Days after accused gunman James Holmes fired shots at a midnight showing of The Dark Knight Rises in Aurora, there have been heated discussions about gun control, along with debates on whether it is an appropriate time to tackle the subject. We gave Denver Mayor Michael Hancock an opportunity to weigh in, since he's a member of a coalition called Mayors Against Illegal Guns. But he declined to say anything of substance about gun control.
Press secretary Amber Miller sent Westword this Hancock statement:
We cannot merely point our fingers at the weapons involved in this terrible act of violence. As a society, we must work together to instill in our children value for the life of others and respect for the very real harm guns can cause. This is not a videogame or a comic book, it is real life and only as parents, teachers and leaders can we help ensure our children grow up to be like the heroes in that movie theater and not the villain. As we search for reason and cause for this heinous crime, it makes sense to turn to the weapons but we must not forget the man behind the gun.
A Reuters article predicting that Colorado gun laws would not change in response to the Aurora shootings led with the fact that Hancock's immediate statement on Friday expressing shock and horror did not include any comments on gun control.
Several days later, when asked specifically about gun control, Hancock still doesn't have much to say.
His statement certainly strikes a much more cautious, less-controversial tone than that of New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg, co-chair of Mayors Against Illegal Guns. Within hours of the shooting, Bloomberg has spoken out very strongly about gun control, calling on President Barack Obama and presumptive Republican presidential nominee Mitt Romney to offer concrete plans to address gun violence.
On his weekly radio show Friday morning, Bloomberg said, "Soothing words are nice, but maybe it's time the two people who want to be president of the United States stand up and tell us what they're going to do about it, because this is obviously a problem across the country. And everybody always says, 'Isn't it tragic?'"
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Bloomberg's comments definitely stood out amid a sea of politicians' statements that were mostly condolences devoid of policy talk. And based on the statement his office sent us, Hancock still doesn't seem interested in taking a strong stance on gun control -- at least not at this stage in the game.
Hancock seems to be following the lead of Governor John Hickenlooper, who dodged questions about gun control over the weekend, noting that that "debate's going to happen," but arguing that the "deeply, deeply disturbed" nature of Holmes makes it likely that tougher gun laws wouldn't have stopped him.
To advocates like Columbine father Tom Mauser, these kinds of comments are generally meaningless and unproductive, when tens of thousands of people continue to die every year in the United States due to gun violence.
After the Century 16 tragedy, debates have emerged about Holmes's access to weapons. After all, he legally bought four guns at metro gun shops in the last sixty days and purchased 6,000 rounds of ammunition off the Internet.
His purchases included one AR-15 assault rifle, one Remington 870 twelve-gauge shotgun and two forty-caliber Glock handguns, as well as a one hundred-round drum magazine that experts say could have shot fifty to sixty rounds in a minute.
Since the shootings, Representative Ed Perlmutter has called for a reinstatement of the assault weapons ban.
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Hancock's office declined to have the mayor speak to us in an interview about gun control. After receiving the statement, we followed up with numerous questions, asking if the mayor supports the assault weapons ban, if he supports stricter gun laws in general in response to the Aurora shootings and if Hancock, as part of the mayors' coalition, agrees with Bloomberg's statements pressuring Obama and Romney to speak out.
Miller's response: Hancock won't be commenting beyond the statement.
More from our Aurora Theater Shooting archive: "Aurora theater shooting and Batman mythology: "Going Sane" and "Case Study""