President Obama came to Aurora, Colorado Sunday afternoon and visited some of the injured survivors of Friday morning’s massacre at a movie theater in Aurora. He visited one of the four hospitals still treating victims. He had extended private meetings with survivors and family members before making brief public remarks at the hospital. He skipped the public prayer vigil that began after his departure.
A crowd of over 10,000 gathered at Aurora City Hall for a prayer vigil to honor the victims and comfort the grieving families. Colorado Governor John Hickenlooper (D-CO) told the crowd that the President knew his presence at the vigil would “change everything” meaning it would politicize the solemn event, which was not political.
The Governor was at the hospital earlier and reported that the President met individually with each family, heard their stories, and shared tears and hugs. He said staff members repeatedly tried to “drag him [the President] out, but he refused to be dragged out,” Hickenlooper said to cheers.
It was moving to see such a large crowd that braved a rainstorm just before the event began come together to show their support for the families of the victims of the massacre early Friday morning. The speakers at the vigil repeated the theme set by the Governor that Aurora and Colorado will not be defined by the acts of an evil man, but rather, the community will be defined by the acts of heroism and compassion shown by the victims, other theater goers, and the first responders.
In his public remarks, President Obama said he was not there as President, but as a father and a husband. He shared the same sentiment that Aurora will not be defined by this tragic event. “ He heaped praise on the Police Chief and the first responders noting that the police responded in 90 seconds. He also praised the medical staff at area hospitals who he credited for saving many lives.
The President told one story of heroism that he learned from one young woman who was saved by her young friend who plugged her neck wound with her finger to stop the bleeding and carried her friend to an ambulence. “What will be remembered are the good people,” Obama said.
Early last Friday morning 70 innocent people were shot, while they watched a Bat Man movie premier in Aurora, Colorado. Twelve persons lost their life including a 6 year old girl; 58 were wounded; 11 remain in critical condition, some are paralyzed. The community and the nation are still in shock.
In the thirteen years since the Columbine massacre, which occurred 20 miles across town from Friday’s tragedy, there have been some 26 mass killings in the United States not counting 911. All involved guns. What does that say about our laws? What does it say about us as a society or us as a country?
Governor Hickenlooper was asked on Meet the Press whether this killing would lead to a move to enact stronger gun laws. Hickenlooper responded that the killer, whose name he refuses to mention, “rigged his apartment with over 30 bombs. If he could not have gotten the guns, he would have just used bombs,” the Governor speculated.
Mayor Bloomberg and others have been critical of Obama for not doing anything to enact stronger gun laws especially after Congresswoman Gifford was shot and nearly killed in Tucson in 2011.
It seems that most politicians have decided that gun rights are a “settled issue.” Most are saying that we must focus on the individual not the weapon. Unfortunately, that is a good slogan, but it will never be translated into policy.
Many of the things that could be done to focus on the individual like increasing access to mental health services cost money. Congress is cutting those programs not increasing them. They will be a thing of the past like the Edsel if the Ryan/Romney budget becomes law.
If the violence is going to stop, the culture of hatred, bigotry, and religious intolerance must be eliminated. Hatred has become acceptable political speech in America. This constant bombardment of hatred on the airwaves by politicians, talk show hosts, radio personalities, and others tends to trigger violent responses in persons who may be struggling with mood or mental disorders.
Until this country begins to reward civility not bashing, we can expect more killings. It is clear government in the Tea Party era will do nothing for mental health. It is up to individuals. Time will tell how many more of these tragedies will need to happen before America wakes up.