By now it is a cliché to observe how numb we have become to the gun violence that regularly occurs across the country. The shooting deaths of three people last weekend in Colorado Springs, in what appears to have been a random attack by a mentally disturbed man, is no exception. You’ve really got to have a higher body count or some overarching, uniquely American theme onto which the media can graft a framing device. (Dylann Roof’s rampage through the Emmanuel AME Church of Charleston, South Carolina, with its nine dead and attendant echoes of America’s long history of white-on-black racial violence, fits both criteria, so the news coverage reached saturation levels in the days after the slaughter.)
Yet I’m fascinated by the Colorado Springs shooting because of one important detail, as reported by the Denver Post on Monday:
“’I heard the (young man) say, 'Don't shoot me! Don't shoot me!'” Naomi Bettis, a neighbor who witnessed the killing, said Monday.
Bettis said she recognized the gunman as her neighbor—whom she didn't know by name—and that before the initial slaying she saw him roaming outside with a rifle. She called 911 to report the man, but a dispatcher explained that Colorado has an open carry law that allows public handling of firearms.”
There is so much going on in this little snippet that I don’t even know where to start. So here in no particular order are the questions that keep occurring to me:
The guy carrying the rifle, later identified as 33-year-old Noah Harpham, was white. Would the cops have responded right away if he was black? If you think the answer is, “Of course not, they would have respected his Second Amendment right as an American and a citizen of Colorado to walk around a quiet suburban neighborhood on a Sunday morning waving an AR-15 around like Russian paratroops are dropping from the sky,” then I want to know when your visa is expiring and you will be returning to your home country.
For any gun fetishists reading this and pressing the Caps Lock key in anticipation of typing ALL LIVES MATTER in the comments, here’s an example of how cops in America treated a black guy wandering around an Ohio Wal-Mart last year while carrying a BB gun he’d picked up in the toy department. Please keep your piehole closed until you finish the entire column.
Harpham has a history of drug and alcohol abuse, along with anger issues. It was public knowledge, even! So why the hell did he own guns? After every shooting, gun fetishists scream about the need for better mental health services. Yet those services never seem to materialize. It’s almost as if they invoke the words “mental health” to deflect our attention.
Time to call their bluff. Let’s a) institute New Deal-level funding of mental health centers all across the country and make sure our citizens know that help is available, and b) start empowering the authorities to confiscate – yes, confiscate – guns from alcohol-and-drug-addicted rage cases like Noah Harpham as a precautionary measure. And I mean let’s be active about it. No waiting for a relative to get worried and report they are worried someone might harm himself or others. You’re going into rehab or a psychiatric ward? Great. The cops get to come by your house and take away all your guns while you’re there.
Obviously, this country will never take such steps. The first one requires money that conservative politicians will find a way to not spend and the second will get shouted down the minute anyone thinks it means taking the guns of someone who has mild depression and a prescription for an SSRI.
Where were all the other gun-carrying Coloradans to come running to the rescue? Harpham’s first victim was an Army veteran with three tours of Iraq under his belt. Surely if he had to carry guns everywhere he went in Baghadad or Ramadi, he should have known to carry one for a quiet Saturday morning bike ride in the crime-ridden hellhole that is Colorado Springs.
Nothing quite puts the lie to the arguments of gun enthusiasts who advocate arming civilians like the fact that there was apparently no other civilian with a gun in the vicinity to take on the shooter. And if there had been, they would not have done anything until after Harpham had shot his first victim. Because until that moment, he was just another good guy with a gun exercising his right to wander around his neighborhood with a rifle in one hand and a pistol in the other.
Which is the damn point that gun control advocates are always getting shouted down for making. It would be nice if we could at least make a minimal effort to keep some guns from getting into the hands of “good guys” like Noah Harpham before they become bad guys like Noah Harpham.
Well, OK, maybe there is something else that can put the lie to that argument about arming civilians. But not in the way I think gun enthusiasts wish.
An armed society is a polite society, or so I keep being told. HA HA HA HA HA! We’re an armed society now and I don’t see evidence we are getting any more damn polite.