Today I read and watched in dismay as I learned about the mass shooting that occurred in Aurora, Colorado, where a 24-year-old former PhD student at the University of Colorado shot 70 people, leaving 12 dead. This is, of course, a sobering fact that not everybody is normal (in a mental sense), and even the brightest people pursuing the highest degree has that kind of capacity to commit such monstrosity.
Earlier on in the afternoon, I was having a rather lengthy discussion with an instructor from the Wind Science and Engineering Department (in fact, we share the same office) on the issue of firearms possession. I fully respect the Second Amendment which empowers the people with “the right to bear arms”.
What I wanted to know was whether he had ever felt fearful about walking out on the streets knowing that there are people out there with such easy access to guns, and whether he was ever worried by the fact that there are individuals who might not be in the right state of mind, and yet it does not show on their faces. He replied that he does not need to feel fearful about encountering a person with a gun, because he owns firearms as well and that he is able to defend himself with them. In the state of Texas, the people are allowed to “conceal carry” their guns, meaning that they do not need to have their firearms strapped and displayed openly. The rationale to this is that if criminals do not know that you have a firearm with you, they are less likely to attempt an attack on you. There are states which allow the people to “open carry” their firearms, where they are required to be displayed openly (meaning you will be openly showing to the people that you have a gun on your person). Arguably, there are pros and cons to the “open carry” and “conceal carry” concepts, but those are the details that I would like to leave out for now.
I wasn’t very happy with the reply that my instructor could defend himself with a gun when the need arises, because there is always a question of, “What if you’re the first person being shot and you don’t even have the time to react (to retrieve your firearm and fight back)? Even if you have a gun, it would be of no use if you were already dead.” He concurred that the idea of being able to defend himself only applies if he is not the first target. I would also surmise that if someone is shooting indiscriminately, having a gun to take down the shooter could mean less loss of lives.
There are people who, understandably, argue that even if the country were to impose a firearms ban, people with criminal intent would still be able to obtain firearms illegally and carry out the massacre. They say that it is not law-abiding citizens who kill people with guns, but criminals. Looking back to Malaysia, there seems to be some truth in it. In mid-May, a temple worker was shot in Butterworth despite the fact that firearms possession in Malaysia without a permit is illegal, and ordinary citizens like us will not be given permits to bear firearms that easily. The point is that if a person has criminal intent, then they will try to get a firearm to inflict damages, whether through legal means or otherwise. If a person already has criminal intent, the legality in the process of obtaining firearms is not relevant at all.
Nonetheless, this is all hardly a reason for firearms possession laws to remain as status quo. Although all firearms sellers perform a background check to make sure that buyers qualify to purchase firearms, clearly there are loopholes or problems in the “gun control” mechanism. After the Virginia Tech shooting, the Columbine High School massacre, the Gabrielle Giffords shooting, the recent Oikos University shooting and now the Aurora, Colorado, movie cinema mass killings, isn’t this time to think about what has gone wrong? Perhaps I’m not a very qualified person to talk about policies, seeing that I’m not an American, but as a foreigner living in this beautiful land, I have my concerns, and I believe I am also entitled to my opinion.
I am not calling for the ban of firearms, considering that the right to bear arms is so closely associated to the American identity, and I can respect that. However, with all the shootings throughout the years, all that I could see were people mourning, people denouncing the act, people proclaiming their utter shock and disbelief, etc. when all I’m thinking is, “This is something waiting to happen.”
The harsh fact is this: no amount of mourning, or denouncing, or flying the flag at half-mast is going to bring the dead back, nor will such acts prevent the recurrence of such monstrosity in the future. None of the sympathy or thoughts will prevent an even worse massacre if nobody takes the initiative to look into the issue of “gun control”.
Piers Morgan, a British journalist who hosts the programme “Piers Morgan Tonight” at CNN, was adamant about debating the issue of “gun control”, despite receiving numerous responses from the public that he put off his debate for another day, and that today should be dedicated to the mourning of victims and survivors of the horrendous incident in Aurora, Colorado. Being a Brit, it is not unexpected that he received many mean tweets from some members of the American public for having the audacity of discussing about the right to bear arms.
When he interviewed Prof. David Kopel from Denver University to initiate a debate on the issue of gun control, a rather upset professor expressed his disappointment at Morgan for insisting to talk on the gun control issue when that moment should have been dedicated to the discussion of the victims.
“Honestly Piers, I think this is the wrong night to be doing this and I really wish you’d waited to have this segment until after the funerals,” said Prof. Kopel, to which Morgan shot back rather coldly (figuratively speaking):
“A lot of people have said that today, a lot of people who don’t want strengthening of gun control, have said, ‘This is not the day to debate it.’ I’ll tell you the day to debate it, it would have been yesterday, to prevent this from happening. When you have a young man like this – able to legally get 6000 rounds of ammunition off the Internet, to buy four weapons including an assault rifle, and for all of this to be perfectly legal in modern America, allowing him to carry out the biggest shooting in the history of the United States – that, I’m afraid, means that it’s too late for this debate, for those people who have lost their lives. So don’t patronize me, about when we should be talking about the gun control debate.”
And I think that that was quite a brazen remark from Morgan. But I must concede that he has a strong point there.
I don’t believe that Americans would not be appalled by all these mass shooting incidents. But having said that, so little has been heard from American politicians on this issue. Is this out of fear for risking the possibility of a political suicide? Nobody really knows.
But what is for sure is this – that people have lost their lives senselessly because of some lunatic carrying a gun and shooting at other people indiscriminately. It is so easy to put the blame at the psychology well-being of the shooter, but if this is a recurring problem with similar roots, isn’t it high time to take measures so that this ugly incident will not happen again in the future?
My thoughts and sympathy to the families of Aurora, Colorado, who have lost their loved ones, and to the survivors of this incident who have to undergo such harrowing moments of their lives.