Politicizing the Tragedy in Aurora


Conor P. Williams

Conor Williams on Twitter. More background here.

Related Post Roulette

291 Responses

  1. Avatar Will Truman says:

    I’ve been pondering a similar post on the topic. Mine was or is going to be far less poetic than yours.

    What happened was unavoidably a political event. There’s really not much avoiding, nor really is there any reason that we should. Where I tend to get annoyed is when it pollutes the air the same day it’s happening, as we’re still figuring out what did happen, and so on. It seems unreasonable to say that tying these events to gun control (for instance) should be forever off-limits, but it doesn’t seem unreasonable to ask that I get time to absorb the events before the yelling begins. I’d like it to have a little time for it to be about what it’s about, rather than being about what the political ramifications of it are.

    This isn’t to target the left, really. The political ramifications were brought to the League by a righty. There is also something cynical in saying we can never, ever use this as a reference point for political actions. If we don’t want this sort of thing to happen again, and nobody does, then we need to discuss both what we might be able to do, and the costs of action.

    But I’d prefer it not have started yesterday.Report

    • Avatar MikeSchilling says:

      What happened was unavoidably a political event.

      That is, an act that ca be discussed politically, or has political ramifications. The act, as far as I know at this moment, anyway, is not political. This distinguishes it from the mass murders in Norway, which were political at their very heart.Report

    • I agree, Will, and I also agree with Connor. Yours is an excellent comment to an excellent post.Report

    • “The political ramifications were brought to the League by a righty. ”

      In a way, I was relieved that this was the case. However, to be honest, it was bound to be brought up, and a lefty just as well as a righty might have done it, and in a as spectacularly insensitive manner as that particular righty did.Report

    • Avatar scott says:


      So you get agitated bc I had the “nerve” to point out that Bloomberg and others liberals didn’t wait until the day after before they call for more gun control? Why don’t you criticize them for not waiting till the day after?Report

      • Avatar Will Truman says:

        Because you’re the one that brought that irritating conversation to the League. Had a liberal jumped first, they would likely have gotten the same response.

        And actually, I have mentioned my disapproval a couple of times now. My criticisms of OTB have been with regard to the liberal commenters over there.

        Expressing disapproval for anything Bloomberg does is almost superfluous. He isn’t here, nor does he have many defenders here.Report

      • Avatar Tom Van Dyke says:

        Comment @ OTB: “Isn’t complaining about the politicization of tragedy just a more passive-aggressive way of politicizing the tragedy?”

        Politicize it, you’re screwed. Complain about them politicizing it [which Bloomberg, et al. did], you’re politicizing it. Give it up, Scott, they got you coming or going, Double Whammied.


        FTR, I don’t think Scott crossed any great bounds by noting it yesterday, esp after the left’s shoddy performance the last time. And it turned out the shooter was a left-wing nut of all things, not right-Palinesque atall.Report

        • Avatar Kazzy says:

          “Give it up, Scott, they got you coming or going, Double Whammied.”

          Or, ya know, you could simply express regards for the victim’s families, reserve broader comments for another day, and let the fools who opt to do otherwise look like fools.Report

        • Avatar Will Truman says:

          Depends on the context.

          Responding to someone who is politicizing it and chiding them for doing so is okay by me. Talking about someone way over there to who is politicizing it is different. The first is a response to an instigation. The second is an instigation.

          Liberals on OTB have absolutely no room to complain about complaints of politicization. Doug posted about what happened, and within a couple hours someone was talking about how we deserve this because of our view of guns. Prick.

          Meanwhile, nobody over here “went there” until Scott did. After that, what room do those of us who want to steer clear of that have to complain? Not much, cause Scott brought it up. In such a way that I can hardly fault NewDealer for responding.

          Had NewDealer did what Stonetools did over at OTB, I would have referenced him and not Scott. I’m content to ignore Bloomberg. Scott’s harder to ignore just, seeing as how he’s right here.Report

          • Avatar Tom Van Dyke says:

            New Deal doesn’t get a rant pass just b/c Scott noted the left was out of line, which it was. That’s bad justice—esp in view of the left’s past performance on the Giffords thing.

            Actually, you have a sounder argument in that the next commenter [we’ll leave unnamed] complained that if the audience were armed, they’d have shot the bastard. That was politicizing.

            BTW, a guy from Time magazine quoted at OTB says that the matter should be politicized. Gay marriage, whathaveyou.

            And my favorite was this comment:

            To demand that we not discuss guns in the aftermath of a shooting is a politicization. It’s the NRA and its water-carriers trying to shut down the discussion.

            The TRIPLE Whammy! Scott, bro, you ain’t got a chance trying to win at their game. Find another.


            • Avatar Kazzy says:

              Careful, Tom, your partisanship is showing.

              Will is saying that *ANYONE* *INTRODUCING* politicization to the *LOOG* less than a day after the bullets stopped flying crossed a line. Whether that person was liberal or conservative, Republican or Democrat, green or purple, Will would have called them on it. What happened in NY or at OTB or on the TV matters not. Will was responding narrowly and specifically to the conversation happening here. Scot happened to be the one to do so and, thus, Will has taken issue with it. If you see that as a partisan hatchet job by Will, one of the least partisan people here, you’re simply cheerleading for laundry.Report

              • Avatar Tom Van Dyke says:

                ‘Twas I who asked the righties to back off in the first place, so please leave this betw Will & me. You can be helpful in keeping things clean around here by keeping an eye on those on your side of the aisle.Report

              • Avatar Kazzy says:

                I’ll call anyone out who is being a partisan hack, whether they are left, center, or right. If the shoe fits, wear it. You’re going after Will because the first person to stir thepot here was a conservative. That’s not his fault. Will went after Scott and Scott alone, not conservatives. You want to make something non-partisan into a partisan pissing contest, showing just how petty you are.Report

              • Avatar James Hanley says:

                Seems to me that if you want to just have a private conversation with Wil, you shouldn’t have brought it to a blog.Report

              • Avatar Tom Van Dyke says:

                I found my discussion with Will quite satisfactory, Pierre, and yielded him the last word [see below]. His demurral is valid although I disagree.

                I’m disappointed you went along with burying my own valid argument, which I’ll repost. Perhaps you didn’t see it.

                The interesting thing is what has come out since, the insistence that it’s entirely proper to politicize it, if you followed the OTB link. The left was never made to pay for its execrable behavior in the Giffords thing—that was a D member of congress in the Mother Jones link, not just some yahoo off the street—trying to dump it on Palin, Limbaugh, etc.

                So if S jumped up after Bloomberg and whoever started the same bleat, it’s not exactly fodder for the “pox on both houses” riff. There’s a there there.

              • Avatar Kazzy says:

                How do you suggest “the left” “pay” for the Giffords thing? Should we all bend over for a group spanking?Report

              • Tom,

                I’ll point out that I was plus-one’ing James’s comment to the effect that if you truly wanted this particular discussion to be between yourself and Will, having that discussion on a blog thread was a poor way to ensure privacy. Any views I have on your argument I keep to myself.Report

              • Avatar James Hanley says:

                Kinky, Kazzy.Report

              • Avatar Tom Van Dyke says:

                Pierre, do you insert yourself into every colloquy? I don’t, in fact I make it a point not to, esp when it’s one-on-one.Report

            • Avatar Will Truman says:

              My view on the next commenter is similar to that of ND.

              What it comes down to, for me, is that S’s comment indicated a desire to talk about the politics of the situation. In his case, “look at how terrible those people are.” Talking about the politicization is not, contra OTB, inherently political, when the politicization is already present. Talking about it pre-emptively, when nobody in the room is talking about it, is instigating the political discussion.

              Maybe ND would have gone there anyway. If he had, that’s where I would have focused my comments. Wish he hadn’t risen to the bait, but he didn’t put the bait out there.Report

              • Avatar Tom Van Dyke says:

                Well, you won’t get a fight from me if this is some new anti-littering policy. ‘Twas I who asked S and WS to put it on hold in the first place, n’est-ce pas? I’m there.

                The interesting thing is what has come out since, the insistence that it’s entirely proper to politicize it, if you followed the OTB link. The left was never made to pay for its execrable behavior in the Giffords thing—that was a D member of congress in the Mother Jones link, not just some yahoo off the street—trying to dump it on Palin, Limbaugh, etc.

                So if S jumped up after Bloomberg and whoever started the same bleat, it’s not exactly fodder for the “pox on both houses” riff. There’s a there there, and indeed there are those on the left insisting they have a right to jump on tragedies like this.

                As far as WS and the Concealed Carry argument, etc. we are in full agreement that it could have waited at least until the blood dried.Report

              • Avatar Will Truman says:

                I’m still furious about the Giffords thing. That’s actually informing my views on this, wanting me to keep certain things at bay. For as long as possible, at any rate, giving time for more info and cooler heads, if nothing else.Report

          • Avatar Scott says:


            Just for amusement I’m going to ask how many days I should have waited before it would it have been permissible to point out that liberals didn’t wait to use this tragedy to bash guns?Report

            • Avatar Kazzy says:

              People who didn’t wait more than one day to start politicizing the issue:
              – Liberals
              – Conservatives
              – Michael Bloomberg
              – Scott

              Your refusal to even acknowledge that the politicization of this event was a bipartisan effort bringing out the worst of people of all shapes and stripes shows just how myopic, partisan, and ultimately petty your thinking is.Report

              • Avatar Scott says:


                How the fish did I politicize the subject by pointing out what nanny Bloomberg did or ABC news did? Did I call for nation wide CCW or for easier gun laws, no. Did I say that the shooter was a muslim terrorist or some other nonsense, no. All I did was point out that once again liberals use a tragedy before knowing all the facts to bash guns and gun ownership. Somehow that in and of itself was enough to upset Will’s delicate constitution.Report

              • Avatar Mike Schilling says:

                Conservatives murder old ladies, molest children, and torture puppies. Can you deny that?Report

              • Avatar Kazzy says:

                Were liberals the only folks who attempted to use the tragedy to further their political agenda?Report

              • Avatar Scott says:


                The first two folks I heard on the national news that morning were ABC news saying the guy was part of the tea party and then nanny Bloomberg saying that the two candidates should review their stance on guns. I can’t speak to bloggers and other that don’t have a national bully pulpit to push their agenda.Report

              • Avatar Kazzy says:

                So, less than 12 hours after the bullets stopped flying, you heard one ABC news reporter link the man to the Tea Party a Democratic, no, Republican, no Independent Mayor Bloomberg talk about gun control. This caused you to run to your computer, log onto the LoOG, and post about how horrible liberals are in politicizing tragedies. And you REALLY struggle to see why Will (and others) are upset?

                You’re like a vampire, man… you can’t see your own reflection.Report

              • Avatar James Hanley says:

                You’re like a vampire, man… you can’t see your own reflection.

                Space awesome.Report

              • Avatar Scott says:

                And yet I manage comb my hair and shave everyday without cutting myself.Report

              • Avatar James Hanley says:

                I shave in the shower, too. T’ain’t that hard.Report

              • Avatar Kazzy says:

                So, Scott, basically you’ve got no reply? I figured as much…Report

              • I use an electric razor, and I keep my hair so short I don’t have to comb it.Report

              • Avatar Scott says:


                What do you want me to say? I’m so sorry I had the nerve to point out what the liberals are doing? Maybe this, I promise to wait until Will or someone else deams is appropriate for me or someone to call them on it. No, I don’t apologize for calling out folks that push an agenda to strip me of my rights.Report

              • Avatar Kazzy says:

                So, in other words, you have no issue complaining about people you don’t like saying things you don’t like while the event that started the whole thing in the first place still has people bleeding in the hospital? You stay classy, conservatives.Report

              • Avatar Scott says:


                Given that the facts about the shooting hadn’t been established yet it seems a bit premature to start making pronouncements about what should be done to fix a problem. But as usual fishing liberals want to rush in and talk about gun control while emotions are high and folks are still bleeding in the hospital because you can’t let a tragedy go to waste.Report

              • Avatar Kazzy says:

                Here’s the thing, Scott… NO ONE IS DEFENDING THOSE PEOPLE! All of us here were disgusted by it… just as we were disgusted when you DID THE EXACT SAME GODDAMN THING HERE! I’ve had conversations with my students that involved fewer claims of, “BUT THEY DID IT FIRST!” They’re four-years-old, by the way.Report

              • Avatar James Hanley says:

                Scott, did you bother to check and see whether conservatives were politicizing it just as quickly as liberals? Or did you neglect to do that so you could have an excuse to engage in some mindless partisan liberal bashing?Report

              • Avatar Scott says:


                Get over the tired argument that I’m some how politicizing the subject by pointing out what nanny Bloomberg and ABC were doing. Let me report one of my last statements for you to actually read.

                Scott July 22, 2012 at 4:24 pm


                How the fish did I politicize the subject by pointing out what nanny Bloomberg did or ABC news did? Did I call for nation wide CCW or for easier gun laws, no. Did I say that the shooter was a muslim terrorist or some other nonsense, no. All I did was point out that once again liberals use a tragedy before knowing all the facts to bash guns and gun ownership. Somehow that in and of itself was enough to upset Will’s delicate constitution.Report

              • Avatar Kazzy says:

                Folks here were expressing their shock, their outrage, their sadness, and whatever other emotions they were experiencing at the news. They were updating each other about what they heard or knew or read.

                Then you jumped in with, “DAMN DIRTY LIBRULS TRYING TO TAKE AWAY MY GUNS!!!”

                If you don’t see the problem there, I will combine my two characterizations of you and simply remember you as a 4-year-old vampire. Dracula Jr should suffice.Report

              • Avatar James Hanley says:

                How the fish did I politicize the subject by pointing out what nanny Bloomberg did or ABC news did?

                You politicized it by pointing to only one party, implying that they were uniquely responsible for politicizing it.

                Vampire, indeed. (I smell a new internet meme?)Report

              • Avatar Scott says:


                Nanny Bloomberg has made his gun control agenda perfectly clear for those that listen to him. I don’t give a fish how you remember me or what you think of me. For all your attempts to act intellectually superior it is sad to see you have to engage in personal attacks and name calling.Report

              • Avatar Kazzy says:

                You obsession with Bloomberg is interesting. You realize that he currently identifies as Independent and his most recent party affiliation was with the Republicans, right?

                Please explain to me what Bloomberg had to do with the conversation folks were having when you chose to bring him up…Report

              • Avatar Kazzy says:

                Actually, you never named Bloomberg. Just liberals. All of them.

                “The only spoiler I know is that liberals are already calling for more gun control in the wake of the theatre shooting. Never waste a good tragedy, right.”

                That was a mere EIGHT HOURS after the bullets stopped flying. Again, you stay classy, conservatives.Report

              • Avatar James Hanley says:

                Your link doesn’t work, so I’m going to assume it’s not true. 😉Report

              • Avatar James Hanley says:

                Oh, lord, that man needs medical attention.Report

              • Avatar Mike Schilling says:

                Trying to silence the truth, are you? Statist.Report

              • Avatar James Hanley says:

                I already wrote my congressman asking him to shut down that dude’s website. Unfortunately my congressman is a religious fundamentalist conservative, so I expect all that will happen is that I’ll end up on his “to be killed in case of civil unrest” list.Report

              • Avatar Jason Kuznicki says:

                He can’t be a libertarian. No libertarian could be that ignorant about drugs.Report

              • Avatar BlaiseP says:

                No true Scotsman. Well, maybe he’s one of those Scottish Rite Presbyterians.Report

              • Avatar b-psycho says:

                I already wrote my congressman asking him to shut down that dude’s website.

                …you’re kidding right?Report

              • Avatar Jason Kuznicki says:

                No true Scotsman. Well, maybe he’s one of those Scottish Rite Presbyterians.

                Fair enough, I was only making a joke. I know almost nothing about the guy except that he seems never to have met a conspiracy theory he didn’t like. That doesn’t make him any more or less of a libertarian. It just means he’s a nut.Report

              • Avatar James Hanley says:


                You really had to ask?Report

            • “how many days I should have waited before it would it have been permissible to point out that liberals didn’t wait to use this tragedy to bash guns?”

              At least one, I would say.Report

            • Avatar Trumwill says:

              My post on the subject was going to either go up today or tomorrow. Even that, I wondered, was maybe too soon.

              Really, though, either of the following would have likely lead me to shrug it off:

              1) Condemned it in a conversation where it was, you know, actually occurring. It’s one thing to tell Stonetool (or whomever) that they’re being an ass. Instead, you took a conversation where nobody was politicizing it, and introduced politics into it because someone else somewhere else did so.

              2) Criticized the behavior rather than seeking to tar an entire side because some members on that side were engaging it. Your interest in this subject seems rather limited to those that you wish to score political points against.Report

              • Avatar Tom Van Dyke says:

                Will, FTR, if it had been Palin & Limbaugh instead of Bloomberg & Piers first doing the politicizing, I’d have had zero objection to a LoOG commenter calling it out. Goose and gander.Report

              • Avatar Kazzy says:

                So you wouldn’t have minded a LoOGer calling out a pundit politicizing the shooting, but you do object to a LoOGer calling out another LoOGer calling out an entire half of the spectrum he disagrees with because some members of that side politicized it? Sheesh…

                Remember Scott’s original comment:
                “The only spoiler I know is that liberals are already calling for more gun control in the wake of the theatre shooting. Never waste a good tragedy, right.”

                He didn’t name Bloomberg or ABC or anyone.. just liberals… all of ’em!Report

              • Avatar Scott says:


                Sorry I hurt peoples feelings by not being specific, I’m so sorry. Sadly that wasn’t Will’s original complaint with my post. If I remember correctly, It had something to do with me politicizing things too quickly and causing him agitation.Report

              • Avatar Kazzy says:

                Generally speaking, if you are attacking “liberals”*, you’re being political.

                *You can replace liberals with “conservatives” or “Democrats” or “Republicans” or “libertarians” or any other political ideology/group and this remains no more or less true.Report

              • Avatar James Hanley says:

                Sorry I hurt peoples feelings

                Oh, now that’s classy.Report

  2. Avatar NewDealer says:

    I generally am suspicious when people say don’t “politicize the tragedy”

    Maybe at best it can be used to mean, “Let’s not enact hasty and poorly written legislation in response to a catastrophic or tragic event”*. However, there are many times when the phrase is simply used as a very blunt tool by one side to silence the opposition and prevent them from bringing up their favorite talking points or prefered policies. It is also used to make the other side look like vulgar opportunists.

    Many people in the Democratic Party and/or liberals support gun control laws. We think, possibly correctly or possibly incorrectly, that good regulations would prevent gun massacres like the Aurora shooting from happening. Liberals tend to think that the tougher gun laws in Europe work to lessen gun violence and gun massacre. Not perfectly of course but as far as I can tell European countries tend to suffer many fewer incidents like Aurora or Columbine or Virginia Tech.

    Conservatives or pro-gun people tend to think otherwise. They talk about how if everyone was packing heat, things like Aurora would not happen. This strikes me as crazy talk. Concealed Carry stikes me as crazy. pro-Gun people see gun control policies as being fascist. What are we to do?

    Politics and policy seek to change the real world and are designed in response to real world events. These are not lofty abstractions for the seminar table to be combined with references to Kant and Hegel. It seems perfectly natural to say “Here is a real world event that is tragic and should not have happened. I think policy X will help reduce the chances of real world event happening again. Let’s enact it.”

    The Depression was a real world tragedy. Much of the New Deal was created to prevent such recklessness from happening again like Glass-Stegal. As far as I can tell, Glass-Stegal worked very well for the fifty or or years it was the law of the land.Report

    • Avatar James K says:

      The Depression was a real world tragedy. Much of the New Deal was created to prevent such recklessness from happening again like Glass-Stegal. As far as I can tell, Glass-Stegal worked very well for the fifty or or years it was the law of the land.

      The trouble with policies intended to prevent rare events is that they can act like a tiger-repelling rock. Did the policy actually do anything, or would nothing bad have happened anyway. Glass-Stegal is a classic case. Most of the banks that got into trouble would have been able to do what they did under Glass-Stegal.Report

    • I have my suspicions about how well Glass Steagal was enforced or how strong it was before its outright repeal. When I was a teller in the mid 1990s, before the repeal, we had an investment banker on site, and we tellers were paid $10 (after taxes) for each qualified referral of a customer we made to the investment banker.

      Technically, the investment banker was not part of the branch even though he worked for the bank/corporation. And I’m sure he had each of his customers sign a statement acknowledging that these investments “may lose value and are not FDIC insured.”

      This isn’t necessarily a jab at Glass Steagal. I don’t know much about its history, but I assume it was modified, reinterpreted, and weakened over the years before its outright repealReport

  3. Avatar Liberty60 says:

    As ND suggests, “politicizing” the tragedy is a valid criticism only insofar as it refers to drawing hasty and illogical conclusions.

    I’m not convinced this particular shooting has much to say about either gun control or CCW. One one side, I doubt that any sort of gun laws would deter a determined psychotic; on the other hand, the idea that an entire theater of a couple hundred people whipping out massive amounts of firepower, and the place erupting in a hailstorm of flying lead would lead to a better outcome deserves every bit of mockery we can give it.

    If I draw any conclusions from the shooting, it is about mental illness and how we ignore it.Report

    • Avatar Jason Kuznicki says:

      Has the scenario you fear ever happened?

      Given the widespread left-wing belief that we have too many guns in the country, and that concealed carry is a Very Bad Thing, surely it must have happened at least once. If not, why hasn’t it?

      Perversely, you’re still right: “the idea that an entire theater … erupting in a hailstorm of flying lead.. deserves every bit of mockery we can give it.”

      Mockery. Because I’m fairly certain it’s a strawman.Report

      • Avatar Jesse Ewiak says:

        Because thankfully, mass murders are rare and thankfully, private businesses still have the ability to ban guns from their premises.

        The reason it’s mockery is that the NYPD still managed to miss an unarmed man standing in front of them 19 out of 41 times. Yet, untrained people in the dark in the midst of a panic would do so much better.

        But to steal a post from somewhere else, “In a movie theater with a sold-out crowd of about 300 people, there are two individuals, A & B, who are carrying concealed handguns. A is sitting near the middle of the theater on the right-hand side in an aisle seat and B is towards the back of the theater, sitting near the middle of a row. Thirty minutes into the movie, a gunman enters the theater from the emergency exit on the left-hand side, tosses two gas canisters into the audience, and begins firing indiscriminately. The members of the audience panic and attempt to escape the dark, noisy, gas-filled theater. A and B draw their handguns.


        1a. What prevents A from mistaking B for the shooter’s accomplice and vice versa?

        1b. What prevents the other audience members from making this mistake?

        2a. This movie theater is not like the pistol range. It is poorly lit, loud, filled with obstructions, and both A and B’s lives are legitimately in danger. How confident are you in an average shooter’s ability to hit a moving target under these conditions?

        2b. How confident are you that neither A nor B will hit another patron of the theater?

        3. Remember that A is sitting in an aisle seat on the opposite side of the theater from the shooter. B is sitting at the rear of the theater in the middle of the row. If A and B attempt to move towards the shooter or stay stationary to engage him, they are blocking the quickest means of exit for a number of patrons placing them in greater danger. Is this greater danger justifiable?

        4. All patrons of the theater saw that the shooter was armed. Some saw that the shooter and A were armed. Some saw that the shooter and B were armed. Some saw that the shooter, A, and B were armed. How do three conflicting reports of the number of shooters in the theater and their locations help law enforcement officers accurately assess the situation and formulate their response?”

        Of course, maybe CCW holders have superpowers that infallibly tell good guys from bad by just listening. They also never miss when they shoot, no matter what the weapon or the circumstances.Report

        • Avatar Glyph says:

          Or how about this question:

          Say I am a gun-wielding nut who would like to enter a crowded theater and shoot a whole mess of people without being shot myself.

          Theater A is full of unarmed people.

          Theater B has several other gun-wielding nuts (sorry gun owners, this is not meant to be pejorative, just bear with me here) who themselves do not want to get shot, scattered throughout the audience.

          Which theater should I enter?

          If Theater (A), wouldn’t it be better if more Theaters were (B)?Report

          • Avatar Liberty60 says:

            We would be better with more theaters full of gun-wielding nuts?

            Uh, no.Report

            • Avatar Glyph says:

              That part was a joke.

              The point is, the claim is not necessarily that the CCW’s would return fire, and all that fire would be 100% accurate; the claim is that the shooter might not enter to begin with. Deterrence.

              Anyway, I think I am going against the spirit of the post so will stop now.Report

              • Avatar Jesse Ewiak says:

                Ignoring the fact that crazy people do crazy things and thus, I don’t it’d wouldn’t have mattered if the theater was right next to an Army base, let’s look at the general idea of deterrence.

                If deterrence worked, then you’d think as a nation, we’d have a lower gun murder rate than the rest of the 1st World, since after all, we have more guns available to citizens than almost any other industrialized nation. Yet, we’re near the bottom.

                So, it doesn’t follow that if we armed more people, somehow that’d lead to even less violence.Report

              • Avatar Glyph says:

                He wasn’t so crazy that he wore a leotard instead of protective gear. So we can presume that he had some fear of getting shot, no?

                I said I was going to drop this, so I will. I was simply approaching the question from a deterrence angle. Like nukes, you can’t realistically wave a wand that makes guns in the U.S. go away; so how do we best deter their misuse? Fear of retaliation seems an incentive.Report

              • Avatar Kazzy says:

                The odd thing is that both extremes are, in a certain way, preferable to the status quo.

                If there was an outright ban on guns, such that there was not a single gun in this country, the tragedy doesn’t happen.
                If every single person was armed and trained, the tragedy almost assuredly doesn’t happen.

                Outside situations like this, I struggle to see how either of those situations would otherwise be preferred. The former is a infringement of not only a constitutional right, but of a variety of general freedoms. The latter is an invitation for violence, since a number of the people who do have guns most certainly shouldn’t.

                Ideally, we would have a better way of identifying who should and should not have access to guns. The problem is, we don’t. And, as crass and as crude it may sound, we sometimes have to tolerate terrible, horrible tragedies like this as part of the price of freedom.Report

              • Avatar Glyph says:

                Kazzy, it doesn’t sound crass and crude to me, I couldn’t agree more (sadly). Dude wanted to be THE JOKER for god’s sake. If it hadn’t been guns it would have been knives or rat poison in the popcorn or little gift-wrapped boxes that emit the sound of laughter before they explode. The mode of the killing isn’t the issue.Report

              • Avatar Jaybird says:

                Personally, I’m surprised that we haven’t seen rhymes-with “schmooicide schmombers”.Report

              • Avatar Kazzy says:


                It feels crass to say in such close proximity to the tragedy. There is nothing comforting about telling a grieving relative, “At least we still have freedom, eh?” I do agree that most premeditated mass murders would still happen absent guns. Some, like Columbine, might have yielded fewer deaths, if only because a gun is easier to shoot than a bomb is to build, especially for a teenager. Some, like Aurora, might very well have yielded more deaths, as it appears Holmes was fully capable of building bombs and had he simply blown up the theater, the death count would be in the hundreds.

                The primary area where gun restrictions are likely to make a difference is murders that are not premeditated. Two guys getting into an argument over a fender-bender are less likely to end in death if the worst one can pulls out is a knife. Gang related deaths would likely drop if drive-bys weren’t an option. Of course, these are the cases that rarely drum up much conversation anymore unless there is a high-profile victim.Report

          • Avatar Rod says:

            Or how about this question:

            Does anyone here know what the hell the concealed carry laws actually are, right now, in Colorado? Oh… here we go, from a decidedly pro-gun website. It doesn’t look terribly or unreasonably restrictive to me. Of course this site is run by folks who don’t even believe that private property owners should have the right to prohibit guns on their own property. If someone can explain the libertarian logic on that I’d be really interested…Report

            • Avatar MFarmer says:

              “If someone can explain the libertarian logic on that I’d be really interested…”

              What makes you think it’s libertarian logic. It doesn’t sound libertarian to me.Report

              • Avatar MFarmer says:

                Wait, I forgot, all gun nuts are libertarian. Check.Report

              • Avatar Rod says:

                It was probably an unfair comment to make in this context. If you look at the site I linked it has a “vulgar” libertarian feel to it. Not the philosophically reasoned kind of libertarianism of Cato but more of a populist Lew Rockwell style. Think of Republicans who want to get laid and smoke dope.

                Anyway, your objection is noted and sustained. Peace.Report

          • Avatar Kolohe says:

            I think most gun wielding nuts expect to die in the act, and I think most do. (and I think this one expected to die, too)Report

            • Avatar Glyph says:

              No doubt at least partially true for many or even most. But at minimum they don’t want to die or be stopped before completion of the act. Hence the bulletproof gear; and he did live.

              As much as they expect or even want to die, some part of these spree killers maybe still wants to live, either due to simple survival instinct, or to enjoy the infamy and notoriety. The Norway shooter lived too.

              To assume they’d waltz into a possibly-armed room as readily as they would a presumably-unarmed one seems…curious somehow.Report

              • Avatar Glyph says:

                Holy crap. That is some Terminator/Assault on Precinct 13 (original) stuff.

                It’s Detroit, I must quote Moe Szyslak: “Hey, lay off Detroit. Them people is going through Mad Max times.”

                Still, I presume this scenario is rarer than the Virginia Tech/Aurora/Columbine-type scenarios; and that when it does happen, the body count is probably lower.Report

          • Avatar Michael Cain says:

            But would there still be theaters at all? One of the questions necessary to ask in this discussion is, “Why do theater owners/operators ban firearms?” as was the case this time. The simplest of the possible answers is that they believe allowing firearms in the theater is bad for business. With no disrespect to gun owners, a substantial part of the public does think that people who insist on going armed into crowded public places are gun nuts. And don’t want to sit next to them. Or have their children or teenagers sit next to them. Or have their teenagers work in a crowded place that allows firearms. It’s not clear to me how long the (B) group of theaters will stay in business.Report

            • Avatar Kazzy says:

              This is probably overstating the case. I have no idea if the theaters near me allow guns, nor do I really care. In some ways, making a big production out of banning guns might put MORE people at ease. As irrational as it might seem, I was more uncomfortable stopping at Ohio rest stops than New Jersey rest stops, precisely because the former had a sign in the window that said, “Please leave your guns in the car,” while the latter had nothing on the subject. The former made me think, “Holy shit, people are apparently walking around locked and loaded,” while the latter made me think, “Should I get Doritos or Cheetos?”

              Was I *ACTUALLY* safer in the latter? Probably not. But which did I feel safer in and which was I more comfortable and thus more likely to go into to? The latter. By far.Report

              • Avatar Michael Cain says:

                Regal, AMC, and Cinemark (the three largest US theater chains, headquartered respectively in Tennessee, Georgia, and Texas) all have had explicit corporate policies banning firearms for some time. At least to me, this suggests that all three decided that forbidding guns is good for business in some fashion. Maybe this shooting will change that attitude, maybe not. If I were complaining about corporate policies, I’d be much more inclined to complain that an emergency exit could be blocked open for 15-30 minutes (depending on which account you read) and no one did anything about it.Report

              • Avatar Patrick Cahalan says:

                I’m surprised the doors aren’t alarmed.Report

              • Avatar James Hanley says:

                Honestly, I’m not. While I’m sure the doors are there primarily for emergency purposes, in almost all theaters I’ve been in they’re not true emergency doors, as in being dedicated for emergency use only, but function as general exit doors, with some (small) portion of the audience exiting that way. I’ve been seeing that since I first started going to movies in the 1970s. It’s great if you happen to be parked on that side of the theater and want to avoid exiting with the crowd.Report

              • Avatar Kazzy says:

                If we were all being honest, how many of us would scream to the high heavens the first time some bozo made a wrong turn, opened an emergency door, and forced you to evacuate in the middle of a movie? I know I would.Report

              • Avatar Kazzy says:

                Explicit corporate policies are one thing. But how are they enforced?

                Metal detectors? Not at any theaters I’ve been to. Pat-downs? Nope. Signs??? Haven’t seen one. Oftentimes, companies enact these policies so if that if something were to happen, they have extra ammunition to go after the person. But rarely are they actually used on the ground. My hunch is that in most theaters in America, you can bring in a concealed weapon without so much as someone looking askance at you.Report

              • Avatar Kazzy says:

                “…extra ammunition…”

                Oy, poor choice of words. My apologies. What I meant is that if they have a policy on the books, they can go after violators after-the-fact. It is hard to punish someone for a violating a policy that doesn’t exist.Report

              • Avatar James Hanley says:

                “…extra ammunition…”

                You callous bastard.Report

              • Avatar Scott says:


                Surely if the business puts a sign up the prospective shooter will obey it, right? That settles it for me. Just like Chicago or NY with their gun control laws which I can’t understand why they aren’t obeyed. Surely with such strict laws, they should be among the safest, right?Report

              • Avatar Jaybird says:

                Imagine, for a minute, a movie theater with a metal detector.

                Would you go there thinking “wow, I’m going to the *SAFE* movie theater!” or would you say “you know what? I’d rather wait the two months to watch it at home”?

                Given recent ticket-buying trends, I’m guessing that there will be more people who do the latter than return to the theaters after saying the former.Report

              • Avatar Kazzy says:

                My point exactly, JB. Metal detectors might make the theater safer in reality, but all they are going to do is make people think that going to the theater might get them shot, and thus they stay away.

                Scott, PLEASE try to follow along… I’m not advocating for signs. My point is that any talk about what theaters do or do not allow is moot since every theater, in practice, allows whatever. The only reason there were no other guns in the theater that night is because every individual attending opted not to bring one of their own free will.Report

              • Avatar James Hanley says:

                Explicit corporate policies are one thing. But how are they enforced?

                If you are in a theater and somebody disrupts the movie by starting to shoot people, go tell the 17 year old usher and he’ll ask them to leave.Report

              • Avatar Kazzy says:

                Well, assuming his flashlight is working…Report

        • Avatar Liberty60 says:

          In addition, no matter how much people like to think of themselves as steely eyed Rambos, very very few people actually have skill and experience in sudden combat situations. For the vast majority of people, it takes seconds, even a minute, for them to grasp what is happening, and decide how to react.

          For the record, I don’t think limiting guns is a useful idea; I just don’t accept the premise of amateur gunslingers being able to suddenly react and apply a correct and accurate force to the situation.

          We know that even police officers, highly trained specifically for sudden emergency shootouts, tend to react in a panic, and empty their guns with a low degree of accuracy.

          A lot of this is hypothetical, of course; because as is noted, these types of things are more rare than lightning strikes, we don’t have a lot of data on what might happen if everyone walked around with guns.
          But my experience with human nature causes me to conclude it would be, “no improvement”Report

          • Avatar Jason Kuznicki says:

            In addition, no matter how much people like to think of themselves as steely eyed Rambos, very very few people actually have skill and experience in sudden combat situations.

            Likewise with the assailants. As they say of wild animals, they are likely as scared of you as you are of them.

            An example of friendly fire taking down more than a mass shooter might have done will suffice. That’s all I’m asking for. I’d happily withdraw the charge of strawmanning if you could provide it.Report

            • Avatar Patrick Cahalan says:

              Well, you get things like this:


              Unfortunately, direct reporting of these events is usually sketchy because, of course, it’s not usually apparent in these sorts of incidents if one of the shooters was righteous or not.

              Personally, I think most people who carry concealed weapons are those least likely to whip one out unless they really think they can use it effectively. But that’s just me.

              Assailants in most crime scenarios are indeedy the sort to run just like anybody else when someone starts shooting at them. Spree/rampage killers are different, though.Report

              • Avatar Tom Van Dyke says:

                Free shooting lessons for gangbangers, so they hit each other and not the bystanders.Report

              • Avatar Patrick Cahalan says:

                From what I hear, the Mexican Mafia has solved this problem in LA by stating that anybody that kills a child accidentally during a gang hit won’t survive the first night in prison.

                Not sure it’s the greatest solution (or even if it’s true), but innocent bystander victims in LA sure seems to be down in the last couple of years.Report

              • Avatar scott says:

                You mean this is a situation where holding someone responsible for their actions solved a problem? Don’t tell the liberals.Report

              • Avatar Rod says:

                We’ve already been doing a bit of that if the reports of gangbangers enlisting for a tour of duty to get the weapons training is true.Report

              • “Personally, I think most people who carry concealed weapons are those least likely to whip one out unless they really think they can use it effectively. But that’s just me.”

                My problem wouldn’t be with “most” of the characters. It would be with the small minority who might not observe this same caution. Still, I get your point. Most–maybe all–the gun owners I knew growing up were responsible and probably would not pull out their guns willy nilly.Report

              • Avatar Michael Cain says:

                “Personally, I think most people who carry concealed weapons are those least likely to whip one out unless they really think they can use it effectively. But that’s just me.”

                Yeah. But the fact is that most of what’s being written by CCW permit holders is of the “I’d have whipped out my weapon and saved the day” flavor. Assume that the theater didn’t have a firearms ban. I looked for some numbers. Of 5.1M people living in Colorado, about 90,000 have currently valid permits. That’s an estimate by the State Auditor’s office, since sheriffs are not required to put copies of who gets permits into the state-level database, and roughly two-thirds of the records in the database are inconsistent. In a state with lax requirements to get a permit. In a state that has had enough shootings in recent memory that people are aware of the possibility. 90,000 out of 5.1 million.

                In a hundred-seat theater, with the members of the audience drawn at random, one would statistically expect between one and two people to hold permits. Then you have to add in the factor — for many weapons — that the permit holder would have to wear a jacket to conceal the weapon in Denver in July at a crowded movie premier. Personally, I expect that some number (a lot?) of permit holders would pass on that. For a summer superhero blockbuster, the audience almost certainly has a disproportionate share of people who are too young to get permits. If I’m a mathematically-inclined shooter, I draw the conclusion that for the theater I’ve picked, the odds are in my favor that there is no one packing.Report

              • Avatar Mike Dwyer says:

                Michael Cain,

                This is a good point. I am not aware of any cases nationwide where a person with a CCW stopped a mass-shooting. I don’t know if that’s just odds and no one being there or them deciding to save themselves or simply not having a clean shot.

                The reason it’s so hard to assess the ‘what-ifs’ in this scenario is because it is so crazy and so random. Applying logic is nearly impossible.Report

        • Avatar George Turner says:

          Well, to date I think only one bystander has been hit by a CCW holder who missed, so I think it’s a stretch to assume multiple collateral hits in a single incident, and statistically even one is unlikely. There have been frequent incidents were perps were gunned down in stores by multiple armed customers with no blue-on-blue fire accidents. The idea that the theater would become a blue-on-blue blo0dbath is far less plausible than what Batman is doing on the big screen.

          Focusing on mental health won’t help either. Given the perp’s resume, he’d have been one of the watchers. Would anyone be happy if the shooter was the one in charge of their psych evaluations?

          But for a solution that will satisfy both gun proponents and those who fear guns, the answer is simple. Most people need to be wearing body armor. Body armor would save lives in these type of random shootings, in terrorist attacks, in simple robberies, in gas main explosions, in car crashes, plane crashes, and asteroid impacts. Sure, some people will bitch that it’s worse than motorcycle helmets, especially girls in bikinis and flak vests at the beach, but those people bitch about everything.Report

          • Avatar Jesse Ewiak says:

            I wasn’t aware convenience store robberies involve dark rooms, smoke bombs, and 300 people in a panic.Report

            • Avatar George Turner says:

              Most shooting take place at night. Dark is normal. Two smoke bombs obviously didn’t do much to impair the shooter. SWAT teams routinely start with tear gas and then storm into a situation. And of course, until the adoption of smokeless powder, anyone complaining that they couldn’t shoot because there was some smoke in the air would’ve been labeled as insane or mentally deficient. Based on millenia of military experience, barely trained soldiers can function quite well when surrounded by thousands of people in panic, and in fact are often the ones inciting the panic. The shooter in Aurora obviously had no difficulty coping with the crowd.

              The shooter was using a .22LR, a semi-auto squirrel gun. It w ouldn’t have taken much at all to turn the tables on him.Report

              • Avatar Rod says:

                But here’s the thing, George. Colorado’s CC laws (see my post above) are already fairly lax. The permits are issued by county sheriffs, and while they have some degree of discretion, it’s a “shall issue” state where that discretion is limited. There’s nothing in existing Colorado law that would currently prevent the theater from having been filled with Rambo wanna-be’s that night, other than the fact that the theater owner can put up a sign saying “No Guns.” (And I have no idea if that was the case.) Are you suggesting that private property owners not have that discretion?

                I also think a flaw in your logic stems from a universal quirk of human nature. We generally tend to believe that we’re typical; that most people believe similarly to us. So a gun enthusiast will tend to believe that most other people also want to carry firearms. I don’t think that’s true; I don’t think that most people are very interested in packing heat on a normal, daily, basis even if they might like to have the option available in certain situations or would like to keep one around the house.Report

              • Avatar NewDealer says:

                There are about as many guns in the U.S. as
                people. I think that at least half or more of the
                population owns zero guns. Some people seem
                to own entire arsenalsReport

              • Avatar Michael Cain says:

                “…other than the fact that the theater owner can put up a sign saying “No Guns.” (And I have no idea if that was the case.)”

                Yes, it was. All of Regal, AMC, and Cinemark, the three largest theater chains in the US, have explicit corporate policies banning firearms except for law enforcement officers.Report

        • Avatar NewDealer says:

          I am curious about what would happen if a CCW holder
          did accidentally kill a bystander. We don’t have any stories
          about this as far as I know. Let’s say it was like Aurora,
          would the gun lobby mind the CCW holder being charged with
          Involuntary Manslaughter because of gross recklessness? What
          if the prosecution could prove our CCW defendant was
          a very bad shooter even at the firing range?Report

          • Avatar Kazzy says:

            Perhaps we’d need to enact the same type of law that we have for doctors who cannot be held liable for medical assistance given in times of duress, such as on an airplane. Personally, I’d have no issue with such laws assuming certain conditions were met (e.g., there was an actual threat present, no law enforcement on the scene, direct threat to life).Report

            • Avatar greginak says:

              Can’t see anyway that could go wrong…cough treyvon martin…coughReport

              • Avatar Kazzy says:

                It’s entirely possible that that the Trayvon Martin situation would meet all the criteria I’d ultimately stipulate. Of course, we might not never know, seeing as how the cops didn’t, ya know, investigate.Report

              • Avatar Stillwater says:

                They did investigate. They wanted to press charges. The DA got in the way. From Wikipedia:

                On March 13, 2012, [detective] Chris Serino sent a capias request to the state’s attorney recommending charges of negligent manslaughter against Zimmerman.[113][114][115] The capias states, “the encounter between George Zimmerman and Trayvon Martin was ultimately avoidable by Zimmerman, if Zimmerman had remained in his vehicle and waited the arrival of law enforcement or conversely if he had identified himself to Martin as a concerned citizen and initiated dialog (sic) in an effort to dispel each party’s concern”. “There is no indication that Trayvon Martin was involved in any criminal activity at the time of the encounter.”[116] The State Attorney’s office initially determined there was insufficient evidence to charge Zimmerman and did not file charges based on the capias request. [115][117][118]Report

              • Avatar Kazzy says:

                Possible. I didn’t say certainly or even probably.

                I would not argue that we should give carte blanche to gun holders. But that it would make sense to absolve them of liability if they were acting reasonably in a true crisis. I personally don’t think that the Trayvon Martin situation meets the criteria. But I don’t have all the facts.Report

            • Avatar NewDealer says:

              I don’t think I see the analogy/comparison as being equal.

              A doctor performing spontaneous volunteer medical services has already had four years of medical school, internship, residency, and X years of medical experience, and is licensed after serious examination. Even a new doctor has a lot of training under his or her belt.

              As far as I can tell, the requirements for becoming a licensed gun users and/or CCW permit holder are much, much lower.Report

      • Avatar Stillwater says:

        It’s only a strawman to people who (apparently!) have some prior conception of how CC is supposed to actually prevent or deter these types of incidents. Is it that everyone needs to carry a gun so as to be able to quickly kill a killer? Like, it’s a *law* or something? (Doesn’t that lead to crossfire scenarios like Liberty described?) Or is something less than a completely armed populace sufficient to accomplish those goals – like a 20% average sorta thing? If that’s the case, then advocacy and encouragement to arm up ought to do the trick. (But doesn’t that lead to crossfire scenarios like Liberty described?) Or is it that only one or two people with CC capability could – and would! (I mean, of *course* they would, right!?!) – neutralize the dude before even greater loss of life? But … where were those guys on the Saturday night in Aurora?

        No, you’re right. Only a fool would mock the suggestion that CC is part of the solution to the problem of gun violence.Report

        • Avatar Jason Kuznicki says:

          I’ll tell you how concealed carry deters these incidents. Would-be assailants will think twice about attacking potentially armed victims. There’s not a requirement that anyone carry a gun. It’s entirely possible that no one is carrying a gun. But there’s still a halo effect from the very real possibility that someone might be. As such, it’s totally unnecessary for everyone to have a gun, or even 20%.

          As to what I’m mocking, read again. I’m mocking the idea that friendly fire from defenders would do more harm than an assailant like this one. If I found evidence to the contrary, I would withdraw the mockery. Until then, it stands.Report

          • Avatar Kazzy says:


            But it seems that Colorado has fairly lax gun restrictions. If that is indeed the case… what then?Report

            • Avatar Jason Kuznicki says:

              No deterrent is foolproof. The trouble is that the real empirical question — keeping in mind all of the relevant factors — turns out to be extraordinarily difficult. It’s difficult even to state formally.

              Some spree killers will be deterred by stricter gun control laws. Call their would-be victims V(1).

              Some spree killers will be deterred by the thought of an armed populace. Call their would-be victims V(2).

              Some spree killers will not be deterred either way, but they’ll be stopped by someone with a handgun who shoots them. If so, they won’t target the victims V(3).

              Some people will be killed by friendly fire on the way to saving V(3). Call them V(4).

              We might try constructing an inequality here, and obviously we should prefer (other things being equal) the smallest total number of victims. But to answer the question, we’d need a whole lot of very inaccessible data on a very rare phenomenon.

              Making policy based on what we think might be happening in spree killers’ heads is a poor way to go about it.Report

              • Avatar Tom Van Dyke says:

                If it’s even a question of policy, JK. The right to self-defense is a primary right in most rights schemes. To deny such primary—“unalienable”—rights is not the American understanding of how “rights” work.

                This isn’t to say—as is often said—that the Constitution [or the American scheme of rights] is a suicide pact. But when you’ve got a question of policy like this, where the “correct” answer cannot be known [as Jason puts it, is six of one vs. half-dozen of the other more or less], I don’t see how the right to self-defense can be abridged here—regardless of how we read the Second Amendment.

                Because the right to self-defense is a natural right, and as the Ninth Amendment notes

                The enumeration in the Constitution, of certain rights, shall not be construed to deny or disparage others retained by the people.

                meaning, whether or not the Second explicitly recognizes the right to self-defense by bearing arms, the right to self-defense need not be explicitly acknowledged anywhere in the Constitution to be a “self-evident” right.

                [Here let’s grab some Murray Rothbard because…because what the hell.]


              • Avatar Patrick Cahalan says:

                “I don’t see how the right to self-defense can be abridged here—regardless of how we read the Second Amendment.”

                Tom, even aside from quibbling with your next sentence, I have to admit I’m stuck on board with you here.

                Americans have the right to defend themselves.Report

              • Avatar Rod says:

                For the record, Tom, I wholeheartedly agree with you that we have a right to self-defense and that right doesn’t even depend on the Second Amendment. Although I’m not sure if the ninth can do the work on that score you think it can. Not unless you’re willing to give up criticisms of Court rulings holding laws you don’t like to be Constitutional based on “Necessary and Proper” or “Commerce Clause” or “General Welfare” or whatever. Because it’s really the same situation in a mirror.

                So the ninth means you have “other” rights. Okay… like what exactly? Self-defense? I’m cool with that. But how about same sex marriage? Or sodomy in general? Doesn’t seem a lot different to me, but I’ll wager you have doubts.

                And how does the tenth figure into this? Again, a frustratingly non-specific statement. Can you have a right that is simultaneously protected on the Federal level by the ninth that can be taken away or limited by states on the basis of the tenth? And then there’s the 14th “Equal Protection” clause to consider.

                And in all this are we to only construe a “right” in the negative sense; as something the government may not do? Can the ninth also grant positive rights like healthcare?

                I suppose there’s good reason people can easily devote their careers to Constitutional Law.Report

              • Avatar Tom Van Dyke says:

                Well, Rod, you’ve limned the issues perfectly. I’m not a big one for positive rights, or “discovering” rights that weren’t contemplated when the Constitution or its amendments were ratified. A right to health care, to free wi-fi, etc.

                Can you have a right that is simultaneously protected on the Federal level by the ninth that can be taken away or limited by states on the basis of the tenth?

                As for a right to sodomy, or to abortion, I’m of the school that says where the Constitution is silent, it is silent. This also answers why it’s the purview of the states to legalize or ban such things, and the federal gov’t to butt out. This was rather the idea Madison sold in the Federalist Papers, #45

                The powers delegated by the proposed Constitution to the federal government are few and defined. Those which are to remain in the State governments are numerous and indefinite.

                The states would govern the details of everyday life. “Don’t make a federal case of it” used to mean something. ;-}

                Today, the Fourteenth Amendment has “incorporated” the Bill of Rights against the states, that where “Congress shall make no law” now the States can make no law, although this one’s not totally over the bridge yet. Even Justice Ginsburg admits that Roe v. Wade is bad law. As for a right to sodomy via Lawrence v. Texas—which overturned Bowers of just a few years before—the dissent argued that via the “due process” reasoning that ruled private conduct was none of the state’s business*, the door was opened to ban bans on bigamy, adult incest, prostitution, bestiality, and the like on constitutional grounds.

                I agree, and find it absurd that the ratifiers of the 14th Amendment, in trying to guarantee the rights and equality of the black man in the 19th century, were establishing a constitutional right to prostitution and bestiality someday in the 21st century.

                Here I must admit a certain despair that the 14th can’t be hijacked to take us down any road that 5 justices want to take us. That Justice Ginsburg can admit that Roe is bad constitutional law** but lift no finger to overturn it tells me that in the end, discussions like this are moot.
                * The dissent[s] acknowledged that as a matter of policy, that the states should butt out of regulating private conduct seems a good idea. I agree, but the point is that the 14th A doesn’t require it.

                **See http://washingtonexaminer.com/article/1080661 for a number of surprising critics of Roe as bad law. Ginsburg, Tribe, Sunstein.Report

              • Avatar Kolohe says:

                “As for a right to sodomy, or to abortion, I’m of the school that says where the Constitution is silent, it is silent. This also answers why it’s the purview of the states to legalize or ban such things, and the federal gov’t to butt out. ”

                It’s interesting how things come around full circle.

                The whole point of the non-whiny part of the Declaration of Independence was that people are universally and naturally entitled to an ineffable and unlistable number of rights, and that *no* government can alienate them – in fact, they are supposed to protect them. And when *any* government fails in this duty, it’s time to fix it – or to dump it.

                Plus, one of the prime objections of the people who said, ‘nah, we don’t need no stinkin’ Bill O’ Rights amendments’ was that “hey, some people are going to take the enumeration of rights the wrong way; they’re going to take it as a canonical list, even though it explicitly says it’s not” And the pro-Bill O’ Rights folks were like “ORLY?” And yet, here you are.Report

              • Avatar James Hanley says:

                one of the prime objections of the people who said, ‘nah, we don’t need no stinkin’ Bill O’ Rights amendments’ was that “hey, some people are going to take the enumeration of rights the wrong way; they’re going to take it as a canonical list, even though it explicitly says it’s not”

                This. A thousand times this. If only Justice Scalia understood the Federalist Papers as well as he thinks he does, he might realize how wrong Hamilton was on that point (although I suspect Hamilton didn’t believe his own words; he would have said anything to get the Constitution ratified).Report

              • Avatar Mike Schilling says:

                Today, the Fourteenth Amendment has “incorporated” the Bill of Rights against the states,

                That is, against the state governments. I keep hearing that they’re not the same thing.Report

              • Avatar Tom Van Dyke says:

                Plus, one of the prime objections of the people who said, ‘nah, we don’t need no stinkin’ Bill O’ Rights amendments’ was that “hey, some people are going to take the enumeration of rights the wrong way; they’re going to take it as a canonical list, even though it explicitly says it’s not” And the pro-Bill O’ Rights folks were like “ORLY?” And yet, here you are.

                That’s silly: All things not explicitly prohibited are permitted as a constitutional right?

                Bigamy, adult incest, prostitution, bestiality, and the like? Cruelty to animals?Report

              • “That’s silly: All things not explicitly prohibited are permitted as a constitutional right?”

                No, that’s not the argument. It’s not “all things” but “all rights.”

                The argument about the 9th is that the first 8 amendments are not a comprehensive list of rights, understood as claims against the federal government.Report

              • Avatar Tom Van Dyke says:

                Absolutely it’s my argument, Pierre: Where the Constitution’s silent, it’s silent. Settle it democratically. Cruelty to animals—we can make the case for either side, banning or not banning.Report

              • Avatar Kolohe says:

                Mr. Van Dyke, you of all people I thought would appreciate that there’s a higher authority than the Supreme Court of the United States; call it Nature, call it Nature’s God, makes no nevermind.

                But it seems overly cumbersome to get on God’s Docket. As for Nature; well, bluntly, She seems a capricious and fickle Judge. Thus, I think it’s a good idea for the Federal level court to get involved in clamping down on the shenanigans of the state governments. Otherwise, the only recourse is the ol’ watering the Tree of Liberty, and you know how messy that is.Report

              • Avatar James Hanley says:

                Where the Constitution’s silent, it’s silent

                But the Constitution is not silent about us having unenumerated rights–in fact it’s quite vocal about that. It just happens to be rather vague about what they are. But saying, “the Constitution is silent about what they are, so it’s silent about their existence,” is illogical.Report

              • Tom,

                Absolutely it’s my argument, Pierre: Where the Constitution’s silent, it’s silent. Settle it democratically. Cruelty to animals—we can make the case for either side, banning or not banning.

                I was referring to the argument that your argument is responding to: that the 9th refers to other rights not mentioned in the original 8 amendments. You evidently find such arguments unconvincing, almost to the point of denying the existence of the 9th amendment, if I read you correctly.

                I find them convincing. I am very much convinced that Hamilton objected to a bill of rights on those grounds and that one reason for the 9th amendment was to address that objection.

                Now, you have a point. If the boat has long sailed on strictly construing the government’s enumerated powers, and the only substantive check on it is the bill of rights, what the “other rights” are is probably a question that the political process might be better equipped to handle. I’d still quibble about tyrannies of the majority and would want judicial protection of rights, but yeah, the “other rights” have to be decided and defined somehow.Report

              • Avatar Tom Van Dyke says:

                Pierre, I gotta split. Pick you up later. Good stuff.Report

              • Avatar James Hanley says:

                I am very much convinced that Hamilton objected to a bill of rights on those grounds and that one reason for the 9th amendment was to address that objection.

                Federalist 84, for those who don’t know.Report

              • Avatar Will Truman says:

                Given that we are talking about Alexander Hamilton, I sort of do have to question his sincerity here.Report

              • Avatar James Hanley says:

                I totally doubt his sincerity, but he still lays out the claim that, given a bill of rights, it’s wrong to interpret it as complete.

                (FWIW, I think Hamilton argued against a Bill of Rights not because he cared one way or the other about it, but because he was trying to clear away obstacles to ratification, of which the criticism of a lack of a bill of rights was the most serious. Madison turned out to be a better political strategist (no surprise), agreeing to give opponents the bill of rights they wanted as the price of getting them to agree.)Report

              • Avatar Patrick Cahalan says:

                “But to answer the question, we’d need a whole lot of very inaccessible data on a very rare phenomenon. ”

                This is the problem.Report

              • “Making policy based on what we think might be happening in spree killers’ heads is a poor way to go about it.”

                I agree, but I also think that’s partially what people are doing when they say, “if only enough people had guns, the assailant would have thought thrice instead of twice.” Of course, the pro-gun control side probably observes similar reasoning when it argues against that very proposition.Report

          • Avatar Kazzy says:

            “As to what I’m mocking, read again. I’m mocking the idea that friendly fire from defenders would do more harm than an assailant like this one.”

            Here is how I see it…

            Assume there is a non-zero number of trained and carrying gun owners in the theater.
            In some number of scenarios, the murderer is taken out before he can inflict the full extent of his harm and no additional bystanders are injured. Gun presence = absolute good.
            In some number of scenarios, the murderer is taken out before he can inflict the full extent of his harm but additional bystanders are injured. Gun presence = qualified good.
            In some number of scenarios, the murderer realizes full harm, may or may not be taken out, but no additional bystanders are injured. Gun presence = neutral.
            In some number of scenarios, the murderer realizes full harm, may or may not be taken out, and additional bystanders are injured. Gun presence = bad.

            The question is, what is the likelihood of each scenario and the totality of the good or bad done in each. Since N is so small, we’ll likely never know.

            Which is not to say that your mockery is entirely misplaced. Only that there exist a multitude of possible scenarios that could emerge, some of which are most certainly not deserving of mockery.Report

          • Avatar Rod says:

            Again, Colorado has fairly lax concealed carry laws. It’s a state-wide “shall issue” situation with only circumscribed exceptions and limited discretion on the part of Sheriffs. And it didn’t do a damn bit of good, did it?

            This is a terrible test case. God only knows what was going through this nut-bar’s head but he almost certainly never expected to live to see his next birthday. Or else he genuinely believed himself to be some kind of criminal master-mind. Either way I don’t see how anything short of divine intervention could have stopped him.

            Your position is much more tenable wrt the average street criminal. Someone who actually has some desire to live after he’s stolen your stuff or whatever. It’s still debatable but it’s not an unreasonable position to argue in that context.Report

            • Avatar James Hanley says:

              OK, it didn’t do a damn bit of good in this case. It didn’t do a damn bit of harm, either, did it?Report

              • Probably not, but if permissive concealed carried laws come with problems of their own–and I’m not insisting here that they do, only that it’s possible–then it’s possible that the fact such laws didn’t help here might also suggest their benefits, as balanced against their costs, are not less obvious than when we’re discussing their effect as a deterrent alone.Report

              • Avatar Rod says:

                I don’t disagree, an I’m not arguing against permissive CC laws, at least within reason, and if you actually look up Colorado’s CC laws they seem pretty reasonable to me. I would guess that somewhere around 90 to 95% of adult Colorado residents would pass muster, and the restricted classes seem fairly non-controversial.

                What I was pushing up against was Jason’s assertion that if more folks at the theater had been carrying then fewer people would have been killed or injured. And I was particularly pushing against the unstated assumption on his part that restrictions on CC were the reason that no one was carrying. If that’s not where Jason was coming from, then fine, I shouldn’t have made that assumption. But in that case I have no idea what his ultimate point was supposed to be.

                I’m somewhat familiar with Aurora. Denver’s sort of in my extended backyard; I have relatives there (both of my brothers in fact), and I lived in Aurora for a couple months when I was much younger. Aurora’s sort of mixed bag kind of town. It has some really nice, upper-middle class neighborhoods and some downscale ones as well. I’m pretty sure that theater complex is in one of the nicer parts of town, likely sitting next to a big suburban shopping mall. I’m sure you can picture it. It’s not the kind of neighborhood you would normally feel very paranoid about.

                * FWIW, the University of Colorado’s Medical Center is pretty close by. So many of the victims were undoubtedly treated at the same hospital my wife had her cancer surgery in last October.Report

              • My understanding is that Aurora is Colorado’s 3d largest city, after Denver and Co. Springs. I grew up in Denver proper (southwest) but rarely ever made it to Aurora.Report

              • Avatar Rod says:

                I had a couple aunts/uncles w/cousins living in Denver proper; somewhere on Claremont west of I-25. One brother lives in Lakewood and the other on the south side in what’s now Centennial I believe. When I was a kid going to Denver was going to THE city.Report

          • Avatar Liberty60 says:

            I actually understand the concept that an armed robber or mugger would think twice about attacking a potentially armed victim.

            But a spree killer? Who are almost invariably either suicidal or completely willing to turn themselves in?

            FWIW, suicidal attacks are used precisely because there really isn’t any good deterrant; all the prevention scenarios depend on perpetrators not wanting to get caught; when a guy wants nothing more than to go out in a blaze of glory and a hail of bullets, CCW won’t do much good.Report

            • Avatar Kazzy says:

              Coincidentally, I just touched on this up above. Mass murderers will find a way until and unless we live in a “Demolition Man” style world. And even that ended with mass murder. Random street violence is where a difference can be made. But no one is going to score political points taking on that.Report

          • Avatar Stillwater says:

            If I found evidence to the contrary, I would withdraw the mockery. Until then, it stands.

            Evidence of cross-firing civilian CCers killing more than the perp will indeed be hard to come by. But is that what you really want to pin this argument on? – the claim that there is no empirical evidence that CC holders increase the total death count? How the hell could that ever be determined?Report

            • Avatar Jason Kuznicki says:

              I don’t know how it could be determined. You might want to ask Liberty60, he’s the one who raised the possibility.

              As I said, I find no evidence for it (yet), and I think it’s pretty unlikely.Report

            • Avatar Morat20 says:

              Offhand, just placing myself in the shoes of the people there….

              How do you know who the ‘bad guy’ is? He’s the guy with the gun, shooting people. So I pull out my gun and shoot at him.

              That’s good. But what about Bob, three rows over. How does he identify the bad guy? Or Tom, on the other end of the theater?

              I mean, sure if it was a movie we’d all know who shot first and all us amateur gunslingers would be only shooting at the bad guy, and then high five after — except the one of us who got the token flesh wound, to show it was ‘real’.

              IIRC, that Congresswoman that was shot — the shooter was hit by someone with a CC permit. And I believe THAT guy was almost shot by the third party thinking he was the original shooter. Or maybe I’m thinking of another shooting.

              Anyways, this guy obviously would have stood out as ‘suspicious as hell’ in decent lighting. But it wasn’t decent lighting. And not all spree killers — or random killers, or just guys with a gun about to use it — dress like, you know, movie stereotypes of the bad guy.

              I do love the “deterrence” angle, though. It hasn’t worked with the death penalty, I sincerely doubt it works with CC mostly because people don’t generally think that way. Purely rational people might weigh up the odds.

              Purely rational people don’t tend to kill outside of self-defense.

              Added to that? People in general don’t tend to put obstacles between themselves and what they really want. You might call it ‘excessive optimism’, but it’s a practical fact with people. They gloss over, ignore, or deeply underestimate the odds of something ‘negative’ happening.

              Whether it’s the presense of another armed person, the liklihood of pair of natural disastors striking your power plant, or that your project timeline requires all of your coders to meet their deadlines.

              It takes training and a lot of experience to force yourself to factor in things like that. Killers rarely get that sort.Report

              • Avatar Kazzy says:

                “IIRC, that Congresswoman that was shot — the shooter was hit by someone with a CC permit. And I believe THAT guy was almost shot by the third party thinking he was the original shooter. Or maybe I’m thinking of another shooting.”

                You must be thinking of another shooter. One of the men who subdued Loughner did indeed have a CC permit and was carrying that day, but upon sizing up the situation, realized drawing his weapon was unlikely to improve matters.

                “But before we embrace Zamudio’s brave intervention as proof of the value of being armed, let’s hear the whole story. “I came out of that store, I clicked the safety off, and I was ready,” he explained on Fox and Friends. “I had my hand on my gun. I had it in my jacket pocket here. And I came around the corner like this.” Zamudio demonstrated how his shooting hand was wrapped around the weapon, poised to draw and fire. As he rounded the corner, he saw a man holding a gun. “And that’s who I at first thought was the shooter,” Zamudio recalled. “I told him to ‘Drop it, drop it!’ ”
                But the man with the gun wasn’t the shooter. He had wrested the gun away from the shooter. “Had you shot that guy, it would have been a big, fat mess,” the interviewer pointed out.
                Zamudio agreed:
                “I was very lucky. Honestly, it was a matter of seconds. Two, maybe three seconds between when I came through the doorway and when I was laying on top of [the real shooter], holding him down. So, I mean, in that short amount of time I made a lot of really big decisions really fast. … I was really lucky.
                When Zamudio was asked what kind of weapons training he’d had, he answered: “My father raised me around guns … so I’m really comfortable with them. But I’ve never been in the military or had any professional training. I just reacted.”
                The Arizona Daily Star, based on its interview with Zamudio, adds two details to the story. First, upon seeing the man with the gun, Zamudio “grabbed his arm and shoved him into a wall” before realizing he wasn’t the shooter. And second, one reason why Zamudio didn’t pull out his own weapon was that “he didn’t want to be confused as a second gunman.”


                Disclaimer: My use of this link/quote here is in no way an endorsement of the broader view in the article. It was simply the first article I found with a relatively comprehensive description of Zamudio’s actions that day. How Zamudio opted to act in that particular situation with the particular set of circumstances surrounding his actions are relatively useless in determining broad-based gun control legislation.Report

          • “I’ll tell you how concealed carry deters these incidents. Would-be assailants will think twice about attacking potentially armed victims.”

            This is what I meant by my “x-factorish” comment below. Permissive concealed carry laws will (or will, if you prefer), have that effect. But to what degree? What is the likelihood of other scenarios, such as the ones Kazzy points out?

            So yes, it will (or will) have that effect, but what else?Report

      • Well, it is, or is likely to be, a strawman in the sense that it probably has never gone down like a lot of people seem to worry it might, as far as we know.

        But it’s not a strawman when the “it” is the argument that more people carrying arms would, or might have, prevented or lessened the outcome of an event like this. People make that argument.

        One of the main point of Liberty60’s argument, as I see it, is that it’s not as simple as “people carry guns with them and stop the mass killer in time to save people.” There are, in other words, probably trade-offs.

        The claim that if everybody, or more people, were armed, then such killings might be less likely or less massive is not wrong. It’s plausible. But it’s also a little x-factorish.Report

    • Avatar Glyph says:

      re: ‘mental illness and how we ignore it’

      Even this has political ramifications. 🙁 Early reports seem to indicate that the shooter’s mom at least worried that he’d gone off the deep end. But without concrete advance evidence that he intended to harm others, what do we do? We can’t imprison the guy or forcibly medicate him before the fact.

      Monthly psych evals for everyone? That’ll go over like a lead balloon. The amount of surveillance necessary to try to catch people when they break would make us all crazy.Report

      • Avatar Kazzy says:

        I understood this to be more of a social issue than an outright political one. How many of us actually know the signs of mental illness? How many of us, particularly men, would immediately pursue help if we were struggling? How many of us see mental illness as an indication of some sort of weakness or failing of personality? If our perception and understanding of mental illness was better, some of these instances likely could be prevented. I don’t know how we get there, though.Report

        • Avatar Kolohe says:

          We (the State and society) have been quite bad at overdiagnosing and misdiagnosing metal illness in the past, and very horrible in treating it, so we rightly miss in the other direction nowadays.Report

          • Avatar Glyph says:

            This is what I meant by a political question. I am very leery of allowing anyone to be confined or ‘treated’ (or even examined) against their will for these reasons. And any sort of mass filter for signs of insanity would raise privacy questions, Minority Report-type stuff.Report

    • Avatar James K says:

      Yeah, I feel the same way. It’s worth bearing in mind that these incidents are extremely rare. They don’t always seem rare because every single case gets massive publicity so availability bias leads people to overestimate their frequency. I suspect lightning kills more people than this kind of shooting.

      I’ll actually go further and suggest the are far more important issues to worry about. If you care about people being killed, the thing to watch is car accidents which kill 40,000 Americans per year, that’s more than a 9/11 each month.Report

      • Avatar Matty says:

        I sometimes wish, and I’m really not being snarky, that someone would cite those car accident statistics and follow up with “and here is how to reduce them..”.

        Do we need to look at more extensive training before people are allowed to drive, stricter enforcement of traffic laws, better highway maintenance? There is a problem here and one that may precisely because it is common be more susceptible to analysis and solutions than the problem of lone gunmen.Report

        • Avatar Glyph says:

          I’m not sure what the accident fatality rates are in Germany, but I know that much more training is required there before people can drive. And if you get into an accident in the initial period (not sure of duration) after being licensed, *regardless of whose fault it is*, you lose the license for a while.

          They also enforce & cite for things that we consider optional courtesies here – like the left lane being limited to overtaking traffic, and never overtaking on the right.

          I wouldn’t mind seeing some of these things here.Report

        • Avatar James K says:

          I didn’t suggest options because I don’t have any experience in transport policy and as such my proposals would likely be naive and ill-informed. My point was merely that if you want to get a bunch of smart people focused on a problem that will really increase human life, think transport policy, not crazy people shooting places up.

          In fact I think we’re on the same page on this.Report

          • Avatar Stillwater says:

            If you care about people being killed, the thing to watch is car accidents

            This sounds vaguely like the “I thought liberals cared about the poor” refrain. I’m not sure what standard of coherence is being appealed to in these types of arguments, but there is a categorical difference between attempting to minimize gun-related deaths and minimize automobile related deaths.Report

            • Avatar James K says:

              This isn’t about liberals per se, it’s about people’s inability to get statistics no matter what their political affiliation. Spree killings like this one are incredibly rare and kill, almost nobody. They draw a lot of attention so people spend disproportionate time thinking about them, but as causes of human death I imagine they sit somewhere between lightning and meteorites.

              As a general rule we should allocate our problem-solving resources in proportion to the severity of the problem (though how responsive a problem is to solutions matters too). What I’m suggesting is that the liberals raising hue and cry about the dangers of lack of gun control, and the conservatives blaming it on insufficient concealed weapons, atheism or whatever has them shouting at the radio today are missing the point. The real point is that this is a near-negligible that is too small to be worth analysing. If I were going to point fingers, (and I’m not planning to) I’d look at the media for throwing so much attention on a handful of isolated incidents while an issue orders of magnitude larger flies under the radar precisely because car crashes are too common to be news.Report

          • Avatar Matty says:

            Yes, sorry if that came across as a criticism of youReport

        • Avatar dhex says:

          making it far harder to get a driver’s license would help – say about as difficult as getting a concealed carry license in nyc. 🙂

          last night on msnbc i saw a woman interviewed “on the street” in the city talking about how she’s going to avoid midnight showings of movies from now on.Report

        • Avatar Patrick Cahalan says:

          > Do we need to look at more extensive training
          > before people are allowed to drive


          > stricter enforcement of traffic laws

          Not with the ones we have, but better enforcement might be good. I doubt it will help too much, though.

          > better highway maintenance?


          Also harder registration requirements, since most cars aren’t maintained properly.

          Or we can just admit that ~40k/year is “about right”. Which sounds heartless, but it’s certainly a position to have.

          Some number has to be “about right”. Zero is fantasy land.Report

          • Avatar Tom Van Dyke says:

            Bleg: Where did this “Driving is a privilege” [not a right] bit come from? Never got that one. Anyone? Bueller? Ben Stein?Report

            • Avatar Will Truman says:

              Dunno, but I remember it being said about 500 times a day in Driver’s Ed.Report

            • Avatar Patrick Cahalan says:

              I bet it came ’bout around the same time the national highway system did.Report

            • Avatar James Hanley says:

              Can driving be a right without being either a positive right or a newly discovered natural right?Report

              • Avatar Matty says:

                If you can have a right to own guns when they don’t exist in a ‘state of nature’ you can have a similar right to drive cars.

                Or we could generalise – the right to bear arms is a particular case of the right to self defence, the right to drive is a particular case of the right to go where the fish you want. Not that this solves any problems on its own but it provides a way to shoehorn rights to invented things into a natural rights framework.Report

      • ” If you care about people being killed, the thing to watch is car accidents which kill 40,000 Americans per year, that’s more than a 9/11 each month.”

        I think I understand the spirit of this comment: you’re saying it’s a question of priorities and allocation of resources.

        But if we’re talking about mass shootings and what, if anything, can be done to prevent or limit them , or to limit their efficacy, then that comment, by itself, does not address the problem. I’ll admit that it does, however, compel us to put it in perspective.Report

      • Avatar Michael Cain says:

        Or the estimated 100,000 that die each year from preventable medical errors. Or even the hundreds killed each year in general aviation crashes. At 60+ deaths per year, the chances of being struck by lightning in the US are generally greater than the chances of getting killed by a mass shooter.Report

      • Avatar Michael Drew says:

        People actually do get to be more concerned with certain kinds of death rather than just the bare numbers, and factor in their enjoyment of activities they want to participate which result, in their view, to some extent inexorable, even if the numbers could be mitigated to some extent, in deaths in as trade-offs that mitigate concern for deaths from those activities. So, while it’s likely true that there are still more simple measures that don’t restrict people’s freedom to drive when, where, and as much as they please, and don’t cost too much, that culd be implmented to reduce the number of traffic fatalities, ultimately how much can the traffic death rate rally be reduced while we still drive as much as we want? By half? There will still be 20,000 deaths a year then. If you agree that’s about as far as we’d be able to go, will you then allow people to be concerned about killing sprees that kill “almost nobody”? If not, when can they?

        The issue really is not the numbers. It’s the felt needlessness of this kind of tragedy. It’s the feeling that the horror of experiencing it must be much greater. Speculation that the experience of being shot or even threatened by an armed madman who has you confined in a closed space dwarfs that of simply being one of the unlucky many who experience the result of travelling by car being, and being known in advance to be, a relatively high-risk activity.

        Basically, the predicate of your statement doesn’t apply. No, people don’t care about people dying per se, and mostly don’t claim to. People die, often as a result of risky behavior knowingly undertaken. People accept that. People care about certain kinds of horrifying death, especially that which seems preventable, that is caused intentionally, and whose likelihood and distribution s basically impossible to begin to identify.

        This is not to say that people actively oppose relatively unobtrusive safety measures that would reduce traffic fatalities. (In all honesty, assuming there are simple, effective measures to be taken, I don’t know why they aren’t.) It’s that they understand that a risk of death associated with traveling by car that is half what it is now would still be by far one of the highest risks they face on a daily basis; it’s something they have to accept in order to move around how they want, so they do. This results in relative complacency in seeing that those measures that could bring down said risk actually are undertaken. They accept what will in any case be a high risk of death on the road because they want to be on the road. They don’t accept that there is any necessary risk of being in one of these incidents, or of experiencing other kinds of random, malicious violence, that they incur simply by choosing to go to the movies, etc. They don’ accept any necessary trade-off of this kind associated with decisions that are unidentifiable before the fact. They know they take a certain risk by getting into a car, which even in a scenario where it is reduced greatly from where it now stands would be high, will still always be quite high.Report

  4. Avatar Tod Kelly says:

    OK, I’ll be the only devil’s advocate here.

    Conor, I would agree with your post (and Will’s & others’ comments) more than I do, if I had any confidence that the politicizing that’s a’ comin’ will be in any way directly related to the tragedy. I have grave doubts that this will be the case.

    In fact, if I might be allowed to make a prediction:

    I predict that issues about how we deal with mental health issues, or to what degree we wish public institutions to attempt to identify them in the populace, will be largely ignored, save for pundits quickly acknowledging that of course we should talk about mental health before discussing things that have nothing to do with mental health.

    Gun control laws will be discussed, but in a partisan bickering style that won’t directly address the actual shooting. Republicans will talk about how C&C laws would have “prevented” this from ever happening, Democrats will talk about how relatively toothless gun control laws they have tried to pass in the past would have “prevented” this from ever happening. A serious talk about how many gun deaths – by perpetrators, law officers, or accidental shootings – we are willing to accept to achieve whatever degree of gun freedom we wish to allow will not ensue.

    Obama will be blamed on FOX and talk radio. FOX and talk radio will be blamed on MSNBC and Air America.

    Conservatives that hate Hollywood will make an argument that Hollywood is to blame, as will liberals that hate violence in movies. This will be a tiny, tiny segment of society, but they will be heavily covered by the new media.

    The tragedy will be attached by various parties to unconnected legislation for which they are lobbying, and all attempts at connecting to this tragedy to their legislation will be laughable to anyone that does not view everything through purely partisan lenses.

    In the end, no serious public policy discussions that are directly related to the tragedy at hand will be seriously discussed; no public policy changes that might have directly impacted this tragedy had have been enacted retroactively will be mandated or passed.

    If my predictions are wrong, then I’m all for politicizing the Aurora shootings. But it will be the first time I can think of I have ever witnessed such a thing happening.Report

    • Avatar Will Truman says:

      I agree that there is almost certain to be a disconnect between what actually happened, how it could be prevented, and how it will be discussed. I expect it to be entirely non-productive. But how the conversation would go, and whether it’s improper to have the conversation to begin with, are two different questions in my book. Disagree?Report

      • Avatar Rod says:

        I just can’t imagine what a productive conversation along those lines would entail. I can’t see how any reasonable measures that could be enacted could have prevented this tragedy. We can always talk–and should, it’s better than fighting–but we have to acknowledge some basic Constitutional and political realities that seriously constrain the range of policy proposals that can seriously be advanced from either side.

        In fact, the one thing that I can see that would have been able to prevent this particular incident going down the way it did is a purely private solution: metal detectors at entrances and better building security. The question is how much as a society are we willing to expend, whether publicly or privately, to stop these horrible but statistically rare events?Report

        • Avatar Will Truman says:

          I can’t see how any reasonable measures that could be enacted could have prevented this tragedy.

          I’m at a bit of a loss, too. Though that would be an upside to a conversation. What measures, specifically, would you like to see passed? What would be the goal, except for broadly making these weapons “less accessible.”

          The strongest argument that comes to my mind is that while the tragedy itself couldn’t have been prevented, the damage could have been minimized by less restrictions on the hardware used. Prevent civilian access to AR-15’s, limit the number of guns someone can possess. There would have been fewer casualties with less capable hardware.

          I have some problems with that argument, but it’s the strongest one that comes to mind. If there’s a stronger one, I’d like to hear it.Report

          • Avatar George Turner says:

            He didn’t use an AR-15, he used a .22 long rifle that looked like an AR, but is no better than a Ruger 10-22 squirrel gun that a kid would carry in the woods. The hardware can’t get much less capable. He also had a pistol and a pump shotgun, but I haven’t read whether he used them or not.Report

            • Avatar Will Truman says:

              The accounts I’ve seen say the police identified an AR 15, Remington Rifle, and a Glock 40. Did they misidentify it? (For future reference, can you source that?)Report

              • Avatar Mike Dwyer says:

                The reports have conflicted but a lot of people are saying he had a S&W 15-22. That is .22.

                Caliber doesn’t matter THAT much. The bullet size is roughly the same. It’s got a lot less powder behind it but at close range and hitting the right spot, it’s just as lethal.

                Looks like he had a drum magazine too. 100+ rounds.Report

              • Avatar Stillwater says:

                I’m in Will’s camp on this: the initial reports I’d read sourced to the cops were that it was an AR 15. Do you have a link to more recent updates? (Not that it matter all that damn much…)Report

              • Avatar Mike Dwyer says:

                I don’t have any solid links yet Stillwater. I’ve seen official-sounding reports that go both directions. Quite honestly the problem is that a lot of reporters don’t know much about guns so they hear ‘AR-15’ and report that. The 15-22 reports have mostly been from gun bloggers. Not sure which is correct.Report

              • Avatar Mike Schilling says:

                This from CNN quotes a “law enforcement source ” saying it was an AR-15 with an “after-market extended magazine” that, fortunately, jammed. He also says that the shooter began with the shotgun, switched to the rifle, and then, when the rifle jammed, to the pistol (a Glock semi-automatic, which also had an extended magazine.)

                There is no lawful reason for anyone to be carrying that much firepower around. I’m not saying I know how to write a sufficiently specific and enforceable law to embody that statement, but it is a fact.Report

              • Avatar Mike Dwyer says:

                “There is no lawful reason for anyone to be carrying that much firepower around. “

                Mike – do you mean people shouldn’t be able to own that much firepower or that they shouldn’t be able to literally ‘carry it around’?Report

              • Avatar MikeSchilling says:

                Literally, “carry around” that many rounds already loaded or in clips ready to be loaded. As I said, making this specific is difficult. But I can’t think of a lawful purpose for 140 rounds ready to be sprayed. Can you?Report

              • Avatar Mike Dwyer says:

                140 rounds seems pretty nuts. On most handguns, for example, that would be nearly 10 magazines. If I was a cop I would be extremely suspicious of anyone who had over 3 magazines in a CCW situation (that’s one in the gun and two extras).

                Of course, if you’re going to the range or something it’s a whole other story.

                And just for the record I keep about 50 rounds of .22 ammo with my handgun in my car. But those are very small rounds and the box is about the size of a Hot Wheels car. They aren’t loaded into a magazine and ready to shoot either.Report

              • Avatar trizzlor says:

                Mike, I respect your opinion on the gun issue a whole lot, so do you think there are any restrictions on types of guns or accessories that would significantly reduce injury in these kinds of mass shootings? I’m talking only about restrictions along the lines of “You can no longer manufacture or sell X”. What sort of impact would these same restrictions have on law-abiding gun owners?Report

              • Avatar Mike Dwyer says:


                You could reduce magazine capacity to an insignificant level (or do away with magazines completely). Make guns harder to reload (tube magazines verses ‘clips’). You could reduce legal calibers to something very small. You could force manufacturers to produce all guns in some obscene color. You could put metal detectors all over the place. You could ban rifles and handguns completely.

                The impact to hunters would be minimal to none. The impact to recreational shooters would be huge. The more harsh restrictions would, IMO, lead to open hostility against the government and quite possibly civil unrest.

                I’d really be interested if anyone has a link to any material that documents the public reaction to increased gun restrictions in Europe as they were implemented.Report

              • Avatar Kazzy says:

                “The impact to recreational shooters would be huge.”

                What exactly is a recreational shooter? Someone who shoots at ranges? If that is the case, couldn’t you require that all such equipment be secured at the range itself? Not ideal, but better than the current situation, no?

                (I’m a total gun noob so please pardon my ignorance.)Report

              • Avatar Mike Dwyer says:


                You could and that is similar to what they do in Europe. The issue becomes one of ownership then. I’m trying to think of another situation in the U.S. where the govt mandates that your own property must be controlled by a third party in order for you to legally own it. I guess you could do something like making those particular things illegal to own but available for rental.Report

              • Avatar Mike Schilling says:

                And I presume that people who can often do their recreational shooting on their own property rather than at ranges.Report

              • Avatar DensityDuck says:

                You could just ignore the part of the Bill Of Rights that says “the people’s right to keep and bear arms shall not be infringed…” That would certainly make things easier.

                Or you could say “look, if someone had known this guy had purchased four guns and a 100-round magazine and thousands of bullets in a five-month period, they might have thought to keep an eye on him. Unfortunately, paranoid Bircher types think that gun-registration databases are a step down a slippery slope to Barack Hussein Obama confiscating everyone’s guns. What needs to happen is that if you want to keep your guns, then you need to tell us what kind you have and how many.”Report

              • Avatar MikeSchilling says:

                You could just ignore the part of the Bill Of Rights that says “the people’s right to keep and bear arms shall not be infringed…”

                The people who’ve put restrictions on the ownership of automatic weapons and grenades have done just that.Report

          • Avatar Rod says:

            I assume in your second paragraph you mean “more” not “less” restrictions. I think that would be bumping up against some hard Constitutional limits. While I don’t think the latest SC ruling confirming an individual right to keep and bear is correct from an “original intent” perspective it’s probably correct on “strict constructivist” grounds. In any case it is what it is.

            But even if we stipulate that such restrictions could be legally imposed and survive challenges, it doesn’t follow that an individual as dementedly determined as this cat apparently was could have been actually deterred by such laws. People break laws all the time and he did so in spades as it is.

            That being said, I believe there’s room for a compromise on this issue that could lower the general availability of firearms from those who genuinely shouldn’t have access–convicted violent felons, etc.–while ensuring freedom of access to the rest of us. Something like a Federal concealed carry law that would over-ride state and local laws (which don’t really work anyway, for the righties) combined with a registry to facilitate tracking the flow of firearms into the black market (for the lefties). I personally have not the slightest qualm with someone like our Mike Dwyer or anyone else here possessing whatever guns they like. But I’d really like to put the hammer down on people supplying the criminals who couldn’t otherwise obtain them legitimately.Report

      • Avatar Tod Kelly says:

        Oh, I absolutely agree that there are conversations worth having, whether or not they have a long term impact. I’m just not sure we’re going to have any of those conversations nationally.

        “Barry says he’s for hope and change, but I guess he’s not for changing people getting shot” is not a conversation worth having, IMHO.Report

      • Avatar Michael Cain says:

        “I agree that there is almost certain to be a disconnect between what actually happened, how it could be prevented, and how it will be discussed.”

        Yeah, it’s unlikely that there will be any discussion that a different protocol for handling emergency exits would have probably prevented this. Reports say the shooter exited the theater, blocking open the emergency exit behind him, and didn’t reenter for 15 minutes. Responding in five minutes to an emergency exit that opens and stays unlatched and simply unblocking it would have stopped the reentry. Similarly, 9/11 didn’t spur much in the way of discussion about securing the flight deck and changing the protocol for handling a hijacking situation (put the plane on the ground NOW and disable it). Instead, we subject the entire flying public to the indignities associated with screening.Report

      • Avatar greginak says:

        You guys are slacking…Alex Jones already blamed Obama and Rick Warren already blamed teaching evolution. The crazy event horizon has been crossed and you aren’t even in the ball park.Report

    • Avatar Jaybird says:

      Personally, I blame the PPACA.Report

  5. Conor, thanks for writing this. It expresses what I wish I had been able to express.Report

  6. Avatar Rod says:

    A bit tangential… well, maybe more than a bit. Anyway, somebody posted this on my FB page a few minutes ago:

    Anybody in this country who wants to kill a lot of people in a crowded public space can do so quite easily.
    The fact this almost never happens indicates how wildly overstated the threat of terrorism is in America today.

    • Avatar Patrick Cahalan says:


    • Avatar Michael Drew says:

      The threat of terrorism is of course overstated. But it’s not because this type of act is readily acheivable and yet “almost never” carried out (anyway, is that true?) This kind of act is simply irrelevant to terrorism in the U.S. precisely because it’s so easy to carry out and (contra your Fb friend), so common. We’re demonstrably not terrorized by events such as this (anymore). I can’t imagine would-be terrorists thinking they’d achieved much in the way of terrorizing us if they simply managed to shoot up a public space or two from time to time. There has to be some element of novelty, of diabolical invention, of the sewing of chaos, of simple imposing scale, or of sustained threat to an act of terrorism that is worthy of the name. Acts such as this simply aren’t terrorism, and wouldn’t be even if carried out in isolation by members of “core” Al Qaeda. (They might succeed in terrorizing the U.S. if they were coordinated in a way that suggested they could be sustained in time in a way that thwarted authorities’ ability to contain them, a-la the Beltway killers.)

      The terrorist threat is shown to be a paper tiger not because would-be terrorists could pull off Aurora- or Virginia-Tech-style massacres and don’t, but because to succeed in terrorizing the population they would need to pull off much more spectacular, or at least novel, kinds of violence, and they simply don’t have the capability of doing it anymore. (I’m making no claim as to why that is the case.)Report

  7. Avatar Fnord says:

    Politicizing this issue, even in a “good” way to start a conversation about violence, is governing by availability bias. The homicide rate in the United States is about 15000 per year. Tragic as they are, mass shootings like this are a tiny minority of deaths from violence. Weighing policy with this event foremost in our minds is the wrong way to think about violence.Report

    • Avatar Stillwater says:

      See, I come at if from the exact opposite pov. If we tolerate these types of acts as an unfortunate but justifiable consequence of preserving our robust second amendment rights, we’ve tacitly accepted and legitimized one of the most extreme type and otherwise clearly objectionable forms of violence people can perpetrate. At that point, there is no constructive talk about ‘violence’, since we’ve excluded its most extreme expressions from being a part of the conversation.Report

      • Avatar Jaybird says:

        Evil Jaybird asked me to ask the following:

        Could we also discuss whether more should be done to institutionalize the violently mentally ill?

        It seems to me that whenever these frames come up, it’s always narrowed down to one particular “we should get rid of *THESE* rights” framing.

        Wouldn’t we violate the rights of far fewer people if we established a decent pre-crime policy that could take people like this shooter and the VA Tech shooter and the Fort Hood shooter and put them in a room where they could be sedated and everybody else could be protected from the violently insane engaging in a shooting spree?Report

        • Avatar DensityDuck says:

          It is worth pointing out, to amplify Evil Jaybird’s question, that the Bill Of Rights does not say “you can’t put people in prison”, and it does say “you can’t ever ban guns”. You can put anyone in prison you like, so long as you get twelve people to agree that he should be there.Report

      • Avatar Will Truman says:

        What concerns me about this logic, and why I am not particularly sympathetic to it, is that the focus on these types of events set what should be allowable to the most extreme abuses. That is, if some whackjob or dude with a suicide wish or philosophical extremist would so abuse a right, the right should be put into question. On the basis of what some the most extreme individuals might do with it. Myeh.

        There’s a quote along these lines out there.Report

        • Avatar Stillwater says:

          Maybe the point I was getting at got lost. It’s this: we can’t have a conversation about violence in our society if we exclude the its most extreme forms from the debate. That just seems obvious to me. As to your other point, hard cases may make bad law but that determination cannot be made in advance of having the conversation, it seems to me.Report

          • Avatar Kazzy says:

            They shouldn’t be excluded from the conversation… just considered with the proper perspective. This is rarely the case.Report

          • Avatar NewDealer says:

            The usual line is that bad facts make bad law.
            Not always but close enough especially in crim
            Law and procedure. In civil law, bad facts are
            more subjective.Report

      • Avatar Fnord says:

        Saying we need to “tolerate these types of acts as an unfortunate but justifiable consequence of preserving our robust second amendment rights.” I’m not saying anything about gun rights (or, for that matter, violent media/free speech, treatment of the mentally ill, or anything else that’s been brought up) in this context at all. Because talking about policy in this context is a bad idea.

        If we’re going to talk about violence, how about we start with the 99.9% that happens every day rather than the 0.1% that makes the national news?Report

  8. Avatar trizzlor says:

    Imagine some nutjob with road rage purposefully drives the wrong way up a highway on-ramp and tries to cause as many pile-up accidents as he can. Would we be using that tragedy to start a discussion on re-evaluating our traffic laws? Would we be talking about on-ramp construction strategies and pile-up safety techniques? Why is this conversation different?Report

    • Avatar Glyph says:

      Or coming back to this tragedy – I don’t think it very controversial to assert that the ‘vector of transmission’ of inspiration for these types of spree killings is the media. Nutjob A’s notoriety inspires Nutjob B, who inspires Nutjob C. Maybe we should be restricting people’s access to the news, radio, TV, and Internet. After all, we don’t want these ideas to get into the wrong heads.Report

    • Avatar DensityDuck says:

      I’d suggest that the reason road-rage deaths don’t prompt a discussion about whether driving should be allowed is that the default state for traffic deaths is tens of thousands per year already. As weird as it sounds, we’re used to the idea that some people are going to die every year from car wrecks. However, the default number of people being killed in mass-shooting events is much lower, usually zero; which means that when the number becomes non-zero, it prompts questions about what caused it to change and whether it could have been kept at zero.Report

      • Avatar Glyph says:

        DD – not disagreeing, but this seems non-responsive to Trizzlor’s hypo. The hypo is not a given typical road rage incident, or even an aggregation of them; it is a road rage ‘spree killing’ in which dozens of ppl are killed en masse by one Nutjob. This would be as unusual as a spree shooting is in comparison to a botched holdup shooting. But I somehow doubt it would lead to calls for licensing or equipment restrictions.Report

        • Avatar DensityDuck says:

          Do you have a reason why it wouldn’t?Report

          • Avatar Glyph says:

            I guess I just think most people would think ‘Man, that is crazy/tragic, but what are you gonna do? Dude was a nut.’

            Despite the fact that guns and cars are both just machines (and as noted, per capita, 1 type of machine kills far more than the other), many people have an emotional reaction to guns that they just don’t to cars.

            Reason doesn’t factor into it.Report

  9. Avatar Kolohe says:

    Random musings:

    I would think that people that prefer fact-based public policy would rather use data than horrific anecdotes to guide public policy.

    If the drug war ever does get dialed down, I imagine stricter gun laws would be a good way to pick up the slack in sending poor and/or brown people to jail.Report

  10. Avatar Kris says:

    If 1000 people died from polluted drinking water, that would be a good time to discuss pollution laws to see how the danger could be reduced.

    A dozen people were just killed by a disturbed man with guns. Now is a good time to discuss if and how that sort of danger can be reduced and whether the steps taken to reduce the danger are worth it.

    I admit, focusing on the tragedy itself and the victims for a day or so is required by tact abd helps to remind us of the bonds and duties of compassion we have with each other. After that day, we as a polis have to discuss what to do about the problem if anything.

    Really, every discussion we have about anything in this country will be politicized. That’s life in a democracy. People die from drunk drivers. We then discuss criminal sanctions for DUI’s. We discuss unemployment after families a shattered by job losses, etc., etc.

    I get that bad policy is likely to follow from emotional voters, jumping to conclusions, but that will happen regardless of when we have this debate. Further away from this tragedy, voters will be less likely to be influenced by the emotions they feel for the victims and more likely to feel emotions drummed up by political ads -say those backed by NRA et al.Report

    • Avatar James Hanley says:

      Kris has a good point. Despite everyone now mocking Rahm Emanuel for saying “never let a crisis go to waste,” it’s a pretty standard argument in the policy field that forward movement on issues occurs primarily when the public’s attention is focused on it by dramatic events, in what Anthony Downs called the issue-attention cycle.Report

    • Avatar Scott says:


      We can make emotionally based decision or rationally based decisions and both may lead to bad policy, however, I’m going to guess that emotionally based decisions lead more often to bad decisions. Sadly, I’m not even sure that the anti gun crowd even wants to have a rationally based discussion about the subject.Report

      • Avatar Kris says:

        My point is that most voters will decide on emotion regardless. Many will vote on a groundless fear of gubmint takin guns, drummed up by advertisements designed to create that fear. That’s how politics in democracy work. Right now, people feel a strong emotional attachment to the victims and an outrage over their deaths, I don’t see how those emotions are any worse than any emotions involved in, say, the abortion debate, foreign policy debates, drug policy, etc.

        In fact, here’s a hypothetical for all those against the drug war. Imagine some police force, local or federal, finally screwed up even bigger than usual in a raid of some pot place and ten kids got killed or something horrible like that. Wouldn’t that be a good time to review the efficacy and the costs of the war on drugs.

        Surely the execution of Cameron Todd Willingham created a good time to review the death penalty, etc.

        That’s how democracy works.Report

    • Avatar Jason Kuznicki says:

      If 12 people in a single building were killed by poisoned drinking water, and if it was one clearly deranged individual who had deliberately poisoned that building’s water supply, would it really be necessary to change water regulations for everyone, everywhere?

      Possibly. But not obviously.Report

      • That seems to me to be consistent with Kris’s point. I think it would be legitimate to discuss whether the incident you describe means we should take a second look at how our water supply is maintained.Report

  11. Avatar BlaiseP says:

    If literature is full of tragedy, it is also full of massacre. The Bible’s chock full of massacre.

    And Samson called unto the LORD, and said, O Lord GOD, remember me, I pray thee, and strengthen me, I pray thee, only this once, O God, that I may be at once avenged of the Philistines for my two eyes.

    And Samson took hold of the two middle pillars upon which the house stood, and on which it was borne up, of the one with his right hand, and of the other with his left. And Samson said, Let me die with the Philistines. And he bowed himself with all his might; and the house fell upon the lords, and upon all the people that were therein. So the dead which he slew at his death were more than they which he slew in his life.” (Judges 16:29-30)

    Tragedy is hard to pin down. It seems to be a framework for writing a play but eludes further definition. Extracting meaning from tragedy is awfully difficult, if there is any meaning, we can only see it in how the characters react to the conflicts and upheavals as the play unfolds. We like stories mostly because we like the process of how the storytelling leads us away from the banal little decisions in our own lives and into the mighty struggles of the tragic heroes. We know they’re fictional but the emotions of Antigone and Creon and Jason and Medea, they’re more-than-real. Odysseus murders the suitors.

    The great tragic questions will never go away. The need for them and the stories which arise from them will only grow more interesting as time goes by. We aren’t evolving as fast as the technology we create. We’re good at adapting the terrain for our technological creations: building great bridges for our cars, titanic offshore drilling platforms kept in place by massive motors, guided by global positioning satellites, all to feed those cars and trucks, hydraulically fracturing the earth to extract gas.

    We aren’t so good at doing the same for ourselves and our fellow creatures. Making the world nicer for human beings and the Siberian tigers might be worth some effort but we won’t do it. That space station, endlessly circling over our planet, that’s not our first step on the route to the stars. That’s a test tube, a preliminary experiment for how to live in a world of hard radiation and airlocks, an aquarium for human beings. It’s preparation for a ruined planet. The space agencies put a lot of work into ensuring astronauts are emotionally balanced and capable of enduring the stresses of such an environment. Every drop of water on orbit is worth its weight in gold. Meanwhile, down here on earth, homeless schizophrenics off their medications walk the streets and our society can’t cope.

    All around us in this society, people are detonating, seemingly at random like so much unstable explosive and it’s not confined to America. The revenge fantasy is deeply ingrained in us all. I suppose people have always felt alienation and prayed the prayer of Samson, blinded, shorn and paraded before his enemies.

    Literature may not have the answers. Politicizing this seemingly senseless tragedy is just stirring the shit and has no bearing on this situation. To their credit, both Romney and Obama have risen above the partisan crapfest which followed the shooting of Gabby Giffords. But if literature has no answers, it has not ignored the problem. Eventually Samson will grasp the pillars.Report

    • Avatar Glyph says:

      Music has no answers either, but here is a lyrically- and musically-appropriate soundtrack for Blaise’s comment.

      The lyrical connection should be obvious from the title onwards; the foreboding, apocalyptic bassline makes it a postpunk ‘Gimme Shelter’, which could soundtrack Blaise’s comment just as well.


    • Avatar Jason M. says:

      “Tragedy is hard to pin down. It seems to be a framework for writing a play but eludes further definition.”

      Does the definition of Tragedy need to be any more complicated than “It didn’t have to be this way”?Report

      • Avatar James Hanley says:

        Last night I got out of bed to get a drink of water, decided not to turn the light on and stubbed my toed. It didn’t have to be that way.Report

      • Avatar BlaiseP says:

        Um, yeah. Tragedy does have to be a little more complicated because it doesn’t matter whether or not it “had to” be this way. That’s irrelevant. That’s like sitting there in a midnight showing of Rocky Horror and yelling “Don’t go to the castle!”

        Tragedy is built around characters. We set them up, put them in a landscape. Then something happens and the characters react. We sit there watching these doomed characters strut and fret their hour upon the stage, knowing at the end of the show Lady Macbeth will come out to take a bow. We are such stuff as dreams are made of, nightmares too, especially nightmares.

        As long as they stay confined to the screen, we’re okay with pretty much any sort of horrific scene. That’s art. But let some murderous freak start blasting away for real in that same theatre, well, these days, there’s no discussion of motivation or means. Anyone who makes a fucking peep about gun control or more mental health care will be accused of Politicizing the Tragedy.

        I’m pretty much sick of it. Politics has become art, a particularly feeble sort of art, more akin to graffiti. The charivari of the current debate — it’s only a distraction from the reality we won’t face, as the doomed characters of the tragedies won’t face the “facts”, not because they don’t see them but because they do see them and are fated to continue in their roles to the bitter end.Report

  12. One point that I think Connor may have been trying to make (and if not, I’d be curious to hear his thoughts about this), is that “political” and “politicized” are not necessarily the same thing as “partisan.”

    The killing, because it happened in a society in which guns, etc., are debated, and because it was so drastic and so likely to be talked about, was definitely “political” in the sense that the fact of its happening cannot be divorced from policy considerations and that people cannot or will not refuse to consider what this might say about policies. It does not have to be partisan, as one more chit in the arguments of pro- or anti-gun controllers in how best to advance the agenda of the liberals or the conservatives. It can be and almost inevitably is about that, but it doesn’t have to be.Report

      • Though I should note that there is a lot more to say. Politics is not exhausted by partisanship, etc—but that sort of demands a more thorough definition of what sort of an activity it is. Are we going with a capacious, Aristotelian take? Are all conversations regarding the highest things inherently political? OR—are we drawing lines between spheres of activity? Are we distinguishing social arguments from political arguments? Well, then…I’d need another post or three or a book and a library of words to spin out everything that I mean.Report

    • Avatar George Turner says:

      The killing, because it happened in a society in which guns, etc., are debated, and because it was so drastic and so likely to be talked about, was definitely “political” in the sense that the fact of its happening cannot be divorced from policy considerations and that people cannot or will not refuse to consider what this might say about policies.

      I think the fact that we’re talking about guns and not movie and video game violence is a definite sign that our political discourse about the attack was determined by media outlets with a reflexive, unexamined political slant.

      Running trips wires to dozens of bottles full of mysterious chemicals all over an apartment in a brilliantly destructive fashion has nothing to do with guns. The same apartment, occupied by a murderer who claims to be the Joker, has Batman posters and collectibles all over the place, and his attack closely mirrors Batman stories. In jail, the perp is spitting on people and claiming to the be the Joker.

      He didn’t know not to use an AR-15 in a situation where reliability was paramount and accuracy was unimportant. He didn’t know not to try and use a 100-round drum magazine, which would be better terms a 10 shot magazine that you have to unjam 10 times, and he apparently didn’t have the experience to reflexively clear the inevitable and almost immediate jam brought on by his poor choice of weapons. His lack of a gun sense would explain he took a pump shotgun to what he planned as a shooting spree in a crowded theater (“…5, 6, 7. Okay, I’ve reloaded! Hey, where’d everybody go?”)

      He was not very good with guns or knowledgeable about guns, recently came from a state where guns are all but forbidden, and had only even owned guns for a few months prior to the attack. He was not a gun nut, he was a violent nut.

      His toll was, I think, exceed by a drunk guy in New Orleans who sprayed lighter fluid all over the steps of an upstairs gay bar, lit it, and ran. If the Aurora attacker hadn’t had the ability to use guns, and use them poorly, he’d have used all those bombs and incendiaries he was making and the immediate death toll could’ve been in the many hundreds, worse than the Beverly Hills Superclub fire, and potentially rivaling the Cocoanut Grove nightclub fire which killed many hundreds.

      Accidental theater fires have killed over 600 in a single event, and all theater doors open outwards, not inwards, because of a tragedy in Britain where almost two hundred children were crushed to death in a toy giveaway gone horribly wrong. Outward opening doors can be trivially blocked from the outside with anything from a stake in the ground to a 2×4 propped against the door handle, and someone going to this level of planning and preparation who was already making incendiary booby traps is everone’s worst nightmare. We see fire exits and emergency exits everywhere, in every building, for a very, very good reason based on past tragedies that are hard for us to imagine.

      Where this becomes really disturbing is that incendiary booby traps to kill large crowds in public spaces has been a recurring theme in Batman movies. Another theme has been brain destroying drugs released on the general population, and this guy was studying neuro biology. Some easily synthesized chemicals can do horrifying damage, from the obvious and fatal nerve gases to drugs like MPTP which causes induced Parkinson’s disease, discovered when a college chemistry student screwed up making a synthetic opiate for illegal use. If the perpetrator had spent more time thinking and less time buying the wrong guns for the wrong application, everone there that night might be either dead or spending the rest of their short lives in a wheel chair breathing through a machine, twitching uncontrollably, perhaps screaming in terror, because the Batman film franchise keeps looking for innovative ways to come up with ever more diabolical villains, since a hero’s might and greatness is determined by the might and evil of the villains he fights.

      But to be entertaining, we want our movie heroes to fight diabolical villains, and more importantly to defeat them. Not only defeat them, but to act in such a way as to win our loyalty to their character instead of that of the villain. And that’s where the last Batman movie failed. Heath Ledger got the awards and accolades, and acted circles around Christain Bale. The writers, directors, and Heath Ledger produced a villain who was more compelling than the hero, and that villain was bent on inflicting mass murder and chaos. Ledger made you believe in his character and his cause. see the logic, necessity, and inevitable victory of it.

      The battle between good and evil is a battle over the minds and hearts of men. In the last Batman movie, evil out-acted good, and evil won one heart and mind who would go on to scar us all. I don’t know if this is what haunted Heath and kept him from sleeping, but perhaps descending into the hell of a psychotic mass murderer, even a comic book one, leaves scars of its own when you go all the way.

      But instead of those discussions, we’re talking about magazine capacities. In an alternate, but earily similar universe, the discussion after 9/11 was “Are Boeings too big and too fast?”Report

      • I hadn’t really thought about this angle, but you’re right it is there, or at least potentially, especially if some of the factual claims (e.g., about the shooter’s apparent motivation to be the “joker”) you are making are true.Report

      • Avatar wardsmith says:

        Thank you, thank you George for the most brilliant and insightful post I have possibly ever seen on this or any site. This should be upgraded to a front page, no offense to Conor but you’ve hit more nails on the head than anyone else has on the entire Internet.

        My son was at an early premier of the movie that same night (7:30). One of the previews for Gangster Squad showed bad guys with tommy guns stand behind the projection screen in a crowded theater firing directly into the audience. My son’s friend said, “Wow, that would really suck if we were sitting here and someone started shooting at us from up there”. Hours later that is exactly what happened.

        At what point do we admit that life imitating art has crossed a line that should not be crossed?

        BTW you’ll have to work VERY hard to find a copy of that trailer online right now. Warner Brother’s lawyers are working overtime finding and removing all offending copies and of course their own trailer was pulled last I checked from the movie’s own site (and of course from Dark Knight).Report

        • Avatar George Turner says:

          Oh, thank you for the compliment.

          You know, this tragic event should probably respawn an ongoing disucssion we sometimes have about violent rap music and the ongoing violence in the rap community. Is life imitating art or is the art merely a reflection of the violence in their community? There was some concern that the art’s glorification of violence was making things worse, creating instances where violent acts were being committed to achieve notoriety and street cred. I know Bill Cosby and many others used to debate the topic quite frequently, to the point where the movie industry tacitly accepted the premise that an over-the-top rap movie could result in shootings outside inner-city theaters.

          Also, I hadn’t realized there were showings prior to the midnight one. I’d thought it odd that an crazed fan wouldn’t even bother to watch the movie he was obsessed with (If he won’t talk, the FBI should threaten him with spoilers!). Is it likely that he watched a previous showing? If so, it almost certainly would’ve been at the same theater and someone would remember seeing him.Report

          • Avatar wardsmith says:

            My son’s friend works for Warner Brothers game division and they took over several theaters for the premier screening for employees, friends and families. Not sure if there were other premiers. Found the trailer skip ahead 2 minutes for the theater scene. Note the armed man in the theater isle, the hero. Undoubtedly they will reshoot or edit that entirely out of the movie given what has happened. My guess is it won’t stay up for long.

            All the attack on Scott (and I suppose me – for “politicizing”) a thread which had as its picture an obviously photoshopped image of Romney setup to replicate the bad guy in the movie (isn’t that political?) and something which said, “Open Thread” in the title… I merely jumped ahead a few moves to the obvious endgame, a discussion about gun control. We’ll find out in the next few days whether he acquired those guns legally, the gun range owner who refused him admittance is an interesting data point, but do you notify the police every time there is questionable behavior, given how dangerous that can be?Report

          • “we sometimes have about violent rap music and the ongoing violence in the rap community. Is life imitating art or is the art merely a reflection of the violence in their community?”

            One of the things that frustrated me about that debate was how both sides very quickly (or so it seemed to me, anecdotally) settled on the binary “yes, life imitates art” vs. “no, it’s merely a reflection.” Why can’t it be “a little of both and something else, too, but also one thing was more important than another”?Report

      • Avatar Stillwater says:

        But instead of those discussions, we’re talking about magazine capacities.

        It’s a good topic to discuss. Liberals got beat down last time they talked about it, tho. The argument back then was that it’s not our culture which fosters these types of violent acts. They’re solely the product of the mentally ill.

        The conclusion is that no conclusions can be drawn from gun-related massacres.Report

  13. Avatar damon says:

    Rest assured that those so inclined will use this event for their own ends; to further their own agenda, movment, election, etc. They will attempt to ban things, not ban things, and win elections and acrete power unto themselves, on both sides of the isle. This will do nothing but fan the flames.

    May those that do the above burn in hell.Report

  14. Gun control always stirs up a passionate debate, and your comments on this are way above par. Another cool, level-headed response to gun control/safety that I have found comes from the blog of a sociologist: Guns and Truth. He does a rough cross-national comparison and comes up with some interesting conclusions.

    If your last name is also Nasty then you might be interested in the read. Thanks again for the great post!Report