Like many high-profile shootings, the massacre at an early Friday screening of The Dark Knight Rises in Aurora, Colo., inspired first shock, then sympathy for the victims, and then a tense debate about what the tragedy says about America's gun laws. Other high-profile attacks in recent years — from Columbine to Virginia Tech to the shooting of Congresswoman Gabby Giffords in Tucson last year — have sparked calls for tighter restrictions on the sale and use of firearms. In the Dark Knight shooting, police seized four guns when they arrested the alleged gunman, James Holmes, in the theater's parking lot. One was an AR-15 semi-automatic assault rifle (with a magazine that could contain more than 100 bullets), a weapon that might have been covered under a now-expired assault rifle ban. Lately, the trend has been toward loosening gun laws, following a 2010 Supreme Court ruling that individuals have a constitutional right to arm themselves. Will the Aurora shooting change the debate?
Let's hope so: The commentators who "serve as the Miss Manners of the political world" insist it's crass to talk policy in the wake of such a tragedy, says Amy Sullivan at The New Republic. Nonsense. Now—when the price we pay for allowing so many guns on the street is so plain to see—is the perfect time "to talk about ways that we might make such incidents less likely or at least less deadly."
"Can we please have an honest debate about guns now?"
The outcry is wrong, as always: Predictably, America's "gun control zealots" are using "the dead of Colorado as props for political theater," says John Hayward at Human Events. After every tragedy, they claim that if we could just get rid of guns there would be no crime. That's nonsense — it makes more sense to argue that an armed citizen could have stopped the murderer and saved lives. Regardless, we don't let maniacs steal our rights — and the Founders were clear on our right to bear arms.
"Gun control zealots scramble to score points off the Colorado massacre"
The reality, sadly, is that this will have no effect: Right or wrong, the Dark Knight shooting won't change anything, if history is any guide, says Adam Winkler at The Daily Beast. "Mass shootings, no matter how tragic, don't lead to reforms of gun laws." We learned that after Columbine, and again after the Giffords shooting. There are many reasons for this, from the lobbying power of the National Rifle Association to the difficulty in finding laws that actually prevent shootings. Maybe it's best this way — what we need is a more deeply considered policy debate, "not a knee-jerk reaction to another tragic shooting."
"Why don't mass shootings lead to gun control?"
THE WEEK'S AUDIOPHILE PODCASTS: LISTEN SMARTER
- Why all drugs should be legal. (Yes, even heroin.)
- Here's the schedule very successful people follow every day
- Comic-Con 2014: Everything we learned about Avengers 2, Batman v. Superman, and more
- 7 ideas from ancient thinkers that will improve your modern life
- The big, gaping hole in the liberal policy arsenal
- Blame Obama and U.S. evangelicals for the persecution of Iraqi Christians
- Face it, ladies: We can't all be beautiful
- How to trim $500 from your monthly spending
- Are there too many good shows on television?
- A gay Mormon's complicated journey
Subscribe to the Week