Colorado shooting reopens debate on gun laws

It’s a tragedy that has gripped the nation and the world. In a suburb ten miles from downtown Denver and just 20 miles from Columbine High School — scene of the 1999 student massacre — a gunman killed 12 people and injured 58 more as they watched the midnight showing of the new Batman movie The Dark Knight Rises.

The weapons in the shooter’s arsenal included an AR-15 assault rifle, a Remington 12-gauge shotgun, and two .40 caliber Glock handguns, according to Chief Dan Oates of the Aurora police.

The suspect, 24-year-old honours graduate student James Holmes, also bought more than 6,000 rounds of ammunition over the Internet. The guns and arsenal were all purchased legally.

Stricter gun laws in the U.S., which is opposed by the National Rifle Association, a powerful gun lobby, is a hot button issue most politicians seek to avoid, especially during an election year. When making statements expressing sorrow for the victims of the Colorado mass killing, for example, neither President Obama nor Republican candidate Mitt Romney mentioned a need to reopen the national debate on gun laws that would make the purchase of such lethal weapons legal.

One of the few politicians who has not been shy about speaking out on the politically thorny topic is New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg. Speaking on WOR Radio, Bloomberg — who is also the backer of Mayors Against Illegal Guns, a coalition of mayors advocating for stricter rules on gun sales and ownership — called on Obama and Romney to tell the public what they would do to reduce gun violence.

“Soothing words are nice, but maybe it’s time that the two people who want to be president of the United States stand up and tell us what they are going to do about it, because this is obviously a problem across the country,” he said.

“I don’t think there’s any other developed country in the world that has remotely the problem we have,” he continued. “We have more guns than people in this country.”

According to a report in The Guardian , polls in the U.S. have shown a growing support for easing gun regulation over past years. Two decades ago, about 70 per cent of Americans were in favour of stricter firearms control (Gallup). Today, less than half of people surveyed support less regulation.

Data has shown that after a mass shooting, support for greater gun control increases, but only temporarily. Last year, for example, after the shooting of Congresswoman Gabrielle Giffords and others in Arizona, a Pew Research Center poll showed a small spike in support of greater gun control.

Read more about the Colorado shooting here.

Sources: New York Times; Reuters; The Guardian; CNN; Pew Research Center

Photo © Ron Bailey

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