OK, I Think I'm Ready to Talk About Aurora Now

I'm calm. I've had time to reflect. The victims have been mourned, and nobody could accuse me of jumping to conclusions. The moment has cooled. The election is over. I've even waited an extra two months to make extra-double sure I wasn't politicizing the tragedy. I've let many moments pass in silence. Those were the terms you laid out, and I've been happy to oblige.

But now I think I'm ready to talk about Aurora.

I'm ready to ask why a man with a documented history of mental illness was able to purchase assault weapons. I'm ready to ask if somebody else having a gun in that theater would've made a difference against Holmes' body armor. I'm ready to discuss the possibility that we have, among many others, a gun problem in this country.

Too soon? Maybe you're right. It's only been a few months. Maybe more reflection is in order.

In that case, can we talk about the attempt on Gabby Giffords' life? The six people killed that day, including a nine-year-old girl? It's been nearly two years, and I think we've all had time to think. Could we start discussing whether political rhetoric had anything to do with that day? We don't even have to say it did yet. I just think we're ready to raise the possibility, aren't we?

Well, maybe not. Congresswoman Giffords is still in recovery, after all. We wouldn't want to be insensitive to any victims. That's OK, though. I've been reflecting on a lot of things these last few years. It's just that I'm trying to take you at your word. You said it was wrong to jump too quickly to conclusions. It was wrong to blame guns for the gun violence in this country when emotions were still running high. Granted, you came to these conclusions while telling me that the wake of a tragedy was no time for conclusions (or even conversation), but I'm trying to give you the benefit of the doubt.

But maybe it's too soon to talk about Aurora. Maybe it's too soon to talk about Tucson. Fair enough.

So what about Huntsville? It's been three years, hasn't it? Or Fort Hood? Can we talk about Binghamton, Santa Carla, or Alger? I've been reflecting on those so long I've hardly had time to start reflecting on Oak Creek, Minneapolis or Milwaukee.

Can we talk about the 82 victims of gun violence every day in this country whose deaths don't make national news? Those weren't sensational, right? They can be discussed with sobriety, can't they?

How about Columbine? It's been over a decade. Surely we're calm enough to question whether Harris and Klebold constituted a well-regulated militia.

I think it's been long enough. I think we can start our conversation, don't you--after all this time? So let's start talking. Today. There's a lot to say and I'd like to get started.

For example, I'll point out how many violent crimes are committed with guns. You'll show me how gun ownership rates don't correlate to the murder rates of industrialized countries. I'll counter that it does correlate to mass murders with multiple victims.

You'll say things would be different if only more victims were armed themselves. I'll point out that we're the most heavily armed country on Earth, yet that doesn't make us anywhere near the safest.
You'll say we haven't got a gun problem, we've got a media problem, we've got a problem with mental health. I'll concede the point. But after that, I'll remind you that taking action on one front doesn't exclude taking action on the others.

You'll say, "Guns don't kill people, people kill people." I'll be annoyed. But since our heads are cool now, I'll get over it. We'll keep talking.

I'll question whether your legitimate desire to own a device designed only to project pieces of metal through the air at lethal velocities is worth risking the life of a parent or a child. You'll ask the same about knives. I'll ask if knives were designed just to kill, even if the targets were meant to be animals and burglars. The conversation might feel like its venturing into the absurd at this point, but we'll come around eventually. We'll recognize, at the very least, that a gun puts enormous power into the hands of an individual, and that with such great power comes - as the cliché goes - great responsibility.

You'll cite the second amendment. I'll cite Article V.

By the end of our chat, we might even reach some reasonable middle ground. Background checks at gun shows, maybe. A limit on magazine capacity. A more robust mental health industry in this country, even. An acknowledgement that while we may disagree on the legitimacy of private gun ownership, our Founding Fathers couldn't possibly have imagined a world with assault rifles, urban gangs, and streetlights.

We'll talk, and as long as we can start today, I promise not to cite the death of twenty innocent children in my argument. I'll promise not to "exploit" the recent tragedy if you promise to let me talk about all the others you've asked me to take time and reflect on before starting the conversation.