"No guns, no killing," Batman orders Catwoman on a rooftop in The Dark Knight Rises. For what is an indisputably violent movie—featuring scenes of senseless death that now echo horrifically following a real-world rampage—at least the protagonist had it right. And James Holmes, the armed and armored attacker, who seemed consumed by guns and bent on killing, had it very, very wrong when he turned the safe escapism of cinema into a true terror.
It's true that all of us feel heartbreak for those in Aurora. But this act isn't unimaginable. It's been replayed in our imaginations and reality again and again. It's true that some acts cannot be prevented, but it would be foolish to say they can't be reduced. And while it may be politically tone-deaf to demand a stunned and grieving nation immediately turn to policy debates, it's not heartless to ask how we learn from the Colorado tragedy to prevent its endless, utterly imaginable sequels.
There is no one answer to preventing gun violence. There are, however, many answers to reducing it, answers that are backed by studies and experience, not by ideology, lobbying and rhetoric. The fact that Holmes' weapons were all purchased legally shows that this isn't just a problem of illegal guns or improper enforcement—it's a more complicated problem about the types of weapons that are disseminated, the lack of real tracking, and the culture of violence.
Those challenges don't have just one solution, although reinstating the assault weapon ban would have had a direct and life-saving consequence on this massacre. Nor should we judge politicians solely on one remedy or another.
But we can judge them for offering no remedy whatsoever, a critique Mayor Bloomberg, a committed advocate for sensible gun laws and reducing illegal firearms, leveled at the parties' two nominees for President.
Bloomberg wasn't demanding they call for legislation the day after the massacre, when the need for healing actions may justifiably demand the candidates' attention. But he was holding them accountable for the fact that neither of their campaigns has yet spoken about gun laws. If it's inappropriate to talk policy after a tragedy and unnecessary to do so before one, then when exactly do we talk about the danger of guns?
The fact that we don't talk about it is what the NRA is working to ensure. We don't expect Mitt Romney to be the leader in this dialogue, though he does have a more moderate record on gun laws than the NRA may approve, having signed an assault weapons ban while governor of Massachusetts. However, we should expect our President, entrusted with the safety of our nation, to have one hand stretched out to heal and the other reaching out for executive, legislative, regulatory and enforcement solutions.
As Palestinian-American commentator and comedian Dean Obeidallah has pointed out, if James Holmes were Muslim, he'd be widely branded a terrorist. When terrorists used airplanes, we changed the laws governing flight safety. If terrorists use chemicals to make bombs, we track sales of those chemicals and websites that teach bomb-making. Yet, when this terrorist used a series of assault-ready weapons, we not only allow our nation's leaders to say there's nothing we could have done, we applaud their "tact" for avoiding political discussions.
President Obama has repeatedly pointed out his capacity for multi-tasking. Here is one of those times when our Consoler in Chief should also govern; where our time of mourning needs to coexist with a dialogue about prevention.
I don't know all the solutions that bring gun violence down to levels across other Western and industrialized democracies, nor do I think it's as simple as a masked crusader intoning, "No guns, no killing." But I know that saying there are no solutions is unacceptable, and I'm ready for us to take many steps as a nation—whether they come from our President, less likely from his challenger, or more likely from someone with enough job security to show political courage.