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.
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 dperry@SentinelColorado.com