Five years ago, Roger responded to the shooting in Aurora, Colorado with one of his most somber pieces, noting the rising statistics about gun violence and wondering what could possibly be done about it. In the wake of more mass shootings around the country, I often ask myself how he would write about the issue today. Even five years ago he thought he could "change nobody's mind" about gun violence. Someone has to.—Brian Tallerico
The following article was originally published on July 20th, 2012.
"The Body Count" by Roger Ebert (July 20th, 2012)
I'VE NEVER HELD a handgun in my life. I did some rifle target shooting with the ROTC in college. That's it with me and firearms. Does this make me less of an American? I think handguns are dangerous, and the more people who walk around carrying them the more dangerous they are. I also don't understand why civilians need to possess AR-15 assault rifles, such as the one used by James Holmes in Colorado. They fire 10 shots at a time, and are intended for combat use. In civilian hands, they are by definition weapons of slaughter. Do you need one in your home?
About 47% of the American population has a gun in their home. About 49% support the right to own guns, and 46% support restricting gun ownership. We all know the arguments on both sides. Debate gets us nowhere. After James Holmes opened fire in Aurora, the discussion started all over again. I couldn't even bring myself to tune in cable news. It would be the usual assortment of talking heads, repeating the usual arguments. Blah, blah, blah.
The theory is that gun ownership makes us safer. That doesn't seem to be working out for us. The body count rises. In Chicago we have a murder wave going on. Gun ownership doesn't bring safety when both sides are shooting at each other. Nationally, most guns fired in homes kill people who live there, including children, and do not kill home invaders. The death toll in Aurora only represented half the daily U.S. average in deaths by gunfire. In a year, guns murdered 468 people in Australia, England, Germany and in Canada put together, and 9,484 in the United States.
Here is a record of mass shootings in the United States since 2005. It is 62 pages long. It was compiled by the Brady Campaign to Prevent Gun Violence. I went to university with Jim Brady, and we were friends. He's spent the years since 1981 in a wheelchair. He was shot by John Hinckley, Jr., the flywheel who thought assassinating President Reagan would impress Jodie Foster. Of course he was crazy. I'll go out on a limb here and say James Holmes must have been crazy, too. When you think it is necessary for you to open fire and murder innocent people in a movie theater, what else does that make you?
True, there is no way we can defend ourselves against insane shooters. But I suspect Australia, England, Germany and Canada have about the same percentage of crazy people that we do. It's just that they can't get their hands on firearms so easily. Nor do they sell assault rifles over the counter in those nations.
You know what? The hell with it. I'm tired of repeating the obvious. I know with a dread certainty that I will change nobody's mind. I will hear conspiracy theories from those who fear the government, I will hear about the need to raise a militia, and I will hear nothing about how 9,484 corpses in a year has helped anything. That is a high price to pay. What depresses me is that half of my fellow countrymen are prepared to pay it. Note, 10:50 a.m. Saturday: Many, many of the comments below inform me the AR-15 cannot fire 10 shots at a time. I know little about assault rifles. This was my source for the information: http://bit.ly/O61fYH