The tragedy in Aurora, can it happen here?

timestamp icon
category icon Columns, Opinion
Margaret Svilar

So many of us send our kids and loved ones off to the movie theater and assume they are safe. After all, this is one of America’s favorite pastimes that is cherished by young and old alike. My teenage boys attended a midnight showing of “The Dark Knight Rises.” They went with my blessing. Little did I know that at the same time their movie trailers were starting, a horrific tragedy had just unfolded in Aurora, Colo.

This incident made me sick to my stomach because of so many reasons. As a parent, it is unbearable to imagine what the families of the victims are going through right now. The senseless and violent deaths of 12 people including children at a movie that was developed from a comic book hero, is unfathomable.

The stories about the victim’s lives are emerging and showing the world how they are just like us. There are heroes that have surfaced saving the lives of others. Our country has poured out our hearts and prayers to Aurora, rightfully so. Even President Obama has put aside politics for the moment to meet with the families, as a father and a husband.

But there’s another reason that makes me feel sick inside: that this incident has hit close to home. Who is to say that something like this couldn’t happen right here in our Camas/Washougal/East Vancouver community? Colorado is not a violent place. Neither is our community. This appears to be the actions of a lone gunman. He has been described as a crazed, psychotic individual that obtained all his weapons and ammunition legally. A lone gunman with weapons. That was the same with the Gabby Giffords’ shooting. The same with the Virginia Tech shooting.

And the Columbine shooting, even though it involved more than one person, a school was the scene. So how do you protect your loved ones against crazy people?

Our society is such where it is hard to determine someone who is deemed “crazed and psychotic.” In this case, the only mark on the suspect’s record was a speeding ticket. James Holmes seemed like a very promising student of neuroscience with the world ahead of him.

It has been reported by former colleagues that he appeared to be quite shy. Could anyone he came across in his daily life taken an extra effort to talk or get to know him? I’m not saying this would have prevented him from doing this. But nowadays in our society, it seems commonplace to stay nose down into our Smart phones and ear phones canceling out all there is. Eye contact with fellow human beings is becoming a rarity. We are becoming increasingly unaware of what is going on around us. In the minds of many, it is easier to be engulfed in ourselves and not take the half-a-step of effort to smile at a stranger, get to know your neighbors, have a brief conversation with the cashier at the store, get to know the person next to you on an airplane, or talk with the graduate neuroscience student you see every day.

Again, I’m not saying this could have made a difference in Aurora, in the early hours of July 20. Who knows, maybe it could of been a factor in becoming aware of any suspicious activity, or maybe not. Now we may never know.

Whenever a shooting occurs in the U.S. that involves multiple losses of life, it seems the debate is always shifted to gun control. This seems the norm in our society because people want to place blame on someone, some law, some agency, or some thing. I am not going to turn this into a debate on gun control, but it is important that some points are made:

• I know what the Second Amendment of our Constitution says and I fully respect that. But what about respecting the rights of innocent people going to a theater and having to be involved in a massacre?

• Personally, I feel our society is a bit “gun crazy.” Let me clarify: In the movie industry it seems commonplace that movies with slick guns and smartly edited shooting scenes bring in more ticket sales. It almost seems to glamorize weapons. Come on folks, it’s not glamorous. It’s all in the way we look at it, as a society.

• July 22 was the one year anniversary of the shooting at a summer camp in Norway that killed 77 people. Norway has one of the most strict gun control laws of any nation. And that lone gunman was still able to obtain an over abundance of weapons and ammunition.

I hope our society does not have to increase security in public places we frequent and enjoy. But it is not realistic to start rounding up all the guns from people we deem as “potentially dangerous” either.

Some say that if we really want to know why the Colorado shooting happened, we might want to move our focus away from politics, and towards the discussion of the kind of society we live in. I don’t ever want to think that America has lost its way. However, this tragedy is regrettably one of the painful consequences of the freedoms we enjoy.

In the meantime, maybe a horrific tragedy like this can make more people take their eyes off their “screens,” stop, and look at violence in our society. Get more involved with your eyes and ears. Be aware of your fellow human being. This is your world too; shape it, or someone else will.

Margaret Svilar transplanted to Camas from Minnesota about 17 years ago. She recently retired from Northwest/Delta Airlines where she worked for 30 years. She is trying to determine what she wants to do when she grows up.