No one told us, at the time, that that man wearing only shorts was the suspect. However, we know that for sure now. And while we still do not know the reason for the strange attack in the King Sooper grocery store, in which the perpetrator shot and killed those who just happened to be there, as well as several employees and the first policeman on the scene, we know something about his weapon.
The suspect purchased a Ruger AR-556 pistol on March 16, six days before the mass killing, according to his arrest affidavit. Police recovered a rifle and a handgun inside the grocery store next to the tactical vest believed to be worn by the suspect.
One witness, a young man who was caught up in the shooting situation when he stopped in to buy a soda and a bag of chips, said this “incident” has forever changed his feelings about safety in this country, having previously felt that Boulder was the safest place in the country. He stated that he felt he was living in a bubble, and that now his bubble has burst and it doesn’t seem like there’s any place safe in America anymore. He was visibly shaken by this event and we can multiply that by all those who were also in any way involved.
And it wasn’t long before President Biden appeared on TV to offer his condolences to all the survivors and families of the victims and to put in his plug for banning certain weapons. He wants to be the president that puts a stop to all the mass shootings that this country has suffered over the past several years.
The Ruger AR-556 pistol is not technically a rifle, though many features of its design mimmick that of a rifle. “It’s not a sporting rifle, it’s not a hunting rifle,” said Joseph Vince, a professor at Mount St. Mary’s University who worked as a Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives agent for more than 30 years. “It’s made for the military and short-range combat.”
A gun like the Ruger AR-556 pistol was banned in Boulder until March 12, when a Boulder County District Court judge ruled the city’s ban on assault weapons and magazines with a capacity of more than 10 rounds was illegal. The city’s definition of prohibited assault weapons
included semi-automatic pistols that can accept a magazine outside of the pistol grip.
So much for his weapon; it wasn’t banned at the time he used it or at the time he purchased it. We do not know if the outcome would have
been different if it remained illegal under the city’s assault weapon ban that was recently blocked by a judge, since nobody ever had been
cited under the ban while it was active.
We need to remember that it really is not so much about the weapon used, legal or illegal, as the person doing the shooting. The one
shooting the weapon will get his hands on the weapon he wants to use, or change his plans. But by the time that thought is in his head, he
has already fallen through the cracks of the mental health system.
We have heard it said by several commentators that we are the only country where this kind of thing happens. And it happens far too
frequently. But we have never heard of a weapon shooting itself. Maybe our rate of mental illness exceeds that of other countries.
It all comes down to the shooter. To the mental health of one who would do such a thing. Even his own brother recognized that things
weren’t quite right with him. And classmates viewed him as someone with a short fuse; he had been involved in at least one physical
attack on a classmate. But we do need to add that often it is just one little thing that can send a mentally ill person over the edge to
commit such an act as Alissa did in Boulder. Bullying a person with an unstable mind can set fire to that person’s very last straw. While we
can see the results of what the mentally ill person does, we need to address mental illness in the young before it becomes unfix-able or
unstoppable. Someone knows they need help: a family member, a classmate, a teacher. We also need to address the thoughtless, mean,
disparaging, and relentless attacks that children, classmates, or others, heap upon those who are somewhat different from themselves,
bullying the mentally ill to the brink.
Rather than bring in more migrants at the border and lavish our limited resources on them, we strongly suggest we spend what it takes
to help those who greatly need mental health care in this country and need it now.