Saturday, July 28, 2012
Saturday, July 28, 2012
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The Stanford Daily
Crime & Safety
Op-Ed: Aurora shooting victims will not be forgotten
By Op Ed After years of going to midnight premieres for the biggest movies of the summer, there was no other place my brother and I would be for the last premiere of the Batman trilogy. The theater in Denver was packed with people I knew, and everyone was excited. This included many people who were way too old to be dressing up but did so anyway.
While the audience in my theater watched with bated breath to see if Gotham would be saved, hell was breaking loose in our own city, just 20 minutes away.
A crazed gunman, who does not deserve to be named on the same page as his victims, entered the Aurora Century 16 multiplex and began a rampage. As the movie continued to play, 12 innocent victims were killed and 59 others were wounded. These people were neither in a bad neighborhood nor in a city that is a target for terrorist attacks. The shooting, one of worst mass murders in American history, rocked all of America because it truly could have happened anywhere.
This is not the first senseless tragedy that Colorado has experienced. In 1999, two students at Columbine High School in Jefferson County forever changed our world by bringing guns to school and killing 13 people. Their act has come to define our generation. We were the first generation whose parents had to fear sending us to school, the first generation that practiced lock-down drills for gun attacks, the first generation to know that this would never stop being a reality.
The July 20 movie shooting is similar. Security will increase at movie theaters, and many other precautions will be taken. The magical experience of escaping our world for a few hours will forever be accompanied by at least a little fear every time someone comes back from the bathroom.
My city feels like an incredibly big place, but this tragedy helped remind me how connected we all are. Gordon Cowden, a loving father, and Jessica Ghawi, an aspiring sports journalist and great friend, were two fellow Coloradans killed that night who had profound impacts on my friends and family. Inspiring stories have come out in the past week that shed light on the wonderful lives all 12 victims lived. I see broken hearts all over the city; it is difficult to imagine that it will ever be the same. In an opinion article printed in the Denver Post, a Colorado state senator tried to answer the questions the entire country is facing: What can we do and how can we fight back?
“The answer is we love back,” Michael Johnston wrote. “We live back. We deepen our commitments to all the unnumbered acts of kindness that make America an unrendable fabric. We respond by showing that we will play harder, and longer. We will serve more meals, play more games, eat more food, listen to more jazz, go to more movies, give more hugs, and say more ‘thank yous’ and ‘I love yous’ than ever before.”
While words can bring some comfort to those close to the victims, we have a duty to those affected to act. The shooter legally purchased four guns in the last 60 days, including an AR-15 assault weapon. Additionally, he was able to obtain 6,000 rounds of ammunition, a drum magazine that could fire 50 to 60 rounds per minute and military-grade armor online without anyone questioning it. It is unbelievable that one can purchase these items online without any background checks; it is even more unbelievable that this quantity of purchase happened so frequently and that it went unquestioned.
Gun lobbies, including the National Rifle Association (NRA), proclaim that the Second Amendment allows for citizens to have weapons to shoot 71 people in two minutes. In 2008, the NRA spent $10 million to make sure that there is the least bit of regulation possible on all gun sales. The NRA is right in saying that the Constitution allows citizens to bear arms, but there is a big difference between guns that are used for hunting and protection and military-grade weapons with extended magazines that are only used for mass murder.
In the wake of this shooting, it is up to Americans to demand a change to the status quo. This starts with reauthorizing the 1994 Federal Assault Weapons Ban and continues with outlawing online purchases of ammunition and body armor without proper background checks. These restrictions may not have prevented the movie massacre in Aurora, but they are still the right changes to implement. Gun lobbyists in the next election may target politicians who support these modest regulations, but I hope that supporting policies that would save lives is more important to them than winning an election.
Colorado and the entire United States of America mourn for the families and friends of 12 wonderful people who were killed for going to a movie: Jonathan Blunk, 26; A.J. Boik, 18; Jesse Childress, 29; Gordon Cowden, 51; Jessica Ghawi, 24; John Larimer, 27; Matt McQuinn, 27; Micayla Medek, 23; Veronica Moser-Sullivan, 6; Alex Sullivan, 27; Alex Teves, 24; and Rebecca Wingo, 32. For those looking to contribute, Colorado Governor John Hickenlooper, in partnership with the Community First Foundation, established the Aurora Victim Relief Fund, which is now taking donations at www.givingfirst.org.
Ethan Kessinger ‘15
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Ted Rudow III
In the U.S. alone, the statistics for violent crime are staggering. According to the FBI, on average a person is murdered every 22 minutes; someone is raped every four minutes, a robbery is committed every 26 seconds. Citing a commission of crime experts, Reuter reports that U.S. crime levels are even higher:The Council on Crime in America said in its first report that [crime levels] "remain at historic highs.""America is a ticking violent crime bomb, and there is little time remaining to prepare for the blast," said the report, which noted the rise in youthful violence.They said official FBI statistics on crime were only the tips of the iceberg. The report said the crime rate -- based on surveys of victims and not just crimes reported to the police -- show violent crime -- including murder, rape, assault and burglary -- was 5.6 times higher than those reported. The Washington Post adds:Murders and suicides [in the U.S.] are now occurring at a rate of more than 145 a day, a rate that is rising. In the past 30 years alone, the total exceeds 1,200,000 people, more than all the men killed in all the wars in the history of the United States. And many of these recent victims are not men and women; they are children. Jack Levin, a sociology professor at Northeastern University in Boston, warns that the current increase in homicides by juveniles as young as 14 and 15 is a precursor of worse things to come:"They are in the leading edge of the mini-baby boom of children of the original post-World War II baby boomers, and they haven't yet reached the 18- to 24-year-old age group that traditionally commits the overwhelming majority of murders."They aren't even there yet, but they're committing homicide," Levin said. "What are they going to do for an encore?" That's Entertainment? Entertainment?Why the unprecedented increase in violence among today's youth? Behavioral scientists have concluded that one of the main culprits is so-called entertainment, particularly the images brought into everyone's living room courtesy of television. In times past, you had to be on the scene where the violence was perpetrated in order to personally witness it.
Not now. By the time the average American child is 15 years old, he or she will have witnessed the violent destruction of more than 35,000 human beings on television, as well as 200,000 other brutal acts. Even in the "days of Noah," individuals were not subjected to the volume of violence that we are today.The link between violence on film and violence in our streets and homes is irrefutable. United Press International reports on a survey conducted by the 40,000-member Professional Association of Teachers in Britain, which concluded that:"The impact of violent material is far more widespread than was previously thought," said Jackie Miller, the association's deputy secretary general. The survey found that 77 percent of secondary school teachers thought children were being "desensitized to violence," and choosing to glorify and mimic violent activity in the playground. Dr. Leonard D. Efron, Professor of Psychology at the University of Illinois at Chicago, studied the habits of more than four hundred viewers for twenty-two years. He observes: "There can no longer be any doubt that heavy exposure to televised violence is one of the causes of aggressive behavior, crime and violence in society." Arnold Kahn of the American Psychological Association adds, "The debate over the effects of violence on television is like the debate over cigarette smoking and cancer." To find out "how young people themselves feel about their rapidly changing world," Newsweek magazine and the Children's Defense Fund commissioned a poll of 758 American children between the ages of 10 and 17. Newsweek summarized their findings:What emerges is a portrait of a generation living in fear. … Many had anxieties their parents could never have imagined: of guns, drugs, divorce, poverty. The interviews underscore how deeply violence, or the fear of it, permeates the lives of children, not just in inner cities, but also in small towns and suburbs across America.