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Colorado Shooting Raises Familiar Issues

Submitted by on July 21, 2012 – 11:22 amOne Comment
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As with Columbine, Virginia Tech, Tuscon, and Sanford, FL, the nation is reeling with how to deal with senseless gun violence in the wake of the shooting in Aurora, CO. Some of the issues have become so familiar, articles and media from tragedies past are simply being passed around, now marked “Still Relevant”. The issues that are already being discussed include:

Gun Control: Always the first and most contentious issue raised, though little to nothing ever comes of it. The enhanced killing power offered by legal firearms, especially semi- and fully-automatic weapons or easily-concealed handguns, seems undeniable. But the US’s powerful gun lobby, led by the NRA, always counters with the argument that “guns don’t kill people, people kill people.” (As if the  AR-15 doesn’t help.) In fact, just hours after the shooting, Rep. Louie Gohmert of Texas suggested that if more people in the theater had had guns, the violence might have been lessened.

Historian Jill Lepore recently made two important points about gun control: 1) The second amendment was written regarding national public defense, not individual rights, before the US had a standing army. 2) A society where everyone carries guns all the time doesn’t protect civilian life, it eliminates it.

Mental Health: This is often brought up as a response to arguments about gun control, but it doesn’t have to be- the two are not mutually exclusive. To be sure, many experts agree that the US has tragically dismantled it’s healthcare infrastructure, and people who should be in treatment facilities or getting support services instead go untreated until they end up in jail or nursing homes. But with much of the country dead set against large expansions of health infrastructure and worried about privacy in health care, this seems like an uphill battle.

Like several high-profile shooters, alleged Aurora shoot James Holmes was a student, raising questions about on campus resources.

Violence in Art and Culture: If  Holmes listened to violent music, watched violent movies, or played violent video games, we are sure to hear about it. Some screenings of The Dark Knight Rises are already being cancelled- although this seems to me to be about sensitivity, not blame. The parallels between Holmes assault and the film’s portrayal of a violent assault on civilians are unfortunate. Musicians like Judas Priest and Marilyn Manson were famously blamed for gun violence in the recent past, and artists are not eager to be scapegoated for the acts of mad men.

“Morality” In Society: Are we going morally bankrupt as a society? Once again, Rep. Louie Gohmert answers. He said that the Colorado shooting was a result of the societal “assault on Judeo-Christian beliefs.” Gohmert seemed to imply that God had withdrawn his protection from the US. The American Family Association released similar comments, and other conservative groups have tied Holmes to Democrats and the Occupy movement.

The Media’s Coverage: Brian Ross of ABC News took a thrashing from all ends of the political spectrum for reporting that Holmes might have been a member of a  Tea Party group (it was a different Jim Holmes).

Was the media’s reporting it fast enough? Was it responsible? Where did they make mistakes? Where did they jump to conclusions? Are they capitalizing on a tragedy?

In a 24-hr news cycle, reporters are often as stymied as the rest of us about what to say when details are few, and explanations are non-existent.

What do you think of the tragedy in Aurora?

 

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