Friday was impossible for anyone who lives or works in Aurora not to be brought back to July 20, the day tragedy unfolded here. A mere five months ago, only a few hundred feet from my office, an unhinged gunman walked into a room full of innocent, defenseless victims and fired until he couldn’t fire anymore. It could have happened anywhere. And it did, again, in Connecticut.
No words can describe how appalling this is. It would be slighting the Aurora victims if I said the Connecticut tragedy was any worse because of the ages of those murdered. Anytime anyone is killed out of malice in a place with an implicit sense of safety, it’s sickening and horrifying. Those who can separate themselves, if only a little, from the catastrophic events that occurred in Newtown will now be wondering what will happen next.
People affected by the Aurora massacre can predict what will happen next. Vigils will be held. Tears will be shed. Money will be raised. Stories of heroism will come to light. Teddy bears and flowers will be placed on makeshift graves. Celebrities will call for action. Some people’s lives will be ruined forever. Others will never forget the day they stood face to face with death, yet somehow escaped its grip.
The conversation will turn to gun control. Bold lawmakers, freed from partisan chains unafraid to say what they really think will propose more stringent gun laws. Others will balk at their ideas. Some, like Gov. John Hickenlooper, will fall into a gray area, saying options need to be weighed and statistics need to be compiled while never explicitly outlining solutions. “We can’t postpone the discussion on a national level every time there’s a shooting,” Hickenlooper told a gaggle of journalists at a luncheon Friday. Others like Aurora Mayor Steve Hogan will say this is a time for grieving, not a time for political discourse.
It’s the same conversation the country has every time a mass murder happens. Days, weeks and months will pass, then the outrage will subside. Other topics will take its place like jobs, the economy and health care. People much smarter, and more powerful than me will determine what, if any, laws need to be assembled in an attempt to keep us from abruptly burying the ones we love.
But here’s what I think should come next: Instead of bracing ourselves for the next tragedy or waiting for laws to change, we should try to make an impact in our own social circles. However small our efforts are, we can all try to be a little nicer, more patient, more accepting. We can love more, and harder. Most of all, we can try to find happiness, and help those who can’t.
That’s a challenge that might be in some ways harder than passing a piece of legislation. But to me, it seems worth fighting for. Our spheres of influence are larger than we think. We might not be able to prevent a mentally unstable person from committing an unimaginable crime. But maybe by becoming better people, we can sway others to become better people. Guns or no guns, maybe that’s a goal worth aiming for.