Fort Worth Star-Telegram
Fort Worth, Texas: The horror of Friday’s rampage in an Aurora, Colo., movie theater can’t be overstated: A gunman turns a quintessential American night out into a scene of panic and carnage, killing 12 people and wounding 58 others. Had his evil plan unfolded the way he envisioned, the death toll would have been higher. Law enforcement officers entering his booby-trapped apartment also would have been victims.
James Holmes, 24, who appeared in court Monday morning to be advised of his rights in the case, might have gotten away from the scene had observant police officers not noticed something amiss about the gear being carried by a man in black tactical clothing outside the theater. According to Aurora Police Chief Dan Oates, a nonregulation gas mask prompted a closer look.
The now-familiar conversation among gun owners with concealed handgun permits is to wonder whether an armed audience member could have short-circuited the shooter’s deadly actions.
Unlikely under those circumstances. It takes hour upon hour of scenario training to be prepared for something as unexpected as debilitating gas and gunfire in a dark, loud and crowded movie theater. One doesn’t learn the skills or develop the combat mindset needed to neutralize that aggressor by spending Saturday mornings plugging holes into a stationary target.
Friday’s madness has reignited the cry of “They’ve got to do something” among gun-control advocates. And one of the first “somethings” is the most predictable: Reinstate the “assault weapons” ban.
The firearms banned under the 1994 law that expired in 2004 were semiautomatic handguns, rifles and shotguns. Some of them were made to resemble military-style small arms — hence “assault weapons” — but are mechanically indistinguishable from traditional sporting rifles. As much as gun-control advocates will proclaim the awful lethality of these firearms, the reality is that they work just like many of the guns that are considered acceptable — for now — for hunting purposes by the likes of Sen. Dianne Feinstein of California.
“These are not weapons you would need to protect your home unless you are Liam Neeson. In a movie,” The New Republic’s Amy Sullivan wrote Monday.
It never takes long for the old need-vs.-want argument to surface in this debate.
First-graders don’t need ice cream, and soccer moms don’t need Ford Excursions. Want is a whole other issue. And making what is today a legal product illegal makes the question of what gun owners want moot.
Personally, I hope I never find myself in a situation where I need so much as a cellphone to dial 911. That doesn’t mean I don’t want to be prepared to defend myself and my family in the event that something very bad is fixin’ to happen. Construct any set of circumstances in which a firearm must be used to prevent or stop violent aggression, and knowledgeable gun owners will tell you that a semiautomatic firearm with a high-capacity magazine is exactly what is needed.
Regardless of how one parses the phrase about “a well-regulated militia,” the Second Amendment is about the fundamental right of self-defense. It’s not about duck hunting or sporting clays.
The same exact makes and models of guns used last Friday to cause so much death and destruction in that Aurora movie theater are used every day by decent Americans who enjoy shooting as a sport and a hobby. To quote Charlton Heston from a 1997 interview on NBC’s Meet the Press:
“There are no good guns. There are no bad guns. Any gun in the hands of a bad man is a bad thing. Any gun in the hands of a decent person is no threat to anybody — except bad people.”
Labbe is the editorial director of the Fort Worth Star-Telegram. She can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.