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Barbarism Begins at Home

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Accountability, in seriously short supply before last week, remains so even after the massacre Aurora, Colorado is now trying to fathom. It is not a moment too soon to say that as a nation and as a gathering of communities, we are miserably failing both the perpetrators and, as a result, the victims of such massacres.

Time and time again civic, community, and business leaders are day-late and a dollar-short, providing trite jeremiads about violent entertainment media or exploiting the tragedy to promote their pet cause in some ongoing culture war. In what has now become a periodic sacrifice of innocents for the apathetic bliss of a nation, we are complicit in the following areas: first, given the depraved scope of the crime, we refuse to acknowledge how crucial is the effort to protect all children from physical torment or humiliation.

As a nation, and within our communities, we have yet to acknowledge that no individual treated with nurturing love and respect that he or she deserved as a child, is capable of treachery like that wrought upon Aurora. One needs only to observe the magnitude of carnage to imagine what trauma could have warped a psyche so driven to commit these unspeakable acts. Our failure to protect children runs the risk of molding ‘sleeper agents’ capable of the slaughter movie goers endured in Aurora.

Second, and just as consequential, is when public sentiment caves in to the firearms industry’s resistance to reform. As usual, gun makers and vendors prevail over gun control efforts. The National Rifle Association’s sanctimonious messaging on the Bill of Rights’ Second Amendment provides bullet-proof ideological cover for the ease and accountability-free purchase and possession of guns. Indeed, a $4.1 billion industry is at stake.

So, what possible solution could we piece together to restore public safety and relieve the anxiety of gun owners?

We begin by taking a cue from the often ignored phrase of the Second Amendment that mandates a “well regulated Militia”. As it appears that a significant number of shooters tend to be socially isolated, gun registration could require owners to join and participate in an existing gun club or some kind of firearms affiliation. Registration could require a periodic gathering of owners for the purpose of reviewing safety, sharing best practices and maintenance methods. (Before the firearms industry and gun owners scoff in protest, they need reminding that all freedoms are accompanied by a measure of responsibility that makes said freedoms possible.)

The underlying purpose would be to establish a network of accountability among gun owners, as well as a trust-building interface with the greater public.  Firearms no longer only represent a means for individual self-defense. They have ‘evolved’ to pose a constant threat to public safety that merits an equally defensive response.

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About judefolly

  • Baronius

    I’ve got a few problems with this article.

    First of all, the article points to our failure to protect children from trauma. I don’t think it’s fair to say that only traumatized children would grow up to do something so awful as this shooting. It appears that some mental disorders are biochemical in origin. But even so, there is no policy prescription for keeping every child free from trauma. Trauma is as much subjective as it is objective: it’s how we respond to a situation. A last pick at kickball or the birth of a baby brother can be traumatic for a child. And what of more objectively traumatic traumas, like the death of a grandparent or a pet? How should we as a society protect children from experiencing those things? Furthermore, I could be wrong about this, but I think there’s research that says that children who never learn to deal with difficulties are unprepared for adulthood.

    The article makes the point that people are using this tragedy to promote their pet causes – then goes on to promote the pet cause of gun control and safety. From the little I’ve heard, the area of the shooting has strict gun control laws. If someone else in the theater had had a gun, the death toll would have been lower. As for gun safety, it is important (which is why the firearm industry and gun owners do so much work promoting gun safety), but this incident had nothing to do with accidental gun use.

  • jude folly

    your response reminds me of the reputation of federales (mexican law enforcement officers) –shoot first, then ask questions. in this case it’s skim article first and then offer a mangled, ultra-biased response.

    the article does not advocate gun control, but gun owner accountability. had you read the piece through you could have appreciated its nuanced argument.

    my pet cause is to prevent the mindless slaughter of innocent citizens who go out to see a movie. so far the suggestion that an armed movie goer would have had the wherewithal to fire a pistol accurately at a moving target in a darkened theatre (and not hit any bystanders), strikes me as unaccountably naive; the kind of wisdom gleaned from copious hours of watching television and movies.

  • Baronius

    I thought I read the article thoroughly and fairly. If my response to the article was biased, it’s because I disagreed with portions of it. It’s rare, but it’s possible for people to disagree on the internet without bad motives. The flipside is that it’s also possible to have good motives (like the prevention of mindless slaughter) and make unsound recommendations.

  • Zingzing

    I like your absolute certainty about how another person having a gun would have lowered the death toll, baronius. It’s not even a possibility that it wouldn’t have made a difference. And what kind of strict gun control allows a guy to buy an assault weapon with a hundred round clip? The insanity of American gun laws and the fantasy the NRA propagates… It’s getting harder and harder to believe it’s allowed to continue under some bogus interpretation of the 2nd amendment you know the writer didn’t intend. Pathetic.

  • Zingzing

    And to put the blame on gun control laws… It was a guy with a big fucking gun that did it, baronius… Jesus Christ.

  • Baronius

    Zing, I didn’t intend to put the blame on gun control laws. I wrote that poorly.

  • Clav

    We can try to control guns all we want; we can spend money the government doesn’t have doing so, and, with over 300 million weapons already out on the streets, our chances of success are two: slim and none — just as they were during Prohibition (The violation of which established the Kennedy family fortune), and the “War” on drugs.

  • Igor

    I don’t see how you could maintain “If someone else in the theater had had a gun, the death toll would have been lower.” There’s no evidence for that, it’s just a hope on your part.

    The killer acted so fast that only the most highly trained anti-terrorist would have been fast enough. And then some innocents would likely have been killed by stray bullets, or by mistake (the anti-terrorist would not know that the killer was solo and might have shot bystanders, on purpose, thinking they were cohorts).

    Even when the anti-terrorists are well prepared and informed, as in Iraq or Afghanistan, there are horrible mistakes and deaths for which the anti-terrorists are responsible.

    I conclude that almost certainly the death toll would have been higher if armed citizens had been in the audience.

  • Igor

    The second amendment is concise and pointed:

    “A well regulated Militia, being necessary to the security of a free State, the right of the people to keep and bear Arms, shall not be infringed.”

    Clearly, the purpose is to arm a citizen militia against the chance that there’s an indian uprising or a foreign invasion. No other construction is possible.

    So, maybe next time some crazy foreigners blow up a Marine barracks or an American building we should round up some of those militia members and send them off to do battle with their firearms. After all, they’ve volunteered for such missions by virtue of equipping themselves with weapons.

  • Zingzing

    Clavos, no one’s talking about banning all guns. But there’s just no reason anyone would want assault weapons available to just anyone.

  • Zingzing

    A man walks into a packed theater with Military-grade assault rifle, a shotgun and a pistol and the right says the problem was that there wasn’t enough guns in the movie theater. It would be funny if it wasn’t so sad and infuriating and stupid.

  • Zingzing

    Baronius, #6: glad to hear it.

  • Glenn Contrarian

    Clavos –

    We can try to control guns all we want; we can spend money the government doesn’t have doing so, and, with over 300 million weapons already out on the streets, our chances of success are two: slim and none — just as they were during Prohibition (The violation of which established the Kennedy family fortune), and the “War” on drugs.

    So the obvious answer is to allow yet more assault weapons to be available to anyone not yet a felon? As Igor pointed out, the purpose of the “keep and bear arms” was to support a well-regulated militia. Funny how the NRA never seems to encourage that “well-REGULATED militia”….

  • Igor

    Now our strange society will inflict a second injury on the victims of Aurora as they find that their insurance policies don’t cover them for their wounds. Many of them now face bankruptcy or public begging to pay their bills. Our strange society, in which the congress seems so solicitous of the well-being of billionaires as not to impose any taxes on them, seems willing to discard actual victims
    of actual violence after having used them to mount self-righteous tirades.

    It’s another reason for Single-payer Universal Healthcare. We need something beyond mere ObamneyCare. Start by nationalising the insurance companies. We could have avoided that by revoking the 1945 McCarran-Ferguson act years ago, but we seem to have missed the opportunity.

  • Igor

    Here are some comments on the healthcare concerns dumped on the Aurora victims:


    Medical Bills: One of Many Challenges for Aurora Shooting Victims

    Nearly one in three Coloradans have inadequate coverage or no health insurance.

    In this photo provided by the University of Colorado Hospital, Katie Medley holds her newborn son Hugo Jackson Medley at the hospital in Aurora, Colo, Tuesday, July 24, 2012. When Katie Medley gave birth to the healthy baby boy, her husband Caleb, wounded in Colorado’s theater shooting, lay in a medically-induced coma one floor below her. Hugo Jackson was born at 7:11 a.m. MT. Tuesday, hospital spokesman Dan Weaver said. (AP Photo/University of Colorado Hospital)

    DENVER (AP) Some of the victims fighting for their lives after being wounded in the movie-theater shooting rampage may face another challenge when they get out of the hospital: enormous medical bills without the benefit of health insurance.

    One family is raising money on its own online.

    And three of the five hospitals treating victims said Wednesday they will limit or completely wipe out medical bills.

    Some of the victims, however, still face a long recovery ahead and the associated medical costs, without health insurance. There’s no exact count of how many of them don’t have insurance but statistics suggest many of them might not be covered.

    Nearly one in three Coloradans, or about 1.5 million, either have no health insurance or have coverage that is inadequate, according to a 2011 report by The Colorado Trust, a health care advocacy group.

    His family and friends said they have set a goal of raising $500,000 to cover his hospital bills and other expenses and were over halfway there on Wednesday.

    “All the money that is donated is going straight to Caleb, Katie and Hugo to help them with medical bills, getting back on their feet, help with the baby items,” friend Michael West said. “Anything and everything that they need.”


    Some people have already been quick to point out that the hospitals wouldn’t need to forgive those costs, if President Obama’s health care reforms had already taken effect and everyone involved was already covered by health insurance. It was just last month that the Supreme Court issued its major ruling on the constitutionality of the individual insurance mandate, which is part of the health care reform law that many in the Republican party still hope to repeal. That mandate was specifically created to avoid scenarios like this one, when an otherwise healthy, but uninsured person receives a potentially catastrophic injury.

    Most of the wounded victims are single and under 35, the part of the population most likely to not have their own insurance. Even if they do, it might not be adequate to cover all of their costs, particularly the extensive rehabilitation and post-hospital treatment that most of them will probably need. One of the victims, Caleb Medley, remains in coma and his wife also gave birth to their first child on Tuesday. However, Medley is uninsured and their family medical expenses have been estimated to be in excess of $2 million.

    The hospitals have not released information about which patient may or may not be covered, but over 1.5 million Colorado residents are uninsured or under-insured. The two hospitals that didn’t announce a plan to forgive bill already provided more than $750 million in free care every year, as two of the state’s biggest “safety net” hospitals. Several different charity funds have established to help the victims, but it’s not clear how much they will cover and it also underscores another uncomfortable issue , what about all the people who aren’t injured in a major, highly public tragedy? There are many, many other Americans who don’t get relief funds or have their medical bills forgiven when things go wrong.

    We haven’t yet seen any politicians try to use this incident as a talking point in the debate over health care, even though it would be more likely to have an impact in that arena than the otherwise stalled gun control argument. This is exactly the kind of story that highlights the importance of a well-maintained health insurance system, yet the dialogue still seems to be concentrating on stopping the shootings, and not what happens after.

  • Igor

    And then, after the calamity of surviving Aurora, victims may be further victimised by being denied subsequent aids and assists:

    more damage

    The other two hospitals, Denver Health Medical Center and University of Colorado Hospital, where Medley is, wouldn’t directly say whether they would assist shooting victims. However, they are the state’s top two safety net hospitals and provided combined $750 million in free care in 2011.

    Hospitals are required by federal law to stabilize patients during emergencies without regard to their ability to pay.

    “The issue most probably facing the hospitals and patients in a situation like Aurora is what comes after ‘stabilization,'” said Dr. Howard Brody, director of the Institute for the Medical Humanities at the University of Texas Medical Branch in Galveston and a frequent critic of excessive medical costs.

    “Many of these people I assume will need prolonged and expensive rehabilitation after their immediate injuries are dealt with, and that seems precisely what hospitals today are less and less willing to cover out of their own funds, and no law requires that they do so, as far as I am aware,” he said.

    The fundraising might actually make Medley ineligible for some income-related assistance. His family and all other victims are already meeting with victim advocates, the case workers who deal with people hurt during crimes. The advocates determine what services they need and what assistance they qualify for.

    “We have individuals who will need a lifetime of care, or a lifetime of accommodation, and our job is to make sure those needs are met,” said Karla Maraccini, deputy director for community partnerships in the office of Gov. John Hickenlooper.