Friday, July 20, 2012

The Shooting in Aurora, Colorado

     As I'm sure just about everyone not living in a cave knows, a man named James Holmes entered a crowded theater showing The Dark Knight Rises in Aurora, Colorado, threw down smoke bombs or tear gas (I have heard conflicting reports on this), and began to shoot people in their seats.   He killed 12 and wounded 38 people.  Police arrested him outside of the theater, and his apartment was booby-trapped.

    Those are the facts out there.  From a great many sources, however, there is speculation.

     Some people speculate he was a member of Occupy Black Block, which is a violent anarchist movement that participants in the Occupy Wall Street movement condemn.  The sources for this speculation, of course, tie Occupy Black Block to the Occupy Wall Street movement--which is a good reason for movements to actually have a coalition with leadership, even if it's by committee, rather than just have anyone show up--but nobody has cited a source of information regarding an actual connection between James Holmes and this group, so this speculation is unfounded as far as anyone knows.

       Others think he will turn out to be a right-wing Christian evangelical, though nobody has presented a good argument why they think this way, other than pointing to people like Timothy McVey and abortion clinic bombers.  I can explain why McVey bombed a government building in Oklahoma City (his anti-government ideology--he wasn't an evangelical, as far as I remember) and abortion clinic bombers (they believe abortion clinic "murder babies" and think their acts will prevent it), but why go to a crowded theater and kill people watching a movie?  What point does that make?  And why make any point with violence?  It just turns people against your cause, if they weren't against it already.

.  Still others think he might be a Batman fan who didn't like the choice of villain.  There is even some speculation that he was re-enacting a Batman comic where a man goes and shoots people in an adult theater after listening to a song forty times.  Who knows?  It sounds more plausible than the other explanations so far, but we don't know for sure.

    A corollary to this incident is the idea that Holmes' mother knew his son was disturbed, and she should have done something about it.  Even if she did know something was wrong with her son, what mother wants to admit there's something wrong with her child? .  Imagine how difficult it would be for a parent to believe his or her child would be capable of mass murder.  Come on, folks!  Don't put this on Holmes' mother, because you don't know her situation.  If it comes out later that the parents were abusive or something, then that discussion can happen, but you're speculating at this point, and it's not fair.  You're not in her shoes, and I'm sure at this point that if she has any hint of empathy, Holmes' mother is heartbroken to an unimaginable degree.

     There's speculation that if more people carried concealed weapons, this shooter would not have gotten away with putting bullets into 50 people.  There are three things about this speculation that make it clear that the people who believe it aren't thinking it through.  The first is the fact that Holmes threw out smoke bombs or tear gas first.  It would cut down on visibility and increase confusion.  It would also increase the likelihood that anyone trying to shoot Holmes would instead shoot an innocent bystander.  If several people shoot, then they may shoot each other, thinking that another shooter was the original shooter.  The second aspect of this case that defeats the conceal-and-carry argument is that it's a theater--if you are standing with your back to the screen, it is very difficult for other people to see anything but your silhouette.  Throw in smoke and such and your silhouette is camouflaged.  However, you can see everyone in the theater quite clearly.  If there is such a thing as an usher in your theater, ask that person--you can see every face from front to back pretty clearly.  Or hell, next time you're in a theater, sit in the front and look back at the rest of the people when the previews start.  The third aspect of this incident that makes the idea that someone shooting the shooter highly unlikely is that people who were there reported confusion about the location of the gunfire--some even thought it was coming from the cinema next door.

    Finally, there is speculation that stricter controls on automatic weapons (one of four of the weapons Holmes used was thought to be automatic) would have prevented this tragedy.  What would have prevented someone like Holmes from making homemade pipe bombs or bringing Molotov cocktails?  If we want to have the gun control debate, we should stick to talking about what things stricter gun laws would actually prevent.  Take away guns--even if it's just from this guy through a mental health screening--would not necessarily prevent mass murder through other means.

     Speculation, speculation, and more speculation...I can forgive it to a degree, because people are trying to make sense of a tragic and senseless event.  For all we know, Holmes was the kind of person Alfred described in the Batman movie before this one; he could be a person who just wants to watch the world burn.  We just don't know.  What we do know is that there are families of 50 victims, 12 dead and 38 wounded, who are mourning over this horrific event.  Let's set aside our views on gun control, party affiliation, religion, and disturbed comic book fans and keep that in mind today.  Have some empathy for them and stop speculating about the shooter's motives.  Leave that to investigators and let the story come out when it will.

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