It’s been a few days now since 24-year-old James Holmes burst into an Aurora, Colorado midnight screening of The Dark Knight Rises, claiming to be the Joker, lobbying tear gas and shooting to kill as many as possible. 12 people died, innocent moviegoers who were excited to see the last chapter in Christopher Nolan’s Batman trilogy. The massacre horrified people all over the world and prompted a visit to Colorado by President Barack Obama. Today, Holmes appeared in court looking distracted and utterly absurd in his red hairdo (apparently, he wasn’t enough of a fan of the Joker to notice that the fictional nutcase usually appears with green hair).
We’ve gone through stages of disgust. We’ve mourned the victims. We’ve hated the killer for treating a movie theater, a place of joy and dreams, like a shooting gallery. The director and stars of The Dark Knight Rises have expressed their grief and shock. The studio has removed ads and abstained from revealing weekend figures. But now the time has come to reclaim The Dark Knight Rises. Such a great movie cannot not be held hostage by a lunatic like James Holmes. It is OK to talk about the virtues of the film. It is OK to attend screenings and feel elated afterwards. Nolan’s movie has nothing to do with Holmes.
The reason why I’m writing this entry is that we’re already seeing signs of politicians avoiding real issues in this case. According to The Hollywood Reporter, German lawmakers are now proposing to make it harder for children to watch violent movies, as if the Denver incident has anything to do with movies in the first place. James Holmes was apparently a walking time bomb and attacking that screening was a simple way for him to commit his heinous act. It doesn’t have anything to do with Nolan’s film. If you want to find ways to prevent similar mass murders in the future, you need to discuss other things, such as the nation’s gun culture and the funding of public mental health care. Thanks to NRA and their political liaisons, Holmes had no problem buying weapons that have no other place in society than military purposes.
Why blame guns, you may ask. If movies are not the cause of Holmes’s act, then why blame guns? The problem is certainly deeper than that, but stricter gun laws would have prevented Holmes from buying an AR-15 assault rifle, a weapon that belongs only in the hands of troops fighting a war. He would still have attacked the theater, but his weapons of choice would not be as deadly. As expected, the NRA’s fiercest apologists such as Republican Senator Ron Johnson immediately defended every American’s right to arm themselves with whatever doomsday weapon they feel like. In the Fox News clip above, Johnson agrees with the stupidest argument available for his cause – there would have been no massacre if only the kids in the theater brought weapons to the screening themselves. Senator Diane Feinstein counters Johnson’s nonsense in the best way possible.
Now the question, as always, remains: Will Democrats work up some courage and talk about guns and how Republicans and the NRA keep distorting the Second Amendment?