By now, most of you have heard about the shooting in Aurora, Colorado, that’s left at least a dozen people dead. In deference to those who haven’t heard, police say a 24-year-old man named James Holmes opened fire on an audience during The Dark Knight Rises last night, killing 12 and injuring dozens more, including a 3-month-old baby. In total, 71 people were shot, and today police are working to figure out why this happened.
Authorities have confirmed that Holmes’ apartment was booby-trapped with explosives when they went to search it, meaning that he had planned the attack well in advance. But as authorities check Holmes’ apartment and talk to Holmes himself about possible motives and seek to find out if any of the guns were owned legally, it’s important to consider external factors that contribute to tragedies like the Aurora shooting. Particularly, what is going on with American gun laws that things like this continue to happen?
To many Americans, and especially to Colorado residents, this latest slaughter bears a strong resemblance to the 1999 massacre at Columbine High School in Littleton, Colorado. Just as Holmes allegedly came to the theater prepared with an arsenal — body armor, tear gas, a gas mask, assault rifles, handguns, etc. — Eric Harris and Dylan Klebold, the Columbine shooters, came to their high school armed to the teeth. The question these facts raise is simple: Should people be able to own that many guns, especially guns that large and deadly? And should people be able to carry guns with them wherever they’d like?
At present, not only is it legal to own an assault rifle in many places in Colorado, the state also has ultra-lax gun laws, as the Wall Street Journal reports:
—Colorado allows people to “possess a handgun in a dwelling, place of business, or automobile.” But they cannot “carry the weapon concealed while transporting it into your home, business, hotel room, etc.”
—Colorado allows a person to carry a firearm in a vehicle, loaded or unloaded, if its use is for lawfully protecting that person’s property or another person’s property.
—Concealed weapons permits can be obtained in the county in which a person lives.
—Colorado prohibits gun registration.
As much as some people would like it, it seems unlikely that America will ban all firearm ownership anytime soon. But in the wake of a massive killing like the one that went down last night, let’s as a nation ask ourselves if it makes sense for 24-year-olds to be able to own assault rifles like the ones soldiers use in war. Let’s ask ourselves if it makes sense for people to carry guns wherever they want, whenever they want. Gun proponents often tell us our streets are safer because citizens are allowed to carry guns. Let’s ask ourselves if today we feel safer knowing guns are all over our streets, or if we feel more in fear. I think, for many, for me at least, it’s the latter.
The opinions expressed here do not necessarily reflect those of BET Networks.
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(Photo: AP Photo/Julie Jacobson)