To the victims, all mass shootings are terrorism

Thursday, June 16, 2016 6:00 PM

Colorado has a tragic history of mass shootings. First was Columbine High School in 1999.

Then a man invaded the high school near Bailey, took a bunch of girls hostage and killed one.

In 2012 we had the Aurora theater shootings. There was another school shooting in the Denver area. A girl was in the wrong place at the wrong time and was killed by a fellow student who was looking to kill a teacher. Last November we had three people killed in the Planned Parenthood shootings in Colorado Springs.

Mass shootings have become commonplace in our gun-loving country. Every time we ask why? What motivated them? Was it terrorism? To the victims, all these attacks are terrorism, although many of these attacks have no connection to Islamic radicalization.

This one apparently does, but in most if not all of these cases, mental illness comes up as a factor. Every time I wonder what is the boundary line between actual mental illness and an addiction to toxic thought patterns without mental illness.

In some cases like Columbine, the Bailey high school shooter and the Aurora theater shootings, the killer seemed to be looking for greatness through infamy. Copycats probably fit that category.

Other mass shootings in Colorado and around the country have been linked by anger and hatred, facilitated by easy access to guns. Since we refuse to do anything about that, these incidents are just the price we pay to protect universal gun access for unstable people, and the victims are just martyrs for the Second Amendment.

And of course, the Orlando killings involved a population group that's still OK (in some circles) to openly hate, discriminate against and even commit violence against, namely people of alternative sexuality.

So far it's been hard to determine a coherent motive for the Orlando shootings, with a shooter full of erratic contradictions - a Muslim but not religious, maybe gay himself and very conflicted about it, an alleged history of explosive anger, racism and domestic violence.

It's simplistic just to label this as radicalization by the Middle Eastern death cult.

Aside from the much higher death count, his hateful attack was the same as the young white supremacist's killing of nine black people at a Bible meeting in their church in Charleston, S.C., one year ago, or the Planned Parenthood killings in Colorado Springs.

As if they weren't horrible enough on their own, the Orlando killings became fodder for a presidential wannabee whose entire campaign has been founded on promoting fear, anger and hatred. I find an obscene irony there.

I attended the Tuesday evening candlelight vigil in Durango, partly to show support for the LGBT community, and more broadly to stand for positive values of love and inclusiveness. It was a beautiful gathering.