Jul 20, 2012.
Columbine. Virginia Tech. Now, Aurora.
A crowd of people. A heavily armed gunman opens fire. Youths -- children, teens, young adults -- die.
The hopes of our future are snuffed out in a moment. And, every time, all the politicians can say is how sorry they are.
How many times must it happen before we say what really needs to be said: Enough. We need stricter gun controls. People are dying every day because we, as a nation, do not demand that our politicians stop taking campaign contributions from the National Rifle Association and insist on stricter controls.
New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg said it Friday, as the horrific details of what happened in a crowded movie theater in Aurora, Colo. spilled out.
"If it was one of your kids yesterday in Aurora, maybe you'd stand up and say I'm not going to take this anymore," Bloomberg said on a New York radio show. "And instead of the two people -- President Obama and Governor Romney -- talking in broad things about they want to make the world a better place, OK, tell us how."
This time, the shooter stepped in front of the screen in a crowded theater and released a canister of gas. As the theater filled with smoke, he opened fire. The newest batman movie, "The Dark Knight Rises" played on the screen behind him.
He kept firing, methodically and relentlessly according to some survivors, as the audience members fled. Bloodied victims tried to crawl away. He kept shooting.
"Every few seconds it was just: Boom, boom, boom," witness Jennifer Seeger told the Associated Press. "He would reload and shoot and anyone who would try to leave would just get killed."
At the latest count, he shot 71 people in all. Twelve died. So far.
That makes it the worst mass shooting since a gunman opened fire at Virginia Tech in 2007, killing 13. It is also, coincidentally, just a few miles from the high school that has become synonymous with these sorts of murderous rampages, Columbine.
Police found the suspected shooter in the parking lot. He surrendered without a struggle, they said. He's identified as a 24-year-old University of Colorado-Denver graduate student, James Holmes.
He had an assault rifle, a shotgun and two pistols, according to reports.
The president and Mitt Romney both extended their condolences. Both suspended their negative ads in Colorado. The president cancelled the rest of his planned campaign stops for the day. Romney was already off.
"There are going to be other days for politics," the president said. "This, I think, is a day for prayer and reflection."
He then went on, to talk about the senselessness of the killing, about the pain it caused, and about standing together as a nation to support the families of the victims.
"I'm sure many of you who are parents here had the same reaction I did when I heard this news," he said. "My daughters go to the movies. What if Malia and Sasha had been at the theater, as so many of our kids do every day? Michelle and I will be fortunate enough to hug our girls a little tighter tonight, and I'm sure you will do the same with your children. For those parents who may not be so lucky, we have to embrace them and let them know we'll be there for them as a nation."
Romney was more succinct.
"Ann and I are deeply saddened by the news of the senseless violence that took the lives of 15 people in Colorado and injured dozens more," he said in a statement. "We are praying for the families and loved ones of the victims during this time of deep shock and immense grief. We expect that the person responsible for this terrible crime will be quickly brought to justice."
Their comments were certainly heartfelt, and touching. But, as Bloomberg said, they evade the real issue.
"There are so many murders with guns every day, it's just got to stop," Bloomberg said. "And this is a real problem. No matter where you stand on the Second Amendment, no matter where you stand on guns, we have a right to hear from both of them concretely, not just in generalities -- specifically what are they going to do about guns?"
The head of the Brady Campaign was more direct.
"As someone who has suffered the lasting impact of gun violence, and President of Brady, I can tell you that we don't want sympathy. We want action," Brady Campaign president Dan Gross said in a statement. "We are insistent that our elected leaders take action to prevent future tragedies. Political cowardice is not an excuse for evasion and inaction on this life-and-death issue."
Good luck with that.
The president and Romney have both spoken. They said nothing about taking away guns, or making them harder to get. They said nothing about more gun controls.
Shame on them both.
Twelve more are dead. Guns are to blame. But soon enough, the memory will fade. Aurora will slip into the barely mentioned realm of Virginia Tech and Columbine. Until the next time.
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