At the midnight showing of the movie “The Dark Knight Rises” in Aurora, Colorado, Jon Blunk heard gunshots being fired in the theater. Blunk, a military veteran, immediately reacted by pushing his girlfriend, Jansen Young, under a seat to protect her. While he was doing that, he was hit by a bullet and fatally wounded. Young was not injured.

At the same time, Matt McQuinn heard shots. He placed himself in front of his girlfriend, Samantha Yowler. He was hit by a bullet and fatally wounded. Yowler was not injured.

Appalled as I am by the madman who committed these crimes, and by the mad industry that supplied him with his tools of death, I must pause for a moment to express my admiration of Jon Blunk and Matt McQuinn. Their spontaneous acts of heroism show me that there are still men in this culture of mine who know what to do in an emergency. I can only hope that in the same situation I would have acted in the same way.

Every time we have a mass murder in the United States, the same debates begin to rage again about gun control. Opponents of gun control inevitably cite the “Second Amendment,” meaning the second amendment to the U.S. Constitution appended as part of the “Bill of Rights.” Scholars point out that the Constitution is primarily a document designed to protect property rights. The rights of individuals are contained in those ten amendments.

Here is the exact text of the Second Amendment:

Amendment II

A well regulated Militia, being necessary to the security of a free State, the right of the people to keep and bear Arms, shall not be infringed.

Like every human endeavor, this isn’t perfectly done. If I had been the editor, even sticking with the formal language of the times, I would have written:

“The right of the people to keep and bear Arms, as part of the well regulated Militia necessary to the security of a free State, shall not be infringed.”

In other words, the intention of this amendment–still debated by constitutional scholars, but most of them agree with me–was to ensure that all citizens could take part in the defense of their country. This contrasts with the way militaries were run and staffed by the elite of other countries.

I won’t waste a lot of space discussing why I think the Second Amendment is no excuse for allowing a mentally ill person to purchase 6,000 bullets in a short period of time. Either you’re with me on this one or you’re not.

But let’s put human faces on this debate. The faces of twelve innocent victims. Two of them died as heroes. I will honor them as long as I live, as we all should.

One Response to “American Heroes”

  1. Judy Lechner Says:

    Beautifully written, Leslie, and very moving.