Armed, dangerous and legal

By Brad Franklin
0 Comment(s)Print E-mail, July 24, 2012
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The recent mass shooting at the premier of the new Batman film is yet another indictment of America's existing gun laws.

The United States has just witnessed the largest mass shooting in its history. Shortly after midnight on July 20, a young man walked into a movie theatre in suburban Denver, Colorado, threw a smoke bomb of some sort into the crowd and began firing guns. The place was packed because it was showing the premiere of the new Batman movie. The young shooter had come prepared. He apparently had with him an assault rifle, a 12-guage shotgun and two handguns. Seventy-one people were shot. Twelve of them are dead.

A nightmare in Denver. [Photo:] 

The United States claims to be a civilized country, but you have to wonder. The right to keep and bear arms is enshrined in the second amendment to the American constitution and that right is fiercely defended by many people, who claim that they need to carry guns to keep themselves safe. The question is, though, safe from what? The answer: Safe from other people carrying guns. The mantra is that if guns were not available legally to everyone, only the bad guys would have guns because they wouldn't care about the issue of legality. It's a specious argument.

It turns out that the young man who allegedly massacred the moviegoers was just 24 years old, well educated, possessing a Master's degree and going for his Doctorate. He had also purchased all of his guns in a completely legal manner. He had assembled his arsenal in the six-month period leading up to the shooting, and, while he didn't buy them all in the same place, he purchased them openly and owned them according to the law of the land. He clearly didn't intend to use them to defend himself against anyone.

In the US the right to bear arms is a federal law but individual states can regulate such things as whether you can carry a concealed weapon, and whether you have to register your weapon with the state, and so on. In Colorado, where this latest shooting happened, if you want to buy a gun, there is no waiting, you can just walk into a store and buy one the way you might buy a pair of shoes. You don't have to register your weapon or tell anyone you have it; you can carry it around with you under a broad range of conditions and, with a few exceptions, you can shoot almost anything that moves. You usually aren't allowed to shoot your fellow man but clearly no one impressed this limitation on the shooter.

This is certainly not the first time someone in the US has loaded up on guns and ammunition and gone on a killing spree and it probably won't be the last. A number of years ago two young students shot up a high school, also in Colorado. More recently there have been shootings at a military base in Texas and several schools in other parts of the country. An American Congresswoman was shot recently while she was attending a rally in a shopping center. Earlier this year a young man got into a disagreement with an unofficial security guard in Florida and the security guard pulled a gun and shot him. In Florida they have what they call a Stand Your Ground law, which says, in effect, that if you feel someone is coming at you and threatening your safety, you are allowed to stand your ground and defend yourself with deadly force. That particular case is now playing itself out before the courts, but one thing is clear: If there hadn't been a gun involved, neither person would have received much more than a black eye.

I have a son who lives in the US. When we visit him he cautions us not to honk at another car because that driver might have a gun. I have a buddy who, although he's a Canadian by birth, lives in the US and claims to have shot someone who was threatening him. That, he maintains, is fine because it was self-defence.

The Americans have a history that includes riding the open range with guns to ward off hostile natives and wild animals. This, however, is 2012 and the era of the so-called Wild West is long gone. While it's true that there are criminals in the US and that they would probably be able to get guns even if weapons weren't legal, the same can be said of any other country. The per capita murder rate in the US is more than three times as high as it is in Canada, and more than four times the rate in China. That doesn't make America the most dangerous place in the world but it does make it a place I wouldn't want to live in. It's nuts. The US claims to be civilized but walking around with a gun, concealed or not, is not the hallmark of an advanced, civilized culture. It is, in fact, barbaric.

Allowing civilians to carry guns in today's world is an open invitation to trouble and the US murder rate confirms this. It allows people who are mentally unhinged to shoot up schools, army bases and, in this latest case, a movie theatre. The story of this shooting is headlining every newspaper and TV newscast in the country and will do so for several days. Then it will make its way to the inner pages and the back page before eventually disappearing. The young man will no doubt plead temporary insanity and he may even be back on the streets someday, although it's doubtful. Fifty-nine people are wounded, twelve more are dead and a young man's life is in tatters because in the US people have the right to keep and bear arms. I'll make a prediction: There will be a big hue and cry about this but, for the foreseeable future, nothing will change with respect to American gun laws. As a friend of mine says, you don't have to be crazy, but it helps.


Brad Franklin is a former political reporter, newscaster and federal government employee in Canada. He is a regular columnist for China's English Salon magazine and lives on Vancouver Island.

Opinion articles reflect the views of their authors, not necessarily those of


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