Another shooting turns 
eyes on Colorado again

While a teenage girl clings to life in a Front Range hospital, Coloradans are once again facing difficult questions about why school shootings seem so prevalent here and what we can do to stop them.

As usual, people from around the country are chiming in, many with not-so-helpful-advice for those of us who live here. One online opinion writer suggested Friday’s shooting at Arapahoe High School was more evidence that the United States needs stricter gun laws along the lines of what President Barack Obama proposed a year ago in the wake of the Newtown, Conn., shooting.

There was no acknowledgement by the writer, or perhaps even knowledge, of the fact that Colorado passed new gun laws earlier this year in line with what Obama was seeking.

Nor was there any recognition of the fact that the shotgun and ammunition bought by 18-year-old Karl Halverson Pierson were purchased entirely legally. Pierson did not have a criminal record or a history of mental illness that would have turned up in a background check.

Furthermore, none of the proposed state or federal gun laws would ban sales of conventional shotguns. Nor should they. If you think the battle over gun laws has been intense recently, just try to prohibit people from buying one of the most universally owned firearms in America — a shotgun.

Others are shining the spotlight in Colorado for other reasons. As Jim Spehar’s column below notes, beginning with Columbine in 1999, Colorado has been home to more school shootings than any other state in the country. Throw in last year’s Aurora theater shooting, and Colorado appears to be an increasingly deadly place.

Actually, that’s not the case. Colorado’s 2012 homicide rate of 3.1 murders for every 100,000 people is well below the national average of 4.7 per 100,000. It’s been substantially below the national average for decades.

But, one has to ask, what is it about Colorado that seems to make bright, articulate young people decide that the solution to a dispute or perceived mistreatment is to start shooting, killing innocent people in the process? What is the legacy of Columbine? The gun laws that were passed in its aftermath and the changes in how law enforcement deals with school shootings? Or is it an ingrained belief among too many youngsters in Colorado that mass murder is somehow a final solution when the pressures of teen life seem too great?

We don’t have the answers. We know the knee-jerk reaction to push for still more gun laws will have little effect.

More resources devoted to mental health issues — as Gov. John Hickenlooper initially pushed for early this year, then largely abandoned — likely would have far greater impact.

In the meantime, we join the countless people in Colorado and around the country in praying for the recovery of Halverson’s victim, 17-year-old Claire Davis.


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