Movie Violence

Batman Shooter: Tragedy Shouldn't Make Policy


We have–and good!–a culture where people have the ways and means to blather about whatever is going on, and plenty of free time to so, and to reach everyone on earth who might care. Why, many of us are even paid to do so. And such blathering–also good!–tries to pretend it's relevant.

Hence the collection (which will grow) that Matt Welch blogged below of wild speculation regarding the horrible murders in Aurora Colorado last night. And as CNN's Piers Morgan is leading the way (with Salman Rushdie following), there will be attempts to use the nightmarish event to plump for stricter laws, of some sort (often unspecified), to restrict people's ability to possess or carry weapons, since it was someone carrying a weapon that committed the crime. 

But turning the (still) very rare criminal and evil uses of guns to indiscriminately harm innocents into a reason for policy change doesn't work that well in America any more, and it shouldn't, and it likely won't now. 

As I wrote after the last big newsmaking American mass shooting, the one by Jared Laughner that wounded Rep. Gabby Giffords (D-Ariz.), and not much has changed:

Americans' attitudes toward gun laws have shifted since the mid-'90s, when Congress passed the now-expired "assault weapon" ban and the Brady Act. Brady instituted federal background checks for every potential gun buyer….At the start of the 1990s, according to Gallup polls, 78 percent of Americans wanted stricter gun control. By 2009 that number had fallen to a historical low of 44 percent. As Americans' attitudes have shifted, even Democrats have mostly avoided trying to expand gun control at the national level….

There is no consistent association between gun crimes and easy access to guns or the right to carry. Crimes such as Loughner's are so bizarre and rare that there is no sense in trying to craft laws aimed at preventing them. Despite constantly expanding gun ownership—the number of new firearms entering American possession averages around 4 million a year—and expanded rights to legally carry weapons, the last two decades have seen a 41 percent decline in violent crime rates. Since the 2004 expiration of the "assault weapon" ban, murder rates are down 15 percent. Many pundits have tried to explain Loughner's crimes by citing Arizona's "loose" gun laws, including the lack of permit requirement for concealed or open carry. It's true that Loughner exercised his right to carry without a permit, but he would doubtless have carried the gun even if he was violating the law doing so…

CBS poll two weeks after the massacre found that 51 percent of Americans still think gun laws should either stay the same or be loosened. That was down from 58 percent in March 2009 but still above 2002 levels, when 56 percent of respondents in another CBS poll supported tighter gun control.

Americans understand that even strange people should be able to own weapons, and not just for deer hunting. The very rare crimes of very unusual Americans should not dictate how everyone's right to self-defense is managed, and even in the wake of tragedy that is fortunately unlikely to change

A concomitant wave of blathering won't be about gun laws, but about motives–finding out exactly what made accused shooter James Holmes do it, so that we can either decry or attempt to squash such influences on other lives, or target gun restrictions somehow on such folk.

Why did Holmes, presuming he is the guilty party, do it? Because he wanted to. Whatever other influences we may discover in his background–his leisure interests, politics, philosophy, family (his mom wasn't surprised at all) don't explain it, as assuredly thousands/millions of other young men will share such interests or rough background. The endless and unmanageable mystery of the individual's power and choice to do evil is what's at play, and there aren't many explanations of that of policy relevance.

What are some of the seemingly policy-relevant aspects of this story? Colorado in general has very liberal (in a pro-Second Amendment sense) concealed carry laws, though the particular spot, a Cinemark Theater, apparently bars non-law enforcement from bringing in guns. Whether Holmes knew this and chose that site for his murders deliberately is something we don't know yet.

Guns are still very, very dangerous. The vast, vast, vast majority of people who have them still use them safely, and in many cases to protect innocent life. They aren't disappearing from the Earth, and evil people's choices to use them can't be meaningfully curtailed.

Trying to "turn tragedy into politics" feels gross, because the deaths and the grief for the living are real and terrible and demand respect–and in reality, except for the news and commentary chatter today, this is unlikely to turn into politics, for reasons stated above. If I weren't a professional writer about the Second Amendment (in my 2008 book Gun Control on Trial) on record as believing in the right to bear arms, I wouldn't dream of weighing in at all. The White House is being circumspect as well, saying the crime is not changing Obama's general attitude about gun possession.

If you want to keep up on a well-curated collection of ongoing links about actual news as it arises regarding the Aurora shooting, Marc Ambinder of The Atlantic is doing a good job of that on Twitter. Zerohedge has a long (but incomplete) list of mass gun murders in the past couple of decades. Bureau of Justice Statistics on gun crime (plummeted enormously since 1993).

NEXT: Brady Campaign's Response to Aurora Murders: Guns Bad

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  1. Never let a crisis go to waste, right Rahm?

    1. Y’just know Democrats are going to yelp about how this is another reason to bring the shithammer down on law-abiding gun owners, all of whom are just time bombs waiting to go off and Wild West the entire country.

    2. I’m just wondering how they’ll name the new gun-control law so as to form the acronym “B.A.T.M.A.N.”

      1. Ask and ye shall receive.

        Banning Armaments and the Transportation of Munitions Across the Nation.

        1. If only your powers could be used for good!

    3. can we stop calling this a “tragedy?” It was a crime.

  2. What would’ve happened if somebody in the theater had been legally carrying concealed?

    1. That’s all I could think about after hearing about this. If only someone had been carrying who could at least tried to stop this idiot or at least slowed him down.

      Then I read that despite Colorado having a pretty liberal concealed carry law the Theater had a “no guns” policy.


      1. If the Theater had a “no guns” policy, how did this shooting occur?

        I mean, I don’t know about you, but I would have seen the “no guns” sign and found another place to commit a massacre.

        1. Seems logical to me. You wouldn’t want to offend them.

        2. Maybe the shooter was the illiterate?

          1. Obviously the solution is to shovel more money at the Dept of Education. And ban video games.

        3. sarcasmic:I agree 100%, but I guess that is what gun free zones are for,to make the criminal feel safe.

    2. What would’ve happened if somebody in the theater had been legally carrying concealed?

      He would have been forcibly removed or arrested and this incident would have occurred regardless.

      1. I mean if they didn’t have the “no guns” policy. Interestingly, that was one of the first things they mentioned about this story on 104.3 this morning.

    3. That is what I thought too. And I was immediately told by EPisiarch and Gilmore that I was just as bad as the liberals for suggesting such.

      1. Well, obviously, if they said so then it must be true.

    4. unfortunately probably arrested being in a gun free zone and all.

  3. There should be mandatory time between when a law can be enacted and the tragedy that spawned it. If it’s that important, Bruce’s Law can survive that waiting period.

    1. Bruce’s Law? Is it this one?

      Good. Bad. I’m the guy with the gun.

  4. I’m supposed to see the movie tomorrow. Any bets on the increased police presence at theaters for the rest of the weekend? Not entirely a bad idea, just that it’s leans more to knee-jerk overreaction than necessarily precaution.

    1. More overtime for your local law enforcement. Yippie!

      1. If it scares away the pranksters, I’ll be okay with a cop cruiser in the parking lot. But not so much for an armed officer posted at each entrance.

        1. I think I’ll just wait for it to hit dvd or OnDemand. You know, just in case.

        2. You know what else would scare away the pranksters?

            1. #WINNING

          1. The Selective Service administration?

          2. Hitler? Brian Doherty’s book?

  5. You know, I was planning on going out and killing a bunch of people this weekend, but then I remembered that there are laws against carrying guns around!
    Stupid misdemeanor preventing me from committing a felony!

  6. Unfortunately we’re having a similar debate in Canada after a spate of shootings in Toronto.

    Unlike in the US, these reactionary laws have a better chance of going through.

    I’m accelerating my plans to purchase some firearms (which will put a bit of a hole in the old budget, but, oh well…)

  7. ABC says oops:

    “Editor’s Note: An earlier ABC News broadcast report suggested that a Jim Holmes of a Colorado Tea Party organization might be the suspect, but that report was incorrect. ABC News and Brian Ross apologize for the mistake, and for disseminating that information before it was properly vetted.”…..Al846DHmSq

    1. Well at least they didn’t confuse him with John Holmes who has comparable range.

    2. Well, I’m sure “Jim Holmes of a Colorado Tea Party organization” feels much better now that “Jim Holmes of a Colorado Tea Party organization”‘s name has been cleared. Once again, we’d like to apologize to “Jim Holmes of a Colorado Tea Party organization” for this mishap.

      1. Now let’s turn to Bob from the Southern Poverty Law Center, who’s an expert on the Colorado Tea Party, and have him give us some insight into this horrendous event… Bob?

    3. But don’t dare question their veracity or judgement the next time they smear somebody!

    4. My NoScript goes nuts on their site. Can’t verify, but I’m willing to bet they buried that.

    5. I am sure he would have made the same mistake had it been an OWS site.

    6. NBC News has 911 audio from the night, edited for relevancy:

      I am… George… z… im… mer… MAN! …and I… don’t… like… BLACK… people-

      1. Actually, wouldn’t they have the shooter reciting the 2nd amendment while walking through the theater?

        1. No caller said the word “amendment”.

  8. Oh, come on Brian. Next you’ll be suggesting that people should judge this incident based on–ick–facts. When any good Progressive can tell you that feelings trump facts.

  9. But it was a gun free zone. Maybe they didn’t make that clear. And the shooter didn’t understand he was breaking the rules by bringing a gun into the theater. We need more signs. Maybe a public service campaign to make people aware.

    1. NBC needs to run one of those “Now You Know” campaigns.

  10. was he educated by teachers the rest of us paid for?

    1. He didn’t do that shooting, we did.

    2. No, no, no, that’s not how it works!

      Collective ownership only applies when you have something the statists want to steal, like wealth. Blame, on the other hand, belongs strictly to individuals (and to any icky organizations they can be Kevin Baconed to, like the NRA or the Tea Party).

  11. My question:

    Where the hell are all the concealed carriers in CO? Can you imagine how this tragedy would have just been a footnote if one person would have popped a cap in his ass the minute he started shooting?

    1. It was illegal to take a gun there. So the CC permit holders abide by the law and left their guns at home.

      1. Over the fence…

      1. I couldn’t figure out what your comment link referred to, but after going over that thread I see there was a what-if discussion had someone been conceal carrying.

        I was careful to write my comment as thus: if one person would have popped a cap in his ass the minute he started shooting?

        I didn’t ask what would have happened had someone just been carrying? That’s too hard to tell. They may have never had a clean shot, they may have been the first one to get shot, they may have ran out of the theater. That wasn’t my question. My question was, how long would the shooter have been able to continue on had he himself been shot?

    2. Not even a footnote. Discussing armed citizens successfully defending themselves is verboten. It ruins the narrative.

  12. . Whatever other influences we may discover in his background–his leisure interests, politics, philosophy, family (his mom wasn’t surprised at all) don’t explain it, as assuredly thousands/millions of other young men will share such interests or rough background.

    Her son had recently moved to Colorado to pursue a PhD, according to reports.

    Clearly, the problem is higher education.

  13. Metal detectors at the movies in 3, 2, 1, ….

    MannedPersonned by agents of the Theater Security Administration, of course.

    1. TSA Chief Counsel Office is working feverishly as we speak trying to figure out a way to explain how Theaters are part of the transportation system.

      1. Well, going to see a movie is a form of “escape”. Think that’s close enough?

        1. Yep. Also, anyone who needs to “escape” is probably dangerously mentally ill.

          1. There are roads leading to all movie theaters, John, so COMMERCE CLAUSE and Fuck You, That’s Why both apply.

      2. John give them a chance.My oldest son said something very similar yesterday.

  14. Holmes was a med student who dropped out a month ago. I blame Chief Justice John Roberts.

    1. No, Watson was the one who studied medicine.

    1. Wilburn and three friends dove to the floor, hiding behind seats in front of them. The gunman was only five or six feet away, he said.

      Once the shotgun was empty, the gunman calmly dropped it to the floor, took the rifle and went on firing. Wilburn heard roughly 30 shots, the Denver Post reports.

      Open letter to politicians:

      When you repeatedly make disdainful references to “the wild west”, I’d like to point out, that had everyone been carrying a gun on their hip (a la the fabled Wild West), this man would have died in a hail of bullets the moment he “calmly dropped [his empty weapon] to the floor, took the rifle and went on firing.”

      That is all.

  15. Dude you just never know now days whats gonna drive some one to go all Postal on ya!

  16. If it’s not our guns they want to take away from us after something like this it’s our video games. Well they’ll only get my Grand Theft Auto the same way they’ll get my rifles: FROM MY COLD DEAD HANDS!

    1. Can’t get mine Brian I sold them.I guess you can still do private sales in this country.

  17. Psychiatric drugs are directly related to such acts of violence….. just google it…

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