The news of the horrific shootings at a midnight screening of The Dark Knight Rises in Aurora, Colorado, brought the usual pontificating and pious statements from our leaders. President Obama, members of Congress, GOP candidate Romney, and others all asked that we pray for the victims and their families. Flags were lowered to half-mast. The usual routine.
I suppose praying to your deity of choice may make those who pray feel better, but it won't bring much solace to someone whose wife or child or father was gunned down by a maniac with a high-powered assault weapon. At least 12 innocent people are dead; 59 others are wounded, some critically, including children. Alleged mass murderer James Holmes obviously had some mental issues and a few guns. A classically lethal combo.
The elephant in the room, as always in these periodic mass shootings, is gun control. The NRA and its allies say the problem can only be fixed by further loosening gun laws, or just getting rid of them altogether. The more guns there are, the safer we are. In fact, they argue, a lot of those Colorado victims might be alive today if someone in that theater had had a weapon to fire back.
That is possibly true. But do we really want to live in a society where everyone is armed? I don't.
The other side of the argument is that we simply have too many guns in this country in the first place, that guns are too easy to obtain, and that our lax gun control laws make it far more likely that deranged individuals will have them. If we got rid of all guns, massacres like this would be exceedingly rare.
That is undoubtedly true. But do we want to live in a society where no one can have a gun? I don't. But I do think we have moved far, far from the middle ground on this issue.
It's simple math. If, 500 out of 1000 people have guns, shootings are more likely than they are among a group of 1000 people where only 100 have guns. But Americans apparently don't like the latter math. At least, they've shown no real willingness to demand stricter gun laws. So we have lots of guns, fewer restrictions on ownership, lots of gun owners, and therefore higher odds that a whackjob will be among them.
But look, America isn't going to pass more stringent gun laws. You know it and I know it. Neither Obama nor Romney even broached the subject, because they know it's a political loser. The slightest hint from either of them that we need to reconsider our gun policies will bring the hammer of Thor down upon them. They'll be accused of "taking away our guns." (Hell, they say it about Obama anyway, even though he hasn't so much as mentioned gun control, as far as I know.) The NRA has its finger on the purse-strings of most of our politicians — at local, state, and federal levels. It's one of the country's strongest and fiercest lobbies.
So pray all you want for the victims of our latest but certainly not last mass shooting. And while you're at it, pray for our country, which no longer has leaders with the courage to demand — oh, not even demand — suggest that we consider making it tougher for the mentally unstable to obtain guns, that we do a thorough records search before selling anyone a gun, that we have a more stringent licensing procedure, that we lengthen the waiting period, that we limit gun purchases to those used for hunting and self-defense, not mass destruction.
The genie, of course, is out of the bottle and will never be forced back into it. We're stuck with the problem. In America, Guns 'r Us, for better and mostly worse. So we shouldn't be surprised that every now and then, the Dark Knight rises.