Colorado Shooting Part of Larger Problem

Colorado Shooting Part of Larger Pattern

Colorado has again been scarred by the violent actions of a deranged gunman. On the eve of the anniversary of another murderous rampage, the shooting of 20 children and six adults at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, Connecticut, 18-year old Karl Pierson entered Arapahoe High School in Centennial, Colorado and opened fire.

Claire Davis, a 17-year-old student, was struck in the head by a shell and is currently in critical condition. Authorities have indicated that Davis was a target of opportunity, but not the true objective of the shooter, who was a student at Arapahoe.

Pierson, who was also armed with homemade incendiary devices known as Molotov cocktails, was believed to have been seeking out a specific staff member, who reports say he was calling for by name. The staff member fled the scene and was not injured in the assault. Pierson died from a self-inflicted gunshot wound before a sheriff’s deputy and a security officer who was on campus at the time of the attack could engage him. Authorities believe Pierson acted alone.

Colorado has been the victim of this kind of terror before. Arapahoe High School is only a short drive away from Columbine High School, scene of an infamous mass shooting in 1999 where two shooters left 13 people dead. Just a bit further away is a movie theater in Aurora, Colorado where another killer used guns to murder a dozen innocents and wound 70 more.

If mass murder by firearm in the United States were an iceberg, all the horrific shootings mentioned so far would only represent the tip of it.  According to research done by progressive magazine Mother Jones, there have been at least 61 mass murders by firearm in America since 1982. Worldwide, 15 of the 25 most deadly mass shootings have taken place in the U.S., and five of the deadliest shootings have occurred since 2007.

In the majority of these incidents, the shooters have obtained the weapons that they used legally, under America’s relatively liberal gun laws. The United States is an exceptionally violent country, when viewed statistically against the rest of the world, and the easy access to firearms creates an environment in which that violence turns deadly. America has the highest rate of gun ownership in the world, but does not actually have the highest rate of gun murders; that honor goes to Jamaica and Honduras.

Mass shooting incidents like the ones in Colorado and Newtown are just one facet of the violence-and-guns fetish freely displayed in American culture, and actually represent a small percentage of the total deaths by firearm. Urban gun violence represents a much larger proportion of firearm-related homicides, with thousands of handgun related murders reported in the U.S. each year.

Gang-related gun violence is rampant in the United States, as are felonies involving firearms. A full quarter of robberies involve the use of a gun, and fatalities are three times as likely when a gun is used during a robbery. Many felonies escalate into homicides through the use of a firearm; the overall rates of assaults and robberies in the U.S. are comparable to other developed Western countries, but the ubiquitous presence of firearms in America makes crime much more likely to turn deadly.

The issue of gun violence in America has become highly politicized, with factions on both sides using the occurrence of mass shootings as springboards for their respective arguments. Gun-rights advocates use the Second Amendment as a universal shield, seeking to avoid any discussion of gun policy, while opponents seek to restrict access to firearms among at risk populations through background checks and other measures. There is also a movement to ban high-capacity magazines and weapons that have been labeled as “assault-style”, although that designation has been characterized as vague and meaningless by critics.

The carousel of political bickering goes round and round, with little or no progress ever achieved. The political forces aligned on either side of the debate become further entrenched, and the bodies continue to pile up, as a true discourse on the topic seems as elusive as it is vital.

Gun culture in America is as old as the nation itself, older even, and the constitutional protections afforded to citizens are among the strongest in the world. There are many who view those protections as integral to the American way of life, and see any tightening of gun policy as an erosion of fundamental rights.

But there must be a place of wisdom where all reasonable parties can find common ground. No one wants criminals or mentally unstable persons to have easy access to weapons, and polling the question of background checks consistently shows a majority of Americans favor it. Yet the political dichotomy makes any large-scale discussion, let alone legislation, virtually impossible.

If the country is ever to reach a point where inner-city gun violence and mass shootings do not claim lives and headlines with such grim regularity, the opposing forces must lay down their weapons and start a real conversation without resorting to talking points, rhetoric and histrionics.

Colorado deserves nothing less. Newtown deserves nothing less. Chicago, Detroit, and New Orleans deserve nothing less. The children of America deserve much more.

By Mark Clarke

Washington Post

Huffington Post

Denver Post

6 Responses to "Colorado Shooting Part of Larger Problem"

  1. JIm Smith   December 16, 2013 at 10:10 am

    RE: “polling the question of background checks consistently shows a majority of Americans favor it”

    These polls where large numbers of people support background checks ask questions like “Do you favor or oppose a federal law requiring background checks on all potential gunbuyers “? That is not the same question that is relevant with regard to the recently proposed federal gun legislation which is “do you support or oppose US Senate Bill 649 or any of its amendments”? Read the bill (SB-649) and the amendments. The devil is in the details and what was being proposed as part of the background check process was a litany of vague, abstruse and onerous restrictions on friends and family members that could trip them up and subject them to intimidation and entrapment by overzealous and unscrupulous authorities who are aligned with an anti-gun agenda. In addition, the hastily written Toomey amendment was worded in such away that existing gun laws that currently protect gun owners (like a prohibiting a registry) could be circumvented by the President simply having the BATF report to DHS instead of the Attorney General.

    If the totality of what you really want is universal background checks, the answer is simple and easy – give anyone free, anonymous, public access to the federal NICS background check database of persons prohibited from owning firearms and then tell private sellers if you sell or give a firearm to someone and don’t retain a piece of paper that documents you did a favorable NICS check on the buyer, you could be held liable if they commit a gun-related crime. There is no reason to get the government involved any further in the process unless you have other goals in mind like a registry of all firearms.

    • Mike the Limey   December 16, 2013 at 12:24 pm

      “give anyone free, anonymous, public access to the federal NICS background check database of persons prohibited from owning firearms”

      This part I agree with entirely.

      Making it compulsory & backed by the threat of sanctions is a step too far, as doing so could & would be abused by the authorities.

  2. Scott primo   December 16, 2013 at 7:02 am

    Any article that quotes research from Mother Jones has ZERO credibility!!!!

  3. Dean Weingarten   December 16, 2013 at 7:01 am

    America is not an “exceptionally violent country, when viewed statistically against the rest of the world” That is simply a not true. Murder is a cultural phenomena, guns play little part in how much murder a culture has. If you take out the violent subcultures that Europe does not have, the American murder rate falls right in the middle of European murder rates.

    Consider the U.S. Virgin Islands:

  4. rehafner   December 16, 2013 at 6:34 am

    Maybe we should try cleaning up the judicial system that coddles criminals as a start.

  5. RLEmerysgt   December 16, 2013 at 6:07 am

    When all the anti gun wundertards have to offer is lies and take and take some more, therein comes the realization they never have and never will give anything up they value to compromise! Hence why should anyone negotiate in good faith when all they have to offer is said pathological lie that gun control of the law abiding reduces violence by the bad guys, when it never has and never will!


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