Sadly, yet another lunatic was on the rampage in Colorado this past week. Politically, this event can be discussed in a wide variety of ways. The mainstream news will, of course, focus on the extreme emotions felt by those immediately involved. Many people will once again clamor for the prohibition of firearms. Some will likely even blame the movie itself. Regardless of where you stand it must be admitted that, tactically speaking, this was an easily preventable event.
First, what do we know?
A former PhD student of neuroscience from the University of Colorado, James Holmes, re-entered the Century 16 Theatre screen 9 through a side entrance around twenty minutes into the film. Due to the fact that this was the first showing, the consensus from the audience appears that they believed him to be a gimmick for the showing. He entered through the emergency exit wearing complete ballistic gear (a ballistic helmet, vest, shin guards, groin and throat protector) and a gas mask. After tossing two smoke or irritant gas devices into the air, he fired one or two rounds into the ceiling and then began firing into the crowd.
As we can all imagine, this was likely a very chaotic scene. But real life isn’t Hollywood. There were many calms during the storm.
He had at least two guns and possibly three on his person. Initially he is said to have used an AR-15 type rifle which is similar in style to the M-16/M-9 used by the military, but would necessarily have been semi-auto. Apparently, he had a 100-round drum magazine on the AR-15 which quickly jammed. These types of drums are notorious for such drums which, I would imagine, is why nobody uses them in situations outside of pleasure or sport shooting. So at this time he switched to a handgun and proceeded to shoot and walk up the stairs towards the back of the theater.
Let’s stop here and analyze the situation. Some lunatic barges into the theater and begins shooting at people. At this point, the fight or flight instinct will kick in and each person will make the quick decision to engage the aggressor or flee. Before I proceed, let me make it very clear that I am not in any way suggesting this event was the fault of any of the victims. No person should have to endure this type of horrific violence during any event in life. The decision of all 200 some moviegoers was to flee, as I’m sure most people would do on first thought.
There are two events to keep in mind here. First, his initial gun jammed. Decently trained soldiers will take at least five to ten seconds attempting to ascertain the cause of malfunction so I’m sure it took this guy at least this long and probably longer. Apparently he eventually gave up and moved on to his next gun of choice. Hopefully, quite a few people took this opportunity to escape the theater. Ideally, the mob of people surrounding him would have kicked his kneecap, put a knee in his groin, or simply bum rushed him. But they didn’t for reasons which are probably quite valid. The next event, however, is nearly unforgivable. The eyewitness accounts all agree that he slowly walked up the stairs towards the back of the theater as he was randomly shooting people.
My question is, how many people did he have his back turned to? How many people were directly to his sides? The gas mask he was wearing severely restricted his field of view which would have allowed him to see only directly in front of him. Additionally, his ears were either ringing from adrenaline and the report from his shooting or he had planned accordingly and had earplugs in. In either case, his hearing was also severely reduced. A mob of two or seven or twelve people could have easily jumped him from behind and ended his rampage.
So why did nobody attempt to stop him? Why was a theater full of people (200?) able to be so completely nullified by a single person? Why was not one other person armed as well? Or perhaps, why did nobody shoot back?
The one thing we can take away from this is that it is the personal responsibility of each and every individual to protect themselves. One woman crouched down on the floor dialing 911 while spent casings were dropping on her forehead. Once the police arrived he gave himself up without a fight, but what about those long minutes it takes police to respond? The fact is, the only real job of the police is to attempt to track down and capture those who have already committed a crime. It is everyone’s responsibility – mine, yours, all of us – to protect themselves in the heat of the moment. It is unfortunate, therefore, that most governments make it so difficult for peaceable individuals to adequately protect themselves. I wonder how many potential felons out there are guilty of attempting to protect themselves from unfortunate incidents such as this?