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G&A Perspective: How Should We Respond to the Aurora Shooting?

by B. Gil Horman   |  August 2nd, 2012 39

Police tape surrounds the Century 16 Theater in Aurora, Colo., where 12 people were shot an killed during a midnight screening of "The Dark Knight Rises." (Photo by Jonathan Castner/AFP/GettyImages)

The recent mass shooting at a movie theater in Aurora, Colo., has triggered yet another vigorous debate in the media — and in the halls of government — about gun control. While this type of non-politically motivated attack on civilians by a single individual is relatively rare, the event drives a powerfully heartbreaking, gut-wrenching sense of terror through the community and nation where it occurs.

And rightfully so. While government and law enforcement agencies can plan and prepare to counter or curtail military invasions, terrorist attacks and the activities of organized crime, the lone gunman — in this case, the accused is a former neuroscience student named James Eagan Holmes — on a mission of destruction is nearly impossible to detect or to deter.

As we look back over similar events in the last 10 years, the disturbing behavior patterns of these criminals prior to the shootings become apparent. But it’s not an understanding that brings much comfort. Instead, it verifies how difficult it is to prevent this kind of crime.

On April 16, 2007, in two separate attacks, Seung-Hui Cho shot 49 people on the Virginia Tech campus in Blacksburg, Va., killing 32 and wounding 17 before committing suicide. Although it’s impossible to know what was going through this young man’s mind, a review of his past showed how Cho became mentally and emotionally disconnected from society. His history of mental illness, social problems and disturbing classroom behavior all come together to show how he became a threat, but only in hindsight. With the limited amount of information we currently have on Holmes’ background, it seems he followed the same path of social disconnection, but possibly in a much more rapid descent.

Perpetrators of mass shootings tend to be meticulous planners, spending months or even years preparing to make their strike. Eric Harris and Dylan Klebold, the masterminds behind the April 20, 1999, massacre at Columbine High School in Littleton, Colo., are an example of long-term planning and concealment. Early in 1997, Harris was posting online about his anger towards society. On January 30, 1998, Harris and Klebold were arrested for stealing tools from a parked van that may have been intended to help them prepare for their assault. In the 16 months after this arrest, the boys carefully documented their activities leading up to this tragedy in videos and journals. This included illegally obtaining and altering firearms, laying out their strategy in detail and constructing over 90 explosive devices. Unfortunately, all of this evidence came to light after the fact because these young men were careful to keep it hidden. Preliminary evidence in the Aurora case shows that the accused shooter may have spent six months planning the shooting.

The most disturbing aspect of these terrible shootings is the selection of “soft” targets. Much like terrorists do, these criminals look to inflict maximum damage as efficiently as possible by selecting easily accessible and crowded areas. On March 13, 1996, in the Scottish town of Dunblane, 43-year-old Thomas Hamilton entered Dunblane Primary School armed with four handguns. He then shot and killed 16 children and one adult before committing suicide. It remains one of the worst criminal acts using handguns in the United Kingdom’s history.

In much the same way as Hamilton chose to kill people he knew could not fight back, Holmes allegedly chose a dark, noisy movie theater filled with fans who were oblivious to the coming assault. Evidence points to his use of homemade smoke devices that caused skin, throat and eye irritation. He also fortified himself with body armor and possibly painkillers in order to stay on his feet as long as possible in case someone shot back.

All these attacks, no matter how we analyze them, are monstrous. But how exactly are we supposed to respond to them? What do we do with people whose mental state and horrific choices lead them to plan and carry out mass murder? The solutions that some policy makers would like to implement would require us to convert our free country into a kind of police state in which our movements, purchases, and mental state are constantly tracked and monitored.

Since this Big Brother approach will not be tolerated by Americans — and would not necessarily solve the problem anyway — liberal busybodies move on to the next debatable point: Ban the guns. Everything from motions to repeal the Second Amendment to bans on high-capacity magazines are fielded and debated. The U.K. used the Dunblane massacre as leverage in passing draconian gun restrictions, including the Firearms (Amendment) Act and the Firearms (Amendment) (No. 2) Act in 1997. These bans have greatly reduced the numbers of guns in the hands of the citizens of the U.K., but they certainly have not reduced violent crime. Rather, crime levels have climbed.

This desire to ban guns shows a fundamental flaw of logic, which is to blame the tools a criminal uses instead the criminal himself. For example, how does society react when an unlicensed, mentally unfit or substance-impaired individual chooses to get behind the wheel of a powerful motor vehicle and inflict death and destruction? This happens far more frequently than mass shootings, but what has been done about it? Where is the debate? Where is the hue and cry for change? Why not increase the legal driving age to 35-years of age? All heavy, powerful SUVs could be banned in favor of lightweight, and less lethal, Smart cars. All speed limits could be dropped to 20 mph to reduce the number of fatal collisions. If fact, why not collectively sue the automotive industry for providing people with easy-to-operate machines that are, by their design, inherently dangerous to operate?

Americans, quite logically, are not ready to sacrifice the freedoms that a diverse supply of automobiles provides because of the bad behavior of a minority of motorists. Instead of sliding down the slippery slope of blaming vehicle-inflicted harm on the company that built the car, the dealership that sold the car or the gas station that put fuel in its tank, we rightfully prosecute the person who was driving it.

So what should we do in the face of past and future mass shootings? First and foremost, we need to grieve this meaningless loss of innocent life. Let’s do what we can to lend support to those who are suffering so much at this time.

Secondly, let’s tell the members of our government to place the blame for mass shootings where it belongs: the instigator of the crime. Since criminals will always rise up to do harm no matter what legislation we have in place, let’s work to ensure the government will be vigilant and vigorous in enforcing the strict laws we already have in place. In the case of accused murderer James Holmes, he has been officially charged with 24 counts of first-degree murder for the shooting. Each count comes with a possible death sentence, which is already the natural limit of what the law can do to punish anyone.

Finally, for those who have decided that now is the time to purchase a defensive firearm, please do so with proper foresight and planning. Research your purchase so that you know the gun of your choosing is one you can safely operate and practice with regularly. Make sure to meet federal and state requirements necessary to legally purchase and carry a firearm. Follow up your purchase with the appropriate gun safety and self defense training.

Remember, a gun is just one tool that can be added to a personal protection plan. It’s the information lodged between your ears that ultimately provides the means to stay safe. Although individuals exercising their rights to be responsibly armed cannot provide a solution in every single personal protection situation, citizen-owned firearms do provide important defensive options that cannot be applied in any other way.

  • David C. Mellor

    Very good article Gil, wish we could get everyone to read it, common sense, seems to be very uncommon.


    What is Bill O'Reilly talking about in the above slide show?

    ""Right now some gun dealers do background checks, but nobody reports the sale of heavy weapons, like AK-47s to the Feds. That's insane. Terrorists could just move here and buy bazooka's and the FBI doesn't know about it….you can buy a machine-gun and they don't know."

    Is he a complete idiot or am I missing something? You can't buy an automatic weapon of any kind, much less a bazooka, without the government knowing about it. I have no idea whether the BATFE shares info with the FBI but it's not like you can just walk into a gun shop and buy a machine gun.

    • Shawn O'Loughlin

      O'Reilly is as much of a tool as Maher when it comes to gun control. He is content to remain ignorant of the facts and happy to spread blatant lies as told to him by the MSM. I have to use for either of them.

      • Shawn O'Loughlin

        *NO USE*

      • Desperado

        At least Maher is FUNNY! Which a damn sight more than I can say about O'Rielly!!!!!!!!!

    • Karl

      I sent an e-mail to O'Reilly pointing out his errors and flaws in his own argument. I have seen no correction and gotten no response. For the time being he is in the "Pinhead" category.

  • Alan_T

    KSCCL , it just goes to show that we have our idiots on the right too . Although I am surprised that Bill O ' Reilly could be so impossibly ill – informed on the subject . That said , almost all " talking heads " are amoral , opportunistic , self – promoting twits , one big reason why I stoped watching T . V . .

  • Alan_T

    Something Mr . Horman didn't mention in his article is the the fact that it is now known that James Holmes' collage psychiatrist had fore – knowledge of what Holmes intended to do for months !

    Also , aside from the fact that the shrink sounds like a nut case herself , I have read articles reporting that SHE WAS AFRAID of Holmes !

    Quote from Mark Greenblatt , ABC News ,
    " shooting suspect James Holmes came to the attention of the threat assessment committee at the University of Colorado but no further action was taken " , and

    " Dr. Lynne Fenton, the psychiatrist who was treating Holmes, 24, at the school, was also a key member of the university's threat assessment team . The group of experts were responsible for protecting the school from potentially violent students. " close quote .

    Some experts !


  • Andre'

    Good points, but still not complete. Nobody is talking about the real common thread between all of the mass shootings – the shooters' chronic and heavy use of drugs especially marijuana. The active use of illegal drugs for some unknown reason is never seen as the catalyst that pushed these weak-minded individuals over the edge and fortified their delusional states. For every call to increase gun laws we should demand that as a true root cause that the multi-decade trend to loosen decriminalize "casual" drug usage has caused this should be reversed and harsh penalties imposed for even small amounts. If liberals fear anything is the spectre of losing their ability to smoke their pot almost freely so when that argument is raised, the whole issue seems to fade.

    • Tim-LV

      For some reason I just had a flashback to 'Reefer Madness'.

    • David C. Mellor

      I don't think this guy was a stoner, he was working on his Doctors, you don't get that far hangin out smoking dope, he was an intellectual loner. Believe me, I would rather it be some drug induced idoit shooting at me than someone who knew what he was doing the way he did. SemperFi

    • Desparado

      FOOL!!!! Never have I saw ANYONE high on just pot even dream of anything like this. It is readily apparent you are just plain stupid or a cop "fishin" for a drug bust. Drunks, on the other hand, if they aren't killing someone one way they are doing it another! You sound just like old lady RAY GUN. A true squirrel…………….

      • rakkasan

        well I hope you are never around me and shooting, period you are as dumb as the idiot who is drunk and shooting.

  • Paul Salvador

    "HOW SHOULD WE RESPOND TO THE AURORA SHOOTING?" Pray Pray Pray, I think alot of us do not pray enough and lack of prayer = more crimes. Give it a try.

    • Desperado

      I think I'll take my .40 S&W, thank you.

  • Bob

    You know what bothers me is that all of the media keeps on saying these are assault weapons. They are not, a fully operated assault weapon has a selector switch on it 3 shot bursts and fully automatic. What about the shooter in Norway who killed 71 people mostly children. The capt at fort hood is the other moron. We need to vote the idiots out of office.

    • Desperado

      Hey Bob, If you don't mind a simple Question, just what did the idiots in office have to do with this act of unexplainable violence have to do with anyhting. Oh, I know. Just another mouthy right-winger that's had his pilots license revoked.

      • Beason

        Hey Desperado, I have to agree with Bob on this. The idiots in office are very much to blame. Everything of true importance is being taken from us, and the younger generations are in particular jeopardy, due, in part, to government education. How often do you meet young people who are well educated, self confident, and hard working? Now throw into the mix a heavy dose of bad economic policies and the insistence that 99% of the people are completely at the mercy of the other 1%. These are some of the factors leading to hopelessness for some and disaster for others. Many people, including myself, have developed a knee-jerk reaction to blame the government, but that does not mean we are always wrong. So, if you don’t mind a simple question, are you merely an example of everything that we have come to expect from government education?

        • Desperado

          Mr. Beason, The problem isn't goverment education, but rather the lack of parents doing anything to teach right from wrong before the "young people" even start school. The last few generations have had it all their way. Daddy and Mom are either afraid to say no or are just to much into themselves. ie, the ME generation. That or they just don't give a damn. Let the kid run we have our own thing.One thing I do agree with is your 1% statement. Bow and kiss their wealthy arses. I was home-schooled by my Commanche Grandmother until the fifth grade when she passed away. Public school was three years behind what she had taught me and they never caught up. They rewrote history for their own gains.

  • Jeepers Creepers

    Since Holmes was seeing actively a nut head shrink. He bought his guns illegally in the state of Colorado. He liad on the back ground check form. Also the death toll is now 12 dead plus 1 = 13. If some how he gets off on the 12 he is charged with now. He will have to face the death of the 13th victim. So he is not going to walk away from this. One point was not brought up in the article. That when it comes to mass killings it is almost from a gun controled parent(s). I have never heard of a person that started shooting with the parent permission at an early age commiting mass murder.

  • homebrewed

    Very nice article. Like the way you made points w/out goin off on a tanget. Also, on a personal note, it irritates me too that the media continues to refer to AR-15's as "assault rifles" or "assault weapons". In using the media and politicians "logic", any weapon, whether it be a gun, a knife, a rubber chicken, or a tennis shoe, used in the commission of an assualt should be called "assault weapon". Quit calling it an assualt weapon!!

  • Mack Missiletoe

    Really people. We have all been doing fine. At least one neighbor near you owns a gun. Afraid? Stop living in fear. Those neighbors do not want to hurt you and they never have. Their gun is used for defense, sport, and plinking. Guns are an amazingly fun sport. The people that want to hurt you are the evil shooters like Egan and they may be stopped with a bit more attention to their actions, their thoughts, etc.. As far as keeping weapons out of their hands… well they will find a way to get a hold of something whether it be a gun or blade. It's our job to prevent them from hurting others.

    Stop glorifying the killers too… they are complete losers. It may take a few brain cells to plan an evil surprise mass shooting against unprepared unarmed citizens, but it takes a complete resistance of God, mankind, conscience, goodness, and wisdom also. He turned against his fellow man.

    Interesting: "The U.K. used the Dunblane massacre as leverage in passing draconian gun restrictions, including the Firearms (Amendment) Act and the Firearms (Amendment) (No. 2) Act in 1997. These bans have greatly reduced the numbers of guns in the hands of the citizens of the U.K., but they certainly have not reduced violent crime. Rather, crime levels have climbed." All the anti-gun nuts need to read this. There is no argument. I sure do hope our brothers get their guns back!

    I used MSNBC for my news reports until I got tired of their anti-gun agenda. I find it oppressive that they untruthfully call a semi-automatic rifle an 'assault rifle'. We all know that assault rifles are fully automatic. Then they try to give semi-automatic rifles a bad name, as if they did not know 1911's existed for over a decade. These guys don't know what they are talking about. A large majority of Americans are good. They own guns. They enjoy their freedoms that they or our forefathers fought so hard for.

    I was happy to hear that our leaders were not thinking of changing gun laws against the good guys. My quality of life would suffer if I were suddenly unable to afford .38 Special ammo for my Smith or .22WMR for my Marlin just because some crazy nut went crazy. Those losers that decide to randomly kill people have nothing to do with us law abiding citizens and countrymen. Look, I feel bad for those who lost their lives–and we need ot support their families–but it's gonna get worse if we disarm ourselves. Look at history. How we got here. How we still must fight to preserve our freedom. Peace

  • James

    I actually heard a talking head on a news channel call a piece of Holmes' protactive gear "an assault vest". No lie, true story.

    • Desperado

      The Aurora Police Cheif did just that the day after the shooting. You don't watch much news or you bend it to suit youself. HUH???

  • Bob

    Hey desperado, I did not have pilot license revoked. I put 32 months of my life in Viet Nam defending the constitution of the United States, wounded 2 times what credentials have you got to prove your not another left winger who worships Mahr. What ever you do don't shoot yourself with 40.

    • Desperado

      Bob, your dribble isn't worth a reply. Did two tours in Nam and I'll put my "rack" up against yours any day. Are you married to the "adminastrater", or just holding hands?
      Hold your breath waiting for me to shoot myself, PLEASE.

      • River Rat

        Administrator that's the way is spelled. You must have lived in cave.

  • Jeff

    Standing back looking at human history and our American heritage, what happened in Colorado is the cost of, the price of, freedom. Those slain, injured, or deeply affected are just like those serving in our Armed Forces. The truly sad part is that they had no choice. They did not volunteer, they did not train, many were not even adults. Our human hope for society is mutual protection. Humans gather together to protect the village from outside threats, from slaughter and pillaging so to speak. When it comes from within, not only is there the immediate loss, but a huge sense of betrayal. Rather than blaming the tools i.e. guns & ammo, maybe government policy, and societal pressure should be on having open doors for those needing mental help. Tricky though, easy to lump it all together, and we should not effect a lifetime punishment on someone because they are having a hard time though a divorce or have come back from a war deeply disturbed. The first reaction from many people is to point the finger and yell "Fix it"! For governments, they are power hungry to increase their importance and control and will use any event of significant loss to further that end.

  • jiminga

    It appears to me the article is really addressing personal responsibility, something that has faded away in our society. Today, so many claim victimhood and shift blame for bad events either to inanimate objects of other people. The Aurora shooter ( I will never use his name) is a bad guy, but the campaign to paint him as somehow a flawed person that's not really accountable has already begun. Reports such as "he had a tough childhood" (blame his parents), "he used drugs" (blame lax enforcement of drug laws), "his psychiatrist knew he was dangerous" (blame his doctor), "guns are too easy to buy" (blame the government and the NRA)….I could go on and on.

    The shooter is evil (evil does exist), and deserves whatever real punishment comes his way. I suggest a firing squad.

    • Guest

      I agree, if they brought back public executions for the most heinous of crimes, instead of giving them free room and board for 30-40 years , then a chance at parole so they can kill again. Just maybe the violence in this country would calm down a bit. Nothing like a good hanging or firing squad to put the fear of a very painful death in someone bent on doing evil. It's been proven that 90% of all violent crime is commited by someone who already has a previous criminal history. Extreme, just a Tad…

  • Mike

    Hey desperado, you probably did two tours of Viet Nam as REMF. Figure out what that means red skin. Your dribble don't mean a thing. Home schooled in wiki up. Your still one of the few that still will not get it. Who are you married too some warrior. Keep your self safe with you teddy bear. Don't reply because I can't translate your vernacular.

  • Bear Runner

    Desperado learn how to spell before you make comments. That's what your grandmother taught you?


    Desperado are you that senseless to call out Viet Nam Veterans when your not one. Wise up.


    Desperado, are you serious about calling out Vietnam Veterans. What is your IQ 3. Your seeing a shrink to control your bed wetting.

  • River Rat

    Desperado if you were in Viet Nam you would not disrespect veterans. You must have been it the AFS serving donuts. Like CMMSGT stated wise up.

  • oakcliffrat3

    Do not glorify these murderers, that's probably one of the main reasons they do these things. No "made for TV" movies trying to examine their lives and reasons for their actions; no long drawn out televised trial. This trial should not take more than fifteen minutes; then take him out to the dumpster and put one in his head and drop him in with the rest of the trash. No media circus, no publicity and no chance for life. This should've already been done. What are they waiting for? Book deals and movie rights?

  • chuck

    This tragedy should definitely bring firearms to a national forum. The problem with these mad men shooting at innocent people is the ease with which they find large groups of defenseless people. Why not make a national concealed carry database. Then redefine concealed carry laws to allow weapons in any public or private place that are not protected by uniformed officers with metal detectors. It probably would not stop these maniacs but if some of their victims were shooting back it would definitely slow them down.

    • David C. Mellor

      Chuck, I couldn't agree more with you, this is why places like New York, Washington, D.C. and Chicago have the highest crime rates in the country. Law abiding people can't carry a gun, so they are bait. I am getting old, but I plan to get older, if I can pack a gun some where, I don't go there.

  • Sunshine State

    Any illegal shooting event represents an attack on responsible gun owner values

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