A gas mask was marked as the first piece of evidence in a criminal investigation. Federal authorities searched through evidence in the parking lot behind the Century 16 movie theater where a gunman shot and killed 12 people Friday morning. Photo by Karl Gehring/The Denver Post.
James Holmes, the 24-year-old gunman who opened fire in a packed movie theater in Aurora, Colorado Friday morning, killing 12 people and injuring 59 others, had four weapons in his possession: an AR-15 assault rifle, a Remington 12 gauge shotgun, a 40-caliber Glock handgun, and a fourth handgun, which was later found in his car.
Within hours of the incident, discussions on gun control began circulating the Internet.
New York City Mayor Bloomberg confronted the presidential candidates for failing to address the issue. The US Conference of Mayors sent out a statement “repeating its call for reasonable changes in our gun laws and regulations that could help to prevent senseless tragedies.”
In his remarks at Fort Myers, Florida today, President Obama called for a moment of silence, but made no mention of gun control policy.
Meanwhile, on the Twitterverse, the subject surged to life. For example, there was this conversation between authors Salman Rushdie and Philip Gourevitch:
@SalmanRushdie Unless politicians push aggressive relentless gun control they’re accepting these shootings & complicit in the slaughter.
— Philip Gourevitch (@PGourevitch) July 20, 2012
In a New Yorker article, Adam Gopnik recalled a heartwrenching image from Virginia Tech: “cell phones still ringing in the pockets of the dead children as their parents tried to call them.”
And on the other hand, this:
Gun control is not the issue–why so many in this generation choose mass murder as their life achievement–that is the issue.
— JeffreyFeldman (@JeffreyFeldman) July 20, 2012
And this from author B.J. Mendelson:
Glad to see everyone is on their high horse about gun control today and not combatting mental illness.
— B.J. Mendelson (@BJMendelson) July 20, 2012
Amid the frenzy, a tweeter self-described as “The official journal of the NRA” with the handle @NRA_Rifleman was slammed for tweeting this early this morning:
“Good morning, shooters. Happy Friday! Weekend plans?”
The tweet was later deleted, but this website captured a screenshot first.
That site has updates, including a statement by the NRA. And the account, it says, has since been deleted entirely.
Colorado, like most states, has what some refer to as a “right to carry” law. Under Colorado’s gun laws, Holmes, whose record contained no more than a speeding ticket, could legally carry such weapons. While concealed weapons are illegal, a person in Colorado can legally carry a handgun in a home, office or car, according to Colorado State Patrol. Firearms can also be carried “if its use is for lawful protection.” You can see the guidelines here.
Public opinion on gun laws has undergone a marked shift over the past 20 years. according to Gallup polls. In September 1990, 78 percent, or eight in 10 Americans believed that gun laws should be “more strict.” By October 2011, that number had dropped to 43 percent.
In 1990, Gallup polls showed that 41 percent of Americans said there should be a law banning the possession of handguns. In 2011, 26 percent had answered yes to that question.
Chris Cillizza of the Washington Post wrote about these numbers in a blog post today. If history is any indicator, he says, the Aurora shootings aren’t likely to change public sentiment. After the Columbine, Virginia Tech and Giffords shootings, polls saw little change on how people view guns:
“That the numbers on gun control remain steady even in the aftermath of such high profile events like Columbine, Virginia Tech and the Giffords shooting suggests that people simply don’t equate these incidents of violence with the broader debate over the right role for guns in our society,” he writes. “They view them as entirely separate conversations — and that’s why the tragedy in Aurora isn’t likely to change the political conversation over guns either.”
Larisa Epatko contributed to this post.