Jimmy’s Denver Gazette Column | ‘Much we don’t know’ belies ‘gun reform now’

Written by on March 26, 2021

As terror swept over Boulder on Monday afternoon, all of Colorado watched in horror at what was happening. For hours, we simply knew there was an “active shooter situation” at the King Soopers on Table Mesa, with hundreds of law enforcement officers and first responders on the scene. Speculation gripped social media, with grim answers yet to come.

Ten innocent lives were ripped away in a senseless act of violence — yet another mass shooting in Colorado. We all grieve for those who were brutally slaughtered, including Denny Stong, 20; Neven Stanisic, 23; Rikki Olds, 25; Tralona Bartkowiak, Suzanne Fountain, 59; Teri Leiker, 51; Kevin Mahoney, 61; Lynn Murray, 62; and Jody Waters, 65.

Officer Eric Talley, 51, also died a hero in the line of duty. As so many policemen and women do each day, Talley left his wife and seven children in his uniform that morning, not knowing what the day would bring. Later that afternoon, he answered the call, went into the line of fire and was killed.

As with every other mass shooting, we all found ourselves searching in vain for a rational explanation — something to make sense of the irrational and the incomprehensible. Sadly, we never seem to find a satisfactory answer.

That’s probably because there isn’t one.

Police and the FBI are immersed in their investigation of the suspect, 21-year-old Ahmad Al Aliwi Alissa of Arvada. Media reports and public interest groups suggest several possible motivations or driving forces for this unspeakable crime, but we don’t know for sure and probably won’t for some time.

It’s important to let authorities do their jobs and get it right. Indeed, hard though it may be, we must all do our best to be patient and wait for answers — not rush to pass new laws that may be ineffective and unrooted from meaningful solutions. That includes the tempting push for new gun laws.

On Monday evening, the hashtag #GunReformNow was already trending on Twitter. At 8:01 p.m., Boulder’s own congressman, Joe Neguse, tweeted about his heartbreak over the massacre. “While there’s much we don’t know,” he closed the post, “one thing is clear — we need #gunreformnow. Congress must act.”

It’s striking that the Democrat concedes there’s “much we don’t know” before prescribing “gun reform now.” Whether it be Congress, the Colorado legislature or the City of Boulder pondering legislation, it seems rather rash to suggest that new gun laws are needed to redress this atrocity while simultaneously being unclear as to the details of what happened. How can you ascertain that more laws would have actually prevented it without knowing those details?

This is not insignificant given the abstractness of Neguse’s hashtag. What does “gun reform” actually mean? How did Monday’s evil “clearly” show it’s needed? I don’t question Neguse’s motives, especially after his own town was attacked so horribly. But in times of tragedy and trial, we look to our elected officials for leadership – not political slogans.

President Biden echoed Neguse’s call for more gun laws on Monday. He was relatively specific, calling for a handful of actions including a ban on “assault weapons” and closing background check loopholes. Yet nowhere in Biden’s speech did he explain how more laws would have actually made a difference in this shooting or in others. Perhaps that’s because it is unlikely any of his proposals could have prevented this tragedy.

Colorado already has some of the strictest gun laws in the nation. We mandate universal background checks, meaning every firearm sale or transfer, public or private, must go through a background check by both CBI and NICS. Colorado has a 15-round magazine limit and extreme risk protection orders (“Red Flag” laws) and prohibits firearm possession for individuals with restraining orders or after mental adjudication. The so-called gun show and boyfriend loopholes have been closed.

Despite this, Democratic legislators at the State Capitol are now considering a statewide ban on “assault-style weapons.” It’s unclear what would be included in the definition of “assault-style weapons.” For instance, the definition of “assault weapon” in the 1994 Federal Assault Weapons Ban included semi-automatic firearms with two or more (sometimes cosmetic) specific features.

While there was a slight downtick in mass shootings when the ban was in effect (1994-2004) compared with the decade before and after, the firearm homicide rate stayed relatively constant. Regardless, correlation does not imply causation, and atrocities like Columbine still happened during the same time period.

Coloradans are looking for answers, yet those who think government can legislate a remedy by banning an object or restricting access will be greatly disappointed.

It is irresponsible for politicians to give people a false sense of security by rashly adding another layer of laws that are unlikely to actually deter those who already plan to commit the highest crime — mass murder.

Click here to read the rest of Jimmy’s March 26 column at The Denver Gazette, a sister publication of The Washington Examiner.


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