“This is something you hope never happens in your own community, in the place that you call home.” That’s from Vince Niski, the Chief of Police in Colorado Springs, following the mass murder of six people (and the suicide of the shooter) in the early hours of Mother’s Day.
Something you hope never happens in your own community. As if this was the first mass murder in Colorado Springs in Vince Niski’s experience. As if Matthew John Murray hadn’t killed five and wounded five others in a pair of church shootings (one in Colorado Springs, one in Arvada) in 2007 when Niski was just a lieutenant in the Colorado Springs PD. As if Noah Harpham hadn’t killed three random people in the streets of Colorado Springs in October of 2015, when Niski was the Deputy Chief of Operations. As if only a month later, in November of 2015, Robert Lewis Dear hadn’t killed three and wounded ten at a Colorado Springs Planned Parenthood clinic. I’m sure each time Vince Niski hoped it was something that would never happen again in his community.
At this point, they police aren’t releasing the name of Colorado Springs’ newest mass murderer. The Colorado Springs police describe him as ‘the boyfriend of one of the female victims.” Former boyfriend is more likely. Or a boyfriend in the process of becoming a former boyfriend. Or just another angry man who doesn’t feel he’s getting the respect he deserves as a man. Regardless, he drove to the party, walked inside, and began shooting people–including his supposed girlfriend. Then, as happens routinely in these man-angry-at-a-woman mass murders, he killed himself.
As Chief Niski says, this is something you hope never happens in your community. Except it does, all the damned time. Maybe not with such a high butcher’s bill, but it happens all the time in every state in the US. You can hope your fucking heart out, but angry men with access to firearms are going to continue to make it happen. If your community is Colorado Springs–if your community is in a state that doesn’t require a permit to purchase a firearm, it’s more likely that this will happen. If your community is in a state that doesn’t require firearm registration, it’s more likely it’ll happen. If your community is in a “shall issue” state–meaning local sheriffs MUST issue a concealed weapons permit if an applicant meets certain criteria**–it’s more likely it’ll happen. If your community allows people to openly carry weapons without a permit, it’s more likely it’ll happen. If your community allows you to make, possess, or own a ghost gun–a handmade firearm without a serial number–it’s more likely it’ll happen. If you live in a state that has actually banned local communities (with the exception of Denver) from enacting their own stricter firearm safety laws, then it’s more likely it’ll happen.
It’s not Chief Vince Niski’s fault that Matthew John Murray was able to assemble a small arsenal in preparation for his angry man murders–a Bushmaster XM-15 semi-automatic rifle and three semi-auto pistols (a Beretta .22-caliber, a Beretta .40-caliber, and a Springfield Armory 9mm). Or that Noah Harpham was able to buy a DPMS Classic 16 semi-automatic rifle and two handguns (a Ruger SP101 .357 Magnum revolver and a Springfield Armory XD-M 9mm pistol). Or that Robert Lewis Dear bought an SKS semi-automatic rifle (and the multiple propane tanks he’d brought to the Planned Parenthood clinic with the intent to turn them into explosives). Niski had nothing to do with it. But he’s been around the block long enough to know that if those three angry men could find the means to kill sixteen people and wound about that same number, it’s no surprise another angry man could find the means to murder half a dozen people at a birthday party. Which, according to Chief Niski, is something you hope never happens in your community.
But if it’s happened four times in the last decade and a half, it’ll probably happen again. It’ll probably happen again because the people of Colorado LET IT HAPPEN. Because they’ve elected people who have refused to take any step to reduce the likelihood that it’ll happen again. Chief Niski’s hope is fucking worthless unless somebody takes action to implement actual reasons for hope.
What happened on Mother’s Day is NOT Chief Niski’s fault. He’s only guilty of voicing the stupid platitudes that chiefs of police are expected to repeat every time something you hope never happens in your own community happens in your own community.
** What are the criteria for being automatically issued a concealed weapon carry permit in Colorado? You have to be a Colorado resident, age 21 or older. You have to attest that you’re not a felon or mentally incompetent. You have to attest that you don’t chronically or habitually abuse alcohol, and that you don’t use (or are addicted to) controlled substances. You have to be free of a civil or criminal restraining order. You have demonstrate ‘competence’ with a handgun. How do you do that? By 1) having an honorable discharge from the Armed Forces within past three years, 2) having proof of pistol qualification in Armed Forces within past ten years, 3) being a retired law enforcement officer with pistol qualification within past ten years, OR 4) completing four-hour handgun training class within the past ten years.