Of guns, mental illness and proximity in the aftermath of Aurora shootings

There’s really only one thing to write about this week — the horrific tragedy early Friday morning at a movie theater in Aurora that left 12 dead, nearly 60 wounded.

We all have personal reactions to these sorts of events. 

My own was that, if this had happened five or six years ago, it could very well have been my son as one of the victims. It occurred at a theater complex Tony frequented while attending film school at Aurora Community College and living just across I-225.

Add to that the fact that Tony met Jessica Ghawi, the first identified victim, when the aspiring sportscaster visited a friend who works at the South Bend, Ind., television station with him, and the separation we’d all hope to have from tragedies like this narrows.

The news brought the same feeling I had when, for a few hours after 9/11, we worried about my niece attending school in New York City only to learn that, while she was safe, we’d lost a couple of family friends in that attack.

In a nation of more than 300 million people, most Americans adopt the attitude that “it won’t happen to me.” And we’re right, though it doesn’t ease that sinking, hopeless feeling when events like this occur.

Whether it’s 250 miles away at an Aurora theater or Columbine High School or across the country at the World Trade Center or a Virginia campus, we’re drawn to our radios and televisions, our newspapers and the Internet, drinking from a fire hose of repetitive information while trying to make sense out of the senseless.

And realizing, if we’re honest with ourselves, that we’ll never be immune from such craziness, that it could happen here and it can, indeed, happen to us and we really have little control over that.

There’ll be plenty of time to argue about who really needs a 100-round magazine or more than 6,000 rounds of ammunition, purchased legally or not. We’ll hear from all sides of that argument, the National Rifle Association, New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg, the James Brady bunch and others. 

We should take time to celebrate the temporary cessation of acrimonious political commercials and entertain, however briefly, the hope that when they return they’ll lose some of the edginess we’ve already wearied of and maybe reflect that even Mitt Romney and Barack Obama can join in offering heartfelt non-political reactions.

Sooner or later, we’ll resume our daily routines living in an unalterably changed “new normal.”

When Jessica visits next week, I’ll take the advice of Mitt Romney and President Obama and hug her a little harder. Ditto for the next time Tony returns, probably for hunting season in a few months. 

I’ll wonder again, as the inevitable debates renew, why, in a country where our Supreme Court has found sensible regulation constitutional, we let the fringe elements dominate a discussion that will likely again parse why “assault rifles” really aren’t. Or, similarly, why stricter gun controls will instantly improve the mental health of those who would use any weapon against innocent victims. 

And we’ll probably watch, again, as the paranoid among us resume stockpiling weapons and ammo based upon unfounded fears. Maybe that’s the equivalent of others among us who, as the old joke goes, use fast cars or big boats to make up for other deficiencies.

There are some positive things we can all do.

Say another prayer or two for the victims and families, maybe even for the suspected shooter and his family.

Be thankful for the courage of those first responders who rushed to that Aurora theater and who could have been killed had they not taken necessary precautions before entering the suspect’s apartment.

How about a thumbs up instead of a scowl the next time you find yourself waiting at a light next to a cop from Fruita, Grand Junction, Palisade or elsewhere?  Maybe a personal “thank you” to one of our firemen or EMTs if they’re displaying their trucks and equipment again at Thursday’s Farmers Market or to doctors or nurses who might be at our bedside should we need them.

And take in a movie soon at one of our theaters. If we bunker up out of fear, others who might harm us will have won without firing a shot.

Jim Spehar likes guns, cars and boats and still stores some Greek army surplus 8 mm ammo bought off the Internet several years ago for a WWII souvenir rifle. Your comments are welcome at .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address).


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