Jul. 20th, 2012

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At a midnight screening of “The Dark Knight Rises” in Aurora, CO, a 24-year-old man tossed tear gas into a theater packed with patrons about 15 minutes into the film and opened fire, shooting at last count 70 people. 12 people are confirmed dead. The shooter’s apartment is booby-trapped; tenants have been evacuated and police are trying to disarm the traps.

The shooter had dyed his hair red or orange and told authorities he was The Joker (he has since lawyered up and stopped talking). The man had graduated two years ago with a bachelor’s in neuroscience from UC Riverside. He had recently withdrawn from the University of Colorado’s PhD program. Predictably, neighbors are already describing him as, you guessed it, a “loner.”

More will come out about this guy and I’m sure very little of it will be surprising. Just about all of these mass shooters are men either singularly obsessed with some wrong or perceived wrong or have lived in their own weird little world filled with violent fantasies, where they don’t see living breathing human beings but targets who are just there to be done away with. I’m reading now “Devil In The White City,” a book about the 1893 World’s Fair and another man named Holmes who was as intelligent as he was psychotic. He was a con man and a serial killer who may have had as many as 200 victims, a number of them killed in a house of horrors he designed and ran as a hotel for fair visitors. Depravity is nothing new.

What particularly hits home about this incident is that these victims were as George Takei put on his site, “fans of science fiction and fantasy who only wanted to escape and be inspired.” Going to a midnight screening for an eagerly anticipated movie is something many of you have done; I’m sure a few of you reading this saw “The Dark Knight Rises” last night. How many of you thought, “Wow, that could have been me?” When I saw the Star Wars films, it never once crossed my mind that something like this could happen. Who wants to shoot a bunch of Star Wars fans? But now, we know it can happen. Mass shootings can occur anywhere: Comic Con, Celebration, the supermarket, the fair, the mall, wherever there’s a target rich environment with lots of happy distracted people unable to defend themselves or escape. Already fandom is being affected. AMC Theaters has banned cosplay and I’m sure other theater chains will follow suit because the shooter wore a mask and had looked “costume-y.”

I certainly don’t want a society where we have to go through security checkpoints just to go to the movies or any other place where there are a lot people. I don’t want any of our rights as a free society to be taken away. We can’t let fear dictate our lives. So here’s some perspective. If you had planned on seeing Batman or any other movie this weekend, don’t chicken out. Go see it. The most dangerous thing about going to the movies is driving your car to and from the theater. Go to the mall. Go to the beach or the theme park. Have a good time.

Still nervous? Just as 9/11 made people more observant about suspicious characters, if you happen to notice somebody acting strangely or something out of place, tell somebody: security, the cops, whatever. I think you are the first line of your own defense.

Keep the victims and their families in your thoughts. Think about those who lose their lives every day to violent crime without the media attention.

December 2012

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