It’s not the magnitude of the deaths that shake us. It’s their senselessness.
Twelve people were killed Friday during that midnight showing in Aurora, Colo., of “The Dark Knight Rises,” and 59 were injured. Some of the wounded may not survive.
Yet 14 people were killed in a single pick-up truck crash in South Texas on Sunday and nine were injured and still are hospitalized, In April, another nine people died when a minivan rolled holding 16 people near McAllen, Texas.
The Colorado massacre wrenches our guts. The Texas traffic deaths not as much.
It’s not because all of those crash fatalities were undocumented immigrants. It’s because we accept highway deaths. We may be saddened by them, but we don’t ask ourselves “Why?” We can understand.
But we don’t understand how someone can scheme and plot; build up an arsenal of weapons and then kill strangers just because he can, or for whatever reason ran through the monster’s deranged mind.
We can’t grasp it. But we try anyway.
So many people are reacting by demanding that something gets done to stop the violence. Ban assault weapons, ban large-capacity magazines, ban all guns some frustrated people cry.
Others, equally frustrated, but angry, say more citizens should carry weapons to defend themselves or protect others, as that 71-year-old man did July 13 in Ocala, Fla. When a pair of robbers attempted to stick up the crowded Internet café where he and his wife were, he opened fired, wounding the two men, although not seriously.
He’s counted as a hero. And he likely should be.
But many Americans simply will not own a gun. They believe the police are sufficient to protect them. Some, not all, criticize people who defend the Second Amendment. They consider it no longer to be relevant -- a vestige of our earlier, frontier age.
They can’t understand someone owning a gun, much less more than one and certainly not someone who would own an AR-15 or other heavy weaponry. And gun-owners, as well, can’t understand the naivety of their unarmed neighbors. It’s a dangerous world, after all, although many people deny the evidence.
A question was posed on television last weekend: “Why would anyone want a military-grade weapon?” The Second Amendment protects a citizen’s right to own a firearm. But should it also protect the right to own the kind of weapons we issue our soldiers.
Remember the framers of our Bill of Rights had first-hand experience with a despotic government. And they feared their own government someday could grow so powerful it too might become oppressive. Much of the framework of our constitutional federation is to prevent that kind of centralized power.
And a frontiersman’s musket was military grade in the 18th Century.
But 236 years later, our union of “these” United States has become “this” United States: a single government – no longer a federation of equal state partners, but a centralized government that has become almost indispensable to its citizens.
We no longer have all the rights and responsibilities those former colonials had. We’ve voluntarily given many of them away for the comfort of security and we’d balk at giving up the help that’s available to us from the public treasury when we need it or want it.
Some rights, Americans will never give up, especially those associated with the First Amendment. The right to practice religion freely is under assault, but more from our secular society and popular media than from government. Let government trod on religious freedoms and there’s a quick and loud backlash.
The Freedoms of Speech, Assembly and Redress are defended every time the Tea Party gathers or the Occupiers occupy.
The Second Amendment, too, is part of our national psyche. Attempting to control a single lunatic’s killing rampage by banning firearms or their types will fail. You can’t prevent a madman from acting. It’s a pitiful fact, but true.
We can’t make sense of it. We want something to be done.
Americans have voluntarily relinquished some of our rights – our privacy has been sacrificed as the modern age has given us more avenues for commerce and communications.
But giving up rights is one thing – the government curtailing God-given rights would be a totally different matter.