Yesterday we as a nation awoke to the horrific news of the massacre at a movie theatre in Aurora, Colorado - twelve people dead, apparently including an infant, and fifty-eight wounded - several critically. A deeply troubled young man bought a ticket to the midnight premier of the latest Batman movie, went inside and somehow managed to open an exit door and block it from closing, went back outside to his car where he armed himself as if in preparation for war, and then entered through the exit lobbing teargas canisters into the audience and opening fire with multiple weapons.
One of his weapons apparently was equipped with a thirty-round clip, the same type of monster-clip that was used in the Giffords' shooting last year in Tucson.
As the young man continued to fire into the packed auditorium, it quickly became a scene from the worst horror movie imaginable, one that featured bloody carnage interspersed with raw heroics. It had to be an event more awful than any of us dare imagine.
Now, unfortunately, some politicians have already begun using this tragedy to promote the gun industry - and perhaps raise some cash from the gun lobby in the process. It began yesterday when Texas Republican congressman, Louie Gohmert, noted that Colorado has concealed-carry laws - and wouldn't it have been great if somebody in the audience had been packing a piece so he could have taken out the shooter.
Yes, Louie, in a dark theatre, late at night with teargas everywhere, another person shooting would have been a wonderful idea. Or even better, what if a dozen theatre patrons had been armed and firing during the bloody melee?
Today former Arizona state senator Russell Pearce, also a Republican, promoted essentially the same crazy notion. (Pearce was the primary author of Arizona's racist Senate Bill 1070, for which he was ultimately recalled from office by his embarrassed constituents.)
Gohmert and Pearce both seem to be lamenting that the situation would have ended better if the audience had acted responsibly and shot the savage killer. In a perfect setting I might agree with them. But it was a theatre that was packed with humanity, confusion reigned, and the whole place was awash in teargas and smoke. One person shooting was one too many, and several shooting would have been exponentially more catastrophic.
Using the logic of Mr. Gohmert and Mr. Pearce, we would also all be safer if airline passengers were armed. (Perhaps make it a pre-boarding requirement.) Think about that the next time you're sitting in one of those long, tin cans, six or seven miles above the ground.
One person who was at the Gabby Giffords' event said that he was armed but did not shoot. He said that it was a very confusing scene, and if he had shot, he would have ended up firing at the man who was actually trying to take out the killer.
There are some political responses that could lessen the possibility of these types of massacres, but NRA-funded politicians won't have an interest in limiting the size of magazine clips to six or eight rounds, passing stricter requirements for background checks, or eliminating gun show loopholes. Their answer is to increase firepower, and than answer just does not work.
Peace and comfort to the good people of Aurora, Colorado. We are all suffering with you.