From the perspective of one of the country’s decreasingly exclusive communities — the home of a mass shooting — it’s insulting to say that “this time” the nation “must” act on gun violence.
It’s never enough for gun-rights extremists.
Thousands have died from gun violence since the Columbine shootings more than two decades ago. The horrific shooting was a clear portent of what we, as a nation, now suffer almost every day.
This time, the most recent gun-violence horror was unleashed at synagogue in Pittsburgh. Given the grim statistics of gun violence in America, the chances are pretty good the next mass shooting will be at a school, a work-place or maybe a big-box store. It can, and almost certainly will, sooner or later, happen right here, again.
That’s the America we live in. Rather than muster the political will to address the problem of senseless violence that almost always is carried out with guns, our elected leaders will fuss and bluster. The National Rifle Association and its sycophants will bristle. Then, we’ll count the hours or days until the next angry, gun-toting psychopath makes us pause in horror and then move on.
The problem of American violence is staggeringly complex. There is not a single nor perfect solution to ending these horrific slaughters. But to dismiss acting on the violence because it’s complicated or politically difficult is as dismaying as are these increasingly recurring attacks.
Despite the intricacy of the problem, it’s unequivocal that there are dangerous, mentally ill people in the country who give clear and consistent warnings about their instability, and they have fast, easy access to not just guns, but firearms created to be exceedingly lethal.
Colorado, and the nation, must at the very least make a concerted effort to pay heed to people who make it clear they are mentally unstable and have access to guns or other lethal weapons. But just as important, the law must not just permit but demand that these people be evaluated to determine if they are dangerous, and remove their weapons from them until they are determined to be sound.
While gun-safety activists, including this newspaper, regularly harp on the need for common-sense gun control, this one thing rises above all as nothing more than common sense. Angry, mentally ill, unstable people with access to a .22 caliber varmint rifle are a deadly mix. An apoplectic psychopath with an armory of semi-automatic assault rifles, expansive magazines, maybe a bump stock, and as much ammo as he cares to buy, is a cataclysm. It’s what ripped a hole in the lives of 72 people in Aurora in 2012, and hundreds in Las Vegas last year, and other communities since then.
Just this year, state Republicans killed a common-sense “red flag” bill in the Colorado Legislature that had the backing of Republican and Democratic police and sheriffs from across the state.
Absurdly, many of these critics argue that they would only support a red-flag law that required an investigation and then a court hearing with a suspected mentally ill person before allowing the government to remove their weapons. “Due process,” they call it.
Ludicrous, is what realistic police officials call it.
Imagine knocking on the door of someone like Robert Bowers, who murdered 11 Jews in a synagogue on Saturday. Picture police on his porch telling him that local or federal officials think his violent Twitter rants are worrisome. Imagine cops telling him that they’d like to know if he has any guns or bombs, and if so, could he please come to a court hearing soon and tell the judge why he’s really not a danger to anyone.
It’s akin to vaccinating a patient after they’ve died of the disease.
Real due process and common sense means that police are able to show a court evidence of dangerous behavior and ask permission to remove weapons so that a suspect can demonstrate he is or isn’t a danger. Then police can either return the guns or act on the person’s imminent danger to themselves or others.
The state politicians who voted against or who oppose Colorado’s common-sense red-flag bill are running for office right now. For area voters, they include Republican State Treasurer Walker Stapleton, candidate for governor, and state Rep. Susan Beckman. Statewide, they include a host of Republican state senators.
Despite the complexity and political difficulty of addressing gun violence, the problem of removing weapons from obviously mentally ill people is relatively easy, and certainly doable. Proponents include Republican sheriffs in Arapahoe, Douglas and Adams counties, GOP District Attorney George Brauchler, and Aurora Republican state Rep. Cole Wist.
If your state legislator doesn’t support a hurdle this low in reducing gun violence, then your only hope is that the next inevitable mass murder won’t be in your community.