Last night in Aurora, Colo., a 24-year-old white man burst into a theater that was showing the new Batman movie, threw a smoke bomb and then started shooting into the crowd. He had a handgun and he had an assault rifle.
Before he was done, 12 people were dead and up to 50 were wounded. Later it was discovered that his apartment was booby-trapped with sophisticated bombs.
The shooter had no criminal record, according to news reports, except for a traffic ticket. I’m not using his name here because he doesn’t deserve the fame attached to his deeds.
So, the National Rifle Association can say no one could have known he would behave this way, so gun control couldn’t have prevented this tragedy. Things happen, after all. People will be people.
There’s only one problem with that logic: It’s flawed.
If the assault weapons ban was still in force, he might have gotten off a couple of shots, perhaps killed one or two people, but the devastation would have been far, far less.
When you look at the number of gun homicides in the United States as opposed to other countries, it’s shocking.
The US averages about 10,000 homicides by gun each year, plus 4,000 by other means. In other countries, gun murders are as follows, according to www.gunpolicy.org: Canada, 173; Germany, 158; France, 142; Palestine, 105; Israel, 61; Australia, 30; Cuba, 27; The United Kingdom, 11.
So, why are gun-related deaths in the US so high? Perhaps it’s because we have so damn many of them, and so many are illegal. We have some gun laws on the books that aren’t enforced strictly enough and we have loopholes that allow people who shouldn’t have guns to get them, especially at gun shows.
We also have a huge illegal market in guns, which manufacturers say they aren’t involved with in any way. Perhaps they aren’t intentionally involved, but they have to know what’s going on. There are far more guns on the streets than there ought to be and we need to insist gun makers keep better track of where their weapons go. Somebody has to be accountable, and it might as well be the people who are making money off this carnage.
I’ve never said we need to outlaw all guns, but we do need tighter regulations and we do need to ban weapons of war such as assault rifles. These weapons aren’t needed for protection from burglars and they’re a little too powerful for hunting. The only reason they even exist is to kill a lot of people — and they’re very efficient at that.
The NRA has had altogether too much say in the laws that govern weapons, and they no longer represent the law-abiding gun owner; they stand for the manufacturers. Why else would they insist people need the “freedom” to own assault weapons?
I have plenty of friends who own guns — some of them have large collections of antique and newer guns. They use them for target shooting and for hunting and they have no need or desire for assault weapons.
I challenge anyone who opposes a ban on assault weapons to face family members of the people who died or were injured last night — including the family of the baby who was shot — and explain why these weapons need to be legal and available.
There’s a reason the United States has more gun deaths than any other nation: We allow almost anyone to have guns, and not just for home protection; we allow them to have assault rifles.
I’m tired of the old “guns don’t kill people …” excuse. People with guns kill people, and the more powerful the guns, the more people they kill.Leslie Boyd, a former newspaper reporter, is president of the health care advocacy nonprofit, WNC Health Advocates, founded in memory of her son, who died in 2008 because he couldn't access health care. E-mail her at leslie at lettersfromtheleft dot com or follow her on Twitter @leftyletters1, visit Letters from the Left on Facebook. For more information about WNC Health Advocates or to read Boyd's health care blog, visit wncha.org.