How Long will We let the National Rifle Association and Corrupt Politicians Kill our Children?

Police in Aurora, Colorado say that they do not think that James Holmes had an accomplice.

Of course he had an accomplice. He had lots of them. He had much of the gun lobby and much of the US Congress as accomplices.

Police are said to be puzzled how Holmes got off so many rounds so fast– killing 12 people and wounding dozens in only 2 minutes.

Holmes used an AR-15 military style semi-automatic assault rifle with a special ammunition drum attached that held 100 rounds of ammunition. It is made by Colt’s Manufacturing Company. It was originally made for the US military by Colt’s military division, and only later introduced to the civilian market. (Nutty proponents of these weapons maintain that they are incorrectly called “assault weapons” and that this phrase should be reserved for fully automatic weapons like machine guns. They should please tell the people in that theater in Aurora that Holmes did not have an assault weapon, and explain how he could have shot so many so fast with an ordinary hunting rifle.)

So why can crazy people buy military style assault weapons in the United States? Why can drug gangs stockpile these weapons. Why do America’s streets, malls, theaters and campuses turn so easily into shooting ranges with mass casualties?

I just saw Joe Johns on CNN tell Wolf Blitzer that Holmes “purchased the guns” used “legally” and that given that Holmes had no criminal record, this is “seemingly a situation very difficult to legislate against if you will.” He added, “Bad people do bad things.”

Joe Johns and Wolf Blitzer are either cowards on this issue or on the take. CNN just played the typical corporate blame game of ensuring that individuals take the rap for corporate misbehavior. Pollution is a matter of individual personal responsibility, not the coal industry. Global warming is caused by you and me, not by Big Oil.

Likewise, President Barack Obama called what happened a “tragedy,” as though it were a tornado instead of purposeful action by a human being who was turned into a one-man SWAT team by what is available in gun shops. And Mitt Romney said he loves America. In other words, move along. Nothing to see here.

Of course legislation could be passed banning assault weapons and their drum ammunition attachments.

In fact, there was a Federal ban on assault weapons, from 1994 to 2004, passed by Congress and signed by Bill Clinton. Unfortunately it could only be passed through putting in a sunset provision that it was in effect for 10 years and would have to be renewed. Presumably the sunset provision gave the opponents of the bill hope, and dissuaded them from trying to block it, and gave cover to the congressional representatives who took money from the gun lobby.

Without an assault weapon, Holmes would not have been able to kill and wound so many people so quickly.

Then House speaker Tom DeLay and his Republican majority (along with a few pusillanimous Democrats) made sure that the assault weapons ban was not renewed in 2004, and he was backed in this atrocity by the National Rifle Association. NRA-backed Republicans and some Democrats have kept it off the legislative agenda ever since. Although some NRA leaders have sometimes said they wouldn’t any longer oppose an assault weapons ban, these statements are likely merely for public consumption. We know who killed the ban in 2004. The question is what the lobbyists say privately when they meet with Congressmen to bribe or threaten them.

What is worse, having these powerful weapons freely available is an excuse to further militarize local law enforcement and to “up” “security” in public spaces. Tolerating criminal weaponry means we have to get rid of the Bill of Rights. You can’t have freedom of assembly if the assembly has assault weapons. Police have to be as well or better armed than the gun nuts. And so peaceful protesters get attacked by police in assault gear, as though they were Marines landing in Tripoli.

Look, folks, with Citizens United and other rulings of the Supreme Court, it is clear that the United States has formally become a plutocracy, and with the failure of all campaign finance reform laws, we are stuck with our so-called representatives actually being paid agents for a handful of big corporations.

The only way to get an assault weapons ban is to embarrass the people who aid in flooding our country with these dangerous arms. You don’t hunt deer with them. They have no legitimate civilian use. Nobody would suffer from their unavailability but drug gangs and homicidal maniacs.

Colt’s Manufacturing Company, which makes the AR-15, should be asked in public letters from survivors and relatives of the dead victims, which included little children, if they will voluntarily stop selling the AR-15 in the civilian US market. Congressmen blocking the assault weapons ban should be identified and monitored on web pages. Victims of these weapons need to organize, the way Mothers against Drunk Driving did. The Occupy Wall Street crowd, which suffers from the militarization of law enforcement, should give some thought as to how to embarrass the enablers as well.

We should borrow some techniques from the anti-abortion lobby and put up graphic pictures of the victims, the little children with bullet holes in them.

We are back to the medieval era, folks, when powerful barons did as they pleased with the peasants. We have to put up with mentally ill people like Holmes having free access to assault weapons because Lord Colt and Lord DeLay and various dukes and counts derive a profit from these weapons. They are getting rich off the dead children. Only if the peasants get restive will they stop being serfs and get any rights.

I was warned by a friend not to write this entry. I have friends and relatives who have been threatened or suffered vandalism by NRA supporters for speaking out or even just for a bumper sticker on a car. But I’m almost 60, I’ve had a full life, and I am getting crotchety. Some things need to be said.

Posted in Uncategorized | 62 Responses | Print |

62 Responses

  1. Thank you Professor for your well stated piece. The rich have bought our gov’t and our politicians and we need to use our full humanity to come up with a plan to change our gov’t. The Mahatma was so smart at strategic plans to disrupt the status quo, always peaceful (at least on the protesters side). We need our smartest to come up with ideas to do just that. No time for apathy or discouragement.

  2. Well said Professor Cole. Here in Canada these things are unheard of. With 10% of the US population here we should have 10% of your countries nuttiness but we don’t .
    Until good and intelligent men such as yourself stand up to run for politics the lowest common denominator will continue to rule.
    Would it be going too far to post pictures of the NRA supporting poltitians with crosshairs on their faces?

    • You do too have nuts in Canada. They’re just not empowered nuts. America is dominated by a movement whose godfather said that “Extremism in the name of liberty is no vice.”

  3. To your point, what if he didn’t have an assault rifle with a large clip (i.e., because they were banned)?

    Let’s say he had just a shotgun and pistol with five 10-round clips. Perhaps there would only be 10 killed and 15 injured.

    In what direction would that take your argument? What would be the next steps to preventing a large-scale shooting from happening?

    It’s disturbing that, even in countries with extremely strict gun control, these things are still able to happen (most recently, Norway).

    I don’t pretend to have answers.

    • When was the last time an incident like this happened in Norway before this last one? And when was the last time this happened in the US prior to the incident.
      I think the answer to this speaks for itself !

  4. Thank you for saying what needs to be said.
    As a law-abiding person in the United States, I have been twice a victim of handgun crimes. These were terrifying experiences and I am only lucky to have survived them with only nightmares to show for them.
    I have never met any person outside professional law enforcement who has prevented as many as many as two crimes with a personal handgun. What is far more ludicrous is the American mythology about the gun owner as defender of liberty against the government– I’d love to see one of these bozos trying out a hand-held roscoe against US Army weaponry.

  5. I think you were wise to take aim at the irrational 100 round drum magazine and other para-military attachments that are for sale to the untrained, civilian public. These things appeal to immature, Rambo wannabees.

    I hope this nation is mature enough to understand that our Bill of Rights envisions an active, educated, informed, and responsible voting citizen that is willing to speak out against tyranny, and when necessary to protect oneself against oppression. I believe all adults should own at least one firearm, but they also should assume responsibility for knowing how to use and maintain it, and most important, when not to use or carry it.

    We know enough about emotional maturity and psychology (for instance schizophrenia is not caused by demons) to identify those adults capable of responsibility. The permit to own a weapon could be based on sanity, rather than need, desire, wealth, or what most registration opponents fear, political connections.

    • While I disagree that “all adults should own at least one firearm” (I do not want to own one, for one), I do agree that a discussion about permits is important. I would like to see assault rifles banned, too.

      Back to the issue of permits: I have a deadly weapon. Before I was allowed to use it, the government required me to prove that I was medically capable of using it, that I knew all of the rules and regulations (and there are many) before operating it, and that I could prove beyond a doubt that I could physically operate it by giving a real-life demonstration to a trained and authorized government employee who had the option to deny me said permit. Since I obtained said permit, I have lived under the threat that I could have my permit revoked, and I am required by law to have insurance that would help to cover the damages should I misuse it.

      I am, of course, talking about my car.

      Does this provoke any thoughts, fellow Americans? In this analogy that I am making, Is it too much to ask that people should be banned Formula One race cars on the roads? Is it too much that we ask that operators who are physically, mentally, or training-deficient be disallowed from driving even a Yugo?

      For any who have missed the point, by “Formula One” I mean assault rifles and the like, and by “Yugo” I mean even the lowliest of firearms.

      Please respond.

      • A car is designed for a different purpose than a firearm. A small boulder is also lethal but only if used correctly. Thus, the degree with which an object is potentially lethal is not the same as whether it is a weapon or not.

        Unless you intend to ban all firearms, you need a better definition of “assault” rifle. Then, if you try to define “full automatic” as an assault weapon, you need to realize that most armies direct their selective fire weapons to be used in single shot mode or in groups of three, to preserve ammunition and the weapon.

        If you then intend to include semi-automatic weapons, you need to be clear whether you also want to include all auto-loaders, which includes double action revolvers.

        I guess then you would also have to ban single shot rifles that are too accurate, because these could be used by snipers.

        This is why I thought it was wise to concentrate on the ridiculously high magazine capacity of the weapon used in Colorado, and start a conversation on the juvenile mentality rather than weapon itself.

        My point in recommending universal gun ownership by responsible adults, not the same as universal concealed weapons carry permits, is that the education and burden imposed results in a change of thinking by sane, emotionally mature adults. The realization of consequences is brought closer to home.

        As for myself, I first used a firearm when I was a boy, for target practice, and the idea that this object causes permanent, destructive changes in whatever is hit became thoroughly internalized. It is not something I read about and formed an idea about based on words someone else has written. It is a personal experience.

        I think much of the problem with gun ownership in this or any country is due to immaturity on the part of the people who buy and carry for ego gratification, and that would be alleviated by a more accepting stance towards gun ownership, and a less accepting stance towards gun use.

        Examples of a less accepting stance towards gun use would be:

        1) Iran might develop nuclear power in the future. Let’s bomb them.

        2) Saddam Hussein really pisses me off. Let’s attack.

        3) Send planes into Syria.

        4) Anything Jon Goldberg has said. (Sorry about gratuitous Goldberg bashing)

        Actual gun ownership, guidance by adults, and reflection on the meaning of using a gun for any purpose other than target practice, causes a change in attitude that might, collectively improve our national identity, and allow us to be more responsible towards each other and less willing to use a detached and largely unseen military that uses far more violent weapons on people whom our leaders (read industrial psychologists who manipulate and spin the news) have decided make good examples of “showing the world how tough and strong the United states of America” is.

        So please, if you want responsible gun use to include prohibitions on irresponsible ownership, please remove guns from the hands of our military, and while you are at it, the land thieves in the West Bank (also known as settlers) and their posse, the IDF.

  6. Of course the problem is that the issue is a battleline in the culture wars, so that people’s positions are more a statement on social & political identity than on good policy.

    What we need is for lots of sensible gun owners (that’s not an oxymoron) to do the right thing. I’ll start: I am an avid hunter, target shooter, and antique gun collector, and I wholeheartedly support everything in your post.

    • yes, I agree entirely. People have legitimate uses for firearms & it is possible to protect that without going to extremes

  7. One wonders if the gun lovers who love the myths and, yes, sexual pleasures, and sense of power that those full-and-semi-auto little machines provide them, along with a large chunk of their identity, will be descending like the Harpies to eat Cole’s liver.

    Or maybe they are finally getting so freakin’ smug that they have buffaloed (a rich word) the rest of us so thoroughly that they don’t even feel the need to lay down suppressive fire on any wimpy commie libruls who might question their faith and their fun.

    Fun. Stuff like this “Full Auto” get-together — link to . The family that shoots, and blows, sh#t up together, stays together, or something. Or at least they all have a fair shootin’ chance if one of their number goes berserk and starts off on a family murder-suicide mission, or another enactment of some movie idiocy or scenario out of “Call of Duty”…

    And for all you gun lovers out there, this Vietvet shoots, and has his own little “bitter man’s” arsenal, in various calibers, so spare your rage. Or your smarmy “logical” arguments.

    I know, most people know, that the toothpaste was long since squeezed out of all our sensible tubes, and the “FOXFreeeeedom bell” can never be un-rung, and this is just one more part of the great swathes of dead-end-ianism that is going to kill America-the-sometime-great-notion, and for you to believe that Obama was going to take your guns away just shows how far down the rabbit hole you have gone.

    Cancerous tumors never know when to quit while they are ahead…

    Bless you, professor, for your courage and honor. Too bad there are no medals for people like you.

    • So you own your own little “arsenal” because you subscribe to myths, and you shoot for sexual pleasures?

      • Extra points for being such a careful reader — actually, IN-reader. Wrong, very wrong on both of your imputations, but then I bet you knew that before you wrote. Guns are dumb, so are most of the people who get off on them.

        Here’s the “NeoAmerica” I’m talking about:
        link to

        and here:link to

        and a whole lot more.

        And here’s what people who call themselves “real Americans” think on the subject of full auto: link to

        Makes you proud of your country, right? that it is full of such people, of which a percentage are not that far away from “lighting up” their families and local theaters and schools and such? We’re “horrified” by Columbine and Aurora, but the level of prurient interest in the incidents and aftermath is simply enormous.

  8. Bravo, Juan. Thanks for posting this. You are so so right.

  9. Small comfort that we are killing the enemy 7000 miles away meanwhile

    “We have met the enemy… and he is us” pogo

    Stay safe,fight the good fight,logic will prevail…hopefully before our gun shops are selling armed drones…”so we can stand our ground”

  10. You may feel, Professor Cole, that sixty is old enough to say your piece and take the consequences, but I, for one, hope to be reading your blog far into the future, since so few of us are as well-informed about the Middle East, as deep-thinking about Global Climate Change, and as courageous in general truth-telling. Thank you for giving us such a model!

    Today I was speaking with a friend about each of our virtual walls of personal heroes. Mine included Daniel Ellsberg, Nelson Mandela, and Margaret Sanger. I should have included your name.

  11. If we tested gun buyers for sanity, James Holmes may have passed that test. He was a graduate student with a clean record. But, he was also a lone wolf. Society is helpless against The Lone Wolf. Perhaps, white men who are not sociable enough need to be monitored , or burnt at the stake.

    • So are you saying that someone with a clean record should be able to buy assault weapons and go out and murder all by himself? Society can protect itself against Lone Wolves or Gangs of sane or crazy persons by simply prohibiting the legal sale of assault weapons!!! Your last sentence is simply an attempt to divert the discussion by pretending that we are only upset because the shooter was a white male who didn’t seem to have many friends, and the effort to keep weapons from him would have been the equivalent of burning at the stake? Perhaps you will recall that the shooter in the Virginia Tech case was not Anglo-Saxon. Enough of such nonsense. If you think everyone should have access to assault weapons, say so and explain why.

      • I don’t think anyone should be able to buy assault weapons. I think that testing and doing background checks would be insufficient to weed out all the sickos. I think it’s annoying that media pundits talk about our inability to do anything about lone nuts , when they could be talking about gun control and other solutions. I think it’s wrong to trash the Bill of Rights, rather than having sane gun control. But, when media pundits say we are helpless against loners, that may suggest to some that loners are the kind of threat that witches were thought to be in the old days. I was not clear enough, but you read a lot into what I said that wasn’t there.

  12. The Assault Weapons Ban did not ban AR-15 rifles. They were freely and readily available throughout it’s duration.

    “You don’t hunt deer with them.”

    They have been used as varmint and ranch rifles for decades, but they have  not been used for hunting deer because the cartridges they used were not powerful enough. But in recent years, the AR platform has been made in a variety of larger calibers and are increasingly being used for hunting; it’s not at all uncommon. These are not automatic weapons–an AR-15 chambered in .308 for deer hunting is not more deadly or dangerous than a more traditional .308 rifle. It’s just lighter and more durable. 

    “They have no legitimate civilian use.”

    They are the primary rifle platform used for target shooting and other shooting sports, and millions of civilians own them and are not murdering people with them. They are not machine guns, they have the same legitimate civilian uses as any other rifle.

    • This is trolling. You know very well that the issue is making them so you can attach a 100-bullet drum to them. If you have one of those, you can do target practice really, really well.

      • Juan, I am not a troll.

        I am a liberal who has been reading your blog daily since at least 2004, and have approvingly linked to you dozens of times on my own blog (when I wrote it) and can prove this to you if you require it. On almost every other issue, I agree with you and think you’re magnificent. It just so happens that on this issue, I diverge with you, so on this topic I comment (I’m not one for commenting on posts I agree with).

        You cannot alter AR-15 to not accept JUST 100rd drum magazines, because the top of a 10, 30 or 100rd magazine are all identical—it’s the body of the magazine that differs. In theory, any firearm that accepts an external magazine could accept a 100rd magazine if someone manufactured one for it. If 100rd magazines are the issue, then go ahead and advocate that we ban 100rd drums. It’s much more realistic technically and politically.

        • I am arguing for banning or restricting semi automatic weapons. They are too dangerous in a modern urban society

    • While not capable of full-auto an AR-15 can hold a 30-round magazine (let alone 100) which can be swapped out with another in seconds. It’s designed to allow you to put as much lead downrange in as short a time as possible.

      Even in semi-auto, it’s an incredible amount of firepower in a relatively lightweight package.

  13. Excellent comments, thanks. On the other hand this terrible (domestic)massacre resembles other (abroad) massacres. The perpetrator may have a lot to say. Let’s hope he does not die of “natural” causes or “suicide” while in jail.

  14. After all the furor of this latest shooting dies down, we will return to the U.S. number one news story ‘who will be our next President?’. As if it mattered! Congress is owned by the M&M crowd; e.g. Money and Munitions. I’d like to think we could change it, but I’ve heard this story so many times over my 90 years…I don’t think it will happen.

  15. “Blowing people away” is such a common and entertaining element in movies, TV, games, and mass media depictions of military operations, that it must influence the mind set, in of a few of us at least. I’ve seen in many “manly” forums how gun lovers brag about their uninhibited intentions to “blow away” any bad guy that comes across their path. Of course the braggers have rarely actually killed someone. Call it the “make my day!” syndrome.

    Maybe the best lessons about the realities of armed violence can come from the thousands of soldiers who spent the last eleven years killing, and know the severe mental anguish and its affects on their lives. These soldiers have the public respect to out muscle the NRA, no other entity has.

    I think the mission has to start with deglorifying the gun. The intense media coverage of the Aurora massacre provides a good dose of the bloody realty inherent in “blowing people away”.

    • If the faction in the population that fetishizes guns as the foundation of their right to a monopoly on power as “real” Americans knows that the other faction believes that privatized lethal force is an insane basis for a human society, then I’m not surprised that the former disproportionately signs up for jobs as cops, prison guards and soldiers, yet simultaneously tries to dismantle the government that creates a legal basis for the right of people to live as equal citizens without becoming Conan the Barbarian.

      In other words, your preferred model looks like the Old South, where guns were legal only because whites knew they had blacks, Jews, labor organizers and intellectuals vastly outgunned, and had organized permanent terrorist groups plus ad hoc armed mobs to destroy any threat to that formula, hand-in-hand with a government limited to protecting property rights. It was a bully society, like the one the Rhodesian and South African settlers tried to build and the Israelis are trying to build.

      If you genuinely will respect the right of the poor and the anti-capitalist to equal firepower, fine with me, but all your compatriots know that would be a formula for revolution and will always find ways to rig the laws and their enforcement in their favor. All those “free” societies I just mentioned ended up with their own versions of concentration camps and torture (i.e., throwing innocent blacks into prisons for profit).

    • Who actually uses their guns to combat police brutality, or other infringements on civil liberties? I’m genuinely curious.

      • Oh, but there’s lots of them getting ready to do just that, now isn’t there? Or what they imagine are inroads into their “liberties…”

  16. Dear Juan Cole, once again you have rung a clear bell! I am grateful to you for posting this, and I hope the Brady folks, or Mayors Against Guns, or some like organization, will seize the ideas you have put forward and put together a campaign of shame.

    Let’s in the meantime find the address for Colt, etc., and start writing our own letters! Letters to the local editor…etc.

    Thank you thank you – and if you get threats, post them here so we can see who the cowards are.

  17. Thanks for your bravery in saying what needed to be said. I live in a part of the country (Jesus, Guns and GOP) that you cannot put certain types of stickers on your car without fear of having the car vandalized, so I am aware of the risk you take.

  18. Wolf Blitzer and Joe Johns basically are on the take. They and all the other journalistic nonentities who populate the broadcast and cable newsrooms are very handsomely paid to inanely shill for the corporate and the government narratives.

  19. And yes quite right. Some things do need to be said. I hope Juan’s friend’s warning proves to have been unnecessary.

    (And 60 is not so old.)

  20. “I was warned by a friend not to write this entry. I have friends and relatives who have been threatened or suffered vandalism by NRA supporters for speaking out or even just for a bumper sticker on a car. But I’m almost 60, I’ve had a full life, and I am getting crotchety. Some things need to be said.”

    Keep saying it, Professor Cole.

  21. Contrary to overwhelming evidence to the contrary – Americans are not stupid or crazy. Unfortunately, they are merely deluded by a sincere – but appalling – mis-understanding of what “Freedom and Liberty” mean.

    To the world – the American Revolution created “Democracy” – in which every franchised citizen would have the Liberty and Freedom to participate in that greatest of man’s inventions.

    From the very beginning – and strongly to this day – many Americans have believed that it was not “Democracy” they fought for – but the Right to bear arms. In order to be able to defend Freedom and Liberty – even from Democracy (if it wasn’t going their way). These people believe every man, woman and child should be better armed than the US military in order to be able to join in armed revolution against their “Democracy”. Which at that time, by their reasoning du jour, is not their “Democracy” and deserving of armed attack.

    Insane – yes. But so very deliciously a part of the so very bent and twisted American Myth.

  22. The Aurora perpetrator made himself a large forum,(as the customary trite goes: The “Collateral damage is very regrettable.”) The question is now whether they’d let him talk.

  23. Ask me if I want to go to the movies.

    if people are being advised to arm themselves to “protect” and “defend” against incidents like this, my local movie theaters have the real potential to become shooting galleries. “Oh, yeah, officer. I thought this guy was digging into his backpack for his automatic, so I capped him.”

    Netflix anyone??

  24. Gosh I’m sick of this whole thing. American society proves over and over again that it is violent and irresponsible with guns. The gun lobbyists and gun freaks are to gun control what Grover Norquist is to taxes. There is to be absolutely no gun control whatsoever period and no compromise and consequences be damned.

    Well we’ve seen what havoc unfettered gun access visits on our society, and it is horrible. You folks against gun control or any sort of regulation have had your way on this issue forever and it is not working – not even the argument that guns will protect us from a tyrannical government, which, if you’ve been paying the least bit of attention, we have become over the past forty years (or better).

    And most – likely not all but most – of you folks on the wrong side of this issue are clueless to the suffering gun violence visits, both physical and emotional, on the survivors of gun violence and their families. My cousin was the victim of random gun violence and spent 25 years in a wheel chair before dying of pneumonia (and his death was considered, in the end, a homicide). His – and the suffering of his parents – was horrific.

    So a modest proposal. You can have your guns, any damn gun you want, but it will go on a national and local register and there will be a national fund for victims of gun violence and their families (including such things as full compensation for lost lifetime earnings) and you will pay a special tax for your decision to own a fire arm that will go towards that fund.

    Oh, and by the way, I am a farmer in western Oregon and need a rifle for a variety of reasons (to deal with predators and to quickly kill severely wounded animals). It is a tool of my trade and I have no problem with registering my gun with the local authorities any more than I do registering my truck with the Department of Motor Vehicles.

    Enough was enough after the MacDonalds shooting in 1984; it is more than enough today.

    • “you folks against gun control have had your way on this issue and it’s not working.”

      You’re right–in the last 20 years, almost every state in the country has allowed concealed carry, with over 6 million permits issued. The assault weapons ban expired 8 years ago, and gun sales are at an all time high. 

      And our violent crime rates and homicide rates are at the lowest they’ve been in 40 years: link to … And that’s even despite our recession. 

      What is your definition of “not working”?

      So let’s say your proposal was in effect, and the Aurora shooter had registered his firearms locally and nationally. How exactly would that have prevented him from going ahead with his plan?

      Canada implemented a national registry in 1995, including long arms. And the result?

      They just scrapped it this year, because all it did was cost millions of dollars and did not “minimize risks to public safety with evidence-based outcomes such as reduced deaths, injuries and threats from firearms,” and the former Police Commissioner for Toronto said in 2003 that the “law registering firearms has neither deterred these crimes nor helped us solve any of them.”

      And how could it?

  25. The NRA is not at all interested in individual rights, freedom, or liberty as such. If it were you would see it continually appearing beside the ACLU in court, filing friend of the court briefs for the ACLU and devoting a portion of the money it collects to supporting the ACLU.

    The NRA is no more than what its name says, an organization for the promotion of, the use of and the ownership of guns regardless of events.

    Having grown up male in America, I’ve heard too many boys and men speaking with awe of the power of guns, getting wide eyed at “the size of that hole!” when looking at something a bullet has hit, being awed at the power of firearms in general. This history of mankind and weapons shows a close tie between arms of any kind and testosterone.

    A male friend of mine went for a cruise in Florida on a private craft with 4 or 5 other men. He was completely surprised when, while drifting at night close off a remote and (I hope) uninhabited part of the Florida coast, one of the men pulled out a semi-automatic rifle and proceeded to shoot off bursts from the side of the boat into the vegetation to acclamatory remarks like “listen to that baby sing!”

    A gun may be used as a tool, as comments here have said, but for many people a gun has an emotional effect due to the power it implies that bears no comparison to the use of a hammer or a screwdriver.

    It is no accident that guns feature prominently in movies, while hammers and screwdrivers are rarely seen. I would love to have a dollar for every movie poster I’ve seen over the years with someone holding a gun in one pose or another. An “action” movie means a movie with lots of guns.

    People are emotional creatures far more than they are rational. Emotional reactions are visceral and instant, rational reactions are delayed and need training. To believe that putting guns into more hands will somehow protect everyone and make for a safer environment betrays no recognition of such everyday things as road rage and simple anger. I would not carry a gun myself because I recognize I am human and prone to the emotions we all share.

  26. do you really think outlawing guns will stop anything? look at the drug war what has outlawing drugs done? why would guns be any different. how can you stop the criminals from getting guns with our open borders. stop and think about it; what did prohibition do back in capone’s day? outlaw guns and only outlaws will have them. make the laws tougher for using guns in a crime will do more then outlawing them. right now use a gun go to jail and be on the street in time for dinner. lock them up and throw away the key would be a better deterrent. but we don’t want to pay for that

    • Everyone else gets by with fairly strict gun laws, the same way we all get by with universal healthcare. And I think you’ll find that America is not importing many guns – it exports them to many places – Mexico in particular.

  27. Background: I hunt, and hike, and believe in the right to bear arms. Arms seems like a word that is up for debate.

    Those in the gun community deride the Assault Weapons Ban (AWB) because other than magazine capacity it was mostly seen as a restriction on “Scary Looking Weapons” but was mostly toothless in its effect, for many of the reasons that James Speaks mentioned above. As an example, I have a .22 semi-auto tube fed rifle dated from the late 50s. Great for hunting small game. In the hands of someone with evil intent, could easily cause much harm. Should this be banned?

    A couple other points: the AR-15 and its myriad of clones are popular not just because of the wanna-bee Rambos out there seasoned with the latest video games, they’re also popular with many gun enthusiasts and yes hunters too due to its modularity, reliability, and light weight. It can be chambered in cartridges that are suitable for deer and many people who alpine hunt will use them due to their light weight. I do not know why someone should ever buy a 100 round clip, but making clips or finding loopholes in law isn’t rocket science, so I’m not sure how you would effectively ban them.

    Ditto for large semi auto handguns like the 10mm Glock (similar but more powerful to one of the guns used in the crime, the .40mm) – yes scary looking but I know of others who hike with them for black bear protection. Should those be banned?

    I agree though, the time has come for real dialog. For a relatively low amount of effort it is now possible for just about anyone to perform this terrible crime and as a consequence it feels like people are just too damn afraid these days of everyone. Listen: I’m not even making this next claim up: just today I pulled my 3 year old son inside the house because a policeman ran buy carrying an AR-15 while responding to an alarm at a doctor’s office just 2 doors down from me. Turned out to be a false alarm and they drove off 10 minutes later. WTF? I live in a decent place, or so I’m told.

  28. Juno – you’re right, there could be no successful war on guns. Those most fascinated by them in a bad way (is there a good way to be fascinated with them? Maybe as antiques?) would go to great lengths to get them, but there could be documentation and tracking of all assault weapons. Can we at least cut down on the carnage?

    When the deranged attack, they don’t go in with a small caliber pistol, but pack as much firepower as they can get. If slipping in to a scene un-noticed were the goal, tiny weapons would be used, but the usual case is some guy going in like a one-man SWAT team.

    There’s a perverse glory in the act. All the screaming, the sight of blood, the looks of terror are a feast for the sensations of the killer. There is the rush of it all and then it’s over – so suicide is common. Life in prison gets old quickly, and capital punishment for someone willing to kill himself is no deterrent. The identities of the victims are irrelevant, since they are bit players – it is the epic aspect of the act, the bringing of mayhem by one person, that is desired. Someone actually shooting back could even heighten the appeal.

    But how is this mindless mania seeded years before the event? What do we do to downplay the fascination with guns that we share with no other country? How do we get people to realize the power of guns to destroy when these awful massacres seem to have no impact and the appeal of gun-play in movies is well documented by the size of audiences for features that are almost non-stop violence?

    In movies, all it takes is a plot that convicts the bad guys at the start so that the following mayhem can be justified and, yes, enjoyed by all. It is a very tenuous thing that separates the vicarious delight of movie-goers from the emotional rush of the madman with a gun. Bodies exploding and ripped apart – how can it all get any more realistic in cinema – but have you ever heard of anyone standing up in a theater and saying “this is disgusting and repellent, I’m leaving!” I think such a person would be laughed at. Rather, audiences keep getting bigger…they actually want to see it, pushing the envelope of sensation.

    The madman simply takes it to the limit – he makes it real.

    How do we avoid a future of ever more of this madness? Can we only shrug our shoulders and say we are helpless? If only the perpetrator is responsible, why are there always more perpetrators? How are they created again and again and again?

  29. Juan, aside from the gun issue …

    There’s been something nagging in the back of my mind, and I just realized what it is.

    This shooting shares an eerie similarity with a movie I watched (I use the term loosely, I fast forwarded through most of it) on Netflix last year, about a 20-something young man who plans a mass shooting in his small town.

    In a departure from most mass shootings, where the perpetrator kills himself before being apprehended, the shooter in the movie returns to his car and drives away. I believe the Aurora shooter was apprehended in his car?

    The shooter in the movie outfits himself in body armor–including legs–and a black armored helmet. Look familiar? link to

    Could just be a coincidence.

    • As soon as I read the description of the shooting, I immediately thought of this movie. I would not be surprised if the shooter picked up some ideas from it.

  30. I have a general question for gun owners, gun-rights supporters or anyone else who wants to speak up. Is there ANY legitimate civilian use of a firearm (self-defense, hunting, target shooting or anything else) that requires a magazine capacity of greater than six rounds?

    • Hunting? Probably not.

      Target Shooting? Definitely. You can easily fire off 6 rounds in 10 seconds or less. So, it helps to have a larger capacity magazine so you’re not breaking up practice as much. The alternative is to have a lot more magazines, but that is more expensive.

      Self Defense? In most cases, probably not.

  31. I’m with you Professor Cole and have written on the subject as well. I wish all people who feel the urgency to do something on this issue and who have blogs would do the same.

  32. I have never seen an advocate for access to assuault weapons be convinced of anything advocates for gun control have said. They’ve got their talking points, they’re convinced of their position, no amount of murder will sway them to the “Light Side.” We are going to have to fight the fight to restrict guns over their (metaphorical) cold dead bodies.

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