Why The Name of the Aurora Shooter Should Be Remembered

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When President Obama traveled to Aurora earlier this week to console the victims of the mass-shooting that killed 12 people, he agreed to one request of the victims' families. That request: Not to use the name of the shooter, James Holmes, in any of his public speeches in order to keep the focus instead on those who were killed.

John Cassidy, staff writer for The New Yorker, believes that gesture comes at a cost. In his article in the New Yorker, he asks his readers to name names — specifically, the perpetrators of several major mass shootings in the past 50 years. His point is that Americans forget the criminals too quickly, whereas in other countries, the names have been used to pass gun control laws. "The demonization of crazed shooters can serve a political purpose: personalizing the debate engages the public and enables politicians to face down the gun lobby," Cassidy writes. 

"These things happen time after time after time, and if we're not going to even mention who the perpetrators are, I think it's just a way of avoiding the real issues here," Cassidy says. 

The ease with which Holmes ordered over 6,000 rounds of ammunition over the internet is what concerns the writer. "This guy looks crazy, right? How can a crazy guy like this get access to [what was basically] a large armory?" Cassidy asks. "The laws are the problem here — nobody should be able to buy that amount of weaponry without explaining what they need it for."  

The shooting has sparked debate over gun control laws, but the Obama administration has said that it will not pursue stricter regulations. Democrats have long avoided the issue, Cassidy believes, because of the political risks. The President's refusal to propose something new is a matter of "realpolitik", according to Cassidy. 

"Obama and many other Democrats decided long ago that the cost of taking on the gun lobby was too high to be justified. For years now, they have avoided the subject whenever they could. Take the federal ban on the type of assault rifle that Holmes used, which expired in 2004. Even during Obama’s first term, when his party had a majority in both houses of Congress, he made no real effort to restore it," Cassidy writes. 

While Cassidy acknowledges the sensitivity of the issue, especially in the case of the victims' families, he thinks that writing James Holmes' name out of the public's mind is a wasted opportunity to enact reform. "[Withholding Holmes' name] is becoming a sort of substitute for further action, and I think that is damaging," he says.