Wednesday, July 25, 2012

Aurora - Shooting Our Own

Dressed to Kill

Well, America is undergoing another week of self-therapy and self-loathing.  The tragic mass murder in Aurora, Colorado has re-opened a deep wound (not a pun) carried by this country.

I'm a naturalized American having immigrated here from Canada in 1995.  America is a great country.  It has a patriotic spirit that fires innovation and entrepreneurship.  But it is also a society full of fear and full of guns.

In March I wrote about a shooting that I witnessed.  My wife and I were having dinner with some friends on a restaurant patio.  Twenty feet away, in the parking lot, gunshots rang out.  

Once the chaos settled down and my wife administered emergency attention to one of the victims we started to understand what happened.  Basically a man was stalking his wife.  They had been separated for several months.  She and some of her friends had come to the restaurant.  When they got back to their car the man opened fire on them before he took his own life.

It took many weeks before all of the facts were known, including the fact that the man’s wife is now confined to a wheelchair for life.

Now my little incident doesn’t compare to the shooting in the Aurora movie house.  But what I do know is that in the few wild seconds of the shooting in the restaurant no one knew what the hell was going on.  Most people didn’t recognize the “pops” as gunfire, and those who did were diving for cover under the dinner tables.

Even if you had been trained to recognize and assimilate the chaos you wouldn’t have had a clue of what to do.  This wasn’t a movie where you've been prepared and are observing the scene from a calm vantage point.  This was reality.  Who was shooting who?  How many shooters were there?  How can I stay alive?

This shooting happened in Texas where we have a concealed gun law.  That’s right, if you are licensed you can sit in a restaurant with a concealed weapon.  Many of my friends “pack heat”.  When playing golf I'm always leery when someone says “good shot!”

Now it is not unreasonable to think that there were several gun totters in the restaurant that evening.  Yet no one jumped up, gun in hand to save the day.  If there were packers in the vicinity they were obvious by their absence.

So what’s my point?  Well, I'm a gun guy.  I see value in guns.  I think there is a valuable lore around families and hunting; and I’ve always been a big fan of various types of target shooting.  There is something magical, powerful, and even primeval about shooting, even when the result can be fallen game.

I also empathize with the second amendment of the US constitution - you know the right to bear arms.  It does make some sense to me that the citizenry should be allowed to arm itself against unjust government – even if the gesture is simply symbolic.  The second amendment goes to the heart of America’s belief in itself.  It represents freedom and sovereignty.  Since it is a belief, it cannot be assailed by the arguments of logic.

But what about the flip side of the belief?  Did the framers of the US constitution want to protect the freedom of disturbed citizens who want to kill other citizens?  Maybe, but I don’t think so.

We seem to have over-interpreted the second amendment.  We are now saying that it’s ok for someone to legally buy 6000 rounds of ammunition, automatic rifles with clips holding 100 bullets, and body armor to protect them against retribution.

All I know for sure is that if the Aurora shooter had come to our restaurant instead of a crazed husband, we would all be dead.

If I have to take my shoes off at airports so people can feel safe, shouldn’t I feel just as safe while eating tacos?

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