Saturday, July 21, 2012


James Holmes
         After listening to the news reports today and this evening of the horrible massacre that took place last night in the Century 16 Cinema in Aurora, Colorado, I am struggling to sort out the conflict of emotions that are flooding my mind and heart.
         There is first and foremost the shock of hearing of another mass killing, with twelve dead and 58 injured, many critically, only fifteen miles from Littleton, Colorado, where the Columbine High School massacre took pace in 1999. The shock is accompanied by the heartfelt grief and sympathy that I share with the rest of the nation for the victims, their families and friends, their neighbors, their communities, and all whose lives have been so brutally shattered by this tragedy.
         Every such tragedy is also for me and all persons of faith a reminder of the preciousness and precariousness of life, which is a gift we can never take for granted. We can better feel the wrenching pain of the Aurora victims’ families, when we imagine ourselves or our own loved ones in such a situation. It reminds us that we ought to be constantly thanking God for the gift of life, and for every new day we have on this earth.

       There is also, of course, a gnawing bewilderment about the alleged killer, 24-year-old James Holmes. Why would he do such a thing? And how could he have accumulated such an armory of weapons without anyone’s noticing?  What could have been done to prevent such a dreadful event, and what does the repeated occurrence of such terrible calamities tell us about our society?
         As these and similar thoughts crowd my mind, I am becoming more and more concerned about the increasing level of violence in our society. It is reflected in the discourse of political extremists. It is reflected in our cultural tastes. Why should we be surprised by these acts of violent behavior, when we consider the kinds of movies most Americans flock to see, and kinds of shows they watch every night on their television screens?
         And why should we be surprised that there are so many shootings, when so many Americans demand the right to own a hand gun, let alone assault weapons? Fueled by the rhetoric of the National Rifle Association and their hip-pocket politicians, the public has bought the idea that efforts to regulate or restrict the right of private citizens to own such weapons is a violation of the Second Amendment.
         I have long disagreed with the NRA’s interpretation of that much abused amendment, which was intended to assure the existence of an easily recruited militia, but which is now being applied, in my view, in a way that was totally unintended by the framers of our Constitution. It reads follows:

         “A well regulated Militia, being necessary to the security of a free State, the right of the                    people to keep and bear Arms, shall not be infringed.”

         In two landmark 5 to 4 decisions, District of Columbia v. Heller in 2008 and Parker v. District of Columbia in 2010, the Supreme Court ruled that the Second Amendment protects a person’s right to possess a firearm for lawful purposes, including self-protection in one’s home. "Swing vote" Justice Kennedy sided with conservative Justices Alito, Roberts, Scalia, and Thomas against the strong opposition of Justices Stevens, Souter, Ginsburg, and Breyer.
         So in casting around for persons to blame for the escalating number of deaths each year involving firearms, don’t forget to include those five Supreme Court Justices whose rulings opened the floodgates to the possession of weapons in the home.
         But that’s a complicated subject into which I do not care to delve at this time. Suffice it to say that in my view there are too many guns in the possession of far too many persons, resulting in far too many shootings, both accidental and intentional, coolly calculated and spur-of-the moment.
Where there is a gun, there is always the danger of its being used in a moment of rage. There is a beast of fury in most of us, always ready to rear its ugly head and take control of our actions. Witness how easily drivers can succumb to road rage.
         In my view it is far to easy to acquire firearms, including AK47s and other assault weapons. I am not denying people’s right to hunt as local laws permit, although I myself could take no delight in killing animals for sport. Nor am I happy about the number of hunting accidents that occur every year. Where there are guns there will be accidents, right Mr. Cheney?
         I don’t own a gun. I never have, I never will. My wife Margie would not allow it in our home if I did!  I hope as the result of this most recent massacre there will be some sensible discussion of these issues in an effort to avoid such catastrophes in the future.
         The trouble is that, as with so many hot-button issues, people’s feelings on both sides are so intense that it is difficult to have a sensible discussion. Some right-wing fanatics might get angry enough to shoot someone they view as a threat to their cause! So those who want much tighter restrictions and regulations better not push too hard., Remember, the N.R.A. and their supporters have all the guns!    
         Forgive the dark humor; it’s too scary to be funny.


  1. Thank you, Dick, for your sensitive and appropriate reflections.We need gun controls on the sale of assault weapons and huge capacity hand guns. And I say this as the owner of guns and one who has had to defend himself with a gun against intruders!

  2. I remember a long time ago an image of a railroad track, parallel in every way, but looking much like convergence down the line, and thus the comparison between free will and predestination. A captain in the Houston police dept. recently told me a child's personality is fully formed by 18 months. If so, I'd like some words about how much free will this person had to choose his crime, and how much was genetically and socially programmed into the entire life.