Aurora Shootings, Federal Money and the 5 Stages of BS

As more tragic details came out this weekend about the Aurora murders, we learned more details about the perpetrator, James Holmes.

After more information was revealed about his weapons, gear, and supplies, I wondered, “where does an unemployed med student get the big cash to buy stuff like this?!”  Other folks wondered, too

According to Mike Adams the editor of, a decent AR-15 rifle costs $1,000 or more all by itself and the shotgun and handgun might run another $800 total. He said spare mags, sights, slings, and so on would have cost at least another $1,000 across three firearms. A bullet-proof vest is easily another $800, and tonly one can guess he cost of the bomb-making gear. With all the specialty body gear, ammunition, booby-trap devices and more, Adams guessed that this is at least $20,000 in weapons and tactical gear, much of which is very difficult for civilians to get in the first place.

We knew very early that he was the recipient of some sort of National Institutes of Health federal grant (an agency of DHHS) for his schooling. Now, more information has been released about this grant…

It gave the graduate student a $26,000 stipend and paid his tuition for the highly competitive neuroscience program at the University of Colorado in Denver. Holmes was one of six neuroscience students at the school to get the grant money.

Specific project information about the program he was involved in can be found on NIH’s site. And there is more exposition from USAToday

Doctoral students receive free tuition, and most get federally sponsored 12-month grants of $26,000, about $500 a week. Holmes, who was not employed, bought an assault rifle, shotgun, two semiautomatic handguns and 6,000 rounds of ammunition in the months leading up to what police called a methodically planned shooting spree.

So, there’s at least one possible source of funding. Not sure if his housing was paid for through this program, but even half that weekly $500 could put quite a dent in one’s budget-for-destruction.

Regardless, the pattern that emerged after this tragedy followed the trajectory I typically see, and perfectly described, by a commenter at, described as the 5 Stages of Bullsh*t

1. The crocodile tears. This includes the False Moment of National Unity, during which people proclaim that events like this bring us together, even as they sharpen their partisan knives for the next step.

2. The blood libel. With no data, motive is assigned to some conservative group or belief. This proves false 100% of the time, but like a tattoo, the accusation can never be entirely removed.

3. The Rorschach test. Every politician and pundit on earth pens an editorial explaining how this one isolated event has a much broader meaning that proves everything he’s been saying for the last 20 years.

4. Something Must Be Done. A national debate ensues on how to make sure that something like this never happens again. This event was a wake-up call and a game-changer. Everything must be on the table. We must not allow a 200-year-old piece of parchment to prevent us from Acting Right Away.

5. Suzy’s Law. Congress vomits forth a bipartisan bill that no member dare vote against. For precisely that reason, the bill includes a litany of unrelated pork and policy for both parties that could never otherwise pass. In exchange for a few billion dollars and a bit of your liberty, the president, surrounded by beaming legislators, offers a few cloying words about “what this town can do when people put their differences aside” and ostentatiously signs “Suzy’s Law”, a new set of rules that, had they been in place before the tragedy, would have made absolutely no difference.

Brilliant, Jeff.

Here is one of the more thoughtful responses to the various one-liners from the pro-(gun)control crowd:

We Won’t Be Fooled Again — Oh, Hell; Yes We Will

When there is a tragedy like the Aurora shooting we as a society make the same mistake as when there’s a terrorist attack; we focus on the capability.  In particular, the tools used to carry out the attack, and where the attack took place.  We look for bad stuff, and we want to make the bad stuff go away.
The problem isn’t the capability; the problem is the intent.  I could kill every person in a crowded movie theater.  So could you.  But, I don’t want to do that.  I presume you don’t either.  Most people don’t.  It’s not bad stuff that makes people do bad things, it’s bad people using stuff to do bad things.

More to come, I’m sure.


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