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Thursday, July 26, 2012

Aurora Theater Shootings: Who Can We Blame?

     When something really bad happens, we look for someone or some thing to blame. This is particularly true in the wake of high-profile tragedies like the massacre in the Aurora, Colorado movie theater. If we can assign blame, pinpoint the problem that caused the tragedy, we can prevent it from happening again.

     Every time some deviant sociopath armed with an assault rifle shoots enough people to grab national headlines, gun control advocates come out of the woodwork. The problem isn't that psychopathic killers like James Holmes exist, it's that people are allowed to own assault rifles. If we simply made it illegal to own these instruments of death, there would be fewer mass murders. Because making certain objects illegal to possess does not keep contraband out of the hands of criminals. Preventing crime through legislation doesn't work. If it did, we wouldn't have any crime in this country. To blame the instruments of crime for criminality is sophomoric, wrongheaded, and an example of wishful thinking.

     In the aftermath of tragedies such as the one in Aurora, ambulance chasing lawyers emerge from the proverbial woodwork. There is already talk about blaming--and holding civilly liable--owners of the movie theater for not providing adequate security against a diabolical mass murderer. This begs the question: who in their right mind would have predicted this first-of-its-kind criminal assault? And exactly how much security would have prevented it? Nothing short of airport level security will prevent a ticket-holder from entering a theater with a concealed weapon. And what will stop a theater employee from stashing weapons for later use by himself or someone else. If insurances companies require theater owners to make going to a flick as unpleasant as commercial flying, it will devastate the film industry. And it won't prevent another mass murder. Lax security should not be blamed for the Aurora atrocity.

     Following acts of senseless violence, we hear cries of anguish from people who blame this kind of behavior on violent movies and video games. (In reality, as films and video games become more violent, violent crime in the U.S. is declining.) Some are calling the Aurora mass murder the "Dark Knight Shooting." At one time, media scolds blamed comic books for all sorts of juvenile delinquency. While the violence embedded in our culture might in fact contribute to many social problems, it's beyond puerile to think that if we banned violent books, films, video games, and television, mass murderers like James Holmes would cease to exist. Life itself can be traumatic, and make some people violent. Others are just born that way.

     If we're looking for something to blame for what happened in Aurora, Colorado, we should blame the realities of life. And leave it at that. 

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