WEST WARWICK, R.I. (AP) — Along a busy commercial road here sits a 10-year-old scar that hasn’t healed. Next to a crumbling parking lot, rusty folding chairs sit amid dozens of handmade crosses decorated with beads, stuffed animals and fading photos.
This is where 100 people were killed Feb. 20, 2003, when the tour manager for the rock band Great White set off a flashy pyrotechnics display in an overcrowded nightclub. Its owners had tried to stem noise complaints by lining the walls with what turned out to be flammable packing foam.100 people died, hundreds were injured when pyrotechnics were set off in a small, wooden nightclub packed to the gills with people without approval from the fire marshal. A careless act, performed without malice but having disasterous results, led to a massive loss of life. Yet no one calls for a ban on rock bands, or nightclubs, or even pyrotechnic displays.
The people that lost their lives in the Station Nightclub fire are no less dead than those killed by lunatics wielding "assault weapons." However, in the case of the fire, ire has been aimed exclusively at those bearing some responsibility - the fire marshal for not catching the flammable insulation, the band's manager for using pyrotechnics without a permit, etc. No one is going after the company that manufactured the pyrotechnics that started the fire, nor is there a push to ban them.
And before anyone objects, claiming that this was an accident rather than a planned massacre, please remember the Happyland Nightclub fire in New York - 87 people killed from a gallon of gasoline in a fire set by a jealous boyfriend. Less than two dollars (at the time) worth of gasoline and a match was all it took to murder more people than Newtown, Virginia Tech, Columbine, and Aurora combined - yet, again, we hear no calls for "common sense gasoline controls".
I don't mean to hijack this sad anniversary, but it's infuriating to see politicians and career victims jump, seemingly eagerly, into the fray calling for more gun control after a mass shooting. We do not have a gun problem - we have a mental health problem - and by focusing on the tool used rather than the underlying factors as to why people commit mass murders, we will miss the point every single time. I'd certainly hate to think that these groups are using horrific - and rare - mass shootings to push their gun control agenda, but it certainly seems that way.
Crazy people can kill large numbers without the use of guns. The Bath School bombing in 1927 killed 38 children and 45 people total. Dynamite was used. The OK City bombing saw 168 people killed by fertilizer and diesel fuel. That we will end mass killing by restricting access to semi-automatic firearms is delusional at best, and at worst is cold, cynical utilization of tragedy for political gain. It is difficult to believe that anyone agitating for a ban on AR-15s honestly thinks that this step alone will stop mass killing - and far simpler to believe that they want us disarmed at any cost, no matter how many bodies they have to step over to do it.
"Those who ignore the past are condemned to repeat it" - truer words were never spoken, for many reasons.
That is all.