Our first instinct in times such as these are off predetermined by our biases. When we first heard that a gunmen had shot up a theater in Aurora, Colorado our individual reactions were varied. Some asked "why?". Others instead asked "how?".
Many followed that initial reaction with "See, I told you so". A few probably thought of their own idealogical group & prayed, "please don't let him be one of us".
Soon the discussion turned from hospitals to politics. While one friend said that it's time for the public to say "Enough!", I couldn't help but think "Tread carefully".
Hidden from view behind our petty disagreements & fear mongering is this truth - sick & disturbed people sometimes do bad things.
The guns weren't the cause, they were only the tool. While they were purchased legally, they could have just as easily been acquired illegally. The cannisters of irritants & the booby-trapped apartment show that he had the ability to use other means to accomplish his goal.
The argument goes that access to such deadly weapons caused the heavy loss of life. But that's not really true either. Think of other mass murderers of recent memory. Truck bombs & airplanes come to mind as quickly as guns, killing thousands in the process.
In 2011, there were 8,775 deaths from firearms (of that, the majority are suicides). As a comparison, there were over 32,000 motor vehicle deaths last year. Firearm deaths reached their high point of 17,075 in 1993. Background checks were instituted that same year.
Since 1993, deadly firearm encounters have decreased even as gun ownership & gun control laws have eased. In 1999 gun deaths began a small uptick through 2004 & have decreased since then. The assault gun ban expired in 2004 after seeing a decrease & increase while in effect. During that same time, concealed carry laws have expanded nationwide.
I've spent the past couple days looking at the statistics & the best conclusion that I can make based on the available data is that concealed carry & quality background checks have had the greatest effect on gun violence in America. I believe that its because of these two policies that firearm fatalities have dropped nearly 50% since 1993. (Read that again - a 50% decrease over the last 20 years).
As for our current debate, all I can really say is that James Holmes was a disturbed individual, possibly mentally ill. If society has dropped the ball, it is not on guns, but on how we treat the mentally ill.
Guns don't shoot 71 innocent people, crazed minds do. Arguing for greater gun control at this time goes against all the statistics & implies that shooting only 7 instead of 71 is more acceptable. Far better to learn the greater lesson of Aurora's pain & suffering by disarming the next James Holmes before he acts & let today's successful gun laws continue their good work.
Taking the emotion out of it & examining the issue in the light of reason shows me one thing. Keeping guns out of criminal & unbalanced hands while allowing greater access for law-abiding citizens is still the better path forward.