As Coloradans, we have been uncomfortably living under the shadow of the Columbine High School shooting since 1999. My generation was old enough to comprehend the atrocity that would change our state forever. Today, our digitally dependent culture has haunted us deeper with all too familiar images we never wanted our state to witness again. Shootings since Columbine have brought us back to those dark moments in April, including the Virginia Tech shooting in 2007, among others. None have been as close to repeating Columbine history, or as chilling, as the Aurora shooting this month. James Eagan Holmes’ wicked attack on July 20 made an already restless summer feel like the summer from hell. Having experienced losses from the wildfires followed by the death of 12 victims of an incomprehensible crime has put many in the state on the edge. So much so that a significant number of Colorado residents are trying to find security and comfort in the purchase of a gun.
Buying guns was the last thing Coloradans thought about after witnessing the images of the body of Columbine's Patrick Ireland being caught by FBI in Littleton, CO. The blood trails outside the Century 16 Theater and videos of Holme’s victims caused a different reaction in Colorado—people have begun to buy their own guys in an attempt to feel safer.
When people in town speak of James E. Holme’s motives, no one can truly give the right answer. Due to the ambiguity caused by Holmes' persona, there is an extremely high level of anxiety not experienced during the Columbine shooting. With Columbine, people understood the atrocity as the extreme actions of profoundly disturbed high school students, Eric Harris and Dylan Klebold. Residents keep saying that there was more logic to Harris’ and Klebold’s madness as opposed to Holmes'.
This is not to say that people are defending the Columbine shooters, however Columbine seems to have been less diabolical than Aurora’s attacker. The lack of understanding and answers have driven people to feel unsafe everywhere. Without knowing exactly who or what to fear, people will fear all. This of course is not the right answer—finding comfort in guns will only make us more prone to dangerous situations.
As a state we take pride in our identity from our characteristic outdoor practices like fishing and hunting. Guns have not tended to represent a negative connotation in our state because of their relevance to the state culture of outdoor expeditions. However, we should not turn into a mafia-like state where people are as armed as Al Capone on a trip out to the city. As the number of guns purchased out of gun stores grows, so does the risk we take of experiencing more deaths. I respect the constitutional right we have to bear arms, but I also recognize the danger of armed citizens with high emotions. This is what makes our society today different to notion of the ‘Wild West’ when a gun at the hip was the norm. As proud of our Western culture as I am, I do not wish for us to go back to a ‘cowboy showdown’ society.
As new leads in the Aurora shooting open new doors for investigators, my hope is the fear throughout the state will settle. Another strong sign of hope for my state are the countless prayer vigils taking place, admirably demonstrating the unity and humanity among Coloradans.