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Darkest hours

July 23, 2012 - Erin O'Neill
I learned of the shooting in Colorado last week as many did - through the Internet on my smart phone. I literally just woke up, rolled over to check the headlines and found the horror unfolding from a movie theater in a bucolic mountain town.

It pains me to say that, though extremely saddened and horrified, I was not shocked. News like this fails to shock me anymore because it seems to be happening more and more often. This is a problem. An epidemic. And we are a country living scared.

Perhaps the gun people aren't living scared. That is an argument for another day. I will say this though -the Second Amendment protects your right to protect your home, person and loved ones. I understand that. I understand why people would want to fight to protect those things. I don't like guns but I understand. What I don't understand is the accessibility of military-grade assault weapons and the unwillingness to track people like Holmes, the alleged shooter, who was building a stockpile of guns, explosives and all manner of things that might be used by a super villain in the Batman movies.

Which brings me to the venue of this most recent scene of mass murder. The movie theater was once a sacred place for those like me who seek movies as an escape, who fall in love with the characters, stare in awe at the special effects. Like-minded people gather together to enjoy a little bit of fantasy and imagination.

The all too real scenario of what happened when people came together to see a midnight showing of the much anticipated "The Dark Knight Rises" shattered any allusions that bad guys are only in the movies.

I saw the movie on Saturday night. I would be lying if I said I wasn't anxious, even in this small town where everyone seems to know everyone. The movie was great. My enjoyment of the film, however, was impacted by the fear I was feeling, not of the maniacal bad guy on the screen in front of me, but of the possibility of someone seemingly ordinary taking his or her place in the front of the theater in an effort to replicate Friday's events. Ludicrous? Sure. Probably. But ask the 70 victims in Aurora if they thought anything like that would happen to them, in their town.

The same discussions seem to occur after each of these horrifying events, yet these events go on. I don't know if a ban on guns is the answer. People who really, really want them will find them, just as people who need drugs will find them. I don't think a couple people with concealed weapons and the legal right to have them would have positively impacted the July 20 event. It likely would have contributed to more death and more chaos in the darkness. That's just my opinion.

One thing that I vehemently believe in, that I believe could help, is to make mental health services more accessible and to lessen the stigma that someone with mental illness is somehow defective. To teach our children that it is OK to be different, it is not OK to allow bullying, it is OK to express love and support to our children or anyone in our lives who is suffering from mental illness and to get them help if they need it.


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