Following the Aurora shooting, some gun-control supporters began immediately hunting through the wreckage for scraps of political advantage. That showed all the sensitivity and consideration of starting a food fight at a funeral. It is one thing to draw lessons from tragedy. It is another to hang a political banner on an occupied cross.
At the proper time, however, the drawing of lessons is appropriate. What happened in a movie theater outside Denver was not an act of God — not the moral equivalent of an earthquake or a meteor strike — but the act of an apparently mentally unbalanced man with access to destructive weaponry. The quest to separate the mentally ill from modern armaments may well be hopeless. But it is at least worth a discussion.
There are two questions to consider.
First, would tighter gun-control laws — say, one banning the AR-15-style weapon that James Holmes allegedly used — have prevented the Aurora shooting? It is a difficult case to make. A committed, intelligent mass murderer will find a way. Gun-control laws do not reduce massacres in the same manner that OSHA regulations reduce industrial accidents. Massacres are purposely monstrous violations of the law, which marginal changes in the law are unlikely to prevent.