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McEntee: In Aurora aftermath, it's time to mourn and heal, not debate

Published July 21, 2012 10:39 pm

This is an archived article that was published on sltrib.com in 2012, and information in the article may be outdated. It is provided only for personal research purposes and may not be reprinted.

Awakening to the news of the slaughter in a Colorado movie theater Friday brought the same dread that arrived in 2007, when an armed young man walked into the Trolley Square shopping center.

In Aurora, the man was heavily armored and carried an AR-15 semiautomatic rifle, a shotgun and a pistol when he entered the theater.

Once again, an unimaginable horror was unleashed.

Twelve people were killed and 58 were wounded. More were treated for chemical exposure from the gas canisters that the gunman threw into the audience during a midnight showing of "The Dark Knight Rises."

The attack brought back the horror my newsroom felt when Sulejman Talovic walked into Trolley Square and started firing. Someone captured the sound of the methodic booms of his pistol-grip shotgun as he killed five people and wounded four more. In my mind, I still can hear them.

At 18, Talovic was too young to legally possess a handgun or a pistol-grip shotgun.

But the man arrested in Aurora, 24-year-old James Eagen Holmes, carried what most of us know as an assault weapon. He wore a gas mask and ballistic helmet and vest, along with other protection. He'd also booby-trapped his apartment and the complex was evacuated.

Both Holmes and Talovic were described in news reports as quiet, solitary types. So were the boys who shot up Columbine High School, the Army major who opened fire at Fort Hood, the man who blew up the federal building in Oklahoma City and the gunman who killed so many students at Virginia Tech.

Those of us looking from the outside cannot know the darkness that overtook their hearts and minds. We do, however, know of so many massacres, the terrible injuries to those who survived and the heartache of those who loved the victims.

I listened to a Utah law officer who said a person with a legally concealed gun could have stopped the Aurora shooter. In a dark theater, amid eye-scalding gas, with panicked patrons scrambling and screaming? I don't think so.

But is it time to renew the gun-control debate? Probably not, given the U.S. Constitution's Second Amendment and existing laws that protect gun owners' rights.

It is time to join together in mourning the dead and sending healing thoughts to the survivors. Just as important is gathering our friends and families in our arms and telling them how much we love them.

And try to stave off the dread.

Peg McEntee is a news columnist. Reach her at pegmcentee@sltrib.com, facebook.com/pegmcentee and Twitter, @pegmcentee.