PERRY: Tragically, Boulder massacre will prompt the same changes as Aurora, Sandy Hook and Parkland — none

Tanice Cisneros walks by an anti-gun sign on the way to leave flowers for her friend, Rikki Olds on Tuesday, March 23, 2021. Olds was a King Soopers employee that was killed at the Boulder King Soopers on Monday. (Jerilee Bennett/The Gazette via AP)

Count me among the cynical.

Ten Boulder families and their circle of friends are grappling with the horror inflicted at a King Soopers Monday afternoon. Meanwhile, the rest of us play our parts in this macabre American tradition of mass murder.

I’m cynical because I’ve seen this show many times. It doesn’t end well.

Microphones and cameras are pushed into the faces of people who escaped with their lives. They’re prodded to relay the graphic horrors we’ve become accustomed to. Recollections of the gunshots, the terror and the relief, all while TV news anchors soberly fill air time with speculations and cautioning about speculating.

Police clamp down on the crime scene, dispensing virtual riddles rather than providing answers.

Elected officials line up to proclaim their deep sadness and issue a flotilla of “thoughts and prayers” for the dead and those staggered by the deaths.

Everyone waits anxiously to glean the first few details of what flavor of crazy the new gunman is. The prosecutors promise justice that can never come.

Then comes the heartbreaking stories of the lives that are no more. Vibrant daughters. Generous aunts. Funny dads. We marvel how each of the stricken was doing what so many of us have done thousands of times before. The dead were just going to school, dinner, a movie, a church, a concert, a bar or a department store. This time, mundane trips to a Boulder grocery store turned deadly.

Then come the shrines and the outpouring of dollars for the families of the dead. Endless bouquets, stuffed animals and mylar balloons in wrong places that signal only one thing: another mass shooting.

I’ve achingly watched and participated in this gruesome American ritual most of my professional life. I cut my journalist teeth on Colorado’s obscene slaughter one night in 1993 in the parking lot of an Aurora Chuck E. Cheese’s restaurant after Nathan Dunlap shot five fellow workers just before Christmas, killing four of them. Then came the Labor Day Massacre in 1998. The Columbine Massacre in 1999. The Platte Canyon hostage crisis in 2006.

I was personally ruined after the Aurora Theater Shooting in 2012. I am forever haunted by the look on Tom Sullivan’s face, the sound of his voice, as he waved a photo of his son, Alex, frantically among dozens of horrified and dazed survivors corralled to Gateway High School. Alex was among the dead. Tom now has a seat in the Colorado House of Representatives, working to create laws that might prevent someone else from living every parent’s worst nightmare.

Since then and in between, we’ve ticked off massacres inside elementary schools, high schools, discount stores, concert halls, churches, dance halls, office complexes, even newspapers.

After all this, after almost 30 years of perpetual massacres, we dutifully note and publish well-meant cries like those from Boulder Congressman Joe Neguse.

“This cannot be our new normal,” Neguse said after discovering his home town was the latest target of terror, just days after a ghastly rampage just outside of Atlanta.

“New normal?”

Mass shootings are now a longstanding Colorado tradition. We suffer and accept them like tropical communities endure malaria.

The most aggravating part of my cynicism stems from what will come in the next few days. President Joe Biden has already started the customary chant for gun control.

I heard it from President Barack Obama in 2012 right here in Aurora, and from many others since.

The lofty goal of those in Congress who understand that the pandemic of gun violence is directly related to the easy access to prolific guns is hardly profound. All they want right now are universal background checks, something a vast majority of Americans also want. We are so far gone in the United States, however, that Congress can’t even muster the ability to require people to prove they’re not criminals or insane before we hand over an assault rifle and a large-capacity magazine.

I can promise you this. If you think the Boulder massacre will be the tipping point that persuades Colorado congresspersons like Lauren Boebert, Ken Buck and Doug Lamborn to ban assault rifles, you would be dead wrong. Not only do they faithfully believe colonists 200 years ago wanted to bestow the deadly firepower of an AR-15 on every American, they frequently post sordid proof of their gun worship to shore up support of Americans who believe the exact same thing.

Nationally, Texas Sen. Ted Cruz had this to say about the newest effort to legislate fewer mass shootings.

“Every time there’s a shooting, we play this ridiculous theater where this committee gets together and proposes a bunch of laws that would do nothing to stop these murders,” Cruz said in the Senate committee that has stymied gun control for many, many years now.

Cruz, a Republican, is sadly joined by too many Democrats who also believe that gun laws only make criminals of law-abiding gun owners, who are law abiding only until they kill 10 people at a grocery store.

Like so many American quandaries, gun violence is complicated and won’t be easily solved. I am confident that state and federal lawmakers will no more heed the hoary call for “enough is enough” now, any more than they have in the past.

What we’ve all found is that for political leaders and, so far, for the vast majority of Americans, 10 dead innocents at a neighborhood grocery store isn’t enough. After Aurora and Sandy Hook Elementary School cataclysms, it became clear that sheer horror would never be an agent for change in American political leaders.

Instead, change must come as a demand from all of us. We individually must dispel the myth of the Founding Fathers’ fetish for guns and individual militias. Gun control must become the same touchstone for voters as are gay rights, racial equality, climate change and telling the truth.

As a society, we must counter an American gun culture steeped in gripping fear and propaganda. We must treat mental illness in all its forms as the pandemic and key component of gun violence that it is.

Will all that happen because of the Boulder Massacre or the next several massacres? No. Clearly, our tolerance for gun violence is limitless. Sorry-not-sorry to discount three attempts at reform in Colorado, but the problem is so severe and gun violence so prolific that the loophole ridden clip limit, background checks and red-flag law are the equivalent of handing people a sheet of newspaper to protect themselves during a golf-ball hail storm.

Optimism now comes from hoping that real change in gun laws and access to mental health will come despite the Boulder shooting tragedy and the next one.

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


3 2 votes
Article Rating
Newest Most Voted
Inline Feedbacks
View all comments
Vince James
Vince James
1 year ago

The front range is the heart of the American Empire. How many defense contractors and military facilities are operating around here? Its a major part of our local economy and shouldn’t be ignored by the media. These violent delights have violent ends.

Joe Felice
Joe Felice
1 year ago

So tragically true, Dave. We will wail and beat our chests and demand that “something” be done to protect Americans, but all we’ll do is argue, blame and demonize until we’re blue in the faces, and then we’ll move on without doing anything. Until the next time, when we start the process anew. It seems nothing can overcome the NRA’s infinite financial resources. It was a very-sad day whenever we allowed the NRA (many years ago) to convince Americans they should be fearful and that everyone should have a gun. That worked out well, now, didn’t it?

Jeff Ryan
Jeff Ryan
1 year ago

To a great extent, we can blame the late Supreme Court Associate Justive Antonin Scalia. It was Scalia who wrote the opinion in District of Columbia v. Heller, which threw history and decades of court decisions out the window to divine an individual right to own firearms, something that surely set James Madison to spinning in his grave.

While guns have always been with us, Heller provided guns with the cover of constitutional protection. We will be reaping the consequences for years to come.

1 year ago

I feel Mr Perry’s pain. I just missed being at Chucky Cheese because I was rotated to another station that morning… so I would have been first in. Same thing happened at the theater shooting… retired from that station and shift just before… another near miss. The other violence I did get to see. Tragic, and unfortunately not easy to prevent. Lets look at the opposite extreme (I am not totally for it but lets look) What if every one was carrying a gun, trained and licensed… Who could have taken out the shooter first… would lives been saved? Not a good plan but it is a deterrent. The human is violent, the human if bent, twisted and broken. You could take away all the guns and I or anyone can drive a car into a crowd. I could make a bomb from u tube information, poison one or hundreds… I think there is a hundred ways to kill your lover. So Obama sending condolences and saying we are racist, or CNN jumping on the already stoked fire of black live matter( looking for an other way to raise money) by saying “a white man kills 10, or a white man kills a policeman” Drive by reporting… miss the facts.. oh well lets move on.
It is a blight any where any time, but we need to change attitudes- we need to find mental help for those who are on the edge- we need to be kinder and we need to Listen. Americans are warm heart and open hands to help- but we are not doing a good job bridging the divide. We can’t stop it, but we can look for solutions. Some may be in better gun laws- but when you de-fund police and take away guns that means only bad guys have guns.