By Gel Santos Relos
What was supposed to be an exciting midnight premiere of the new Batman flick, “The Dark Knight Rises” for more than a hundred people became a horrific movie theater massacre in Aurora, Colorado. The prime suspect is 24-year-old James Holmes, who opened fire in the theater, killing 12 people and injuring 58 -- including a 17-year old kababayan, Ryan Lumba.
Ryan has been in the intensive care unit of the University of Colorado Hospital for several days, after undergoing two surgeries which removed bullet shells from his stomach. While he is recovering well, Ryan suffers from anxiety attacks.
Holmes, a former PhD student in Neuroscience, now faces 24 counts of murder in the first degree, 116 counts of attempted murder, one count of possessing an explosive device, and one count of unlawful use of a deadly weapon. He may face the punishment of death penalty, since capital punishment has been reinstated in Colorado in 1976.
The Debate on the Need for Gun Control
This tragedy once again ignited the debate between the Democrats and Republicans on the issue of gun control.
President Barack Obama called for some degree of additional restrictions on guns, acknowledging that not enough had been done to prevent weapons from getting into the hands of criminals.
Obama pledged to work with lawmakers from both parties to move forward on the matter. He and called for stepped-up background checks for people who want to buy guns, and for restrictions to keep mentally unbalanced individuals from buying weapons.
Despite the Second Amendment of the Constitution that protects the rights of Americans to bear arms, Obama said: “I also believe that a lot of gun owners would agree that an AK-47 belongs in the hands of soldiers, not in the hands of criminals — that they belong on the battlefield of war, not on the streets of our cities.”
Republican presumptive Presidential Nominee Mitt Romney, on the other hand, said changing the nation’s laws on gun control would not prevent gun-related tragedies.
"I still believe that the Second Amendment is the right course to preserve and defend and don't believe that new laws are going to make a difference in this type of tragedy," Romney said.
"Our challenge is not the laws. The challenge is the people who are distracted from reality and do unthinkable, unimaginable, inexplicable things," he said.
Many of those who share Romney’s view argue that no gun control law would have prevented Homes from executing his well-thought of plan to massacre people in the movie theater that night.
Can Mass Murderers be Identified Before They Unleash Themselves?
TIME Magazine’s August 6, 2012 issue discussed how Holmes case raises a very important question: “Is there a way to identify and stop mass killers before they unleash themselves?”
The article says based on some sociological and behavior clues that are associated with mass violence (based on studies by psychologists published in a 2004 journal Behavioral Sciences and the Law), “there were few reasons to predict Holmes was more dangerous than anybody else in Aurora.”
The article outlines how Holmes departed from the profile of a mass murderer in many ways:
“The shooting took place at night, whereas the majority of mass killers strike in the morning; he didn’t kill himself; and he gave himself up to police. In contrast, two-thirds of mass murderers die by their own hand or get shot by cops before they see a court.”
The article added, “Before this year, when Holmes began buying guns and ammunition -- he reportedly spent $15,000, at least some of it federal grant money from the National Institutes of Health -- he had no known history of accumulating weapons or enthralling himself to war. No friends have come forward to say he was troubled or sick.”
Individual Liberties vs Sense of Community
TIME Magazine's Joe Kline (who authored the cover story) makes a very good point and weighs in on this debate on gun control and regulation. He writes:
“Holmes had no record of violence. It was impossible to pick him with existing background checks. Even if there was an assault weapons ban, he might have found a way to buy his weapons....There is no law that will prevent every crime.”
Kline further said: “ But an assault weapons ban and a more advanced recording system for ammunition purchases...might prevent some of these crimes. Not every perpetrator is smart or meticulous, as Holmes allegedly was. Some act out of blind, immediate rage.”
“If the shooter had gone out into the theater without a semi-automatic weapon, how many fewer would have been wounded? If only one person had escaped injury, the law would be worth it.” Klein pointed out.
Yes, Americans’ right to bear arms is protected by the Constitution’s Second Amendment, but no right is absolute. While individual liberties are important, the safety, peace and order of the nation as a community is as important, if not more essential.
Kline ended his cover story with this thought:
“As the President said, we need to have a conversation about these gun laws and mental health system -- and a larger conversation as well about how we stay coherent as a society, how we establish our common bonds and maintain a sense of community in a time when all the technological signals are pointing us toward individualism that could slowly lapse into social anarchy...”