Beyond Aurora

The residents of Tom’s Place extend our most sincere condolences to the friends and families of the victims of the tragedy in Aurora, Colorado.  Our prayers go with you.

Mike Keefe,


This seems to be the most prevalent question voiced as to the reasons that James Holmes spent 3-weeks booby-trapping his apartment and planning a most horrific event – the indiscriminant killing of innocent people attending a movie.  Obviously, not the product of a sane mind.

Kyle Smith of the New York Post had this to say on his opinion page:

Here we go again. In our outrage over the Aurora massacre, we slip back into our habit of trying to make sense of the senseless, to trace a chain of causation back to its source, and eliminate that source so it will never happen again.

This fallacy reached its peak of absurdity after the Tucson massacre, when we as a society decided to stop using violent metaphors for about 10 minutes, because we all know Jared Lee Loughner wouldn’t have gone wacko if people didn’t say things like “let’s target” a congressional district. Then we saw Loughner’s loony picture, and all discussion about whether he was nuts ended.

Unfortunately, Columbine/Virginia Tech/Fort Hood/Tucson/Aurora will happen again, and again, because not every problem has a solution.

What various politicians (like NY Mayor Bloomberg) and organizations (like the Brady Campaign) believe is the solution is stricter gun control laws and background checks.  However, from the initial reports, the accused legally purchased his firearms, and passed every background check because the only criminal record found so far was a speeding ticket.  How many people have those? 

As much as the politicians and activists harp and carry on, banning firearms is not the solution.  There are examples from around the world that have stricter gun ownership laws that still have problems with gun-related violence.  One of the victims in Aurora narrowly missed becoming a victim at a Toronto, Canada food court this past June.  And Canada has a higher level of gun control than the United States.

Before I go any further, the following statement must be made (from 2nd Amendment):

Owning a weapon carries responsibilities. Quite frankly, there are people who should not even be near one because they are not responsible or mentally mature enough. Owning a weapon does not mean you should be able to strap one on & go out and play policeman. This is where careful licensing through education and the demonstration of qualifications is necessary. Training classes are a must in many states for permits to carry or own firearms.

The issue of legal gun ownership by a law abiding citizenry should not be the focus of the politicians & various groups.  Again, from 2nd Amendment:

Proponents of severely restricting or banning gun ownership point to the high rate of gun-related crimes in the United States. This is a fact that cannot be denied. My question to them is this: How can outlawing guns stop this type of crime? Again, criminals do not operate under the same social norms as the rest of society. They will always find ways to get a firearm and commit the crime because they do not obey the law, and will do almost anything to achieve their goal, i.e. illicit material gain or harm to another person. Disarming the law-abiding citizen, in my mind, will encourage the criminal to expand the list of potential crimes and victims. And this violates the intent of the Second Amendment.

And what if guns were banned across the board?  Criminals were disarmed and a gun-free Utopia reigned?  I have a hunch that there would be more Oklahoma City-type incidents because there are those people who want to have their names become infamous, or right the wrongs supposedly perpetrated upon them.  Then there is this quote, quite ironically, from a Batman movie:

Alfred Pennyworth: A long time ago, I was in Burma, my friends and I were working for the local government. They were trying to buy the loyalty of tribal leaders by bribing them with precious stones. But their caravans were being raided in a forest north of Rangoon by a bandit. So we went looking for the stones. But in six months, we never found anyone who traded with him. One day I saw a child playing with a ruby the size of a tangerine. The bandit had been throwing them away.
Bruce Wayne: Then why steal them?
Alfred Pennyworth: Because he thought it was good sport. Because some men aren’t looking for anything logical, like money. They can’t be bought, bullied, reasoned or negotiated with. Some men just want to watch the world burn.

Excerpts from The Denver Post stated:

It is probably too early to read any deep lessons into Friday morning’s brutal attack. Although much has been learned in the past 24 hours about the alleged perpetrator, James Eagan Holmes, we still don’t know enough about his mental state and his motives to say whether he had dropped signs along the way and might have been thwarted. But as recent history has shown, killers willing to forfeit their own lives — or at least their freedom — are extremely difficult to stop unless they make a clumsy mistake in the run-up to the crime.

It is fairly safe to say this much about the killer’s overarching purpose, though: He clearly planned the massacre in such a way as to evoke the maximum amount of publicity. His theatrical final entrance to “The Dark Knight Rises,” as well as his phony, flashy machismo and his black ballistic garb — indeed, the entire life-imitating-art scenario that the shooter choreographed — all point to someone shouting for the public’s attention. If it weren’t part of our job as journalists, we would hesitate even to mention his name and thereby ratify his intentions.

Sick, cruel or desperate people nursing grievances have taken to seeking some sort of bizarre fulfillment in public acts of terror, scripting their final acts for maximum impact.

Yes, there are mentally ill people out there who 1) have not committed any crimes, 2) remain undiagnosed, 3) who have violent tendencies, and 4) no one knows about their problems.  But does that mean we need to live in fear that one of these people will go off the deep end and kill everyone in sight?  No, it doesn’t – we cannot live in fear of the “what-ifs” and unknowns.  With that thought process, we would then join the insane.

Kyle Smith concluded his opinion post with:

Lunatics may have their reasons, but those reasons make no sense. Madness has no logic. Insanity is the break in the chain of causation.

Want to prevent the next Aurora? Figure out a way to stop anyone from ever going nuts.

And that, my friends, is impossible, because people are as varied as the number of stars in the sky.  The Wall Street Journal posted this Opinion yesterday:

The evil or insanity that filled James Holmes is easier to understand, in the sense that both have always stalked humanity. An especially virulent modern version is the antisocial man in early adulthood, the “loner” who turns mass murderer: Cho Seung-Hui at Virginia Tech, Jared Lee Loughner in Tucson, Anders Breivik in Norway, and now it seems a neuroscience student in a Denver suburb who police say identified himself as an arch-villain from a comic book-movie series.

Their killing sprees were not the result of lax gun laws or some profound societal ill. In an America with 200 million guns in circulation, an evil mind will find a way to get weapons of mayhem. If not guns, perhaps it would be bombs, or poison of some kind.

The much harder question is how a free society protects itself from a twisted mind. Families, educators and medical professionals need to be aware of the behavior that might signal psychotic breaks of the kind that tormented Loughner. In the case of Breivik, simple evil seems to suffice as an explanation. (See Sohrab Ahmari’s account of his trial nearby.)

A civilized modern society is paradoxically more vulnerable to an act of individual malevolence than it is to a terror plot that at least its law enforcers are watching for. There may be no real defense against the Loughners and Holmeses save for the guardrails of watchful friends, family and community. And society’s determination through its justice system to suitably punish the killers.

Here’s the bottom line:  The police cannot constantly protect us from our fellow human who wishes to cause us harm – the police were in the parking lot directing traffic next to the Aurora movie theater.  The politicians cannot pass enough laws banning firearms because the criminal element will always find a way around the laws (they’re lawbreakers, right?).  The terrorists will continue to terrorize in new and horrific ways.  And those seeking to put their names in the criminal history books will do so by whatever means.  Banning or restricting gun ownership will only take away a tool from responsible law-abiding citizens that would enable that same citizen from defending themselves and their families from harm. 

Stay vigilant and safe, my friends.

4 thoughts on “Beyond Aurora

  1. For all we know, he used a credit card to buy all the stuff, and was making minimum payments. Then again, there are student loans…

  2. I’m, too, am waiting to find out what Holmes used as a money source. He was very expensively outfitted!

    I do find it interesting that his parents seemed to know that their son had committed this horror as soon as the police contacted them. I’m wondering that the parents’ reaction was all about.

  3. I was at a barbecue this weekend when some people started talking about the massacre. Their conversation was solely based on guns as they wondered in puzzlement over the fact that this “nut” could just go out and buy “so many guns.” Never mind the same amount of damage could have been done with only a single gun with a high capacity clip that can be reloaded in about two seconds. I told them that the laws of Colorado made it possible to purchase all these guns. All I got in return was blank stares. Unfortunately, reason seems to fly out the window when guns are used atrocities in like this.

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