Sunday, July 22, 2012

Predictable Responses

Like most Americans, I have been watching a lot of interviews — and I have been reading a lot of articles — about the tragic movie theater shootings in Colorado.

And, as is usually the case following something like this, there is a predictable wave of responses coming from our polarized political parties. Neither one seems capable of coming up with anything new, but the old approaches don't work.

Most — but not all — Democrats seem to believe the answer is to clamp down on gun ownership. Gun control is their mantra.

If guns weren't so readily available, they argue, this wouldn't have happened.

Well, I don't know if it absolutely would have happened, anyway, but, yes, it positively could have, even if stricter gun regulations were enacted. From what I have heard and read, the suspect had no prior record other than a speeding ticket. Until he opened fire on that crowded movie theater audience, there was no legal reason to deny his request to purchase a gun.

And most — but not all — Republicans support enhanced gun rights. Many appear to favor some concealed weapons legislation that would permit people to carry guns almost anywhere.

If such a law was in place across the nation, they argue, fewer people would attempt something like the theater shooting for fear that someone in the crowd would be armed and would return fire.

I've heard it argued in the last couple of days that, if someone else in that theater had been armed, the casualty toll would have been much lower because someone would have shot the gunman.

Actually, nearly every state already has a shall–issue policy regarding permits to carry weapons. That means that, as long as the applicant meets the requirements of the jurisdiction (which, at least, usually means residency, minimum age and providing fingerprints), granting the permit is a routine matter.

There might be occasions when a concealed weapon really could prevent something far worse from happening.

But, try as I may, I can't imagine many people sitting in a dark theater being able to distinguish between the make–believe world they had been watching on the screen and the real world activity breaking out around them.

Even if they had a concealed weapons permit, and even if they had the weapon with them — how likely is it that they could put two and two together in a matter of seconds, adjust their vision in the dark theater and shoot the gunman without also shooting innocent bystanders in what must have been a scene of utter chaos?

OK, some might concede that the darkness of the theater would be an impediment. But how about other settings, in broad daylight?

Well, I do know of a time right here in Texas when a man went on a shooting rampage in a cafeteria during the noon hour. A woman was eating lunch there with her elderly parents, both of whom were shot and killed by the gunman.

The woman later lamented that, although she had a permit to carry a gun, she didn't have it with her. It was in the glove box of her car.

She kept insisting that she would have returned fire to prevent her parents' deaths if she had had the weapon with her. But I have my doubts.

I'm sure the woman was sincere, but, in the heat of the moment, who would have that presence of mind? There were dozens of people in that cafeteria, some of whom probably had permits to carry weapons — and may have had the weapons with them — but no one returned the gunman's fire until police marksmen arrived on the scene.

Concealed weapons permits have been around for quite awhile — I believe Illinois is the only state that does not issue them — and I could be wrong about this, but I don't recall a single instance in which a gunman was brought down by a would–be victim who was carrying a concealed gun.

That is an idealized scenario.

When you're talking about real people in real situations, though, I'm inclined to think that most people would be in shock. They might dive for cover, they might run in the opposite direction, but that's flight winning the internal fight or flight debate that man has been having for centuries.

Most of us probably would like to believe that fight would win, that, when push comes to shove, we'd be prepared to stand up to evil, even at the risk of our own lives, but I don't believe even those with weapons permits would think about their weapons — unless they have law enforcement or military backgrounds.

So what can be done about the violence that continues to infect our culture after so many well–meaning but apparently futile efforts to control it?

I honestly don't know what the answer is.

That's the kind of thing we pay our elected officials to decide.

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