Saturday, 21 July 2012 09:00

Two Aurora Shootings: One Widely Known; the Other Ignored

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On April 22 of this year a convicted felon, just out of jail, went to an Aurora, Colorado, church and shot and killed a member of the congregation before being killed himself by a congregant carrying a gun.

On July 20, following the horrific shooting at a movie theater in Aurora, President Obama offered his condolences to the victims of the more recent tragedy. "Our time here [on Earth] is limited and it is precious," the president said. "And what matters at the end of the day is not the small things, it’s not the trivial things which so often consume us and our daily lives. It’s about how we choose to treat one another and how we love one another."

Obama then led his supporters at a rally in Fort Myers, Florida, in a moment of silent prayer “for all the victims of less publicized acts of violence that plague our communities every single day.”

No doubt the president was unaware of the other, less-publicized lethal shooting that took place earlier in the year in Aurora, when there was only one victim, thanks to the quick thinking and action of a responsibly armed individual. Aurora police spokesman Frank Fania asked rhetorically: “Who knows what would’ve happened if the [church member, an off-duty police officer] had not been there? It certainly could have been a lot worse.”

How much worse? Could the killing spree have been as bad as the shooting at the movie theater, where a dozen victims lost their lives? Thankfully, we'll never know.

The killer in the April shooting was 29-year-old Kiarron Parker, who had just been released from prison. He had been convicted for assaulting two police officers, drug abuse, and breaking and entering. The details are here and here. But the point is clear: Because the perpetrator was able to claim only one life before being killed himself by someone carrying a gun and acting in self-defense, it garnered relatively little publicity.

In contrast, by now there may hardly be a single sentient soul in the country who doesn’t yet know what happened on Friday, July 20 at about 12:38 a.m., when James Egan Holmes opened fire on a theater full of people attending the premier of the latest Batman movie, killing 12 individuals and wounding at least another 50.

If we've paid attention to the mega publicity the horrific July 20 tragedy has garnered, we know that Holmes entered the theater, bought a ticket, and sat in the front row. We know that about 10 minutes into the movie, he left the theater through the emergency door at the front of the theater, returning a few minutes later. We know that he was dressed up in SWAT gear, including chest protector, leg protectors, a black helmet, and black tactical gloves. We also know that he was wearing a gas mask and carrying two handguns, a shotgun — and what the media inaccurately, and relentlessly, referred to as an "assault rifle." (The latter weapon was a semi-automatic rifle.)

We know that upon re-entering the theater through the same emergency door, Holmes threw two canisters of tear gas, striking one patron in the head. When both exploded, many patrons sat still, thinking that it was part of the Batman movie, with special effects.

We know that when he first fired his shotgun into the air, only then did the moviegoers realize that something was terribly wrong and start running for the exits. We know that the perp then turned his weapons on the hapless patrons and fired, round after round, pausing to reload when he ran out of ammunition, until 12 of moviegoers were dead or dying, and another 50 were wounded, some severely.

We know that Holmes' car was parked outside the emergency exit. We know that he was arrested next to his vehicle without incident. We know that Holmes has no criminal record, save for a single speeding ticket.

But how many Americans know about the earlier shooting at an Aurora church? How many people in Colorado — or in Aurora for that matter — even know? I live in eastern Colorado, only about 70 miles from Aurora, yet I did not find out about the church shooting until I started doing research on the movie-theater shooting.

The little-known Aurora-church shooting illustrates how a tragedy (in this instance, the loss of one innocent life) can be prevented from becoming a much worse tragedy because one of the would-be victims was armed. The widely known movie-theater shooting illustrates the horrendous loss of life that can occur when the intended victims are not only defenseless but known by the perpetrator to be defenseless. Because movie theater was a "gun free" zone, it was an easy target for any madman wanting to prey on victims lacking the ability to fight back.

Anti-gun zealots, however, ignore how the absence of guns in the hands of the law-abiding encourages more crime, and in the Aurora movie-theater shooting they've found an opportunity to promote their agenda and have already seized it. For example, Dan Gross, president of the Brady Campaign to Prevent Gun Violence, was quick to opine:

This tragedy is another grim reminder that guns are the enablers of mass killers and that our nation pays an unacceptable price for our failure to keep guns out of the hands of dangerous people....

We are outraged....

We don’t want sympathy. We want action!

And New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg, virtually parroting Gross, claimed, “This is yet another horrific reminder that guns enable mass killings.” He went on to say:

Maybe it’s time that the two people who want to be president of the United States stand up and tell us what they are going to do about it, because this is obviously a problem across the country.

This was just too much for Dudley Brown, executive director of Rocky Mountain Gun Owners, who countered:

The blatant attempt by New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg to use the blood of these innocents to advance his radical political agenda is disgusting. Mayor Bloomberg’s campaign succeeded in disarming not just these movie-goers [in Aurora], but has created millions of gun-free “criminal-safe zones” across the country.

The victims of this heinous act will not be comforted by being exploited for political gain by elected officials, especially [by] the mayor of one of the most violent cities in the country.

In an interview with The New American, Larry Pratt, executive director of Gun Owners of America, called such claims by the anti-gun zealots “not just hypocrisy but duplicity.” The victims in the movie theater were like “fish in a barrel” to the perpetrator because they were disarmed, thanks to the anti-gun agenda.

The contrast between the two Aurora shootings couldn’t be more striking. In the first, a potential holocaust was prevented by an armed citizen taking action. In the second, the perpetrator was free to act out his evil intent on unarmed innocents, knowing that none could return fire. The world knows about the Aurora movie-theater shooting; the world also needs to know about the Aurora church shooting.

Related article: The Aurora Massacre: Government Could Have Done Worse

Photo: AP Images

21 comments

  • Comment Link steve Sunday, 22 July 2012 08:25 posted by steve

    I believe you are way off base Max. I think he chose that movie setting because it was an unlikely place for a ccw holder to be present. So was a church but that shooter turned out to be wrong. An armed response against a protected target could have saved lives by distracting him or possibly disabling his weapon . Soft body armor does not protect against blunt trauma and having a slug bounce off your chest every two seconds will be distracting to say the least.

    Gun control has been "re-examined" in America ad nauseam. What has not been re examined is the role firearms play in self defense.

  • Comment Link Hermes Mendez Sunday, 22 July 2012 08:15 posted by Hermes Mendez

    @Max - What is offensive is your post. That people should just sit back and rely on others when the can defend themselves. THAT is what is offensive!!! Great response Bennehh!! Spot on!!

  • Comment Link Bennehh Sunday, 22 July 2012 08:14 posted by Bennehh

    I don't mean to leave off with the "if more people had guns, this wouldn't have happened" scenario, but I'd sooner rather a society that everyone were armed rather than a society where only the police and criminals are armed.

    As conservatives like to say a lot though, "guns don't kill, criminals kill" and this man should get life in jail at the very least.

  • Comment Link Bennehh Sunday, 22 July 2012 08:11 posted by Bennehh

    @Max, Aurora in Colorado is one of the strictest places for gun control in the entire state. As horrible as this event was, there's a reason that more gun crime and massacres occur in gun-free zones. (look at California, New York and New Jersey, states which have some of the strictest gun laws and look at the highest gun crime rates by states. Also look at Switzerland, which has some of the lowest crime and gun crime rates in the EU, then look at the UK)

    You mention that he used tear gas, but you cannot obtain tear gas legally in that state. I'm not even sure about if he obtained his other weapons legally. If there were stricter gun control, what if people like him could get their hands on guns still? There is a black market and other ways to obtain weapons after all. What if he couldn't get his hands on guns? Would he resort to homemade bombs instead?

    Again, this was a horrible event, but I'm under the belief from the research that I have committed to these areas to rethink of gun control in that state. Strict gun control doesn't work when criminals have access to the guns still. And what says that he wouldn't have used other means of killing?
    I respect your opinion however.

    I'd like to quote another comment which I believe sums this up rather well.

    "The human mind is the most dangerous thing on Earth. To all the Liberals who want guns to be taken away, you need to think for a moment, for once. Take away this guy's guns and he would have used homemade bombs instead and killed many more. If for some reason he couldn't make bombs then these types of nuts will sit outside in a truck and just run the crowd over as they leave the movie. What do you do then, ask the government to take away trucks? It's not the tools, it's the human mind that will use any tool to satisfy itself. Now imagine with no guns involved, if this guy decided to get a job at a very busy McDonald's in a city and that a mass poisoning was more his style? Do you ban McDonald's afterward? Also, If guns were banned tomorrow then a great many Americans with $10 to spend would go to Home Depot, only to return home afterward and build their own gun. Those with more than $10 to spend would seek out the Black Market."

  • Comment Link glen sutphin Sunday, 22 July 2012 07:59 posted by glen sutphin

    I won't get into if more people there had guns would they have saved lives. Gun control isn't the answer either, neither is banning all guns. Make the penalties for committing a crime tougher and make them stick. Punish the crimes more harshly and stop this "the gun man is the victim his rights were violated" crap. He get's out of jail early for good behavior. Give this guy the death penalty and stop the bleeding heart crap. This was an idiot with a gun, the gun was the tool he used to carry out the crime, what if he had of used bombs? Or nerve gas? There's a lot of questions unanswered about this.
    Next I'll ask these questions. Why wasn't the emergency exit monitored in some way? Most theaters have alarms or warning devices. If the emergency exit had an alarm and / or a video camera that was being monitored he might not have gotten into the theater in the first place. And if he had others who helped him they also need to face the death penalty. Make the laws fit the crime...

  • Comment Link Max Sunday, 22 July 2012 02:51 posted by Max

    This article is offensive. It implies that if people were carrying guns, James Holmes may not have been able to kill and injure so many. I feel like it is practically saying the people in the theater should have been carrying guns and been able to save themselves since Colorado is a CCW permit state and, unless things have changed, it is legal to conceal carry in a movie theater with a permit and that theater does not frisk or walk people through metal detectors.

    I also think this article is wrong. Comparing the unfortunate church shooting to the massacre at the movie theater is not a reasonable comparison. The shooter at the theater was armored head to toe. He wore a gas mask. He used tear gas. He had a large crowd to shot at. He had the advantage of being in the dark while the movie illuminated his victims. He also had taken Vicodin prior to his killing spree. Given the panic that ensued, trying to take down a fully armored gun man with handguns while trying to see him in the dark while under the effects of tear gas causing blurred vision and coughing, without harming bystanders is unrealistic.

    This is a very scary incident where, unlike other very deadly incidents, the shooter bought everything legally. This is reason to re-examine gun control in America. I'm not saying take guns away. I'm saying this is scary because it wasn't just a tragic occurrence, but since everything was legally obtained and the shooter would have been awfully hard to stop with anything less than shotguns or high powered rifles, it's repeatable with serious consequences unless people start packing more than hand guns.

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