Shouting [About Gun] Fire in a Crowded Theater

Some time last night, while most of us were asleep, someone in a Denver suburb named Aurora threw a teargas canister into a movie theater full of people watching a midnight showing of The Dark Knight Rises and started shooting people. I woke up in the middle of the night (after a little more than three hours of sleep) and I have no idea why I am up right now–There is really no reason for me to be awake, but I woke up feeling some sort of Obi Wan Kenobi-esque disturbance in the force (it might have just been gas–I ate a ridiculous amount of pretzels last night), saw the breaking news story on Yahoo News about the shooting, and now I can’t sleep. And I feel compelled to write something….

No. It doesn’t.

I am so sad and so angry and frustrated all at the same time. Sad for all of the families who are hearing, in the middle of the night, that someone they love has been senselessly killed. I’m angry that there are so many people out there who look at these deaths as some sort of necessary inconvenience that we have to put up with every once in a while in order to keep our right to have any sort of gun we might want to have. And frustrated that we, as a country, can’t come together and rationally work out how to make this crap stop. Any sort of call for tighter gun control in the wake of a shooting like this will most likely be met with accusations of trying to politicize a tragedy. Well, I don’t care. Enough already. At what point does one person’s right to keep and bear arms infringe on another person’s right to life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness?

Sure…. But you’re not taking your spoon into a theater and force-feeding all kinds of other people. Until they are dead.

For the last couple of days, people have been circulating a picture on Facebook of a man holding a sign that says “Gun sellers are accomplices of crimes” standing next to another man holding a sign that says “Spoons made me fat.” It’s a fun new twist on the old adage “Guns don’t kill people. People kill people.” Except, when you wake up in the morning and read about 14 people (so far) being killed and 50 being injured while watching the new Batman movie, it makes it a little less fun. Yes–We all know that if someone wants to kill someone else, they could use a baseball bat or a knife…. But, you know what? THINGS LIKE THIS DON’T HAPPEN WITH BASEBALL BATS!!!! They happen with guns. They happen with assault rifles and handguns with giant clips for killing multiple people. Nobody has ever walked into a theater and killed 14 people and injured 50 others with a baseball bat.

Another broken egg in our freedom omelet….

I realize that we are so divided as a nation about so many different things–People hear about something like this happening and half the country calls for less guns while the other half thinks the solution is more guns–but there has to be something we can move toward that feels like common sense without feeling like the government is plotting to disarm its citizenry. Every so often, we hear yet another story of someone with a gun deciding to kill a bunch of people. A man walks up and shoots 19 people while Gabby Giffords is giving a speech, and a short time later we all forget about it…. All of us other than the families of the ones who were shot, that is. This shit has got to stop. How many tragedies, how many shooting sprees, how many destroyed lives and families must we endure before we can come together and talk about this with a measure of sanity. Is it possible that our collective freedom is enhanced when we limit other’s freedom to possess highly effective killing machines?

Behold, the face of freedom…. Until the a meth lab blows up or a junkie robs you. Don’t worry, though–If that happens, you can defend yourself with your gun.

We, as a society, limit people’s freedom all the time. We limit a person’s freedom to cook meth in their house–even if they are only going to use it for themselves. We have the right to free speech, but that right ends when it infringes on other people’s safety. We DO NOT have the right to shout “FIRE” in a crowded movie theater, nor do we have the right to call in a fake bomb threat…. I cannot, for the life of me, figure out why we feel like it is beneficial for a society to protect the right of its citizens to possess automatic weapons designed to kill many people in a very short time. If they are used for what they are designed for, it will almost always be a crime. Sure, they are fun to shoot at the range…. but are we willing to put up with this increasingly frequent brand of mass murder just because some jack asses enjoy shooting machine guns at the range?!?! This is lunacy.

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26 Responses to Shouting [About Gun] Fire in a Crowded Theater

  1. Ruthie says:

    This is a provocative read, Chris. It hits home here, but I believe that criminals, or in your words, people who do this “shit,” will always find a way to get the guns they want. In the meantime, I want to be able to defend myself, should one of those people walk into my home and try to take out me or my daughter. There has to be a better solution, other than to take all of our guns away. Machine guns, maybe. But will that really solve the problem of one person deciding to senselessly kill another? I don’t think so. I hate this situation as much as you do. I think we need to go back to civil law and let the people, the families of the dead, hang these lunatics. Then maybe it would stop.

    • theboeskool says:

      Please don’t misunderstand me–I am not proposing anything like “taking all of our guns away” any more than I would propose taking all of our speech away. There are limits on our rights–usually when those rights start to infringe on one or more of someone else’s rights. There are some guns/arms that we are not allowed to have. Grenade launchers, bombs, missiles…. Joe Public is not allowed to have these things, even though someone might be able to come up with a situation where possessing these arms might provide protection for them or their family. There needs to be a ban on assault rifles and large clip/automatic handguns. The right to protect yourself is different than the right to carry weapons that are designed to kill a lot of people in a very short time.

      • Ruthie says:

        You make a good point. I just think they will get those kinds of weapons anyway. So we need to change our focus off of guns and onto something else. Like what is producing this kind of behavior/crime in the first place. Sozo therapy, perhaps?:)

  2. I’m a pacifist, so I contend that the only people who need guns are those who use guns to hunt for food.

    However, this business of automatic/semi-automatic guns being available to the public is an absolutely ridiculous notion. One cannot even make an argument that those kinds of guns are for protection; because they’re not. They’re designed to kill large amounts of people, very quickly.

    To make our point more widely acceptable, I think we should boycott Chick-fil-A.

  3. Ruthie says:

    Oh, and KUDOS to you for addressing a delicate and tender issue like gun control, immediately following a shooting. I am curious to see all the emotionally charged comments that will surely follow this post. Way to get in the line of “fire,” and deal with the aftermath of controversy, head on.

  4. My problem comes in that if we ban guns then only criminals and the police have guns. I find very little to be morally worse than a police officer who plays judge, jury, and executioner. As a society we tend to give the police a free ride or at least a long drawn out ride. The shooting of civilians on the bridge in NOLA after Katrina is just as egregious as a random schmuck shooting people. Both are morally repugnant and the perpetrators brought to justice.

  5. Wendy Knight says:

    I find it interesting that nobody got all worked up about 12 people getting shot at a bar in Alabama just two days ago.

  6. James says:

    As often is the case, you’re worried about more power in the hands of the people and I’m concerned about more power in the hands of the government. Have you blogged about drones yet? Or how the Obama administration facilitated deaths in Mexico and 2 ATF agents in order to advance gun control legislation?

  7. cjraines says:

    Sad situation. So sad. But luckily, rare in our country. That’s little comfort to those injured and those who lost family and friends last night.

    The bottom line, in my opinion, is that if you make gun control more strict, then you’re just taking the guns out of the hands of citizens who do it “the right way”… legally acquired guns, properly registered and taken care of. The people who do things like this are often using illegal weaponry acquired illegally… so gun control restrictions may make it slightly more difficult for people to acquire the guns, but people who want to do these things will find a way… sadly.

  8. James Fitzpatrick says:

    A note to cjraines: It may just be my age, but I do not think this is a particularly rare incident in our nation. I remember the guy who climbed up in a bell tower on a Texas Campus and just had a whale of an afternoon picking off students and faculty one by one. Of course I remember the Kennedy Assassination, and then Jack Ruby’s act of murdering Lee Harvey Oswald, denying our nation any hope of finding out the truth about the matter. Of course, there have been our home grown terrorists, shooters and bombers, and the lovely Manson family of freaks and murderers. School Killings? Columbine and Virginia Tech and all of the ones in between. Church murders? Yep, and that religious mania killings bled over into the Oikos University slaughter. And all along the way for 50 years, the time between these killings shortens.

    And to be honest, you are powerless against this. We all are until we can stop the domination of our nation by the evil work done by the NRA. Even if every last freakin’ one of us goes around packing heat, we cannot stop this. You may fool yourself into thinking that you can shoot straight and will have presence of mind to kill the killer. Statistics show otherwise. The more guns you own, the more likely you are to be killed by one. Last week a man who thinks just like you do hid his gun under a towel while he and his family looked at his job site. His three year old toddler found the gun, picked it up, it fired and killed the man. Freak accident? No. It happens all of the time. GUNS kill people and kill more of them and kill them more efficiently than any other way.

    No one needs an automatic weapon for hunting or home defense. But the NRA screams to high heaven if we try to restrict even the sale of armor piercing bullets. The NRA whips up such terror and fervor over the subject that people cannot think rationally about it any more. And you, cjraines are part and parcel of their effort to promote senseless violence. You help them perpetrate evil by saying that this is a rare circumstance. You bring about violence by believing that your right to bear arms is what is going to keep you safe. And I hate to tell you this, but you are wrong.

    I am a white male, 60 years old. I live in a privileged neighborhood. I have been successful financially and in my profession. I know (or knew) personally at least 14 victims of gun violence or accidents. My own father was shot by accident. One of the victims of the Beltway sniper was a friend. Another time a crazy person stood outside our home firing a shotgun into the house while we crawled along the floor. I have relatives, friends, business associates who have been shot. Do I consort with criminals? No. I am a church organist. But life in these United States is increasingly violent and our nation is filled with such hate and anger that all of us are in danger.

    The good news, cjraines is that YOU can make a difference. You can open your eyes and see what damage is being done to our nation in the name of the right to bear arms. You can quit supporting legislation proposed by NRA shills and those in the pockets of the weapon manufacturers. You can quit believing the lies. You can disarm. You can be a force for good and the triumph of America or you can participate in its destruction. The choice is yours.

    • Shawn Kennedy says:

      If you really want to see what happens when you take away a country’s guns, look at the U.K. Statistical studies can be great tools for determining the results of policy changes. In or about 2006, there were about 60 million people in the UK as a whole, including Scotland. In England and Wales alone — discounting Scotland — there were over 163 thousand knife crimes. By the end of 2006, there were more than 300 million people in the US as a whole and there were fewer than 400 thousand gun crimes. based on these numbers, there was one knife crime commited for every 374 people in the U.K. and one gun crime committed for every 750 people in the U.S. So, you are more than twice as likely to be a victim of knife crime in the UK as you are to be a victim of gun crime in the US. ( I used 2006 because those were the statistics available to me.)

      Overall point, criminals will always reach for the best weapon available to them, I happen to think it is naive to think gun control can even make a dent in the amount of guns in this country, where people own more guns than pets, but if you disagree I will point out that in another country as civil as our own we can see that no access on guns does not solve the problem or lessen violent crime. As for accidents, a gun is a powerful tool like any other, if you misuse it or act with brazen carelessness you get a Darwin award.

      Because of something Mr. Fitzpatrick mentioned I will say this. I own a shotgun and hunt every deer season. I own a trigger lock, a safe, and take safety seriously. I hate to sound insensitive, but anyone who leaves their gun loaded and barely concealed where their kid can access it deserves to be shot for endangering that child’s life. I can’t even fathom that level of irresponsibility.

  9. theboeskool says:

    That’s a powerful testimony, James…. Maybe guest blog powerful.

    • Andrew Dicker says:

      The UK is full of scum bags so knife crime he’s always been a problem. Also, of those knife crimes how many were comparably fatal?
      America sure can throw some somber pageantry over the killings of it’s own citizens. It’s everyone else’s fault, the gun nuts, the liberal hippies blah blah blah when in reality it’s ourselves. The culture of self. Self righteousness. I’m gonna get mine attitude. The death if community. You only have to look as far as the way people drive. No, problem endangering the lives of others to get what they want above all else and all around. People identify with what they own more than with each other. Not a single tear for the millions who have died in the name of Americas greed. Or needs, or economy, our stolen resources our national security or however you want to justify it. The tireless hours spent sowing a pocket onto cheap shirts over and over and over and over again for Walmart. Gun crime is a symptom of a sick society and those well adjusted to it are sick, too. A nation of sick maladjusted assholes will destroy itself eventually. We are just watching it happen. Good people need too rise and fight back or their silence will be their demise. This fight does not require guns or bullets but charity and compassion. The charity of your time. Your time to think before you react. The time to think before you judge. The compassion to understand why things happen and the understanding to see past your fears. Love. Rant over. Sorry about the lack of paragraphs.

  10. It’s just completely idiotic, not banning guns or at least making sure you have a record of who has them and restricting ownership.

  11. Hi, I’ve nominated you for the Sunshine Award, hope you don’t mind (and if you’ve already got it, or don’t want it, you could always offload it on someone else you like!). I love your stuff. Here’s the link – And god yeah, what IS this love affair with the gun!

  12. smith says:

    OK. First off, it was not a machine gun. It was a rifle used my millions of Americans to hunt, target shoot and compete. This is not a new rifle either. The AR 15 semi automatic rifle was first introduced as the Colt SP1 in 1963. It has NEVER been banned, even under the so called Assault Weapons Ban. This is the most popular semi automatic in the United States. It is used my hunters, competitors and plinkers. It is also the most accurate rifle that I own. Just because I like to compete with my AR in sactioned shooting events and I enjoy shooting it does not make me a jack ass and it sure doesn’t make me a criminal. What happened in Colorado is a tragity. Stop putting the blame of this on the literally millions of us in this country who use this rife for legitamate (legal) pass times and tasks. Stop blaiming a piece of equipment for this tragity. Put the blame on the shooter. Also, to those of you who want to ban firearms, the Supreme Court already ruled on that. Gun bans are unconstitutional. There is a long precident for that decision.

    • smith says:

      Small edit-It was released to the public in 1963 before the military contracted with Colt to develope the M16-a fully automatic rifle.

  13. Smith:

    Actually, the AR15 was originally designed as a selective-fire submachine gun for military use, only. When the military employed it in regular use, it was renamed as a M16. Because the selective fire rifles are illegal for civilians to own, the AR15 has had it’s select fire option removed and became marketed to civilians heavily from 1963 through today. It’s one of the best selling, if not the best selling, civilian assult rifles.

    I agree that the millions of reasonable, responsible assult rifle owners should not be held responsible for the civilan death that has occured as a result of these weapons; and I haven’t heard one person suggest this as an option anywhere. But *this* type of weapon made *that* kind of carnage possible. This kind of carnage would not have happened using a six-shooter revolver or a bolt-action rifle.

    The person is to blame? Yes. The equipment is to blame? I say yes.

    As far as gun bans being unconstitutional or illegal, that’s simply untrue. All kinds of guns are banned. Any gun with a selevtive fire option or fully automatic option is banned, which includes hundreds of various models of firearm. Its really fun to blow up stuff, but grenade launchers are banned. Bombs, including missiles, are banned.

    So what you really seem to be concerned with is that *your* guns aren’t banned. I understand that. We don’t really care about the stuff we don’t have being taken from people, but when it comes to our stuff, we tend get up in arms. Pun intended.

    • smith says:

      Brandon. Thank you for the response. Also, select fire firearms are not banned. Civilians still own these firearms legally. They are required to be registered as class III firearms, or machine guns with the ATF. Granade launchers are not guns, they are destructive devices. Bombs and missiles are also destructive devices. You got your information right off of Wikipedia concerning the AR(miLite) 15. Let me be more specific. The AR 15 TYPE rifle is not a select fire weapon as it is known today and it was released (as I stated) in 1963 by Colt as the SP1. They purchased the patent from ArmaLite. The AR (actually the 10 and later the 15) was being devoleped to impress the military in the hopes of getting a military contract. They were not impressed initially and ArmaLite sold the patent to Colt. They released it to the public as the SP1 months before in 1963 and before approval of the M16, the select fire weapon. Most civilian rifles have been developed for use by militaries. The famed Mauser action, the basis for most civilian bolt action rifles was developed by governments to use as a military arm. The Winchester 92 Lever action was developed for a military contract and was used by militaries. I would take a stab and say that ALL actions used by civilians (even six shooters) were developed for military contracts. I don’t know what you are trying to say there. Gun developers try and sell their products to governments. What I was trying to convey is the fact that these firearms have been around for many years and have never been banned.
      Also, when has prohibition of anything kept it out of criminals hands?

  14. Pingback: Guns For Christians Are Like Condoms For Nuns | The Boeskool

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