EDITORIAL: Colorado lives are worth more than unfettered gun rights

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Colorado and the nation have failed promises to hundreds of victims of past gun massacres, to make effective changes in an effort to prevent future gun violence victims.

Boulder’s horrific shooting death of 10 people in a King Soopers makes the failure obvious and excruciating.

Almost 30 years ago, Aurora was staggered when a young Nathan Dunlap shot five of his Chuck E. Cheese’s co-workers, killing four of them. He was angry he’d been fired weeks before the 1993 shooting.  Only 19, it was easy for him to get a gun. It was easy to use it. After his trial, he revealed he’d been suffering from mental illness most of his life. His father had asked counselors at Overland High School for help. He was diagnosed with hypomania but never received treatment.

While this wasn’t the beginning of Colorado’s long and lurid history with mass shootings and gun violence, it was one of the first massacres that revealed problems here and across the country that have never been properly addressed.

Similarities have repeated themselves since during massacres at Columbine High School, the Aurora theater shooting, the STEM school shooting, the Arapahoe High School shooting, The Colorado Springs Planned Parenthood shooting, the Thornton Walmart shooting, other shootings statewide, and most recently, the Boulder massacre.

Decades after “active shooter” became part of the national vernacular, every TV news alert, every urgent text from a school is met with dread, especially by parents across the country.

Soon after a teacher and 12 students were killed during the Columbine High School massacre, Congress and the state rallied. We saw the catastrophic loss of life as an alarm about the lack of gun control, a near absence of mental health awareness and treatment, our vulnerable children, and our society.

It became obvious even to stalwart conservatives like then-Congressman Tom Tancredo, whose district included Littleton, that virtually unrestricted guns, media violence, mental illness, overtaxed schools and a desensitized society were all contributing to this growing public nightmare.

What was supposed to be the war on gun massacres to end all gun massacres, fizzled.

While Columbine became synonymous with school shootings, it was a mass shooting in 1989 at a school in Stockton, California and one in 1991 at a Luby’s cafeteria in Kileen, Texas, that prompted even Republicans like former President Ronald Reagan to back a 1994 assault weapons ban in hopes of reversing a ghastly rise in gun massacres.

The ban was hopelessly weakened before being signed by President Bill Clinton in 1994. It applied only to future manufacture of so-called assault weapons and virtually did nothing to reduce their numbers or easy availability.

It was then the National Rifle Association, which had recently moved toward becoming a political organization, became a strident lobbying group. Once an organization espousing marksmanship and gun safety, the NRA evolved into a union led by zealots, obsessed with a warped interpretation of the Second Amendment.

Not only was the NRA and others able to thwart effective gun control, despite public sentiment in its favor, they were able to help marshal candidates who further weakened national and state gun laws.

It’s undeniable that rampant American gun slaughter is the result of prolific and easily attained guns, relatively absent treatment for mental illness and a lurid fascination with ubiquitous, graphic gun violence in every form of popular media.

After the Columbine massacre, the nation had a chance to tackle all of these problems. Congress and state legislators, instead, chose to do almost nothing.

The killings continued. Then came the 2012 Aurora theater shooting. Tepid Colorado gun control enacted in 2013 was met with consummate NRA anger and a massive effort to elect pro-gun activists. Defying the NRA and other extremist, anti-gun-control groups made political candidates fearful.

Those who tout Colorado’s meek gun control laws fail to point out their failings. The high-capacity magazine law “grandfathered in” thousands of existing magazines and provided no way to prove new ones brought into Colorado are illegal. The higher-round magazines themselves are still sold as “parts” in gun stores, easily assembled. Mandatory background checks do nothing to prevent people from driving to Wyoming to get around them or buy guns on the black market.

After The Aurora theater shooting, more massacres kept coming. Sandy Hook, Orlando, Las Vegas, Pittsburgh, Thousand Oaks, Santa Fe, Texas, Parkland, and now Boulder.

Colorado lawmakers just recently have been able to pass a much-needed red-flag gun bill. The measure allows police to remove guns from mentally ill people until they can prove they’re well enough to reclaim them.

Clearly, the law didn’t work for 10 dead in Boulder.

Absurdly, sheriffs from almost half of Colorado gun “sanctuary” counties have threatened to shun the laws, citing what they say is an infraction on gun-ownership rights. Now the challenge is how to fight against elected officials who argue for gun-rights of critically mentally ill citizens.

While we cannot lose hope that gun-control advocates will succeed in enacting meaningful, effective measures, it would be foolish to believe elected officials alone will bring those changes to reality.

In the same way the public has brought real change to the issue of police reform through public outcry and backing candidates promising change, it will take nothing short of the same effort to thwart the gun lobby and its faithful elected and civilian followers.

The need to unravel generations of gun-industry propaganda and disinformation is just as critical as the need for assault weapon bans and removals. The need to persuade the public to recognize and act on intervening in the lives of mentally ill people who have or acquire guns is as vital as ensuring mental illness treatment receives parity with other medical maladies.

Despite the grim political realities for gun control in Washington, all is not lost, but nothing to reduce gun massacres can be gained by trying to accomplish change in the same way sensible activists have tried in the past.

It will take Herculean effort to ban all assault-style weapons and remove them. it will be a monumental undertaking to require gun owners to show proficiency, safety and sound mental health, regularly. It will take a vast statewide crusade to rid Colorado of elected leaders who believe the lives of innocent people are the price we should all regularly pay for unfettered gun rights.

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Brent
Brent
18 days ago

Infringing upon the rights of gun owners due to the actions of an evil few is not what the Founders had in mind. None of the proposed legislation would have stopped any of this. Gun control is about one thing…control.

Wrestling Mama
Wrestling Mama
17 days ago
Reply to  Brent

I totally agree with you Brent! Address the problem, the people with the mental illness that thinks this is ok, not the gun. The gun doesn’t do anything without a person at its helm.

denver_dad
17 days ago
Reply to  Wrestling Mama

Guns don’t kill people. People with guns kill people. Less guns in the wrong hands = less killing.

Shoe
16 days ago
Reply to  denver_dad

As is seen in London, people will use knives or vehicles to accomplish the same thing. Murders took place prior to the invention of the firearm and would take place in their absence as well. With hundreds of millions of guns in the US there is no way any reasonable person could expect to dismiss them. As is the case with drugs, whatever is made illegal will then be only had by criminals.

Tannin
Tannin
13 days ago
Reply to  denver_dad

Like cops?

Jeff Ryan
Jeff Ryan
17 days ago
Reply to  Brent

The Founders, specifically Madison, didn’t have gun owners in mind when they drafted the Second Amendment. Justice Scalia did when he ignored over one hundred years of court decisions and the original purpose of the amendment itself. His opinion was pure dishonesty as to the law and origins of the amendment.

But we are stuck with that for now. But the truth matters, and Heller needs to be reversed. The Constitution is not a suicide pact.

Shoe
16 days ago
Reply to  Jeff Ryan

Says Jeff Ryan, Constitutional Scholar. For you to claim to know the thoughts of the Framers is unreasonable and detracts from your credibility. Just as the First Amendment has grown to include cell phones and television, the Second Amendment has grown to include advances in firearms as well. To believe otherwise is disingenuous.

denver_dad
17 days ago
Reply to  Brent

A bill being put together will prevent anyone with a record of violent misdemeanor – like the Boulder murderer – from passing a background check. If his family had used ERPO (the Red Flag law) his weapons would have been taken away pending a hearing.

Gun control is about one thing: stopping the madness of the epidemic of gun violence in our society.

Shoe
16 days ago
Reply to  denver_dad

Identity politics and political ideology plays into this as well. Agencies are reluctant to enter an ERPO against a Muslim out of fear of being labeled non-inclusive and racist. Legislatures across the country, and in Colorado, are implementing cashless bail so offenders are released without any compulsion to stay out of trouble. Beat your wife…..no problem, please come back in 3 weeks for your court date. Hold up a store, you behave and come back in 3 weeks.

Joe Felice
Joe Felice
17 days ago

After every one of these incidents, we hear a string of platitudes, most notably that “Our hearts are broken.” Well, they must not be broken enough for us actually to do something to affect the problem. It just goes on and on, ad infinitum. After all the wailing and chest beating, we just forget about it and go on with our lives, secretly hoping that we won’t be the next victim of gun lovers. Like when considering insurance, we tell ourselves “Surely, this can’t happen to me.” Until it does and then we mysteriously wonder where we went wrong. I can tell you where we went wrong, but few want to hear it. We went wrong whenever we allowed the NRA to take control and convince us that every American needs a gun. Then our Supreme Court was convinced that the first clause of the Second Amendment meant nothing, and that its purpose is to allow gun lovers to have every manner of weapon there is and an unlimited number of them, at that. Surely, the intent of the Framers was to allow idiots to mow down as many of their fellow citizens as possible in the shortest amount of time. It said so right there in the Federalist Papers, after all.

We have got to be the most gullible nation on the face of the earth, and apparently are now too weak to muster what it takes to tackle the issue. At this point, the genie is out of the bottle, as every idiot who wants them has all of the weapons and ammunition that his little heart desires, and those cannot be taken away at this point. There are people who are better armed than some small countries. They tell us it’s to protect them against an out-of-control government. Well ain’t we the ones? We had exactly that for 4 years and all that was accomplished was more guns and killing. My question is “Who is it that will protect us against the gun lovers?” We turn to our elected representatives in vain.

Good luck with all this, America.

Jeff Ryan
Jeff Ryan
17 days ago
Reply to  Joe Felice

Correct. The Second Amendment had nothing to do with protecting us from an out of control government. It couldn’t, since the Constitution expressly commands the militia to suppress rebellion, not engage in it.

denver_dad
17 days ago

I had almost let despair overwhelm me when our elected officials, in the aftermath of the Newtown slaughter, by their inaction said that it was okay to use automatic weapons to murder 6 year old children. Instead I did what I am advocating others do now: get involved! Thoughts and prayers mean nothing without action.

Attend a vigil. Write a letter. Send a donation to organizations advocating for gun violence reduction. Join a local or national organization trying to do the same. At a minimum, call your representatives and tell them that you’ve had enough and want meaningful, enforceable legislation passed.

We seem to have developed an outrage callus when it comes to gun violence. Mass murder makes the headlines, but every day more than 100 people die from firearms, and twice that number are maimed. Last year broke a record with 40,000 deaths. More than car accidents. More than pancreatic cancer.

Get angry and GET IN ACTION!

J Barrett
J Barrett
16 days ago

The mantra to take away guns every time there is a mass shooting is an understandable knee jerk reaction to a tragedy like this. It is also an intellectually dishonest solution, ineffective, and too appealing in its apparent simplicity. People commit mass murder crimes because the people who commit them are mentally disturbed, or hardened in their quest to do so. If they don’t have guns, they will use explosives, cars or some other means. The issue is how to identify and intervene in the plans of these individuals, not to take away guns. That would be like arguing to take away cars every time a person intentionally mows down people with a car. Taking away or restricting guns for all only ensures criminals will fill the void, because the demand for guns isn’t going away. The more divided and angry our population becomes, the more we limit and attack our law enforcement, the more guns people want. It is much harder, but the real solution is to find a way to stop vilifying each other on every little thing, and start finding our common humanity and love. Give each other a break, as none of us are perfect, and go out every day to make someone’s life more pleasant.

Tannin
Tannin
13 days ago

Who let the morons out to write this drivel?