The level of violence depicted in video games and in the media may be partially to blame for the wave of mass shootings in 2012, Colorado Gov. John Hickenlooper said on "State of the Union" with Candy Crowley on Sunday.
"Look at the level of violence in our media, video games," Hickenlooper said to Crowley. "The depiction of these assault weapons again and again, there might well be some direct connection between people who have mental instability and when they go over the edge, they transpose themselves, they become part of one of those video games and perhaps that's why all these assault weapons are used."
To address the issues of mental health in Colorado, Hickenlooper announced a big push for an overhaul and expansion of the state's mental health services and laws today -- which ties mental health to one's ability to purchase a firearm -- but it's the governor's stance on gun control that appears to be evolving most notably since the Aurora shooting on July 20.
Suspected shooter James Holmes is charged with entering the Century 16 movie theater during a midnight screening of "The Dark Knight Rises" and opening fire on the audience, killing 12 and wounding 70 more. In Holmes' possession police found two Glock pistols, a shotgun and an AR-15, a semiautomatic variation of the military's M-16 rifle -- all of which were purchased legally. Holmes allegedly spent months stockpiling thousands of bullets, firearms and ballistic gear without ever raising a red flag with authorities.
Hickenlooper's reaction just following the Aurora shooting was more-or-less a sidestep of the issue of gun control in Colorado. When asked on ABC's "This Week" on whether he should revisit the state's gun laws in the wake of the Aurora massacre, Hickenlooper said, "I'm sure that is going to happen, but I look at this, this wasn't a Colorado problem, this is a human problem, right?" Hickenlooper then added: "You know, I worry that if we got rid of all the guns and certainly we have so many guns in this country, we do have a lot more gun violence than many other countries -- but even if you didn't have access to guns, this guy was diabolical. Right? He would have found explosives, he would have found something else, some sort of poisonous gas, he would have done something to create this horror."
However, last Thursday, just a day before the Sandy Hook school shooting occurred and nearly five months after Aurora, Hickenlooper said that "the time is right" for state lawmakers to consider gun control measures -- the strongest stance Hickenlooper has taken on the issue to date, the Associated Press reported.
"When you look at what happened in Aurora, a great deal of that damage was from the large magazine on the AR-15 (rifle)," Hickenlooper said. "I think we need to have that discussion and say, 'Where is this appropriate?'"
On "State of the Union," the Colorado governor went on to say that enough time has passed in the state to start talking about gun control and safety. "We've had that distance since the shooting in Aurora and have really tried to look at what are the things that could make a difference and how should we begin this conversation," Hickenlooper said. "Certainly, things like high-capacity magazines, that comes up again and again and again, expanding background checks to make sure that guns to end up in the wrong people's hands. We have a whole list of efforts, almost $20 million in new programs around trying to put more support for people with mental illness. But that conversation about gun safety is going to continue."
The 5-point plan Hickenlooper and state health officials are proposing -- called “Strengthening Colorado’s Mental Health System: A Plan to Safeguard All Coloradans” -- would include the establishment of a state-wide mental health crisis hotline, opening five 24-hour urgent mental health care centers and substance abuse centers.
If approved by state lawmakers, the plan would also authorize the Colorado State Judicial System to transfer mental health commitment records electronically and directly to the Colorado Bureau of Investigation in real-time so the information is available for firearm purchase background checks conducted by Colorado InstaCheck.