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Mary Mitchell: Mass murder shows its time to get serious about gun control

A SWAT team officer stands watch near an apartment house where suspect shooting movie theatre lived AurorColo. Friday July 20

A SWAT team officer stands watch near an apartment house where the suspect in a shooting at a movie theatre lived in Aurora, Colo., Friday, July 20, 2012. As many as 14 people were killed and 50 injured at a shooting at the Century 16 movie theatre early Friday during the showing of the latest Batman movie. (AP Photo/Ed Andrieski)

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Updated: August 23, 2012 10:48AM

Tragically, it takes mass murder to bring home the point that we need to get serious about gun control.

There is no way to comprehend that James Holmes, the 24-year-old alleged shooter, stormed into a theater in Aurora, Colo., fatally shot 12 people and injured dozens of others, just as there is no way to comprehend how a dozen people were killed and 45 others were wounded in Chicago over this past Memorial Day weekend.

But the heinous act in Colorado committed by one individual has sparked outrage from D.C. to Hollywood, while the heinous acts by the many shooters in Chicago attracts far less national attention.

While journalists have noted the violence in Chicago, there has been no expression of outrage either from the White House or national civil rights organizations. And powerful people in other influential industries have been silent while the blood of hundreds of black victims has flowed in the street.

On Friday, when President Barack Obama received word of the Colorado massacre, he abruptly stopped his campaign and headed back to Washington, D.C., to issue the nation’s condolences as he should have done.

“Such evil is senseless. It is beyond reason,” he said. “This is a day for prayer for the victims and for reflection.”

Because the shooting occurred about a half-hour into the screening of the new Batman movie, “The Dark Knight Rises,” celebrities have also felt compelled to tweet condolences.

For instance, Ryan Seacrest tweeted: “Thinking about the families who were affected by this horrible incident in Colorado. My thoughts and prayers are with you.”

Alicia Keys said in a tweet: “My heart breaks for the victims, family and community of the Aurora shootings. My thoughts and prayers are with you all.”

As with the spate of school shootings that claimed dozens of lives across America, we are once again reminded that color or class does not define evil.

Indeed, unlike the African-American and Hispanic males, often labeled as gang-bangers, who are charged with most of the shootings in Chicago, the suspect in Colorado has been identified as a white neuroscience doctoral student at the University of Colorado Denver/Anschutz Medical Campus.

“People who knew the suspect . . . described him as an intelligent student who showed no signs of violence,” several publications reported.

The victims of this latest tragedy hail from a place worlds apart from the West Side of Chicago where 7-year-old Heaven Sutton was killed while helping her mother sell candy outside of her home.

Yet like most of the victims of Chicago’s gun violence, the theater-goers in Aurora were sitting ducks.

This is America, not Afghanistan or Iraq.

A person ought to be able to go to a midnight screening of a popular film and not worry about being gunned down by someone wearing a gas mask and body armor, as Holmes reportedly wore.

Under our gun laws, Holmes was able to legally purchase three powerful weapons that armed him with enough firepower to harm dozens of people, killing 12 of them.

Is there really any good reason that should have been allowed?

This is supposed to be the land of the free.

But youngsters on Chicago’s West and South sides have to hide behind brick walls because at any moment someone dressed in a dark hoodie could jump out of an alley and spray the street with bullets.

Two weeks ago, over one weekend, 20 people in Chicago were injured by gunfire. Murders overall are up 40 percent in the city.

Despite the carnage, that Monday morning, business went on as usual.

Because of the Colorado shooting, we can expect that American flags will be lowered and memorial services for the victims will be held throughout the nation.

Because the majority of gun violence in urban areas is attributed to gang members, it is still easier for most people to empathize with the victims of a mass murderer than it is for them to empathize with the victims of urban violence.

Unfortunately, too many people who live outside of the war zones that run through neighborhoods such as Austin, Woodlawn, Englewood or Lawndale still take comfort in the myth that the violence can’t happen in their neck of the woods.

But as long as the majority of us cling to gun laws that were forged in the pioneer days, there is no escape.

“We in Chicago, where 300 children have been killed in the past school year, know well the pain of this undeclared national disaster and epidemic of violence,” the Rev. Michael Pfleger said in a statement released Friday afternoon.

“National and local political figures of both political parties will release statements today declaring the horror of this massacre as they should. The question I have . . . will they use their political platform and position to stand up to the National Rifle Association and enact common sense gun laws that stop the proliferation and easy access of guns that is helping create such tragedies?” he asked.

The statement released by the Rev. Jesse Jackson, a strident voice on gun control, had a similar thread:

“The victims of this increased gun violence need more than condolences and sympathy; we need a new security policy. We need to revive the ban on assault weapons now. We are becoming increasingly more vulnerable to weapons of mass destruction. We must fight to remove guns from our homes, cities and suburbs,” he said.

It shouldn’t take the wanton killing of 12 people and the wounding of dozens of others at a movie theater in Colorado to make us see that, because of our gun laws, there is literally nowhere to hide.

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