SBS Radio News
The SBS MP3 Player requires the Adobe Flash 8 Plugin. You can get Flash from here...
Radio News Bulletin
Aurora. The right to bear arms versus the right to live.
24 July 2012, 8:03 AM | Source:
If you read Jessica’s Twitter account, she banters with a work colleague on Thursday night about him not attending a screening of a movie and then tweets that the film will begin in 20 minutes. That was her last ever Tweet. An hour later she was dead, one of 12 people shot by a rampaging gunman at a cinema in Colorado.
You now know about Aurora, a suburb of Denver, after Friday morning’s shooting. That incident can be added to others in Tuscaloosa, Chicago, Delaware, Seattle, Houston, Oakland, Miami, Pittsburgh, Tennessee, Philadelphia, New Jersey, Los Angeles, Boston, Ohio, Michigan, New York, and Arizona in the past 18 months where a lone shooter has killed multiple victims.
Add to that list, the 2009 Fort Hood shooting (13 dead), the 2009 Binghamton civic center shooting (13 dead) in upstate New York, the 2007 Virginia Tech shootings (32 dead), and you may feel you are detecting a theme.
(For more, here’s a list of mass shootings in the U.S since the infamous 1999 Columbine attack.)
The Aurora shooter walked into the cinema with two pistols, a shotgun, and an AR-15 assault rifle, a type that was outlawed in 1994 but legitimised in 2004 when Congress, perhaps feeling the pinch of the powerful National Rifle Association, did not renew an assault weapons ban.
The US has an odd attitude to weapons. A few lines in the Constitution that suggests citizens have the right to bear arms if they are members of “an organized militia” seems to green light the belief that all and sundry are entitled to carry assault weapons. The Supreme Court even updated this position in 2008 ruling you don’t even have to be a militia member, whatever that is.
These weapons that are legal are ones designed to be used (if at all) by highly trained professionals in the military or law enforcement agencies. Not hunters. Not sporting shooters. Not “regular” people looking for a handgun to protect themselves from bad guys. And definitely not people in desperate need of mental health assistance.
Aurora has sparked a slight debate on gun control across the country. Nothing will come of it. The NRA is one of the most powerful lobby groups in the U.S. and will make sure of it. Gun rights advocates cutely spin what seems obvious to some – that assault weapons kill people en masse.
Guns don’t kill people, people kill people; if more people were armed in the cinema then the shooter would not have claimed so many victims; it’s my constitutional right, damn it; if you ban guns why not ban sports cars that kill people in car crashes?
And so it goes and we will be sad for the victims and shake our heads at the shooter and mental health services will continue to be ignored or have their budgets cut and gun users will retain their rights and it will still be cool to buy weapons and ammunition as if you were going on a do-or-die solo military assault of some far off place that can’t be found on a map and has an unpronounceable name. Just like in the movies.
But because of some right written in a document in 1791, it remains a right to buy a weapon that the writers of said document could never have imagined would ever exist. Those guys, the revered founding fathers, were thinking of popguns and muskets.
Rights are “rights” and are not always right. But I wonder this: had they been asked before they walked into the cinema for the screening of The Dark Knight Returns, how many of the now-dead would have been prepared to die in support of the right to bear arms?
Which is more important? Those lives? Or that right? Jessica Ghawi’s now untended Twitter account has the unstated answer.