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Does the Aurora Tragedy Change Your View of "Soft Targets"?

Will the mayhem at The Dark Knight Rises screening in Aurora, Colorado make us rethink security at movie theaters, malls or school events? Join the discussion.

At least 12 dead and dozens injured, several seriously.

One gunman and one crowded theater.

The specter of copycats.

Bay Area residents turned on the T.V. news Friday morning to see live shots coming from Aurora, Colo., where James Holmes, an suspected gunman reportedly wearing a gas mask and a bulletproof vest, opened fire during a midnight showing of Batman: The Dark Knight Rises, a movie expected to gross $200 million this weekend.

At a noon news briefing, Aurora Police Chief Daniel Oates confirmed that a total of 71 people had been shot by the gunman at the packed screening. President Obama, speaking at a rally in Fort Myers, Fla., said that the tragedy hit close to home for many Americans.

“My daughters go to the movies — what if Malia and Sasha had been at the theater?” said Obama. 

The Aurora shooting has changed the mood of the country. Martinez Patch published an early review of the Batman movie, and, in light of the Aurora tragedy, a commenter suggested we take "KABOOM" out of the blog's title. We certainly did.

Soft targets

Since the Sept. 11 terror attacks of 2001, Americans have been on various levels of alert. Anyone with an ounce of cynicism has recognized that theaters, malls and school events — so-called soft targets because they are gathering locations with little security — are ripe for domestic terror or deranged madmen.

The Friday morning massacre at the Century 16 in Aurora took place 19 miles from Columbine High, where two teenagers killed 12 and injured dozens before killing themselves in April 1999.

All such events — not just the local ones — remind us of how vulnerable we are. But should they change the way we live? And, if so, how?

Should metal detectors become as standard as popcorn machines at movie theaters? Should there be armed security? Should there be no more dress-up at the theater, which apparently allowed the Aurora gunman to enter with a handgun, a rifle, a gas canister and a gas mask?

What do you think should change in light of the Aurora tragedy? Share your thoughts in the comments section below.

Cheryll July 20, 2012 at 09:26 PM
In some ways I afraid the answer is yes. but not overboard. It appears that he put his equipment outside the back door and brought it in after getting inside with his ticket. I think its time for surveilance cameras outside back doors, and back doors should be alarmed, and not usable for exiting anymore. I have always been amazed those doors were not secured. They of course need to open in case of fire or other emergency. But dress up should still continue, but visual checks or metal detectors? Maybe. We should not take the fun out of the experience, just make it safer.
Chris Kapsalis July 20, 2012 at 10:18 PM
I hope we do nothing. We can never bend in fear to these terrorists, domestic or other, because that is one thing they want, and would make more of it I believe. We pay a price for freedom, to come and go as we want, without checkpoints etc.... and one price is risk. But I truly believe the risk would increase if we react in fear. These people need to be taken out asap so we can live in peace. But not at the cost of freedom. Too many have died for it for this gunman to take it away. After Columbine we reacted in fear and I believe over reacted in a way that increased copycat crimes. Please don't put up metal detectors at movie theaters and everywhere. They will still find a way if they want to create more pain and fear. Then they win. Thoughts to the families of this horrible crime.
Emily Henry (Editor) July 20, 2012 at 10:20 PM
Thanks for your input, Cheryll. As far as dress up, AMC has announced that it won't be allowing face-concealing masks and or fake weapons in the buildings. It's unclear whether other theaters will follow suit.
Doreen July 21, 2012 at 02:15 PM
I hope we find ways to intervene earlier when symptoms indicate the onset of a mental illness. In this case, probably paranoid schizophrenia, as indicated by the booby traps in his home. Schizophrenia usually onsets between 18 & 23 years. My guess is that he's been 'quietly' ill for a year or so. His mother will likely give some indication of this, as she indicated right away that they had "the right person". Early intervention programs work very well, but someone has to get the unwell person into them. What can people do, generally? Don't let the feds & state take money away from mental health, as both always do as soon as their is an economic crisis.
Jed July 21, 2012 at 02:36 PM
Knee-jerk reactions are overly common to things like this. The bold faced reality is there is NO WAY to predict or protect from whack-jobs and crazies doing dastardly deeds. The weapons or tools they use has nothing to do with the inner problem these kinds of people are troubled with. NOTHING will be gained by putting in TSA style check points in movie theaters or imposing 5 day waiting periods on tickets. Deal with the tragedy - move on! LIFE IS A RISK - there is no point in wasting it trying to outsmart a desperate psychotic person or standing in bogus lines. Better to wait for the movie to come out on DVD anyway.... no lines, all the popcorn you can make, comfortable seating, "anytime" intermissions and no bothersome people around you with cell phones, crying babies, etc.
Jed July 21, 2012 at 02:42 PM
CHANGE? We've already been fooled by one advertisement of "CHANGE" (and it's not working). Let's HOPE cooler heads prevail and come to terms with what HAPPENED, not what MIGHT happen. There is no way on earth to "protect" ourselves from every imaginable hazard or danger.... to do so means spending many wasted hours in a state of paranoia. Deal with immediate threats - not the imaginary ones. Nothing needs to be changed except individual awareness and responsibility - particularly the latter.
Patrick J. McNamara July 21, 2012 at 04:16 PM
“My daughters go to the movies — what if Malia and Sasha had been at the theater?” said Obama. I dare say that had Malia and Sasha been at the movies that night, the outcome would have been much different, because there would have been more than one person armed. I wonder how many people would have been shot had Malia and Sasha's Secret Service detail been seated with them. Many fewer than 71, I would wager. When the shock of the tragedy wears off, it is time to consider the realities of life and society. For the past several years we have grappled with the balancing act between freedom and security, with government seeking to respond to calls for greater safety and security, at the predictable cost of liberty...the Patriot Act being the centerpiece. There are three types of people. Wolves, sheep and sheepdogs. Murderers like this shooter are the wolves. The rest of us are either the sheep or the sheepdogs. Many would like to restrict sheepdog status to those upon whom it is bestowed by government, but that leaves a severe shortage of sheepdogs. Sheepdogs are born, not authorized. We can't all get Secret Service protection. Who would want to live in a society where we could?
Anne Mobley July 21, 2012 at 04:42 PM
Right on, Jed!
Linda Meza July 21, 2012 at 04:58 PM
On Sheep, Wolves, and Sheepdogs LTC(Ret.) Dave Grossman, RANGER, Ph.D. http://www.gleamingedge.com/mirrors/onsheepwolvesandsheepdogs.html I love this allegory but, I am disturbed by the items this civilian was able to purchase, lawfully, without a red flag being raised. Shin guards, throat guards, riot helmet, smoke grenades and gas mask to go along with his bullet proof vest and the hundreds of rounds of ammunition. We can Monday morning quarterback this ad nausea, which is what the Onion sought to point out in yesterday's post. By all initial accounts this heinous act was perpetrated by a brilliant mind bent on inflicting massive loss of life and causalities. While I firmly believe in the right to bear arms, that right should not extend, in my opinion, to semi-automatic weapons. Nor should a civilian be capable of purchasing the types of items typically available to true sheepdogs. I disagree with the idea that an armed theater goer could have affected a different outcome, as in less loss of life and casualties, not in this scenario.
Jed July 21, 2012 at 05:06 PM
More people are killed by CARS every year in this country and yet there are no restrictions on what kind we buy or drive. The fate of the occupants, users or by-standers is in the hands and mind of those using that equipment - be it a car, gun, grenades, etc. IF a person is wanting to do harm to others; they will do so no matter how many restrictions on material things are put in their way. "Tactical gear" does not make a criminal. Those who are responsible CITIZENS will do everything in their power NOT to harm people. Look how many people Ted Kennedy killed with his car while he was drunk and nobody took him to jail. It's all about RESPONSIBILITY! I am responsible for my actions - so should everybody else.
Marlene Lerner-Bigley July 21, 2012 at 05:48 PM
Whoa! Hold on Jed! Cars are used for mobility and I dare say most drivers do not intentionally use them to kill. Your statement about " 'Tactical gear' does not make a criminal" sounds so much like the NRA diatribe "Guns don't kill people. People kill people". As a nation, we are weak in the knees at banning assault weapons from getting into the hands of "regular folk". Our major counterparts do not allow this type of weaponry to be sold in their countries. since 1989, California had not sold these assault rifles but the powerful gun lobbyists have made an awful excuse of saying "if a gunman has to use a bullet to push a button to quickly reload an AK-47, then it is somehow not an assault weapon.". Huh?? What happened in Colorado is clearly unimaginable but let us face the facts that there are crazy lunatics out there. Ask The Brady Campaign about this as they track these weapons. There ARE things we can do. We can demand that law enforcers are the only ones allowed to have these. Sorry, to vent but I'm sick of the dang policies and politics and the brush off from both the candidate and the president.
Cindy July 21, 2012 at 05:56 PM
Until we get the "Me, Mine, whats best for me, I am" out of our everyday thinking and start with "We, us , what's best for my city, neighborhood, we will continue to isolate people and allow this type of mental illness to grow. Our purpose is to be connected and not disconnected. It is the disconnect that causes anger, heartache, hunger and competition amongst ourselves. We can "shift" our mind set NOW and began the healing. When we think of peace and cooperation as a nation, cities, neighborhoods it is very difficult to gather enough energy to hate and cause the kind of damage we are seeing all over the world. We have the opportunity now to shape our future...I am concentrating on bring peace to those I meet everyday...imagine if we all tried that each day what a change we would see. Imagine if 1 billion people started to think about peace and harmony each day...we could shift this world in to the kind of place we would all want to be a part of ...it can happen one person at a time. May you go in Peace and Love and share your grace....
Roxanne Cole July 21, 2012 at 06:36 PM
If you think that we can demand that only law enforcers will obtain these weapons, think again. It is called illegal sales of weapons. It cannot be stopped. We must be allowed to protect ourselves. The law enforcers can only do so much. I know that if someone else had a gun in the theater, he would have been stopped sooner. If you carry a gun, you know how to use it and are prepared to defend.
Patrick J. McNamara July 21, 2012 at 06:43 PM
The Auroroa shooting, like the Oikos University shooting before it, has produced lots of Monday morning quarterbacks. Let’s state the obvious: gun fights are stressful, messy and dangerous. Nobody, including police or soldiers, is eager to engage in them. Only the more heroic first responders will rush to engage a shooter, like Martinez Police Sgt. Paul Starzyk, costing him his life. The Columbine Police Department, in contrast, congregated outside the school for quite some time collaborating as gunmen casually executed student after student with impunity. Many have theorized about the effect of trained, armed citizens in such situations. They imagine scenarios that don’t materialize where concealed weapons permits are the norm. The record is clear. Armed, trained citizens prevent and deter gun violence. The Wild West shootouts imagined by detractors are fantasy. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=0BJgL2yXAJY As with Oikos and Aurora, it seems that these “deranged” shooters fear death. This is why armed criminals often think twice when armed resistance is factored in. They prefer cringing, defenseless victims, which our wise rulers in the California legislature have provided for them. Did the Aurora shooter consider the “No Concealed Carry Allowed” sign in front of the theater when choosing his “soft target?” We may never know.
Linda Meza July 21, 2012 at 06:55 PM
Roxanne, as comforting as it may be to believe an armed movie goer could have affected a different, less horrific, outcome I simply don't believe that is the case in this instance. The perpetrator surveyed his surroundings, tossed an incendiary device aimed at providing him maximum visual cover and he discharged his weapons in a very short period of time. An armed movie goer, if he was well trained and equally armed, was strategically situated either to the side of or behind the shooter could have, maybe, deterred him. The most likely scenario based on how well protected the shooter was is this armed movie goer would have been killed, along with those in his most immediate vicinity. The profile of this person was, by all initial accounts, someone who has flown under the radar and easily found what he wanted, lawfully, on the internet and at local retail outlets. Not someone who would have had any contact with the black market or I suspect the gumption to reach out to a criminal element.
Chris Kapsalis July 21, 2012 at 08:05 PM
Even though I am pro right to own guns, as I look, the tighter the gun control in other countries, cities, the lower the murder rates are.
Jed July 21, 2012 at 09:15 PM
Let's see... cars aren't intentionally used to kill people... which explains how 30% of the fatal vehicle wrecks are caused by drunks... they didn't 'intend' to kill anybody when they got drunk, so I guess that makes it okay, huh? This doesn't explain the other 70% of fatal vehicle wrecks cased by sober people. Are we to ban booze? Drugs? Cars? Drunks? Texters? I think not. Same with guns - and I am not an NRA member, but I am a responsible person, be it cars, airplanes, guns, cell phones. The only "diatribe" I see is in comments such as yours. There is no such thing as a true assault rifle available for civilians and hasn't been since 1934. Review our history. The AK-47 is not for sale in this country to civilians - save for a very few who are specially licensed.
Jed July 21, 2012 at 09:15 PM
Part two -- I am a disabled combat veteran and I do know my way around guns, bombs, things that go bang as well as shooting people - and more importantly WHEN NOT to use such weapons or pull the trigger. The Brady bunch... named for the National Vegetable - what a bunch of malcontent pantywaist babblers of bull(beep)! We as a nation are STRONG as long as our citizens have the right to keep and bearing arms. Those countries who DON'T allow this ... their people are SUBJECTS - not citizens! Learn the difference. When only police have guns - it's a police state... which reminds me - did you read the story the other day about some cops busting in the door or a suspected drug dealer in the wee hours of the morning - the occupant, hearing the door being smashed in, attempted to defend himself and the cop shot him dead.......OOPS! WRONG ADDRESS. WRONG GUY... sorry! Yeah right! Is it the Police who we really want to trust ALL our freedoms? At which time they become nothing more government operatives... NO THANKS! Let's keep things as they are. Where police are there to enforce the laws of the land with the help of it's citizenry.
Jed July 21, 2012 at 09:19 PM
Then explain the Murder Capital of the United States - Washington DC where guns are absolutely forbidden (or were up until recently). It was Thomas Jefferson who said, "An armed society is a polite society". Well said!
Jed July 21, 2012 at 09:20 PM
WELL SAID CINDY! Although this "peace and love" (beep) is over-played and way over-rated.
Patrick J. McNamara July 21, 2012 at 09:22 PM
The three cities in the United States with the highest murder rates by gun crimes are: Washington DC, Chicago, IL and New York, NY. The three cities in the United States with the tightest restrictions on gun ownership by ordinary citizens are: you guessed it...
Jed July 21, 2012 at 09:29 PM
RIGHT ON, PATRICK!
Patrick J. McNamara July 21, 2012 at 09:31 PM
Agreed Cindy. Maybe the Shaolin monks had it figured out. Devoting their lives to inner peace and wisdom, yet, aware of the realities of life, became disciplined masters of self defense, to guarantee the freedom to practice their peaceful, wise ways.
Chris Kapsalis July 21, 2012 at 09:46 PM
All three are in the US. Go outside the US? Toronto Canada for one. With about the same freedoms we have, less owning a gun. It is the size of Chicago. Much stricter gun control in Toronto than in Chicago I know for a fact. Yet the murder rate is many times less in Toronto. And Patrick, Chicago's murder rate now is almost half of what it was before the gun controls there went into effect.
Chris Kapsalis July 21, 2012 at 09:53 PM
It would take time for the guns to funnel out after a gun control went into effect. Still lots of stolen weapons, grandfather claues, more guns stole, redirected to the black market in those cities, that were once legal guns. Also those people can also drive a few miles and buy a gun, or buy ammo. In England and Ontario it is more difficult. I said I am pro gun ownership though. I would not give up that freedom even if it were true it made me safer.
Patrick J. McNamara July 21, 2012 at 10:05 PM
Agreed Chris. The framers probably knew that gun ownership would come under pressure as the nation grew, and sought to enshrine it. In the end, armed citizens are a flawed but necessary counterbalance to government, not crime.
Becky Kapsalis July 21, 2012 at 11:14 PM
There are gun control laws where I grew up and there were stories in the news weekly,sometimes daily, of shootings and deaths caused by shootings. If a person wants to do harm to a person with a gun, they will find a way to obtain a gun. If they are desperate and sick enough to want to create mass destruction with guns they will find a way to do that too. I will also say this because it was part of the article...I have a hard time believing that the President's daughters just go to the neighbourhood movie theater on their own without 20 secret service protecting and watching the moves of every person in the theater. That statement of his provides very little comfort.

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