All day the news kept developing and coming out of Aurora, Colorado, from the shooting in a packed movie theatre where one man apparently decided that no single person in this world was worth anything.
I’m not going to recount the details. It’s hideous and sad and maddening enough as it is. And, what’s worse, stories like this absolutely rattle your faith in humanity.
But it’s the responses that sometimes are more telling than anything else.
It’s easy to get wrapped up in the emotion of the event, because we are human after all. We hate to see that this happened, and the sorrow of others is overwhelming. But as a society, we can’t let the emotion blind us in reacting to the situation.
The natural reaction is to ask how someone like this got the guns, got the ammunition, and the bomb-making supplies that apparently have turned his apartment into a booby trap. It’s normal to ask what kind of state of mind he must be in to have done this, and afterward, to not have run away.
And it’s reasonable for movie theatres around the country to look at themselves and review their security protocols, but it is not reasonable to ask or expect that they’re going to lock themselves down to the extent that airports are now.
While a case could be made for limiting opportunities for terrorists (and this lunatic certainly was one, regardless of his sanity or affiliations), you would have to limit all public activity in a society like ours if you want to significantly reduce the risk of another incident like this. The question comes down to what it always should be: is it unreasonable to expect you to ensure your own safety in situations?
Sure, there are situations everyone’s probably going to avoid simply because the risk is too high: walking down a dark alley in a bad neighborhood, for example. But we all should have every reason to think that we’ll be safe in a movie theatre. And under nearly every circumstance last night, that was the case: hundreds, if not thousands of showings of that same movie went on across the country in the same general time frame, and this was the only incident of its type. So why are we worried? Because of the sheer volume of the crime.
The movie theatre is just as responsible for ensuring the safety of themselves and everyone else as the other people who bought tickets and stood in line with this knucklehead. If you expect the theatre to notice he’s carrying four guns and is wearing body armor, then you should expect the same from everyone else in the row you’re seated with. Do not start expecting the theatre to perform pat-downs and strip searches of patrons as they enter because you don’t want them to do that to you, and if they get that far, you’re already locking society into a box that will be very hard to come out from.
Air travel will never be what it once was because you can’t open a security door that was previously closed because someone will see it as an opportunity. But since the attacks of September 11th, 2001 every single passenger getting on a plane is scrutinized as a potential criminal from the minute they bought the ticket. Only once you’ve cleared security is the cloud of doubt released from over your head. For those who have already started calling for improved security at theatres, and for those who will do so in the near future, realize that the same situation will appear: where do you draw the line for letting people in to see a movie?
I’m sure for the theatre company in this case, they’ve got their insurance company and lawyers in a fit over the potential liability they’re facing. And to be sure, someone out there will probably sue them claiming they were negligent in letting this guy in. But my reading of the “reasonable person” clause asks a simple question: when walking in after buying my ticket, should I expect the theatre to check over every patron to make sure they’re sane and rational? Would I be comfortable if they checked my background when I purchased the ticket?
It’s the whole NIMBY (Not In My Backyard) concept played out to an extremely personal level. Everyone–or practically everyone, since there are those who really do harbor horrible thoughts and plans in their heads and hearts–KNOWS that they’re innocent and swears that they wouldn’t do this kind of thing and aren’t a danger to anyone. But at the same time, they expect that the wackos and terrorists among us are identified and rooted out. The question is: how do you tell the difference? But the minute those “safe” people are subjected to a full-body scan at the airport, they insist it’s a violation of privacy–which it is.
The question is how far do you want to go to let someone else dictate how they will make you safe? Do we let the government ensure our safety by limiting our rights, or do we restrict where we go and what we do? Or do we simply go on with our lives because the chances that something will happen are extremely low? There’s a point where the majority political wings of the country need to stop and ask themselves just how free our supposedly free country is after everything they’ve brought to bear in the last 11 years.
Of course, it was us–the voters–who gave them the power to do these things in the first place…But irrational fear can be a powerful motivator to people, so in times like these, people start to agree to some crazy ideas.
As tragic and horrible as this event was, and without disrespecting the victims or diminishing the suffering of their families, everyone needs to stop and realize it was an isolated event–one that is extremely unlikely to happen again, even with an immediate threat of copycats. But at the same time it can never be ruled out as an impossibility. Don’t go looking for solutions to problems that don’t necessarily exist.
See you tomorrow.