Column by Meredith C. Carroll

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December 20, 2012
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It's not the Wild West anymore

"We can't tolerate this anymore," President Obama said on Sunday evening in Newtown, Conn., following the unspeakably tragic mass shooting at Sandy Hook Elementary School. "We are not doing enough and we will have to change."

His remarks were not dissimilar to those made by U.S. Rep. Ed Perlmutter, a Democrat from Colorado, who said this summer, "I think we should, and I think that's where it starts," when asked about reinstating the assault-weapons ban after the movie theater massacre in Aurora.

And yet here we are. Again. And again. And again.

On Election Day 2012, for the second time in four years, Colorado made its mark on the map as a solidly blue state. As such, it seems there's no moment like the present for the Centennial State to stop acting quite so yellow, doing nothing more than chatting about change when the cameras are rolling, and instead reflect somberly on our anachronistic gun laws and think bravely and earnestly about making significant modifications to ensure a less violent future.

The Wild West was tamed ages ago. Colorado has long since become the crown jewel of the glorious West, where we've proven through our lifestyle - and elected officials - that social, environmental and quality-of-life issues are close to our hearts.

As such, it's about time we recognize that eyes on the back of our heads and a finger on the trigger at all times is not only unnecessary, but also unreasonably mistrustful. We've evolved meaningfully - although judging by the easy availability of such agents of death as a Smith and Wesson .223-caliber assault rifle outfitted with a 100-round magazine, it's hard to really blame those who fear a high-noon shoot-out outside the swinging doors of the saloon.

It's a deadly cycle, though: We're scared of others wielding weapons, so we go out and buy them for ourselves as a means of self-defense. It's safe to say, however, that most members of Colorado's imaginary militia are arming themselves out of paranoia instead of a threat-based in reality.

While students on college campuses around the country have had to run for their lives too many times to count from deranged classmates firing guns - and 20 6- and 7-year-olds were outrageously and horrendously robbed of their heartbreakingly precious lives on Dec. 14 in Newtown - Colorado colleges and universities are forced to welcome students bearing arms thanks to a recent state Supreme Court ruling upholding a ghastly law allowing students with concealed-weapons permits on campus.

A Sept. 22 article in The New York Times about the unease of faculty members at the University of Colorado regarding the law said one particular CU-Colorado Springs student carries a Ruger p90 pistol on campus "for protection" when he leaves school in the dark.

It's hard to argue against someone who needs legitimate defense, except CU-Colorado Springs security guards are actually state-certified police officers who meet the same qualifications as municipal law enforcement officials; plus they carry weapons, can make arrests and readily offer to escort students at night, according to a university spokeswoman. Emergency phones are located throughout that campus, too, and other CU campuses have similar and additional protections in place.

Without diminishing students' fears of walking alone in deserted areas late in the evening, carrying a gun when armed and trained professionals are available for literal and figurative hand-holding is like showing up to squash a spider with a grenade missing its pin.

Maybe some people live in neighborhoods so unsafe they feel as if they have no choice but to keep a pistol under their pillow, but just how adept at using it will they be if awoken from a deep slumber? Can they be certain those bumps in the night weren't a raccoon knocking over a trashcan or their teenage children sneaking in past curfew? Have burglar alarms been ruled out? What about working with local police departments to beef up neighborhood security? Maybe get a stronger lock on the front door?

We need to figure out how to stop laypeople from being so ready and willing to mete out punishments that aren't on par with crimes that haven't even been committed. And we need to hold our elected officials to being proactive instead of reactive.

Last Thursday, the day before the bloodbath in Newtown, Colo., Gov. Hickenlooper told the Associated Press he planned on introducing a gun control debate among state lawmakers next month. But will the corpses of 20 first-graders be what it finally takes for President Obama, Rep. Perlmutter, Gov. Hickenlooper and their colleagues to get specific and take actual action instead of speaking in stirring and debate-worthy but ultimately empty terms?

It's a hopeful sign that we voted to keep Colorado's rivers and streams running blue, but we also need to make sure this cowardly yellow tint we've been harboring for so long doesn't stain them blood red.

More at www.meredithcarroll.com

Editor's note: This column originally was printed Nov. 18 in The Denver Post. It has been updated in light of Friday's shootings in Newtown, Conn.


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The Summit Daily Updated Dec 20, 2012 08:45PM Published Dec 20, 2012 08:43PM Copyright 2012 The Summit Daily. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.