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Discussion: Does Aurora Massacre Change Our View of Soft Targets?

A discussion point since 9/11, will the mayhem at the Batman movie make us rethink security at movie theaters, malls or school events? Join the discussion, vote in the poll.

Editor's note: Cupertino suffered its own mass shooting Oct. 5, 2011, when Shareef Allman, a quarry worker, opened fire at Lehigh Southwest Cement, killing three, injuring a half-dozen more and terrifying an entire region when he hid out in a Sunnyvale neighborhood. Does this Aurora incident stir up those fears? The following opinion was written by a Patch colleague in Southern California. Please share your thoughts with us here in the Comments section and take our poll.

At least 12 dead and dozens injured, several seriously.

One gunman and one crowded theater.

The specter of copycats.

Californians will awake Friday morning to live shots coming from Aurora, Colorado, where James Holmes, a young 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.

The number of deaths and injured isn't confirmed. As information become available the figures could change up or down. But no matter what the final numbers are, there is one definitive: It's a tragedy.

Since the September 11 terror attacks of 2001, Americans have been on various levels of alert, but anyone with an ounce of cynicism has recognized that movie 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 and 13 years from Columbine High, but it’s the kind of tragedy that can open up wounds in every region in America.

Including California.

  • A little more than nine months ago then hiding out for a day before turning his own gun on himself.
  • Seal Beach is only nine months removed from the in which eight people were killed and one injured.
  • The McDonald’s massacre in 1984 resulted in 21 killed and 19 injured outside of San Diego.
  • The in 1976 ended with seven dead and two injured.

All such events—not just the local ones—remind us of just how vulnerable we are.

And it brings with it the specter of copycats who think they can do it just a little better—or bigger.  

Do we keep the status quo and prove that we haven’t been beaten, or do we make changes because we want to see next year, want to see our kids get married and our grandkids grow up?

The incident Friday morning is likely to start a discussion—a very real, very serious discussion—about soft targets.

Let's start it here.

Should metal detectors become as standard as popcorn machines at movie theaters? Should there be armed security, or will a thick dude in a yellow jacket be enough to stop someone carrying a gun who wants to get in with or without a ticket? Will 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 this morning in light of Aurora, the newest name in tragedy? 

Will you let your kids head to the AMC theater at Vallco to see the film, or will you think twice?

Gary E. Jones July 20, 2012 at 04:20 PM
When you have a world of over 7 billion there are going to be some strange individuals like this person. The government cannot protect us from all possibilities. Consider Oakland California for example; by the logic I'm hearing this morning there should be two national guardsmen on every corner of that city to prevent the possibility of the next killing in Oakland.
Anne Ernst (Editor) July 20, 2012 at 04:27 PM
Good points, Gary. And when there are workplace shootings like the one at Lehigh last Oct. we just can't put security/peace officers everywhere. It's tragic, but unfortunately part of our crazy world.
Frank Geefay July 20, 2012 at 05:45 PM
I totally agree with you Gary. I hate to admit it but I think the 9/11 terrorists succeeded far beyond their wildest imagination. They caused America to take them very seriously and spend hundreds of billions if not trillions of dollars on airport and government security and totally changed the way we do our travel and live our lives. It involved us in a couple of very expensive and drawn out wars costing us more billions or trillions of dollars. These actions have encouraged other terrorist to commit more terrorism because of our response to 9/11. Had we paid each Taliban member that has existed in the last 12 years equal shares of one thousandth of all the money we spent on security and wars against them during that period they would all be billionaires and probably too busy enjoying their fortunes to continue their terrorist and recruiting activities. Poverty is the thorn of unrest and violence, wealth the flower of contentment and peace. Had the government not spent all this money on security and wars perhaps the national debt would only be a minor issue or not an issue at all. I am not suggesting that we should not have spent money on security. I’m only pointing out the big price we have all paid. There is a point where we have got to draw the line and say enough is enough. As Gary pointed out “The government cannot protect us from all possibilities.”
Mark Burns July 20, 2012 at 09:20 PM
If we had paid the terrorists, as Frank suggests, there would certainly be more of them. Flawed logic at best. I get the point that we have spent a lot of money but the alternatives are worse and we haven't had another 9/11 since. We've stopped a few we know about and we've probably stopped a few more that we'll never know about (if the administration can learn how to keep these things to themselves instead of bragging about it for political gain). Gary is right. Isolated incidents are right outside your front door with the power of the internet. The arrested assailant's Mother spoke on the phone to the media stating that she thought they did have the right person. This speaks volumes about getting friends and relatives help individuals with mental health issues before they do something like this. The Gabby Giffords shooter behaved irrationally for a long period of time at his local junior college with no one taking the extra step to get him the help he needed or to get him off the street because he was a danger to others.
Anne Ernst (Editor) July 20, 2012 at 09:23 PM
There are a lot of difficulties in getting mentally ill adults the help they need if they refuse to accept it. It's a very tricky situation when you are dealing with someone who is, say, schizophrenic and feels healthy while they are on meds and so stops taking the meds because of that.
Terri Hoornstra July 20, 2012 at 10:03 PM
I think it's interesting that nobody has yet commented on the availablity of weapons in the US. Each time there is a shooting, there is a gun. In Oakland, at Columbine, at Lehigh, in Aurora. Let's face it: we have come a long way since the time the Constitution was written and people needed guns for hunting and home protection in the absence of a police force. I don't want to hear any more of the illogical arguments in favor of allowing the proliferation of guns in our society. I am willing to be brave and go without a gun for the sake of reducing the total amount of guns in our country. Anyone with me? Everyone is apparently resigned to the fact that the NRA rules Congress, and why even bother.
Anne Ernst (Editor) July 20, 2012 at 10:17 PM
I'm with you on that Terri! The NRA is such a powerful lobbying group that nobody is willing to stand up to them. I would venture to say that there are more Americans out there who side with us on this, but who among us has the power to fight the NRA when even our politicians are afraid of them?
Nicole Baldocchi July 20, 2012 at 10:17 PM
Some bigger movie theatres, like San Mateo, have announced added/extra precautionary security measures just today in light of this event.
Frank Geefay July 20, 2012 at 10:58 PM
I'm with you Terri. The right to bear arms is way outdated. There is no way a civilian militia with handguns and rifles can fight against jet fighters, tanks, artillery, drones, smart bombs, rockets and well-armed and trained soldiers as was the assumption when this was written into the Constitution. All firearms should be outlawed and the possession of firearms by civilians met with very stiff jail time. Regarding the comment about my remarks of giving money to the terrorist, it is extreme hopelessness, despair, and poverty that drive the great majority of terrorist to give up their lives in a suicide mission. This is a highly unnatural act done out of extreme desperation. Solve their hopelessness and poverty and they will have no reason to kill themselves and other. Most of their leaders do not commit suicide, they recruit their victims. If there are no victims in poverty and despair they will have a severe recruiting problem. The solution is to spend billions to eradicate poverty, not to killing those in poverty because there will always be more in despair to take their place willing to kill those whom they feel threaten them and kills their families and relatives.
Susan July 23, 2012 at 05:23 PM
The 2nd Amendment is being misinterpreted: "A well regulated Militia, being necessary to the security of a free State, the right of the people to keep and bear Arms, shall not be infringed." Where is the well regulated Militia, and where does it say people have a right to bear arms for any other purpose than to protect a free state?

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