Another day, another town, another tragedy.
In the early hours of Friday morning a gunman enters a theatre in Aurora, near Denver, Colorada, wearing a gas mask. He sets off an unknown gas before firing into the crowd, gathered to watch the midnight screening of Dark Knight Rises, the new Batman film. He shoots dead 12 people, injuring at least 50 others, among them children – the youngest a three-month-old baby.
This latest shooting, as with the all-too-frequent tragedies of years past, has once again reopened the debate on gun control in the States, with New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg leading the calls for action, demanding leadership from the men who would be President, as the Telegraph reports:
Mr Bloomberg, a long-time advocate of gun law reform, said: “Soothing words are nice, but maybe it’s time that the two people who want to be president tell us what they are going to do about it.”
As New York deployed additional police around its cinemas to prevent copycat shootings, Mr Bloomberg said it was time for Barack Obama and Mitt Romney to “look in the mirror” and follow their convictions.
“There are so many murders with guns every day,” he said. “It’s just got to stop.”
Suspending their political campaigns for a day yesterday, both Mr Obama and Mr Romney confined themselves to “soothing words”, avoiding any mention of how they might tackle the scourge of gun crime in America.
As one might expect, in common with much of the rest of the country, it is staggeringly easy for virtually anyone to buy a gun in Colorado, the Colorado Revised Statutes stating:
• Gun registration is not required;
• Gun permits are not required to keep firearms in vehicles.
• As of 2003, it is illegal for any local government or law enforcement agency to “enact an ordinance, regulation or other law that prohibits the sale, purchase or possession of a firearm that a person may lawfully sell, purchase or possess under state or federal law”
• It is prohibited for law enforcement or local government to build databases of gun buyers or gun owners who leave weapons for repair or sale on consignment; people who transfer gun ownership unless they are federally licensed gun dealers; or serial numbers of guns bought, sold, dropped off for repair or left for sale on consignment.
• There are no laws pertaining to bringing firearms from another state.
• Concealed weapons require a permit – though the Arapahoe County Sheriff’s Office Concealed Handgun Information Packet (pdf) states that a concealed carry permit can only be denied to convicted felons, suspects with outstanding warrants, juvenile delinquents, subjects of restraining orders, drug users, alcoholics, and those adjudicated mentally ill;
• Dealers are required to keep a record of the sale, exchange or rental of firearms, including identities of parties involved and weapons’ serial numbers.
Business Insider magazine has more on the ease with which the killer got hold of his weapons:
On one hand, it would appear that Holmes could have easily obtained a gun legally, and obtained a concealed carry permit. He did not have a criminal record, nor is he – right now, at least – known to have officially satisfied any of the other criteria that would have prevented him from receiving a permit. So far, we do not know that he ever received psychological help, and even if he did it is not clear that he would have been “adjudicated mentally defective.” This would create problems for any law enforcement agency that tried to revoke his license.
This means he probably would not have been a red flag even had the state kept comprehensive data on gun ownership.
However, advocates of increased gun control will likely argue that better recording would have alerted officials to the fact that Holmes had purchased a significant number of guns (assuming he did so legally).
Further, shall-issue laws for concealed weaponry would have prohibited officials from revoking the license should anyone have expressed legitimate issues about his mental health….
The New Republic’s Timothy Noah blogged earlier this morning about how tear gas grenades “are perfectly legal in Colorado, even though there is no legitimate need – none – for someone not in law enforcement or the military,” to use one. BuyPepperSprayToday.com, a website that sells pepper spray and tear gas, among other self-defense products, also advertises the fact that its products are “completely legal” in Colorado with “no restrictions!”
Residents can also buy military-grade tear gas bombs with apparent ease. KeepShooting.com sells tear gas grenades that are “ideal for control and disbursement of crowds.” The advertisement continues, “They are hand held units that are designed for throwing.”
• Norway’s day of terror 23 Jul 2011
• Calls for tighter gun control in wake of tragedy 3 Jun 2010
International evidence shows a correlation between the percentage of households with firearms and the rate of intentional deaths per 100,000, with the USA in the top quadrant:
While the map below illustrates the state-by-state statistics on the relationship between gun crime and gun ownership:
As BI ask:
How did this happen? In a state that has already been rocked by dramatic gun violence – namely, the Columbine high school shooting – how was one man allowed to amass four guns, as well as tear gas and other militaristic weapons? And how was he able to carry them without being caught?
Questions that tonight haunt the States and will continue to for as long as the tragedies repeat, for as long as 84 people a day are shot to death, for as long as tens of thousands of lives a year are snuffed out at the barrel of a gun - for as long as the Second Amendment remains untouched.