AURORA | During a visit to Aurora this morning, the Rev. Jesse Jackson called last week’s theater shootings an act of “domestic terrorism” and called for a ban on assault weapons like the one used in the attacks.
“The rising domestic terrorism is a threat to our well being,” Jackson told reporters during a press conference in front of accused shooter James Holmes’ apartment.
Police say Holmes donned head-to-feet body armor July 20 and opened fire inside the Century Aurora 16 theater with an assault rifle, shotgun and pistol, killing 12 people and wounding 58 more before being arrested.
In the days after the shooting, police said one of the weapons Holmes used was an AR-15 assault rifle with a 100-round drum magazine. The magazine, guns and more than 6,000 rounds of ammunition Holmes bought before the slayings were all legal, a point gun control advocates have seized on in recent days.
Jackson said he doesn’t have an issue with gun owners who want a gun to protect their home, or to hunt. But, the long-time civil rights activist said, the assault rifle Holmes used was a gun that could only be used for terrorism.
“You don’t hunt with magazines with 100 rounds of ammunition,” he said.
Jackson said the federal government needs to re-instate a ban on assault weapons.
From 1994 to 2004, manufacturers were not allowed to produce new weapons like the one Holmes used.
Jackson, flanked by several local ministers, said guns like the one Holmes used could easily fall into the hands of international terrorist groups like Al Qaeda bent on causing mass destruction in the United States.
“This kind of access to weapons emboldens international terrorists,” he said.
Jackson also scoffed at the argument that had a theatergoer that night been armed, they could have stopped the carnage. He said Holmes’ ability to fire a hundred rounds in a minute would have made that unlikely.
“There is no time to shoot back — that’s an illusion,” he said.
Shootings like those at the theater could and should be prevented, he said.
“No one should be able to do this to a civil and free people,” he said.
Pastor Thomas Mayes of Living Water Christian Center Church in Aurora helped organize Jackson’s visit.
Mayes, whose church at 1585 Kingston St. is just a few blocks west of Holmes’ apartment, said this week he hopes Jackson’s visit puts some focus on the crime problems in the north Aurora neighborhood where Holmes lived. Earlier this month, a pastor was shot during a robbery a few blocks away and Mayes said crime in general is on the rise in the area.
Most importantly, though, Mayes said he wants people in the area to feel safe again.
“We are not as concerned about the image of the city as we are the people of the city,” he said.
Local pastors already have an event planned for Aug. 25 aimed at addressing rising violence in the metro area, an event that had been in the works since before last week’s shootings.
Pastor Reginald Holmes of New Covenant Christian Church in Denver said local religious leaders are focused on finding a solution to this summer’s rash of violence.
Holmes, who is president of the Greater Metro Denver Ministerial Alliance, said that solution has to be regional.
“This is not simply an Aurora problem,” he said. “Nor will it simply be an Aurora solution.”