Shooting in Movies, Gunmen, Freedom and Police States

A few years ago I decided to go to a Friday night movie in Delhi, India.

Suspect James HolmesAfter buying the ticket, there was a line to enter the actual theatre. We were all "waved" with security wands. Backpacks, bags, large purses were not allowed in the theatre. Then when everyone was inside, the doors were locked, with an announcement that no one could enter or leave the theatre until the movie was over.

Why? In India, there had been a series of bombs set off by conflicts of Muslim and Hindu extremists. It was a bit disconcerting.

A couple of months later I wanted to go to another Friday night movie, and my hosts in India said: " Why don't you just stay at home, or go out to dinner. It is a bit risky these days to go to a movie". I went instead, but must confess, I had an insecure feeling when they "locked" the doors. I thought. "What if there was a fire, or if someone has a heart attack?"

Surely, after the shootings in Aurora, Colorado, people in the movie industry must be going through some of the same thought processes, as the industry leaders in India had done. Where is the balance between a relaxed, free night of entertainment, and security to protect innocent people from crazy radicals?


I have always leaned to the idea that freedom, even though it allows a few crazies to function, is better than a totally controlled police state. It is a hard balance to make. It is an area of "social engineering" one that we, in America, must consider with care. We are the "land of the free". We in our history and culture tout that we have "freedom of speech" and "freedom of expression". I have long admired the old Cowboy ethic of Western America, "Your freedom ends where my nose begins". Out west, the ethic, is that if there is a trouble maker, people of strength and courage simply have a "one on one chat" with the trouble maker. But that approach is a bit too rough for civilized urban America, and we now let judges and law enforcement agencies to do the job. We have read that radicals from the Middle East have said that they avoid "heart land" or "western communities" because they are too easily identified. They prefer population centers such as Indianapolis, Chicago, or New York, because there they can fit in or hide.

But, people in a suburan theatre in Boston, or a university suburb of Colorado, such as the young people and college kids in Aurora, Colorado, had neither the strength, confidence or initiative to deal with the shooter, who attacked them in the dark theater showing of Batman, in the "Dark Knight Rises". It seems that the police and ambulance services got on the scene too late. And, no wonder, a midnight movie, a gunman in black, firing hundreds of shots. It would take extraordinary courage for someone to take a man like that down. So, the question is this. Do we hire policemen to search and put the "evil eye" on all movie goers, walk them through security devices, pat them down and make going to a movie like getting on an airplane? Or do we have quiet security, with officers inspecting people from hidden cameras, and keep the presence of armed men at a minimum?


I recall in India, armed police with rifles and machine guns standing around theaters. It says something about a society when we need armed guards just to go out on Friday night.Of course all of this must be a nightmare for the owners of theatres. The industry has been under pressure for profits for years, and those who invest millions in theaters must wonder if their investment is wise. It is the same question we have been asking about shopping Malls. A few terrorists could destroy the "mall" concept with incidences like those seen in Colorado.More and more Americans can see movies of their choice in the safety of their homes, and shop through the internet. But there is nothing like the social "feeling" of being in a large room with hundreds of others, sharing a happy event of entertainment or shopping.Americans, like Londeners, have long refused to allow terrorists, or radicals to control the social and cultural behavior in their nations. As a Texan, I've often thought our attitude is like the cowboy who says to someone who makes a ruckus, "Is that all you have?". I trust that we as a nation can respond to these acts of terror and savagery a balanced and informed way.As for me, I hope I don't have to be searched and turn a gauntlet of armed men, to take my family to a movie.


As for our society, I wonder if there is any way to prepare for the savagery of a college kid who decides to mimic an insane movie character and play it out with real guns.We can discuss and spend endless hours on how we "should have known" or "could have prevented" this most recent disaster. There are no real answers to questions of how to deal with an evil person or emotionally deranged individual. Or are there?


But there are answers for the vast majority of balanced and normal people. Those answers are obvious.

My family, my wife and kids went to see the movie on Friday night. It was pretty full, but not packed. When the movie was over, we noticed that many people stayed to just zest in their decision not to allow an insane kid in Colorado, to keep them from living their lives.

We lingered in the theater and many just talked. There was a bonding, after that movie. Perhaps we as a nation should bond, appreciate our loved ones, and realize that we are stronger than the "dark ones" of this world. Those power hungry, people, who must use anger, terror or force to gain some sense of identity, have a need for the simple love, attention and support that we, as a community can and should provide.