor Monday. Prescott was upset about losing his job and said: “I am the real Joker, and I’m going to blow everyone up,” McGaw said.

    Prescott was fired from his job as a subcontractor at Pitney Bowes, an office supply company, on an unrelated matter, the company said.

  • Batman shooter was seeing psychiatrist who specialized in schizophrenia

    AFP, July 27

    Aurora, CO – The suspected Batman movie premiere gunman was seeing a university psychiatrist specializing in schizophrenia before the shooting that killed 12, court documents showed Friday.

    James Holmes sent a notebook to Lynne Fenton, who teaches at the University of Colorado’s medical school and heads student mental services there, that included details and drawings depicting his planned mass killing, according to reports.

    It was unclear when the package reached the school, and officials remained tight-lipped due to a gag order imposed by the judge overseeing the case.

    But Arapahoe County District Judge William Sylvester unsealed a defense motion to order authorities to hand over the package Holmes sent to Fenton, claiming it was “protected” communication.

  • New York Times, By Jack Healy & Dan Frosch, July 30

    Colorado prosecutors formally charged James Eagan Holmes on Monday with 142 criminal counts, including first-degree murder, attempted murder and explosives charges in the shooting rampage at a crowded Aurora, Colo., movie theater this month.

    Mr. Holmes, making his second court appearance, was formallycharged with 24 counts of murder and 116 counts of attempted murder — two for each of the 12 people killed and 58 wounded. For each victim, Mr. Holmes was charged once for showing deliberation, and once for showing extreme indifference to human life.

    He was also charged with illegally possessing explosives, a nod to the hive of explosive booby traps that police found inside Mr. Holmes’s apartment after he was arrested outside the movie theater.

    During the hearing, which lasted less than one hour, Mr. Holmes, 24, sat impassively, much as he had during his first court appearance last week.

    He stared at the ceiling lights and at the floor and showed no reaction as the charges were being read, even when the judge told him that he could face the death penalty.

    His hair, dyed orange, was slicked down to his head. He did not enter a plea.

  • CNN, August 2

    The psychiatrist treating the accused Colorado movie theater gunman was so concerned about his behavior that she mentioned it to her colleagues, saying he could potentially be a danger to others, CNN affiliate KMGH reported Wednesday, citing sources with knowledge of the investigation.

    The psychiatrist’s concerns surfaced in early June, nearly six weeks before the July 20 killings inside a movie theater in Aurora, sources told the Denver station.


    Sources told KMGH that Fenton contacted several members of a “behavioral evaluation and threat assessment” team to say Holmes could potentially be a danger to others, the station reported.

    The “BETA” team consists of “key” staff members from various university departments who have specific expertise in dealing with assessing potential threats on campus, the school says on its website.

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