PERRY: Tragically, the Boulder Massacre is going to produce the same changes that Aurora, Sandy Hook, and Parkland do – none
Tanice Cisneros walks past an anti-gun sign to leave flowers for her friend Rikki Olds on Tuesday March 23, 2021. Olds was a King Soopers employee who was killed at the Boulder King Soopers on Monday. (Jerilee Bennett / The Gazette via AP)
C.I am among the cynics.
Ten bouldering families and their friends are struggling with the horror caused by a King Soopers on Monday afternoon. Meanwhile, the rest of us play our part in this macabre American tradition of mass murder.
I’m cynical because I’ve seen this show many times. It doesn’t end well.
Microphones and cameras are pushed in the faces of people who got away with their lives. They are meant to convey the graphic horrors that we have become accustomed to. Memories of the gunfire, the terror and the relief as TV news anchors soberly fill the airtime with speculation and warn against speculation.
The police are rushing to the scene of the crime and providing virtual riddles instead of providing answers.
Elected officials line up to announce their deep sadness and offer a flotilla of “thoughts and prayers” for the dead and those of the deaths.
Everyone is eagerly waiting to learn the first few details about how crazy the new Sagittarius is. The prosecutors promise justice that can never come.
Then come the heartbreaking stories of life that no longer exist. Living daughters. Generous aunts. Funny fathers. We wonder how each of those affected did what so many of us have done a thousand times. The dead were just going to school, to dinner, to a movie, to a church, to a concert, to a bar or to a department store. This time worldly trips to a Boulder grocery store became fatal.
Then come the shrines and the pouring out of dollars for the families of the dead. Endless bouquets of flowers, cuddly toys and mylar balloons in the wrong places that only signal one thing: another mass shooting.
I have painfully observed and participated in this cruel American ritual for most of my professional life. I cut the teeth of a journalist in Colorado’s obscene slaughter in the parking lot of an Aurora Chuck E. Cheese restaurant one night in 1993 after Nathan Dunlap shot five coworkers and killed four of them just before Christmas. Then came the Labor Day Massacre in 1998. The Columbine Massacre in 1999. The Platte Canyon hostage crisis in 2006.
After the Aurora Theater shoot in 2012, I was personally ruined. I am forever haunted by the look on Tom Sullivan’s face and the sound of his voice as he waved a photo of his son Alex staggering desperately among dozens of terrified and dazed survivors to Gateway High School. Alex was among the dead. Tom now has a seat in the Colorado House of Representatives working to create laws that could prevent anyone else from living any parent’s worst nightmare.
Since then, and in between, we’ve ticked off massacres in elementary schools, high schools, discounters, concert halls, churches, dance halls, office complexes and even newspapers.
After all this, after nearly 30 years of perpetual massacre, we dutifully record and publish well-intentioned cries like those of Boulder Congressman Joe Neguse.
“This cannot be our new normal,” said Neguse after discovering that his hometown was the latest target of terror, just days after a terrible rampage outside of Atlanta.
Mass shootings have a long history in Colorado. We suffer and accept them like tropical communities suffering from malaria.
The most difficult part of my cynicism comes from what is to come in the next few days. President Joe Biden has already started the usual gun control chant.
I heard it from President Barack Obama here in Aurora in 2012 and from many others since then.
The lofty ambition of those in Congress who understand that the gun violence pandemic is directly related to easy access to productive weapons is hardly profound. All they want now is universal background checks, which is what a vast majority of Americans want too. However, we have gone so far in the United States that Congress cannot even muster the ability to require people to prove they are not criminals or madmen before we hand over an assault rifle and large capacity magazine.
I can promise you that. If you think the Boulder massacre will be the turning point that convinces Colorado congressmen like Lauren Boebert, Ken Buck and Doug Lamborn to ban assault rifles, you are dead wrong. Not only do they faithfully believe that colonists wanted to give every American the deadly firepower of an AR-15 200 years ago, but they also frequently publish filthy evidence of their gun worship to bolster the support of Americans who believe the exact same thing.
Nationally, Texas Senator Ted Cruz had this to say about recent efforts to legislate fewer mass shootings.
“Every time there is shooting, we play this ridiculous theater where this committee comes together and proposes a series of laws that do nothing against these murders,” said Cruz on the Senate committee, which has been hampering gun control for many, many years.
Cruz, a Republican, is sadly backed by too many Democrats who also believe gun laws are only criminals of law-abiding gun owners who will only be law-abiding if they kill 10 people in a grocery store.
Like so many American problems, gun violence is complicated and not easy to solve. I am confident that state and state legislatures will no longer heed the “enough is enough” requirement than they did in the past.
What we’ve all found is that for political leaders, and so far the vast majority of Americans, 10 dead innocents in a neighborhood grocery store isn’t enough. After the cataclysms of Aurora and Sandy Hook Elementary Schools, it became clear that mere horror would never be a means of changing American political leaders.
Instead, change must be a demand from all of us. We have to dispel the myth of the founding fathers’ fetish for weapons and individual militias individually. Gun control must become the same touchstone for voters as gay rights, racial equality, climate change and truth-finding.
As a society, we must counteract an American gun culture that is characterized by fear and propaganda. We must treat mental illness in all its forms as the pandemic and key component of gun violence that it is.
Will this all happen because of the Boulder massacre or the next massacre? Our tolerance of gun violence is of course limitless. I’m sorry for not apologizing for three attempts at reform in Colorado, but the problem is so severe and the gun violence so great that the looped clip limit, background checks, and the red flag law equate to handing over a newspaper sheet while protecting yourself of a golf ball hail storm.
Optimism now arises from the hope that despite this and the next tragedy in the shooting of Boulder, real changes will occur in gun laws and access to mental health.
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