The shopping list:
- A combat vest, magazine holders, and a knife.
- Gas canisters for tear gas.
- A ballistic helmet, a gas mask, a throat protector.
- Tactical vests and pants.
- 6,000 rounds of ammunition.
In-store purchases. A shopping spree spanning 2 months and yielding 4 receipts.
The shopping list:
- A glock pistol.
- A shotgun.
- An AR-15 rifle.
- Another pistol.
A to-do list.
- Modify AR-15 rifle with a high power drum magazine so that it can shoot automatically.
- Remodel apartment. With booby traps.
A final purchase.
- One ticket to midnight premiere of The Dark Night Rises.
The little girl's mother is in critical condition, wounded by the gun that killed her daughter just before or soon after it entered her own body. 57 others were also injured.
One 24-year-old has this blood on his hands and his conscience. One kid who quit a PhD program in neuroscience to earn a PhD in cold-blooded, psychopathic, degenerate killing.
You would think that anyone to consider this tragedy would have reactions ranging from sadness to despair to anger to disgust.
You would be wrong.
Go to a chat room or a message board where the shooting is discussed. In response to one participant's question as to why any one civilian needs to be weaponized like a militiaman and body-armored like a SWAT team member, try to see if you can count all the responders who say "that's just the price we have to pay for freedom." Or "if you don't like it, leave."
Go to Twitter. Search for the NRA's handle. Marvel at the fact that, within hours of the shooting, the NRA fired off a tweet with an embedded link to an article on the top 10 mistakes made when a gun is used in a movie.
Go to any news article on the shooting and its aftermath, and read the quotes from gun "enthusiasts" who proclaim that amassing a private war chest is a right protected by the Second Amendment to the United States Constitution.
This is the song and dance we watch after every tragedy of this type. Most of us shake our heads and wonder how it can be so easy to get so many weapons, in unlimited numbers and of unlimited strength. Then a small but vocal group with deep pockets and a strong lobbying partner derides us. As if we're the enemy. As if we're the ones on the prowl. As if we're armed and dangerous because we supposedly don't understand the Constitution. Or worse, that we'd advocate against it.
The gun enthusiasts point to the Second Amendment. The life enthusiasts holler back. The gun enthusiasts point to the Second Amendment. The gun enthusiasts funnel money to gun-friendly politicians. The gun enthusiasts funnel money to back-room negotiators. The gun enthusiasts get some laws passed, some laws repealed, some laws stalled. The gun enthusiasts get more enthusiastic. The dance is over.
I'm not ready to sit this one out. Cue the music.
Go out into the country. Or down to the south. Find someone with guns and ammo stockpiled in their backyard and beer cans lined up for target practice on the fence. Ask them when they bought their sawed-off shotgun. Ask them where they bought their silencer. Ask them how they learned to line up their sniper rifle.
Now, ask them why they think they should be allowed to have those weapons. They'll say "because of the Second Amendment." Press them. Urge them to elaborate. Whatever they say next will just be some variation of "because of the Second Amendment."
It's a funny thing. A lot of the people whose favorite argument is "because of the Second Amendment" have probably never studied the Constitution. They've probably never read a Supreme Court decision. They might never have even read the Second Amendment.
It might intrigue them to know that there is a long-standing, wide-ranging debate over what the Second Amendment actually means. It might appall them to know that some very smart people believe it only protects an individual's right to carry a weapon in connection with military service.
Four years ago, the Supreme Court weighed in on the debate. The decision was written by Justice Antonin Scalia, arguably the most conservative justice on the current Supreme Court. Going on stereotype, one could guess that he would come down quite strongly in support of our gun-toting, ammo-loading, "because of the Second Amendment" brethren.
And he did. Kind of.
Justice Scalia's majority opinion ruled that individuals have the right to possess and carry weapons. BUT. But. He wrote that we have the right to possess and carry those weapons "in case of confrontation." In other words, we have the right to possess and carry weapons so that we can use them in self-defense. In our home. With a handgun.
Indeed, Justice Scalia himself wrote that the right guaranteed under the Second Amendment is not unlimited, and that it is legal -- indeed, constitutional -- to impose conditions and qualifications on the commercial sale of weapons. What is more, he wrote that the types of weapons that are protected under the Second Amendment are weapons that were "in common use at the time" the Amendment was enacted. Which was 1791.
What are NOT protected, wrote Justice Scalia, are weapons that are "dangerous and unusual."
The Second Amendment protects, but it doesn't immunize. The Second Amendment guarantees, but not outright. The Second Amendment allows, but not limitlessly.
And yet the Aurora, Colorado shooter had no problem acquiring an assault rifle that he had no problem modifying into an automatic weapon. Actually, go ahead and refer back to the list of his killing tools that I outlined at the beginning of the post. Tell me where you see the indications that this guy was acquiring firearms in the event he needed one to protect himself from a burglar or other home intruder. Keep looking. Bonus points if you find anything on that list that was in "common use" in 1791.
There is no system to track weapons stock-piling in our country. In Colorado a gun registry is illegal. There was a federal assault weapons ban, but it expired in 2004. In the 8 years since, Congress has done nothing to reintroduce similar legislation.
If I wanted to get an abortion in Colorado, I'd have to prove that either (a) I would die or suffer permanent injury if I remained pregnant; (b) my fetus would be born with "severe" mental or physical retardation"; or (c) my pregnancy was the result of sexual assault or incest. I couldn't get an abortion just because I didn't think I was fit to become a parent at that time.
But if some jerk wanted to get a gun in Colorado, they could walk into any gun shop and walk out with the weapon of their choice, with no question as to whether they were fit to own that gun or not. And then they could shoot my kid with it.
Amazon.com knows more about my book purchasing tendencies than the state of Colorado knew about the movie-theater shooter's weapons stockpiling. My pharmacy knows more about the amount of pills I've been prescribed that could be used to manufacture crystal meth than the state of Colorado knew about the numbers of bullets the movie-theater shooter bought in mere months.
Why do we allow higher-grade weapons than handguns into the general stream of commerce? How can people argue that tear gas or an automatic weapon or 6,000 rounds of ammo or full body armor are legitimate items of home-based self-defense? How has the gun lobby so high-jacked this issue?
I don't understand why politicians do seemingly nothing on this, other than that they seemingly do nothing on everything. President Obama and Mitt Romney have both expressed heartfelt remorse at the tragedy, but I'm with Mayor Bloomberg. I want to hear more. I want to hear their position on gun laws. I want to hear Congress come forward and tell us what they're going to do about the moribund assault weapons plan. I want people to start talking about gun control at some time other than the aftermath of a gun-caused tragedy.
I want people to stop saying that guns don't kill people, people kill people. It's not that I think that argument is stupid, it's just that the person who uses it probably is.
Some may say that there are more important, more widely affecting issues that should occupy our politician's precious time than gun control. I'm not sure. The economy? What good is a job that finally allows for some spending money if you can't go to the movies or buy some skittles without getting shot? Education? What good is school if you can't attend class without being cornered by a deranged madman? Health care? What good is your health if you are gunned down at work because a co-worker has a crazy husband? Immigration? How do we secure our borders if part of the reason they're so busy is all the gun-trafficking getting done thanks to Arizona gun shops?
Enough. Enough high schools and college campuses on lockdowns. Enough teenagers in hoodies shot dead on the sidewalk. Enough Congresswomen used as target practice during political rallies.
We need to get to work on something other than the next tribute we deliver after the next tragedy. We need to get rid of the guns that aren't supposed to be in our hands. Aren't supposed to be there under the Constitution, and aren't supposed to be there under common sense.
Because freedom can't be just another word for nothing left to shoot.
This is an AR-15 rifle. Which may be the last thing that six-year-old girl saw before she was shot dead by the guy holding it.