Why The Name of the Aurora Shooter Should Be Remembered

Wednesday, July 25, 2012

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. 


John Cassidy

Produced by:

Robert Balint and Mythili Rao

Comments [5]


Second: It seems to me that the easy reason that the President steered clear of using the name of the shooter is that if he were to use the name, he'd have to append some legal niceities and terms like "alleged" in connection therewith.

And this President, as poll-driven and image-conscious as he is, didn't want to interrupt the public's presumption that police had the right guy in custody (little doubt but that they do), and by not using the guy's name, the nation's chief law enforcement officer didn't have to give a nod to any presumption of innocence.

Rest assured that if Mr. Obama had any personal interest in naming names, even if it meant violating national security secrets, he would have done so. We know that for a fact, based on just the history of the past several months.

Jul. 25 2012 11:50 AM

First: John Cassidy referred to the shooter's "automatic rifle." As far as I know (confirmed by numerous witness accounts and virtually all intelligent commentary), that is a significant untruth.

It is revelatory, of John Cassidy's basic Manhattanite ignorance of basic firearm mechanics, that he would get that wrong.

The Smith & Wesson rifle allegedly used in this case was a semi-automatic firearm. Not automatic. An automatic weapon ("full auto") is basically a machine gun. A semi-automatic firearm is something like a Glock pistol (one of which the shooter also apparently carried) or something like one of the shotguns made by Remington, Browning or Benelli that are frequently used for duck hunting. You have to pull the trigger once, and release it once, every time you wish to fire the weapon. Incidentally, the Browning 870 that the shooter utilized was not a semi-automatic at all. It was a pump gun.

So here again we have The Takeaway's producers, treating us to one side only of a given debate (in this case the pro gun control political-left side; what a surprise) and using an expert who is light on real expertise but oh so qualified in the rarified world of liberal Manhattan elites.

One simple trip to the National Review Online website would have supplied names of authors for a balancing point of view. The first of these links is acutally Robert Verbruggen's "rules for journalists" covering gun murders, of which John Cassidy broke about half of them in this segment of The Takeaway:




I find it fascinating, that your program, headquartered in New York City, took not one second of airtime to discuss the meaning of Mayor Michael Bloomberg's astonishing, ridiculous and offensive suggestion that the nation's police officers should think about going on strike until legislatures pass more restricitve gun laws.

There is no doubt -- NONE -- that if a prominent Republican issued such a ludicrous statement; that you would have covered it in agonizingly repetitive detail.

Jul. 25 2012 11:44 AM

Firstly, the media not naming a suspect in a mass murder or something horribly similar seems completely unrealistic. It's understandable for victims to feel rage, despair, and whatever emotions come with a tragedy like this. But a whole scale denial of who this person is and why they did it is misguided. There is not one single reason why this person acted the way he did. It seems to me that focusing on a meaningless detail like not saying his name is beside the point. His name means nothing. People need to look inside themselves and decide for themselves not to give the mere mention of his name so much power. The real problem is so much more than this man's name. It's a culmination of many, many things...too many to mention. But we can start with the one at the top of the list: the availability to almost any person the means to commit murder on such a large scale. We can start with something as simple as that.

Jul. 25 2012 08:18 AM
mabel from Providence, RI

Anderson Cooper has embraced this "I will not say his name" trope. I find it disturbing from a man who is supposed to be a journalist. His embrace of it is sanctimonious and smug. Is he a journalist or is he a grief counselor? When he covers a story that involves WWII will he no loner mention Hitler? Stalin? Pol Pot?

Jul. 25 2012 07:05 AM
fuva from harlemworld

We don't want to give these weak, troubled individuals all the attention they obviously seek. But we'll need to refer to them as we discuss ways to discourage the phenomenon. Perhaps, instead of naming them, we could employ some term/acronym in reference -- like "sick weak mass predator" or SWMP...This latest guy would be SWMP29 or whatever number he is...But would not naming him relieve him of the public shaming?

Jul. 25 2012 06:42 AM

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