Will more broken hearts finally 
lead to a stronger backbone?

“God has called them all home.  For those of us who remain, let us find the strength to carry on and make our country worthy of their memory.” — President Obama

Here we are once again, trying to make sense out of the senseless, attempting to wrap our heads and hearts around one more unspeakable tragedy that this time finds 20 young children and a half-dozen adults dead in still another deadly spray of bullets.

Adding an exclamation point is the fact that Friday morning’s carnage in Connecticut was only one of four outbursts in the space of five days. The first took two lives at a shopping mall in Oregon. Another found a gunman firing off about 50 rounds near another shopping center in southern California. A day after the shootings at Sandy Hook Elementary School, a man was in custody after threatening an elementary school near his Indiana home, where hundreds of rounds of ammunition were found.

Again we’ve endured a long weekend of talking heads speculatively analyzing the home life and mental health of the shooter and competing calls for stricter gun controls, more mental health options, arming teachers and principals, and instituting security measures in schools like those we see at airports and public buildings.

I understand grasping at straws to explain the unexplainable. It’s absolutely true the people side of the equation is as important as the tools killers use, that the common denominators in mass killings seem to be mental health issues as well as easy access to weapons.

However, if it takes nearly 100 TSA employees to keep a relatively small airport in a backwater Western Slope town safe, how many security officials do you think School District 51 taxpayers would pony up for? What standards should we develop for marksmanship among educators? Perhaps a concealed carry permit along with a teaching degree and maybe Sen. Steve King’s “two to the body and one to the head.”

Self-styled members of the “well-armed militia,” worried that this latest tragedy might finally prompt sensible regulations, will once again boost profits at Jerry’s, Cabelas, Sportsman’s Warehouse and Sports Authority. So far, we’ve been spared the sort of post-Aurora blather that had one of Colorado’s wing-nut fringe, gun activist Dudley Brown, averring he’d feel naked with only the thousands of bullets for his semi-automatics that James Holmes had managed to amass before entering that movie theater in the Denver suburbs. 

Count me as one lifelong gun owner who doesn’t believe — whether you call them M-16s or AR-15s or launder the name to Bushmaster — that weapons designed for the sole purpose of killing opposing soldiers should be stockpiled in homes across a country with the highest rate of gun ownership and gun-related deaths in the world; that anyone not in uniform needs 30- or 100- or 250-round magazines; that I ought to be exempt from a background check because I buy a gun in the Lincoln Park Barn rather than Mesa Mall.

We should be thankful that, finally, the National Rifle Association has so far remained silent, that five months after a dozen moviegoers were killed in the Aurora theater complex my son once frequented, our governor has finally taken a timid step forward with vague talk about “a conversation” that needs to take place regarding gun issues.

But expressions of sorrow and regret ring hollow in the wake of perpetual inaction. It’s not enough for two teams to paste memorial stickers on their National Football League helmets and have a couple of players whose jersey numbers happen to be 26 hold hands with school kids in a St. Louis stadium thousands of miles from the bloody classrooms. 

Last July, after the Aurora shootings, I suggested we should realize “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.” That’s still true.

But it doesn’t mean we shouldn’t try to make things better.

As President Obama asked: “Are we really prepared to say that we’re powerless in the face of such carnage, that the politics are too hard? Are we prepared to say that such violence visited on our children year after year after year is somehow the price of our freedom?”


Jim Spehar’s sure he’s not alone in having more questions than answers about the latest round of public killings. Your thoughts are welcome at .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address).


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