By David A. Keene, President
Just a week after the theater massacre in Aurora, Colo., an ancient oak tree in Great Falls, Va., fell on a passing automobile, killing the driver. The Washington Post noted that the killer oak ignited an argument between residents who enjoy the presence of these enormous trees and those who believe the community would be safer without them. The debate rages on.
As I read the Post report, I was reminded of the New York Times headline over the initial article reporting on the mass murder in Aurora and its immediate proclamation that the rampage meant the debate over gun control should be reopened.
At a gut-wrenching level, the Aurora tragedy was made worse by the eagerness of so many to exploit the deaths of innocent men, women and children for potential political gain. The New York Times, New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg, the Brady Campaign and television’s “talking heads” saw Aurora’s victims primarily as an excuse to advance their ideological agendas and ghoulishly make NRA and our membership accomplices to these murders.
As in the past, in the midst of this tragedy, NRA refused to be drawn into superficial gun policy debates. Rational discussion suffers when solutions to such mindless violence succumb to unseemly shouting matches that accomplish nothing and take place before anyone has any real knowledge of the facts.
Prior to the Aurora tragedy, there was a similar media frenzy following the Florida incident that resulted in the death of Trayvon Martin. For example, one New York Times reporter who must have known better denounced the NRA for supporting laws that make it “legal to shoot someone you sort of suspect may intend to hurt you,” and hoped that the shooting would lead to the rapid repeal of pro-self-defense laws nationwide.
Evidence subsequently has shown that regardless of which version of facts one accepts, the Florida “Stand Your Ground” law was not a factor. As a result, we don’t hear much anymore about the case and recent polls reveal that the existing statute enjoys majority public support.
Confronted by a reporter after the Florida incident, I was asked what I thought about the case. I told the reporter that since I wasn’t there that night I had no idea what actually happened, adding that I couldn’t understand how dozens of television commentators, editorial writers and politicians could possibly draw conclusions about these events before the facts come out.
Within hours of the Aurora murders, ABC’s Brian Ross placed the blame for the massacre squarely on the shoulders of the Tea Party movement merely—and erroneously—because he managed to find a Colorado Tea Party member with the same name as the killer. Another “expert” on a conservative talk show argued that it wasn’t the Tea Party, but the Occupy Movement that was to blame. Neither had any idea what they were talking about, but saw the tragedy as an opportunity to attack folks they don’t like and policies they disdain.
Then attention turned to the NRA and the nation’s “lax” gun laws. Colorado was assailed as a wild and wooly place where anyone could buy a firearm and carry it without restriction. There were renewed calls for new “assault weapons” bans, restrictions on “large” capacity magazines and online ammunition sales.
The fact is the perpetrator had no public record that would have prevented him from buying firearms and his purchases were approved following the requisite background checks. But the end game is as it always has been: Pass a new law that would keep all of us from purchasing firearms in the name of public safety.
President Barack Obama predictably proclaimed that we all should get together on “common-sense” gun control laws that might keep guns out of the hands of those who shouldn’t have them. This is pure Obama-speak for a new “assault weapons” ban, elimination of what gun-banners like to call the “gun show loophole,” restrictions on magazines and other restrictions.
None of these “common-sense” restrictions on our gun rights would have altered what happened in Aurora. Colorado has already closed the so-called “loophole” and the killer didn’t buy his guns at a gun show. He reportedly purchased ammunition legally when he purchased the firearms and passed the required background check. Under a prohibition statute he might have been forced to purchase a different semi-auto firearm, but that wouldn’t have made any difference to those he viciously wounded and killed.
Colorado’s Governor John Hickenlooper got it right when he told viewers of ABC’s “This Week” that “Even if you didn’t have access to guns, this guy was diabolical. He would have found explosives. He would have found something else. . . . He would have done something to create this horror.”
None of these proposed limits on our rights would have made one iota of difference because it is impossible to legislate against evil or madness. If that were possible, the killer—like his victims—would have honored the theater owner’s mandate declaring the theater “a gun-free zone.”