Truly, 2015 was a year for big stories in and near Aurora that led to big, unfinished business.
Three years after one of the most horrific events in the country struck the Century 16 theater in Aurora, shooter James Holmes’ sordid tale was finally revealed this summer. He was sentenced in August to life in prison for murdering 12 people and wounding 70 more during the July 20, 2012 massacre.
The months-long trial left victims and the community vexed after a jury convicted Holmes on every count of murder and more, and then jurors sentenced him to prison for life instead of handing him a date with death.
For most of the city, trial angst faded with the summer heat, and the country has since moved on to other mass shootings and murders. With so much rampant and prolific gun violence, it’s hard to compete as the most horrific crime in the country.
And that’s what’s left undone. Aurora determined, as best we could, how and why Holmes planned and got away with what he did. Then the country moved on. And many more people have since been senselessly shot and killed.
I’m at the front of the parade in telling people that gun violence is an extremely complicated problem with no easy answers. But I’m also one of the loudest people I know in making sure we all know that doing nothing is not an option here.
I don’t understand why doing nothing has become an entrenched strategy. The same people who freak out when you talk about limiting the size of ammo clips or ensuring gun purchases come with criminal background checks practically pound their fists in rebuke if you talk about legalizing fireworks. About 8,500 people a year go to emergency rooms with non-lethal injuries caused by fireworks. About 75,000 people take their gunshot wounds to emergency rooms each year in the United States. About a dozen people die from fireworks each year, mostly from doing things like making bombs or “custom” things out of fireworks. That many people die almost every waking hour from gunfire.
And if you suggest that there might be some common sense limits on guns that could greatly reduce all that tragedy, rabid extremists freak out, saying that the liberal lefties are trying to grab and ban everybody’s guns. I know a lot of lefties. None of them want to ban all guns. All of them want to stop the incidence of gun violence in Aurora, Colorado and the rest of the country.
One of the most difficult parts of trying to end or at least greatly reduce the number of people killed by guns is perception. It’s the carefully crafted myth that God and the Founding Fathers through the U.S. Constitution were adamant that everyone have easy access to weapons that would allow anyone to take out crowded theaters or packed schools in a matter of seconds.
There is not and never was such a right. The legend comes from broad and indefensible interpretation of rights bestowed the states and their militia in an effort to prevent a potentially tyrannical federal government from pushing around 13 states in a plot of land about the size of Texas.
Rather than look at how easy it’s been for really sick or malevolent people to get military-type weapons and take out scores of innocents, so-called gun-rights activists have fought with fear, propaganda and full-out lies. Each time gunfire has erupted since the Aurora theater shooting, the country holds its collective breath and asks, “Have we had enough?”
Nope. Not yet. A handful of southern states have actually made it even easier to get and carry guns, conceal them or openly carry them anywhere they want to go. Anywhere.
Well, I’ve had enough. I know the NRA, its henchman and stooges hold political guns to the heads and careers of every elected official. But I’m tired of being afraid that my kid won’t come home from classes at the University of Colorado, or that my wife will get gunned down by an armed whack at a Red Rocks concert. Because we let gun whacktivists push around Colorado and Aurora with campaign cash, lies, propaganda and extortion, we have to hold our breath every time we see a news alert.
It’s time to finish this story. Time to impose reasonable rules and restrictions. Time to take care of mentally ill people before they become active shooters. And time to watch for and report terrorists. Will it end gun violence? Nope. But I’d happily see it whittled down to numbers that look like death and injuries caused by fireworks.
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