Aurora Sentinel editor Dave Perry recently criticized me for stating that there were no gun laws of which I was aware that would have prevented the horrific and evil events of July 20, 2012, and called my statement pandering “to the gun set.”
During an earlier conversation about the need for new gun laws which might prevent an Aurora-like mass shooting, someone once said, “Certainly, we can try, and I’m sure we will try to create some checks and balances on those things, but this is an act of evil … And you know, if it wasn’t one weapon, it would have been another.” That same someone said further, “If there were no assault weapons available, and no this or that [available], this guy is going to find something, right. He is going to know how to create a bomb….” Later, responding to questions about whether purchases could be limited and tracked, that ultra-conservative responded with “I’m not sure there is any way in a free society to be able to do that…”
Those quotes were not a “sophomoric faux-fight” from someone Perry describes as a “gun-nutter.” They were said by Colorado Gov. John Hickenlooper talking to CNN’s national audience on July 22, 2012…yep, two days after the Aurora massacre.
Remember the Sentinel’s editorial excoriating Hickenlooper for such statements? Me neither.
However, after reading Perry’s current editorial, I recognize that I should have said there are no “constitutional” gun laws which would have prevented the evil events of that day more than five years ago.
Neither of the two laws passed in the aftermath of the Aurora and Sandy Hook would have prevented the evil of July 20, 2012. The law limiting magazine capacity to 15 rounds only served to drive then-Colorado based Magpul and its employees to Wyoming. This feel-good law would have done nothing to prevent the Aurora massacre. That evil guy brought 700 rounds and numerous magazines to the theater that night. A smaller magazine capacity would have resulted in him only bringing more magazines to shoot those he believed to be helpless. As for expanding background checks to include private gun transactions, that evil guy purchased four separate weapons from licensed gun dealers and passed every background check.
Perry suggests more new laws, like forcing anyone who tries to buy a firearm, including a domestic violence victim seeking to protect herself from an ex-boyfriend, to endure a mental health evaluation. Aside from the unconstitutionality of this invasive Big Brother procedure, Perry is wrong when he states “it would have been pretty certain that [the theater shooter] would have flunked” such an evaluation. The theater shooter intentionally and successfully misled two experienced CU psychiatrists with whom he had several sessions spanning a couple months. In the journal he mailed to his psychiatrist to flaunt how he had fooled her, he wrote, “Can’t tell the [psychiatrists] plan. If plan is disclosed, both ‘normal’ life and ideal enactment on hatred foiled. Prevent building false sense of rapport … deflect incriminating statements.” He said similar things to each of the two court-appointed forensic psychiatrists who found him sane. The jury agreed … beyond a reasonable doubt.
Someone else once said that “no one in their right mind believes the government can or should grab all the guns.” Such gun-nuttery was expressed in an editorial on page 32 of the Aurora Sentinel the week after the Aurora massacre.
Perry, the editor then as now, appears to have abandoned that right-mindedness by suggesting that America should follow in the footsteps of Australia, which — in 1996 — grabbed up all the guns from its citizenry. Unlike the United States and Colorado, Australia has no constitutionally guaranteed right to bear arms. Aside from that unsurmountable hurdle in implementing such a law, a 2007 report in the British Journal of Criminology found that the 1996 gun confiscation law only — maybe — influenced firearm suicides. A separate 2008 report from the University of Melbourne found that the confiscation law “did not have any large effects on reducing firearm homicide or suicide rates.” Confiscation of guns seems to have resulted only in disarming law-abiding citizens, not the criminals among them.
Restrictions on the exercise of constitutional rights by the law-abiding is not the answer to ending violence or evil. Our government should be advancing the ability of law-abiding citizens to defend themselves and their loved ones from violent attack. That is why I support concealed carry laws.
I have spent my prosecutorial career holding people accountable for violating our gun laws, including securing prison for the two individuals who sold a handgun to the Columbine shooters. I take violence and the violation of our firearms laws seriously, and my office of prosecutors works alongside law enforcement to end violence of all kinds in our community. While we should always evaluate and re-evaluate policies that may lead to greater community safety, it is folly to believe that in a free society like ours, where the right to bear arms is guaranteed — not given — by our U.S. Constitution, that we are going to legislate away evil and prevent the criminal use of firearms by evil-doers.
George Brauchler is District Attorney for the 18th Judicial District and a Republican candidate for Colorado governor in the 2018 race.