PERRY: ‘That’s the way it is in this town’ – A child’s guide to gun control in Aurora

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Aurora police officials say three people were injured outside of Hinkley High School in Aurora Nov. 19. It’s the second shooting in close proximity to a high school in five days. Photo by PHILIP B. POSTON/Sentinel Colorado

A quip from one of the teenage boys accused of wounding two Hinkley High School students, while shooting up the parking lot there about two weeks ago, illustrates Aurora’s problem.

When one of the boys involved in the apparent gang-related shooting was asked by police why he felt he needed to take a gun to a schoolyard scrap in the parking lot, he said, “It’s the way it is in this town,” according to a police affidavit of the interview.

From the mouths of well-armed babes.

The boy clearly isn’t alone in thinking that everybody needs a gun to go to school, to the store, to the park, to speed through a neighborhood, or harangue kids who speed through a neighborhood.

The Sentinel reported that 135 people were shot, wounded and didn’t die in Aurora so far this year. It’s a 136% increase in the number of non-fatal shootings since 2019, police say.

The vast majority of these shootings targeted young men and boys. On top of that, were the usual couple dozen of murders by gun that Aurora sees slightly wax and wane every year.

The Denver Post’s Elise Schmelzer reported this summer that gun sales were over-the-top brisk in 2020, but that 2021 will eclipse even that number. The nearly half-million guns approved for sale by the Colorado Bureau of Investigation in 2020 were about 45% more than 2019, according to the Post.

This year?   

Data from the CBI and FBI show that people in the state have already legally bought almost a half-million guns by the end of October. Residents statewide are buying guns at the rate of about 50,000 a month these days.

It’s not just Aurora and Colorado. The FBI reports more than 25 million guns have been sold across the United States so far this year, a record number among record years going back for decades.

Armed to the teeth in a pandemic, what could go wrong?

We all know the answer to that. Even those who lie to themselves and others with the absurd chestnut, “guns don’t kill people…,” know the truth.

People don’t effortlessly embed lethal metal slugs into peoples’ bodies, guns do.

I’d be as misled or misleading as the gun whacks if I thought that rounding up some of the pistols and assault rifles would easily round down the number of people shot each week in Aurora and Denver.

The plague of gun violence is vastly complicated, because we’ve made it that way. Rather than deal with the obvious dilemma posed by exceedingly lethal and portable weapons accessible to children across the region and the nation, we politicize what’s essentially a public safety problem, making it a wedge for Team Right to fight against Team Left.

We have no problems with safety caps on pain-killer bottles and sophisticated locks to keep thieves and even drunks from stealing our cars. But we pass out handguns to people as if they were no more treacherous than a wine opener.

Just how badly this can go wrong is in the headlines nearly every day now. In southeast Aurora last week, a former Greenwood Village cop and a group of teenagers got into an argument about dangerous driving in the neighborhood. A 17-year-old boy and the 36-year-old cop both pulled out guns and the boy was dead and the man injured in a matter of seconds.

Monday, another teenage boy, this time in Michigan, walks into his school with a gun his father bought four days earlier and opens fire on his fellow students, killing four, wounding seven more, and terrorizing the entire school and town.

The Sentinel and every other newspaper across the country is filled with stories just like that — every day. An argument or critical moment appears and someone is injured or dead, about 200 times so far in Aurora this year.

One Aurora and two Denver city lawmakers are proposing an effort to create a regional gun buy-back, hoping to persuade people to give up what’s killing all of us. By itself, such an effort would be beyond futile and probably heavily supported by the gun industry. Given that there are likely millions of guns in the glove boxes, purses, backpacks and suit-coat pockets in closets all across the state, such an event would be as effective as ridding the community of old pills in the medicine cabinet. There are many, many more to come.

Given that every single past effort to create serious gun control has failed fabulously at the capitols in Colorado and Washington, and everywhere else, it’s pretty clear we’re just going to have to suck it up.

There are far too many guns out there, way too easy for teenagers to get their hands on to think that we could persuade every parent in the region to buckle down on their kids to ‘just say no’ to firearms.

More than one Colorado member of Congress and the state Legislature go to extravagant lengths to show off their firearm obsessions, normalizing the act of strapping on a hog leg anywhere in Colorado, just like people reach for umbrellas in places where it rains.

More security at schools and malls. A huge effort to get parents to act like parents. Campaigns and programs to give kids something to do besides drive around with guns. All those things will help. None of those things are the answer, however.

Only far, far fewer guns, tightly controlled, locked and monitored will change the fact that kids think they need a gun because, “that’s the way it is in this town.”

Follow @EditorDavePerry on Twitter and Facebook or reach him at 303-750-7555 or [email protected]

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Factory Working Orphan
Factory Working Orphan
8 months ago

“Only far, far fewer guns, tightly controlled, locked and monitored will change the fact that kids think they need a gun because, “that’s the way it is in this town.”

No, they won’t. This is sheer fantasy and deliberate obtuseness in the face of a years-long trend of social rot and degradation that’s accelerated in the last two years in particular as the metro area continues to deteriorate into a behavioral sink.

Back in the early-mid 1990s, when gang and social violence in Aurora and Denver was just as bad, if not worse, than they are now, kids still brought guns to school. I know because I saw my fellow students at the time show them off in their backpacks. What was different back then is that beefs were settled off-campus, because any kind of gang-related violence at schools would have brought the hammer down from the police gang task forces at the time. Gangs also tended to treat schools as territories, and infiltration by rival gangs into these particular areas was considered verboten for the same reason.

The turning point on the larger issue of school shootings was the local and national media framing the Columbine massacre as that of social outcasts who were bullied by their preppy, popular middle-class suburban peers. This was a false narrative; Eric Harris was simply a sociopath who wanted to hurt people, and Dylan Klebold went along with it because Harris was his friend. Bullying had nothing to do with it, but the media, being largely composed of resentful, unathletic geeks who weren’t part of the cool cliques in high school, established a narrative that’s been adopted by dozens of school shooters ever since–alienated or non-conforming kids who were supposedly tormented by their peers and lashed out in the most violent manner possible, “just like at Columbine.”

The availability of guns in relation to these shootings specifically and Aurora’s rising crime rates in general is simply cargo-cult thinking.

.

GeneD
8 months ago

Ah, the good old 90s! BTW, FWO, the number of firearms of all types in personal possession at this time dwarfs those held in your 90s nostalgia. Simple math: more guns = more gun violence; fewer guns = less gun violence.

Factory Working Orphan
Factory Working Orphan
8 months ago
Reply to  GeneD

LOL, literally nothing you wrote here refuted my post.

Josh
Josh
8 months ago

Assaults are up across the board in aurora schools this year. The pandemic and lockdown has clearly put a lot of stress on our kids and they are dealing with it violently, in the most heavily civilian armed nation in the world.

So kids are fighting, kids see us adults fighting, and families are economically stressed. Yeah you can say society is decaying but these problems are exasterbated by the gun problem. Dont you see?

Maybe we should take a chunk of the military budget, or raise taxes on the ultrawealthy to fund robust daycare, After school programs, or jobs programs? Im doubtful though, america doesn’t give a damn about education or the next generation. We are leaving so many people behind and they grow up to be violent and incarcerated.

Factory Working Orphan
Factory Working Orphan
8 months ago
Reply to  Josh

“Yeah you can say society is decaying but these problems are exasterbated by the gun problem. Dont you see?”

Magnificent circular reasoning there.

“Maybe we should take a chunk of the military budget, or raise taxes on the ultrawealthy to fund robust daycare, After school programs, or jobs programs?”

That’s been the standard lament for decades. Dozens of government programs have been passed in that time, and we’re still at the same place.

“Im doubtful though, america doesn’t give a damn about education or the next generation.”

Baloney. “Education” is pointless in an already dysfunctional society. It’s more cargo-cult thinking.

“We are leaving so many people behind and they grow up to be violent and incarcerated.”

No, “we” aren’t doing that. The Great Society has been a failure and so is the ideology that unlimited government programs will fix what ails us.

Doug King
Doug King
8 months ago
Reply to  Josh

Some very interesting points there. None of which are anything a GOP led country has any interest in.

Don Black
Don Black
8 months ago

There are no adults in the room. The lie even bigger than Trump’s election lie continues to be invincible and leads us toward chaos. The proliferation of the systemic racism distortion by the media, the President, the Colorado Attorney General, and the Colorado legislature is stacking up all the right elements for disaster. Based upon the disproportionate arrest statistics the racism lie fails to allow any examination of facts. Thomas Sowell calls it the “invincible fallacy”. All the studies have shown that blacks are disproportionately involved in crime. How can police arrest statistics be proportionate in that case? As you watch the mass looting by large groups of young blacks and the repeated murder of young blacks by other young blacks, how do you choose to ignore that? If the police arrest them, will the statistics not be disproportionate? Let us look at what this racism hysteria is causing. You constantly trumpet that the police and the whole system is racist. What does that say to young impressionable children of color? If everyone in the system hates me, why should I try to be successful in this society? If the police are trying to murder me, why should I not carry a gun and fight them? Why should I not reject the entire white society? So, we are setting up our society for failure and perhaps civil war. Meanwhile, our legislature has passed a police reform bill that is a vague knee jerk reaction to the George Floyd death. No one will talk about the fact that it is so vaguely worded as to leave the police completely uncertain as to where they stand on use of force. We are now prosecuting officers if they simply touch someone’s neck. The police have two choices. They must either leave or not do their jobs. Again, no adults in the room. The police chiefs, who are mainly politicians, will not stand up and question the reform bill. The invincible fallacy behind the bill makes it a career threat to even voice concerns. The fallacy is driving legislatures and the media to question why police have to stop anyone for something minor. They fail to understand that all of those minor stops are where the police find wanted persons and those carrying guns illegally. The enforcement of all the laws creates a police presence that keeps a lid on society. Now, in order to protect the criminals who resist the police, we are disabling the police. Many in our society recognize that chaos may be coming as a result. Therefore, they are arming themselves for protection. We cannot ignore that injustices have been done and that we must strive to punish those who perpetrate injustices. It must be done fairly. We must seek to provide better educational opportunities for people of color. We should not make excuses for those who refuse to take advantage of opportunities. It must be done fairly. The public deserves complete transparency from the police and their government. But, the public, and often the prosecutors, are not qualified to make informed decisions on use of force. Almost everything the public and the legislature believe about use of force is wrong. Body cameras are a good thing. They enable good supervisors to see how bad officers act. But the second guessing by citizens watching calmly without any threat, is contrary to what the the Supreme Court has established as law for the police. Put that on top of the systemic racism lie and we have a recipe for failed law enforcement. As we try to be social justice warriors, we are creating hatred and more racial division. The inability to have an “honest conversation” is leading us into chaos. Weak leaders will not stand up to the invincible fallacy and they will let our society erode. The fact that I can only voice some of these arguments in this limited forum shows that we are not open to discuss facts as adults. We will all pay for the inability to deal with facts in an adult way and not through uninformed emotion. When the chaos starts, history has shown that there no longer is time for reason and that no one really wins. If we cannot accept that individuals are responsible for their actions and quit making excuses for criminals, we doom our police to be observers and little more. I understand that arguments like these are politically incorrect and that all our leaders choose to keep quiet. There is a little cycle that has been proven many times through history. It goes something like this. Hard men make good times, good times make weak men, weak men make hard times. Hard times make hard men. Then it repeats. Guess where we are in the cycle.

GeneD
8 months ago
Reply to  Don Black

Quite a diatribe, Don, and full of logical contradictions, BTW, if you haven’t noticed, the chaos has already started. Did you miss Charlottesville, or January 6?

Doug King
Doug King
8 months ago
Reply to  Don Black

Quite the manifesto

FeelingsAreNotFacts
FeelingsAreNotFacts
8 months ago
Reply to  Don Black

“They fail to understand that all of those minor stops are where the police find wanted persons and those carrying guns illegally. The enforcement of all the laws creates a police presence that keeps a lid on society.” Bingo.

There are so many reasonable points made here from a clearly experienced and informed party, everyone should read it again.


Mike
8 months ago

Of course the idiot who wrote this completely missed! Again you fail to blame the individuals who ILLEGALLY had firearms! I’m so sick of these idiots spreading lies and misinformation!

Beverly Bennett
Beverly Bennett
8 months ago

The first couple comments that I read below are part of the problem! This isn’t the way to frame a city in crisis. When there are 9 shootings outside schools in the span of a week, then we are in crisis. I think this is a great editorial and would like to see Rick Perry elaborate on it. Are there ways to engage young black men who are in gangs or who are going down that path? What are they? How could Aurora incorporate them?

I was thinking before I came on here that probably the only thing that would move Aurora to action would be if our reputation for violence discouraged potential home buyers or hurt business. In my 25 years of living here, that’s what I have seen seems to matter most. We are old-school Main Street when we need to be innovative and responsive to the challenges of urban living.

p.s. I have been a journalist and am not a marginalized geek, what a statement! Those are the kinds of opinions that divide us even more.

Factory Working Orphan
Factory Working Orphan
8 months ago

“The first couple comments that I read below are part of the problem! This isn’t the way to frame a city in crisis. When there are 9 shootings outside schools in the span of a week, then we are in crisis.”

In case you haven’t noticed, violent crime is up across the board in Aurora the last two years, after a years-long trend of it being on the low end. That’s hardly due to the availability of guns.

Doug King
Doug King
8 months ago

Crime is up across the entire country!!

Factory Working Orphan
Factory Working Orphan
8 months ago
Reply to  Doug King

And?

FeelingsAreNotFacts
FeelingsAreNotFacts
8 months ago
Reply to  Doug King

Violent and property crime rates in our largest cities (Metropolitan Statistical Areas, or MSAs) are three to four times as high as the rates in rural communities (Barkan).

Urban areas, coincidentally, are overwhelmingly Democrat with high concentrations of blacks.

Beverly Bennett
Beverly Bennett
8 months ago

I just wrote a long comment that didn’t post, but would still like to say that I support Rick Perry and what he wrote. This was a well-written and thoughtful editorial.

GeneD
8 months ago

Gun buy back programs are useful in the sense that organizers can say that at least those weapons collected won’t be used for gun violence. Overall, such programs don’t have much impact on our gun violence epidemic, but at least they demonstrate positive action with citizen involvement. We already know what works: check out Ceasefire Colorado, or Colorado Faith Communities United to End Gun Violence, or Moms Demand Action, or Brady. We just lack the will to implement the solutions.

The police are reactive when shootings occur, and do what they are trained to do. They can also be proactive by tracing guns used in gun violence crimes to the dealers that supplied them, or the owners who ‘lost’ them, and imposing penalties. 15 and 16 years old kids don’t walk into Big 5 and buy handguns or ARs.

Factory Working Orphan
Factory Working Orphan
8 months ago
Reply to  GeneD

“Overall, such programs don’t have much impact on our gun violence epidemic, but at least they demonstrate positive action with citizen involvement.”

IOW, these don’t really work, but they make us feel like something’s being done.

GeneD
8 months ago

They get people involved and active in taking action against what seems like an insurmountable problem, rather than just banging away at a keyboard and spewing out cynicism and helplessness. Small steps often lead to greater involvement.

Factory Working Orphan
Factory Working Orphan
8 months ago
Reply to  GeneD

What you’re describing is the policy equivalent of a participation trophy.

Doug King
Doug King
8 months ago

In general this is our responsible gun ownership: Anyway, according to News 4 San Antonio, 60-year-old Rossie Dennis has been charged with aggravated assault with a deadly weapon following the November 24, incident in which she got into an argument over an H-E-B parking spot in Annaville. The argument reportedly ended in Dennis going full O Dog from Menace II Society and pulling her gun on the other driver because Karen-like entitlement told her the spot was hers.

The Corpus Christi Police Department hasn’t identified the victims in the altercation, but a Reddit post that included screenshots of the video claimed the victims were a woman and her six-month-old child. The video those screenshots were taken from was the only reason Dennis was identified and arrested four days after the incident.

FeelingsAreNotFacts
FeelingsAreNotFacts
8 months ago

Never mentioned in propaganda pieces like this: the number of households with (legal) firearms has dramatically decreased in the last 50 years. While half used to have guns in them, now less than a third do. Simple logic would mean home-burglars have a much smaller chance of accidentally happening upon a gun today than they did before, so the problem is not as simple as access. The gorilla in the room is the data is almost always focused on legal guns, self-reported, or sales figures. Certainly, a number of them migrate into the black market, so it makes sense to do what we can to prevent that, as well as accidental discharge by children. Unfortunately, gun safes, trigger locks, and myriad other suggestions defeat the purpose of access for self-defense. So here we are.

Of course, as mentioned before, most legal gun owners are not the problem. Criminals are. And any teen who chooses to carry a gun — much less discharge one at a human (no excuses) — should be dealt with very severely. They’re not bored kids or scared kids, they are wannabe killers.

FeelingsAreNotFacts
FeelingsAreNotFacts
8 months ago

Also consistently neglected in this whole guns versus gun owner debate is the simple fact that the vast majority of the problem of guns are SUICIDES — about 2/3 of all deaths. Coping skills (vaguely described as mental health) seem increasingly nonexistent in society today, especially in generations coming up.

GeneD
8 months ago

Okay, so about 1200 gun deaths a day. 2/3 of them suicide (1600 dead); 800 other dead a day from gun violence. Is that okay with you? What is the right amount in your opinion? Then can we get your expertise deployed on how many firearm maimings would be the -right- amount? Right now it’s about 3 times the number of deaths.

If for no other consideration, just think of the billions of dollars spent on healthcare to deal with these victims, some who require lifetime care. What else could that money be used for? What else could these medical professionals be doing?