Normalizing Another Massacre

After Columbine, Aurora, Sandy Hook and Navy Yard, isn't enough enough?

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A handwritten note saying "Your Navy Yard Neighbors Send (Love) and Prayers" is taped to a post across the street from an entrance to the Washington Navy Yard, two days after a gunman killed twelve people and was killed himself inside the Navy Yard in Washington, on Wednesday, Sept. 18, 2013.

DENVER - The saddest part about the heartfelt statement made by a physician in the aftermath of the Navy Yard mass shooting is that I've heard it before.

On February 12, 2013, Dr. Mike Dobersen testified to the Colorado House of Representatives Judiciary Committee in support of gun safety bills. Dobersen is the coroner for Aurora, Colo. His facility took in many of the theater shooting victims that horrific day in July last year. As a trained forensic pathologist, he also helped identify bodies in the aftermath of 9/11.

[See a collection of political cartoons on gun control and gun rights.]

He stated:

I'm a physician with a specialty in forensic pathology and I'm the Coroner/Medical Examiner for Arapahoe County.  I've held that position for the past 20 years.  Over that time, we've had the Chuck E Cheese massacre, the Columbine High School shootings and the Aurora Theater massacre. 

Hardly a week goes by when I don't see first- hand what bullets do to the human body ... The most devastating wounds I see have been the result of high velocity rounds. These are typically fired by semi-automatic weapons (such as AR-15) which can be easily equipped with high capacity magazines which are all too readily available.

These are basically military weapons which have been introduced into our civilian public space: our streets, our shopping malls, our work places and our schools. These rounds have a devastating effect when only one strikes a human body. Can you imagine what happens when multiple bullets, fired from a high capacity magazine, impact someone? Unfortunately, I can.

Obviously no one bill will solve the problem, but we need to start somewhere. We have to do something to minimize the violence and minimize the numbers of grieving families. 

Please pass this bill. It's only common sense. I'm tired of taking bullets out of kids.

[See a collection of political cartoons on Congress.]

Thank god Colorado Democrats agreed, even after a barrage of attacks from opponents so vile and violent that two people were arrested for death threats and several legislators needed police protection.

Among the courageous people I met while working on the Colorado legislation were Tom and Terry Sullivan. Tom is a big-hearted Irishman with a green ribbon and the name of his son Alex, murdered in Aurora, tattooed on the inside of his forearm. I met Jane Dougherty, whose sister Mary Sherlach was gunned down at Sandy Hook and first spoke publicly of her sister to help pass these bills. I met Dave Hoover, a 30-year law enforcement veteran whose nephew, AJ Boik, was shot to death in Aurora while sitting next to the love of his life, Lasamoa Cross. When Dave and his sister Theresa, AJ's mother, arrived at Gateway High that morning, Lasamoa was still covered in AJ's blood. I met Tom Mauser, whose son Daniel was murdered at Columbine and who has been lobbying for gun safety laws for 14 years.

Until we – not just Dr Dobersen and the families of Aurora, Columbine, Newtown and now the Navy Yard – are tired of taking bullets out of kids, and tired of tolerating the lies from the blood money that funds the NRA, this will keep happening. Until we demand that gutless legislators vote their conscience instead of their political vanity - I'm looking at you, Senate Democrats - we will stand apart as a nation characterized by regular mass murder. Until the politicians in Washington, not just the brave men and women in the Colorado legislature who stood up to the bullies threatening them, do the right thing, we will go through the same ritual over and over.

We owe something to these families. We are normalizing massacres. It has to stop.

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