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How unfortunate that in the wake of the horrific massacre at the movie complex in Colorado, the nation descended so quickly into a debate of whether gun control laws would have prevented the crime.
From my perspective, thatâ€™s a rather knee-jerk reaction to an act that really transcends crime as we perceive it on a daily basis and moves to a more sinister, frightening plane â€” acts of pure evil. There is a difference in common street crime in which innocent people are victimized by robbers, rapists, or other career criminals plying their sorry trade and random acts of unspeakable, unexplained violence.
From acts of political terrorism committed in the name of politics or religion like the 9/11 attacks or the Ft. Hood shootings, the world has long since changed for the American people. Just as the 1960s saw Americans desensitized to a degree over political assassinations like those that claimed the Kennedy brothers and Martin Luther King, the last 15 years has seen a new dynamic unfold â€” the random mass shootings.
For good or ill, society seems to have accepted that there are inherent dangers in the world â€” evil, if you will. We speak of â€śbad neighborhoodsâ€ť and â€śhigh-crime areasâ€ť and such as if violence in those environs is somehow acceptable and goes with the turf. But when those fears and horrors become manifest in schools or suburban movie complexes, there is a rush to find supposedly easy solutions like additional gun restrictions or even outright bans.
For the record, I support Second Amendment rights. My father, brothers and son have all served honorably in the armed forces of this nation and their service, in part, was to protect the rights of U.S. citizens to keep and bear arms.
Guns are tools. How those tools are used depend on the motives and intent of the person or persons utilizing those tools.
Before the infamous Columbine High shooting in 1999 captivated the nation, Mississippians saw the 1997 Pearl High School shootings in which 16-year-old Luke Woodham killed two fellow students and wounded seven others after murdering his own mother before he left for school. Woodham was said to have been engaged in the worship of Satan.
As a journalist, Iâ€™ve been on more crime scenes than I care to remember and Iâ€™ve seen my share of the results of both common street crimes and acts of random violence. Iâ€™ve seen up close the damage bullets do to frail human flesh and the anguish those wounds engender for the survivors of such violence and their loved ones.
Just as the innocent laughter of my grandchildren and the beauty of a sunset have convinced me of the existence of good in this world, those violent scenes have likewise convinced me of the existence of evil as well. For most of us â€” thankfully â€” achieving a balance between those forcesÂ is far less dramatic than confronting the horror of random mass murder.
But the notion that we can somehow legislate a wall between innocent people and evil through stronger gun laws simply ignores the fact that there are already extensive black markets and gray markets for so-called â€śassault weaponsâ€ť and more exotic firearms for those with evil intent.
James Holmes, the alleged shooter in Colorado, was a Ph.D. candidate trained in neuroscience. He was also absorbed, it would seem, in the fantasy that he was the real-life â€śJokerâ€ť in the Batman comic books and films.
Whether fueled by the demons of mental illness, pure evil, or a combination of the two forces, it is rather difficult to concoct a scenario in which more stringent gun control laws would have deterred Holmes from the course he chose at that movie complex.
Comic books and films suggest unrealistic plots that pit â€śgoodâ€ť versus â€śevilâ€ť and in most cases, reality is lost in the process. Yet in this tragic episode, perhaps those were precisely the opposing forces at play â€” Holmesâ€™ personal demons versus the selfless heroism of the movie patrons trying to help each other survive.
Leilani Salter is editor of Starkville Daily News. Contact her at firstname.lastname@example.org.