We found ourselves high above the Animas for a few minutes Sunday morning, chatting with a stranger about the deadly tumult of the weekend, this American carnage in El Paso and Dayton. Other than a few good dogs, there was not another soul around. Were we safer here, away from the cities?
We agreed we were, but even in all that sun, we could have been whistling in the dark on a pressing question.
On Monday, the front page of The Denver Post took up the same query, for a bustling city: “Could weekend U.S. shootings in public areas affect daily life?”
We suspect the answer is yes, they could; but no, they will not, because there are too many shootings and too many Daytons and El Pasos, and Walmarts and nightlife districts. We sometimes talk of hardening potential targets, but cities are people, and people cannot and should not be hardened.
Nonetheless, President Donald Trump persisted, under pressure, Monday morning, with scripted remarks meant to address the weekend’s highest-profile American carnage, after he had been spotted at the Trump National Golf Club in New Jersey.
Listening to him speak on public radio carried live from the Diplomatic Reception Room of the White House, we were struck first by how artificial he sounds when he sticks to someone else’s text, but also how comforting that has become.
Prepared remarks were the old normal, before we had a president who seems to display his subconscious unfiltered at all hours on Twitter. Bring back the stilted, the grave and the spare.
The second thing that pricked up our ears were the remedies the president’s team had devised over the last 24 hours.
They want to be able to quickly execute people convicted in murderous hate crimes.
Since the federal government already can seek, obtain and apply the death penalty, we are not sure what is missing except finding a way to make the appeals process less lengthy. Yet when it comes to more premeditated killing, what is the hurry, other than it sounds good in the moment? The United States executed Oklahoma City bomber Timothy McVeigh 18 years ago, and in all that time since, his notoriety has only grown.
The president’s team also wants to be able to address “gruesome and grisly video games” and “a culture that celebrates violence.” This is far hoarier than the Oklahoma City bombing, although that is not an objection. It may have been true every day since Woody Guthrie wrote “The Ballad of Pretty Boy Floyd” in 1939, turning a serial killer into a Robin Hood, that we have had a culture that celebrates violence. We are afraid that saying we are going to do anything about it is tantamount to saying we will do nothing.
And Trump wants to roll out federal “red flag” laws, or Extreme Risk Protection Orders, that allow a judge to confiscate weapons from people deemed unfit to own them, the Second Amendment notwithstanding.
This may sound familiar for several reasons. Trump has endorsed red flag laws before, and Colorado actually enacted one in its last legislative session. Gov. Jared Polis signed it into law in April, following a backlash that saw Colorado counties declare themselves gun sanctuaries. It is one of the reasons some Coloradans are pushing for his recall.
And so, the proposal coming from an administration whose political base must include the people who vow to resist such laws and recall the governor leaves those people suddenly alone.
The president’s job Monday morning was to offer anything but support for more gun control. In that context, anything else is a sop. Still, we are glad to see, after the conflict in Colorado, that our new law is suddenly in the mainstream.