Tucsonans' hearts ache at the news that a gunman opened fire in a crowded Aurora, Colo., movie theater. At least 12 people were killed, and dozens more wounded.
We understand, with an awful familiarity, the shock and sorrow such a tragedy creates for those directly involved and the community. The burden changes over time, but for many it remains. Our terrible day, Jan. 8, 2011, when six people were killed and 13 wounded, is both in the past and in the present.
There is no how-to book for communities that have endured mass shootings. We can only offer prayers, kind thoughts of peace for the victims and their families, and the reassurance that the people of Aurora are not alone.
As the hours tick by, more will be learned about the gunman, his actions and, if possible, his motivation. What is known is that a young man entered a movie theater filled with people waiting to watch the new Batman movie. He opened canisters of tear gas and fired into the crowd. He was armed with multiple weapons, including an assault rifle.
The urge to seek answers and explanations becomes overwhelming, even when we know in our rational minds that there is no answer or explanation that could come close to making sense. Yet we want them. We need them.
We don't have those answers with Jared Lee Loughner, the man charged in the Tucson rampage, and we may never. Details about 24-year-old James Holmes, the suspect in the Colorado shooting, are emerging, but no matter what is revealed, it will never be enough.
All we have are pieces of puzzles. Pieces of a life, of a personality, of a brutal and terrifying action. The unsettling proof that nothing we take for granted - going grocery shopping, visiting with a congresswoman in a public place, going to the movies - is safe.
What we do know, however, is that the search for answers will inevitably turn to guns. Access to guns, access to assault weapons, who should be allowed to buy and carry guns - and, more important, who should not.
Yet, as we saw in the aftermath of the Tucson shooting, the talk will bubble up for a short while and then dissipate as elected officials are too cowed by outside pressure to take action. Isn't it awful, isn't it too bad, someone should do something. But no one does.
And then it begins again after the next shooting rampage. And it will, again, following the one after that.
The cycle must stop.
It is not an abrogation of the Second Amendment to stand firm and say that assault weapons do not belong on the streets. The kind of assault rifle that authorities say Holmes used to shoot so many in the theater is not a hunting weapon or a gun used in target shooting. Its intended use - like the extended magazines Loughner used on his attack - is to let a shooter spray as many bullets at as many targets as possible as quickly as possible.
It is too late for common-sense gun laws to have saved lives in Tucson or in Aurora. But it's not too late to put up roadblocks in front of the next person who decides, for whatever twisted and terrible reason, to wreak havoc.
Making it more difficult to obtain weapons designed to inflict mass casualties won't prevent a future attack - but stronger control of assault-style weapons will, at the very least, make it a little more difficult to carry out.
Our thoughts are with the people of Aurora.
Arizona Daily Star
IF YOU NEED HELP:
The shooting in Colorado could trigger memories and trauma for Tucsonans. Community Partnership of Southern Arizona has no-cost resources for help and information that are as close as a phone call.
Tragedy Support Line: (520) 284-3517 or 1-800-796-6762, available at no cost 24/7 for support and information.
Community-Wide Crisis Line: (520) 622-6000 or 1-800-796-6762, available at no cost 24/7.
In addition, anyone in Pima County can walk in to:
Crisis Response Center, just south of Ajo Way and Country Club Road, available 24/7 for crisis services to children and adults.
SAMHC, 2502 N. Dodge Blvd. (entrance from Flower Street), available 8 a.m. to 8 p.m. daily for crisis services to children and adults.