Belfast Telegraph

Monday 24 November 2014

Aurora shooting: Gun lobby groups ensure US will never change right to bear arms

AURORA, CO - JULY 22: Thousands of people gather for a prayer vigil for the victims of Friday's movie theater mass shooting at the Aurora Municipal Center July 22, 2012 in Aurora, Colorado. Suspect James Holmes, 24, allegedly went on a shooting spree and killed 12 people and injured 59 during an early morning screening of 'The Dark Knight Rises.' (Photo by Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images)
AURORA, CO - JULY 22: Mourners attend a vigil for the victims of the mass shooting at Century 16 movie theater at the Aurora Municipal Center on July 22, 2012 in Aurora, Colorado. Suspect James Holmes, 24, allegedly went on a shooting spree and killed 12 people and injured 59 during an early morning screening of 'The Dark Knight Rises.' (Photo by Kevork Djansezian/Getty Images)
AURORA, CO - JULY 22: Members of Firing-Line fire their weapons at the gun range July 22, 2012 in Aurora, Colorado. Firing-Line is located not far from where suspect gunman James Eagan Holmes, 24, is accused of killing 12 people at a screening of the new "Batman" film last Friday. (Photo by Joshua Lott/Getty Images)
AURORA, CO - JULY 22: Rifles are displayed at Firing-Line July 22, 2012 in Aurora, Colorado. Firing-Line is located not far from where suspect gunman James Eagan Holmes, 24, is accused of killing 12 people at a screening of the new "Batman" film last Friday. (Photo by Joshua Lott/Getty Images)
AURORA, CO - JULY 22: A target sheet hangs in the shooting range at Firing-Line prepares to fire his weapon at the gun range July 22, 2012 in Aurora, Colorado. Firing-Line is located not far from where suspect gunman James Eagan Holmes, 24, is accused of killing 12 people at a screening of the new "Batman" film last Friday. (Photo by Joshua Lott/Getty Images)
AURORA, CO - JULY 22: A member of Firing-Line prepares fires his weapon at the gun range July 22, 2012 in Aurora, Colorado. Firing-Line is located not far from where suspect gunman James Eagan Holmes, 24, is accused of killing 12 people at a screening of the new "Batman" film last Friday. (Photo by Joshua Lott/Getty Images)
AURORA, CO - JULY 22: A Bush Master AR15 assault rifle is displayed at Firing-Line July 22, 2012 in Aurora, Colorado. Firing-Line is located not far from where suspect gunman James Eagan Holmes, 24, is accused of killing 12 people at a screening of the new "Batman" film last Friday. The firearm is similar to the one used in the rampage. (Photo by Joshua Lott/Getty Images)
AURORA, CO - JULY 22: A customer holds a Smith & Wesson pistol at Firing-Line July 22, 2012 in Aurora, Colorado. Firing-Line is located not far from where suspect gunman James Eagan Holmes, 24, is accused of killing 12 people at a screening of the new "Batman" film last Friday. (Photo by Joshua Lott/Getty Images)
AURORA, CO - JULY 22: Hand guns are displayed at Firing-Line July 22, 2012 in Aurora, Colorado. Firing-Line is located not far from where suspect gunman James Eagan Holmes, 24, is accused of killing 12 people at a screening of the new "Batman" film last Friday. (Photo by Joshua Lott/Getty Images)
AURORA, CO - JULY 22: A Bush Master AR15 assault rifle is displayed at Firing-Line July 22, 2012 in Aurora, Colorado. Firing-Line is located not far from where suspect gunman James Eagan Holmes, 24, is accused of killing 12 people at a screening of the new "Batman" film last Friday. The firearm is similar to the one used in the rampage. (Photo by Joshua Lott/Getty Images)
AURORA, CO - JULY 22: A member of Firing-Line prepares fires his weapon at the gun range July 22, 2012 in Aurora, Colorado. Firing-Line is located not far from where suspect gunman James Eagan Holmes, 24, is accused of killing 12 people at a screening of the new "Batman" film last Friday. (Photo by Joshua Lott/Getty Images)
AURORA, CO - JULY 22: Parishioners pray during morning mass remembering victims of the theater shooting at the Queen of Peace Catholic Church on July 22, 2012 in Aurora, Colorado. Suspect James Holmes, 24, allegedly went on a shooting spree and killed 12 people and injured 59 during an early morning screening of 'The Dark Knight Rises.' (Photo by Kevork Djansezian/Getty Images)
AURORA, CO - JULY 22: Greg Zanis of Aurora, Illinois, places crosses he made for a makeshift memorial to the victims of last weekend's mass shooting at the Century 16 movie theater July 22, 2012 in Aurora, Colorado. A carpenter by trade, Zanis made the twelve white crosses that were placed near Columbine High School after a mass shooting there in 1999. Zanis said he made these crosses as fast as possible and drove all night across the country to place them across the street from the theater. Police in Aurora, a suburb of Denver, say they have James Holmes, 24, in custody after he killed 12 people and injured 59 during a midnight screening of 'The Dark Knight Rises' last Friday. (Photo by Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images)
AURORA, CO - JULY 21: Sisters hug at a makeshift memorial across the street from the Century 16 movie theater the day after a gunman killed 12 people and injured 59 during an early morning screening of 'The Dark Knight Rises,' July 21, 2012 in Aurora, Colorado. Police in Aurora, a suburb of Denver, say they have the suspect James Holmes, 24, in custody. (Photo by Kevork Djansezian/Getty Images)
AURORA, CO - JULY 22: Family members react as the names of the 12 victims of the mass shooting at Century 16 movie theater are read aloud during a prayer vigil at the Aurora Municipal Center July 22, 2012 in Aurora, Colorado. Suspect James Holmes, allegedly went on a shooting spree and killed 12 people and injured 59 during an early morning screening of 'The Dark Knight Rises.' (Photo by Aaron Ontiveroz-Pool/Denver Post via Getty Images)
AURORA, CO - JULY 22: Family members listen as the names of the 12 victims of the mass shooting at Century 16 movie theater are read aloud during a prayer vigil at the Aurora Municipal Center July 22, 2012 in Aurora, Colorado. Suspect James Holmes, allegedly went on a shooting spree and killed 12 people and injured 59 during an early morning screening of 'The Dark Knight Rises.' (Photo by Aaron Ontiveroz-Pool/Denver Post via Getty Images)
Family members react as the names of the 12 victims of the mass shooting at Century 16 movie theater are read aloud during a prayer vigil at the Aurora Municipal Center July 22, 2012
AURORA, CO - JULY 22: People pray and mourn during a memorial for the victims that were killed and wounded during the mass shooting at a movie theater last Friday, outside the Aurora Municipal Center July 22, 2012 in Aurora, Colorado. James Eagan Holmes, 24, is accused of killing 12 people at a screening of the new "Batman" film. (Photo by Joshua Lott/Getty Images)
AURORA, CO - JULY 22: Thousands of people gather for a prayer vigil for the victims of Friday's movie theater mass shooting at the Aurora Municipal Center July 22, 2012 in Aurora, Colorado. Suspect James Holmes, 24, allegedly went on a shooting spree and killed 12 people and injured 59 during an early morning screening of 'The Dark Knight Rises.' (Photo by Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images)
An FBI agent can be seen through the broken window of the apartment of shooting suspect James Holmes in Aurora, Colorado (AP/Ed Andrieski)
President Barack Obama speaks at the University of Colorado Hospital in Aurora, Colorado (AP/Susan Walsh)
The Century 16 cinema in Aurora, Colorado where a gunman killed at least 12 people and wounded dozens of others (AP/Ted S Warren)
AURORA, CO - JULY 20: A Popcorn box lies on the ground outside Century 16 movie theatre where a gunmen attacked movie goers during an early morning screening of the new Batman movie, "The Dark Knight Rises" July 20, 2012 in Aurora, outside of Denver, Colorado. According to reports, 12 people have been killed and at least 59 wounded when James Holmes allegedly opened fire inside the a movie theater showing the "The Dark Knight Rises." Police have James, 24, of Holmes of North Aurora, in custody. (Photo by Thomas Cooper/Getty Images)
AURORA, CO - JULY 20: A mourner grieves at a memorial service July 20, 2012 in Aurora, outside of Denver, Colorado. According to reports, 12 people were killed and 59 wounded when James Holmes allegedly opened fire inside a movie theater showing the "The Dark Knight Rises." Police have Holmes 24, of North Aurora, in custody. (Photo by Thomas Cooper/Getty Images)
DENVER, CO - JULY 20: A makeshift memorial is shown behind the Century 16 movie theatre where a gunmen attacked movie goers during an early morning screening of the new Batman movie "The Dark Knight Rises" on July 20, 2012 in Aurora, outside of Denver, Colorado. According to reports, 12 people were killed and 59 wounded when James Holmes allegedly opened fire inside the theater. Police have Holmes 24, of North Aurora, in custody. (Photo by Kevork Djansezian/Getty Images)
DENVER, CO - JULY 20: People pray at a makeshift memorial during a vigil for victims of the Century 16 movie theatre where a gunmen attacked movie goers during an early morning screening of the new Batman movie "The Dark Knight Rises" on July 20, 2012 in Aurora, outside of Denver, Colorado. According to reports, 12 people were killed and 59 wounded when James Holmes allegedly opened fire inside the theater. Police have Holmes 24, of North Aurora, in custody. (Photo by Kevork Djansezian/Getty Images)
AURORA, CO - JULY 20: People hug during a vigil for victims at the Century 16 movie theatre where a gunmen attacked movie goers during an early morning screening of the new Batman movie, "The Dark Knight Rises" on July 20, 2012 in Aurora, outside of Denver, Colorado. According to reports, 12 people were killed and 59 wounded when James Holmes allegedly opened fire inside the theater. Police have Holmes 24, of North Aurora, in custody. (Photo by Kevork Djansezian/Getty Images)
AURORA, CO - JULY 20: Marietta Perkins prays during a vigil for victims at the Century 16 movie theatre where a gunmen attacked movie goers during an early morning screening of the new Batman movie, "The Dark Knight Rises" on July 20, 2012 in Aurora, outside of Denver, Colorado. According to reports, 12 people were killed and 59 wounded when James Holmes allegedly opened fire inside the theater. Police have Holmes 24, of North Aurora, in custody. (Photo by Kevork Djansezian/Getty Images)
AURORA, CO - JULY 20: Alexis Davis hugs Nick Vanderbaan at a memorial service July 20, 2012 in Aurora, outside of Denver, Colorado. According to reports, 12 people were killed and 59 wounded when James Holmes allegedly opened fire inside a movie theater showing the "The Dark Knight Rises." Police have Holmes 24, of North Aurora, in custody. (Photo by Thomas Cooper/Getty Images)
Jacob Stevens, 18, hugs his mother Tammi Stevens after being interviewed by police outside Gateway High School where witnesses were brought for questioning after a shooting at a movie theater, Friday, July 20, 2012 in Denver.
Police gather near an apartment house where the suspect in a shooting at a movie theatre lived in Aurora, Colo., Friday, July 20, 2012.
People gather outside the Century 16 movie theatre in Aurora, Colo., at the scene of a mass shooting early Friday morning, July 20, 2012.
An Aurora Police officer talks on his radio outside of the Century 16 theater at Aurora Mall where as many as 14 people were killed and many injured at a shooting at the Century 16 movie theatre in Aurora, Colo., Friday, July 20, 2012. (AP Photo/Ed Andrieski)
A SWAT team officer stands watch near an apartment house where the suspect in a shooting at a movie theatre lived in Aurora, Colo., Friday, July 20, 2012. As many as 14 people were killed and 50 injured at a shooting at the Century 16 movie theatre early Friday during the showing of the latest Batman movie. (AP Photo/Ed Andrieski)
AURORA, CO - JULY 20: Melissa Clark and Nathan Mendonca hug during memorial service July 20, 2012 in Aurora, outside of Denver, Colorado. According to reports, 12 people were killed and 59 wounded when James Holmes allegedly opened fire inside a movie theater showing the "The Dark Knight Rises." Police have Holmes 24, of North Aurora, in custody. (Photo by Thomas Cooper/Getty Images)
AURORA, CO - JULY 20: Memebers of the Aurora Police Dept. SWAT walk near the apartment of of James Holmes, the suspect of a shooting in a movie theater July 20, 2012 in Aurora, outside of Denver, Colorado. According to reports, 12 people have been killed and at least 59 wounded when James allegedly opened fire inside the a movie theater showing the "The Dark Knight Rises." Police have James, 24, of Holmes of North Aurora, in custody. (Photo by Thomas Cooper/Getty Images)
AURORA, CO - JULY 20: Police break the window of the apartment of of James Holmes, the suspect of a shooting in a movie theater July 20, 2012 in Aurora, outside of Denver, Colorado. According to reports, 12 people have been killed and 59 wounded when James allegedly opened fire inside the a movie theater showing the "The Dark Knight Rises." Police have James, 24, of Holmes of North Aurora, in custody. (Photo by Thomas Cooper/Getty Images)
AURORA, CO - JULY 20: A woman holds a candle at a makeshift memorial for victims of the Century 16 movie theatre where a gunmen attacked movie goers during an early morning screening of the new Batman movie 'The Dark Knight Rises' on July 20, 2012 in Aurora, outside of Denver, Colorado. According to reports, 12 people were killed and 59 wounded when James Holmes allegedly opened fire inside the theater. Police have Holmes 24, of North Aurora, in custody (Photo by Thomas Cooper/Getty Images)

A Wall of Remembrance at the memorial to the Columbine massacre in 1999 is studded with granite squares, each engraved with a reminiscence or reflection from a student, teacher or emergency service worker affected.

Only one quotation is unattributed. It reads: "It brought the nation to its knees, but now we've gotten back up, how have things changed; what have we learned?"

The temptation, after a new mass killing in another Denver suburb, is to whisper in reply: "Not very much in 13 years."

The killing spree at Columbine High School, in which 12 children and a teacher died at the hands of two senior students, prompted a national debate over gun control laws, but led to no new national legislation and no substantial changes in Colorado either.

Today, the state has among the country's laxest rules on the purchase of firearms. Local police believe James Holmes unleashed his terror in the Century 16 cinema in the suburb of Aurora last Friday using an arsenal of four guns and 6,000 rounds of ammunition that he obtained entirely legally.

Again, the atrocity has prompted a national debate. But debate is all anyone expects, not action.

"What do they stand for, and why aren't they standing up?" New York's mayor Michael Bloomberg asked of the two presidential candidates, Barack Obama and Mitt Romney.

Other politicians are increasingly wary of weighing in in favour of anything that might circumscribe the Second Amendment right to bear arms, in the face of the National Rifle Association's massive lobbying firepower. Gun control advocates are on the back foot almost everywhere in the US.

The Columbine memorial is a hauntingly silent circle, carved into the hillside of a popular park behind the high school.

Aaron Rizzuto (27) is reading them, one by one. He expresses a typical fatalism about the chances of tightening gun laws, much as he personally would like to see people put aside a Second Amendment that was adopted in 1791 at a time of Revolution.

"It's as if everyone thinks the King of England is going to be knocking on their door any day," he says. "I think we are a bit past that, but there's not enough people, with not enough power, to have our voices heard."

Pat King's daughter was nine at the time of the Columbine massacre -- the killings in Aurora stirred memories of that day and made him cry again.

"These weapons, the automatic and semi-automatic weapons, these are not for hunting. They are for killing people, that is all. But this is America, there is a right to bear arms and you can't take their guns. To do so, you would have to start with tackling the NRA first. They push this stuff, and they don't care what happens."

The NRA is undoubtedly one of the most powerful lobbying organisations in the US, and it is not hesitant to divert campaign contributions to defeat advocates of gun control.

Many Democrat operatives believe Al Gore's support for gun control lost him key states in the 2000 presidential election, largely because of NRA opposition. The organisation has raised $9m (?7.4m) already for this November's elections.

The Long Island Railroad massacre in 1993 was the last time a mass killing really moved people to demand tighter restrictions, leading to a 10-year ban on assault rifles of the kind used at Century 16. But the ban expired in 2004 with little congressional effort to renew it.

EVEN the shooting of one of their own, the Arizona Congresswoman Gabrielle Giffords, who was almost killed in a mass shooting in Tuscon last year which took the lives of six others, prompted no new laws. In 2010, the Supreme Court ruled a ban on handguns unconstitutional, the vote split along ideological grounds.

Support for once-popular measures, such as a ban on handguns, has fallen to a 50-year low of 26pc.

Senator John McCain pointed to Anders Brevik's massacre in Norway a year ago as evidence that even tight gun laws will be broken by men who want to create terror.

The tragedy in Aurora has once again knocked a nation off-balance. When it gets back up, how will things have changed? Those who want to use Friday's killing spree to shake some sense into America's gun laws might as well be talking to a wall. (© Independent News Service)

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