Another shooting in Colorado. Thirteen years ago at Columbine High School two students methodically planned and carried out an attack which left a dozen dead and twenty-one wounded.
The nation responded in a fairly predictable way, mourning the dead and installing metal detectors in public schools. It was the metal detector response which got me interested in running for the local school board.
Michael Moore wrote and filmed the brilliant “Bowling for Columbine” which savagely attacked the gun culture in the United States.
Otherwise, nothing much changed.
But some things clearly have changed since Columbine. For one thing, the United States invented an enormous state security apparatus called Department of Homeland Security. DHS and its branches now have a presence in our everyday lives.
The Transportation Security Administration began with airport searches and x-ray machines. Last year they expanded to bus lines in some cities and highway checkpoint stops in several states.
When Columbine happened, nobody ever used the term ‘homeland’ except unregenerate ex-Nazis.
Now there has been another shooting in Colorado and the aftermath, along with the predictable calls for taking guns away from ordinary citizens, will include a further expansion of DHS and TSA. We will have government agents at malls, movie theaters, sports arenas.
The Colorado shooter was armed with an estimated $20,000.00 in weaponry, some of it quite advanced. Where did he get it? Where did he get the money for it?
James Holmes is twenty-four and unemployed and universally described by people who knew him as “shy.”. He graduated in 2010 from the University of California at Riverside and had been admitted to the University of Colorado Medical School, pursuing a Ph.D. degree in neuroscience. He is by all accounts extremely smart.
A pre-med student at the University, Billy Kromka, who worked with Holmes for three months last summer as a research assistant, was shocked at the news, saying “...there’s no way I thought he could have the capacity to commit an atrocity like this. He spent much of his time immersed in the computer... playing online games.”
There is speculation on the web, though at this stage not seemingly based on hard facts, that Holmes had been involved in mind-altering neuroscience research which may have involved drugs, hypnosis, or both. Details of the particular program he was involved in are sketchy.
There’s plenty of suspicion floating around right now. Ordinarily, I’d dismiss it out of hand. After all, people do crack up; and guns, including automatic weapons, seem to be as easy to get as motor oil or chewing gun. But as several right-wing sources have been quick to point out, the timing is pretty interesting, coming as it did just a few days before the Senate must decide whether to ratify a UN protocol restricting guns. Apparently, before the Aurora shooting, the proponents were two votes shy of passage and they’re not likely to be now.
The government at first instructed people not to talk to the press, which seems a little strange and didn’t work anyway. It’s the electric age. People who were inside the theater when the shooting started almost immediately tweeted about it. This is one crazy age.
The Aurora police chief, Dan Oates, said that the guns Holmes used in the attack, a shotgun, pistol, and two automatic weapons, including an AK-47-type assault rifle, had been purchased legally, all within the past month, at two gun shops in the Aurora area. He was wearing a helmet and vest, and leg, groin, and throat protectors.
Police also found a knife, a bullet-proof vest, a ballistic helmet, two handguns, a rifle, a gas mask, military SWAT clothing, and more unidentified explosives in Holmes’ car. In his apartment, which the accused shooter was polite enough to warn police about, were “exotic, advanced booby-traps,” according to the Denver CBS affiliate. Chief Oates also described “fairly disturbing pictures,” of unspecified content.
"Oates (also) said they have used a robot to go inside James Holmes' apartment. ...They were able to disable a trip wire that was set to go off when the apartment door was opened. "This is some serious stuff that our team is dealing with..."
Shortly before noon crews were successful performing a controlled detonation... More controlled detonations were possible.
...there were multiple trip wires throughout the apartment. Investigators have also seen what appear to be mortars planted in the apartment.
...they have seen a number of inflated balloons in the apartment... with many appearing to be filled with a powder. Also linked together are bottles of liquid. ...a strong smell of gasoline emanating from the apartment.
...several boxes on top of the refrigerator and there are lights flashing on the boxes.
...30 aerial shells (fireworks) commercially legally available for purchase. ...the suspect may have filled them with smokeless powder. ...entering the apartment would have caused a trip wire to trigger one liquid container to pour/mix with another. When the two mix together, they set off the main charge of the device which may be additional flammable liquids.'
Comments by Oates and reports by television ‘news’ services underscore a highly professional operation. It’s not as though you can pick up all of these things, along with the expertise to use them, at Wal-Mart. Did Holmes have this expertise? We don’t know.
In fact, Holmes is a mystery to the Aurora police. “He’s not on anybody’s radar screen,” one officer said. “Nothing, an enigma. Nobody knows anything about him.”
The web is full of speculation, which I agree is a lot of talk and no proof. To me, its quite understandable that some pretty knowledgeable, sophisticated people –– not only people on the right but also on the left –– are not ready to buy the government’s story here.
It’s also understandable that other intelligent people take this at face value: crazy people get access to powerful weaponry in this society and sometimes they blow things up or shoot others.
I don’t know yet what I think happened here. I tend to react against the latter group because while people do crack up, we are also living in a country where powerful interests with ulterior motives do in fact create events to advance their causes. To respond to charges of conspiracy with ‘tinfoil hat’ terminology bespeaks an ignorance that ought not be so proud of itself.
Holmes invites speculation for several reasons, one of which is the aforementioned timing of the shooting with respect to the Senate vote. The people, a preponderance on the political right, who are worried that the government plans to confiscate firearms, are not calmed by assurances of politicians; they’ve heard those assurances before. Indeed, on one web site this morning was a list of places, historically, where the guns of private citizens were first tracked and then confiscated. As you may know, this list includes Hitler’s Germany, Stalin’s Soviet Union, and other fascist countries. They have a point.
But for me there are other elements that, until some independent investigators drag the ashes for answers, are not going to settle. There’s the money question. One of the first keys that sent investigators after the real story in the assassination of Martin Luther King, Jr., was that his accused killer spent considerable money he manifestly couldn’t have picked up on his own. Maybe Holmes stashed that kind of coin from parental stipends but he sure didn’t get it from unemployment insurance. And there’s the level of technical ability required to do what he did, including the wiring of his apartment. Maybe he got it from the web or from books; he is said to be quite smart. But still...
Holmes was involved in a project at Denver’s Anschutz Medical Campus; it is alleged in more than one place on the web today that this campus was at one time a major nexus for mind-control experiments conducted by the CIA under MK-Ultra. The CIA promised the Church Committee that it had discontinued this project, however later developments proved that to be a lie and, anyway, if you believe anything the CIA tells you you’re too damned stupid to bother with.
The guy painted himself up to look like the Joker, committed cold-blooded murder, then calmly surrendered to police. Voices on the left are asking no questions. Moyers writes about guns; so does Moore. Maybe they’re right. Maybe they’ve got a point. But maybe they are missing on this one due to an ideological astigmatism . When you shut down your critical faculties because something appears to fit your particular intellectual cosmology, it’s dangerous, especially when there’s every reason to distrust our government and its motives.
Back in the ‘seventies, the National Rifle Association peddled a bumper sticker which read, “When guns are outlawed, only outlaws will have guns.” Mine would read, “When guns are outlawed, only the government will have guns.” I consider that much scarier. I think history is on my side here.
I don’t know whether this guy did the shooting because he lost his marbles or because his marbles were removed by someone else, but I think it’s an honest question.