So let’s take the NRA argument. If everyone in the Colorado movie theater had had a gun, this wouldn’t have happened. The crazed shooter would have been shot. Except that that wouldn’t have happened. There would have been a general shoot-out in the theater, everyone shooting blindly in every direction. Perhaps that it what people really want: more carnage. It’s logical to draw that conclusion because if they wanted less, we’d do something about the insane gun laws in the United States.
A movie celebrating mayhem inspires its own mayhem. In a culture with millions of adolescents and adults addicted to video games in which mayhem is the objective, isn’t the latest Colorado rampage simply what we have asked for? Man up, you anti-gun wimps, accept what the rest of us want. It’s the American character. Defend your rights. Shoot to kill. Nothing’s gunna change, except that thousands more people will run out this week and purchase a gun. (The NRA always wins).
Let’s alter the venue and consider the possibilities. If it hadn’t been a movie theater but, say, the Supreme Court, would anything have been different? Let’s say that a lone gunman somehow got into Supreme Court chambers and shot and killed a majority of the justices. Five. I’m not saying which five but simply a majority.
Or let’s take Congress. Suppose a gunman got into one of the chambers and started shooting. If fifteen senators were killed, would we finally begin to talk about stricter gun laws? Or would it need to be more than fifteen fatalities? Say twenty or twenty-five senators or the same number of representatives? What is the magic number, the tipping point, for outrage about guns in America? Clearly, one seriously wounded Congressperson (Gabrielle Giffords) wasn’t enough.
My guess is that someone could kill virtually everyone in the Congressional chambers and still nothing would be done. Probably what would happen is that those left standing would draft a bill legislating the issuing of a gun for each child—beginning at the moment of conception.
Stand up for your rights: Your rights to kill.
Charles R. Larson is Emeritus Professor of Literature at American University in Washington, D.C.