Opinion

Dealing with “the Joker” in the Wake of the Aurora Shooting

Dealing with the Joker

This week I received a half dozen emails featuring the video of 71 year old Samuel Williams, a concealed handgun carrier who stopped two assailants in their attack of an internet café. We have no certain insight into the plans of the perpetrators since their crime was interrupted by a carrying citizen who was prepared to stop a crime before it escalated. The two thugs who came into that café with a pistol and a baseball bat might have just been there to shake the patrons down and they might have planned another Columbine or Aurora, Colorado type massacre; we’ll never know because an armed citizen stopped the crime before it got that far.

We have no idea how frequently an individual successfully defends himself with the use of a legally purchased and carried firearm, but it happens multiple times every day. Florida law concerning the use of deadly force is similar to law here in North Carolina and, watching the video, I was a little concerned the local authorities might possibly charge our 71 year old hero. In North Carolina, and I think Florida, too, the citizen cannot use deadly force against a retreating assailant. Williams did indeed chase the bad guys out of the building continuing to fire, something that, as a shooting instructor who certifies concealed carry applicants, I’d have advised against.

Indeed, before the sun came up on Aurora there were calls for more restrictive gun laws even though the only thing that would have stopped that event, other than a plainclothes policeman being in the theatre, was an armed citizen like that 71 year old concealed carrying Floridian. The problem is that, in the United States, we pass legislation as a reaction to something that happens rather than through a rational thought process. It does little or nothing to correct our problem, but it makes good politics and provides opportunities for photo ops and interviews.

Consider how the Aurora murders could have been avoided. The murderer had a spotless record; no laws prevented him from purchase and a multiple purchase law would have made no difference in the outcome. The extra guns gave him no tactical advantage and probably slowed him down. You can get more shots off with a carbine unencumbered than you can carrying two extra handguns and a shotgun. Carrying two pistols and a shotgun was either for theatrical effect or for the fulfillment of his fantasy since the application required only the rifle and extra magazines. Limiting magazine capacities would probably not have helped since changing magazines takes seconds with practice and the pause wouldn’t have been long enough for an unarmed person to take advantage unless he was only feet away.

Had we passed a law prohibiting the sale of any kind of firearm ten years or even 50 years ago, this young man was certainly smart enough to figure out how to get one of the millions of guns that would still be floating around. Remember, he acquired a complete set of body armor and the materials to make multiple bombs. This was no casual spur-of-the-moment event; it was planned by a person of great mental capacity. Had firearms been totally unavailable, he had the capacity, according to reports, to make a very sophisticated bomb.

Metal detectors in the front of the theatre wouldn’t even have helped if the news stories are correct. According to eyewitnesses, the murderer came into the theatre unarmed, and used the exit to arm and armor himself before coming back in through the same door to commit his atrocities.

It’s been mentioned that he was wearing body armor and one might assume that, had 71 year old Samuel Williams been there, he might not have penetrated it. This is possible but Holmes was also wearing a gas mask which would have impeded his general awareness. The theater was noisy and Samuel Williams’ attack method on the internet café assailants was to attack from behind. The gas mask and helmet would have enhanced an armed citizen’s ability to approach from behind as Williams did.

Holmes was wearing body armor. A smart armed citizen might have gone for a head shot; certainly he wouldn’t have made things worse. An armed citizen might not have managed to stop the attack, but an armed citizen was the only reasonable chance of stopping the attack short of a psychic predicting it. Of course, none of this could have legally happened because, like Columbine and Virginia Tech and so many of these incidents, the theater was a gun-free zone.

So, other than an armed citizen intervening, was there another way to prevent this, perhaps changing the way the murderer was affected by society? I think there could have been, though it would be harder than forcibly going after every gun in the United States. I think events like this happen because evil is celebrated to add thrills to the story in books, TV, video games and, of course, movies. There has been a shift in the way our society views evil. Our movies, like the Batman movie, celebrate the hero but they also glorify those who commit crimes of senseless evil like the Joker.

Years ago, movie and TV crime was motivated by the desire for money. Now, it’s about evil for the sake of evil; monetary gain is secondary. The murderer, Holmes, was apparently fascinated with this, telling police when he was arrested that he was the Joker, an evil character in the Batman storyline. He was playing out a fantasy of evil for the sake of evil. The reason we have so much of this kind of crime is that we have people in this country who fantasize about being a super evil character. Think of the amount of publicity a two bit thug like Charles Manson has generated. Having said all this, I’m not in favor of censoring movies to control their content. I really don’t think it’s possible, any more than collecting every gun in the United States, to make everyone safer is possible.

The demands to restrict gun ownership come from those who don’t believe you have the right to defend your own life or have the capability to defend yourself. Roger Ebert, in a recent rant about the evils of people owning guns, asked a man who carries a gun why he did so. The gun owner stated he lived in a bad neighborhood. Ebert’s response was, “Why don’t you move?”

The problem is that now, with individuals like Holmes, it’s no longer possible to avoid danger by staying out of “bad neighborhoods”. The bad guys aren’t just drug dealers and gang members; they’re also award-winning honor students. The threat can come from anywhere. That is not meant to be paranoia-inducing, but simply realistic.

The real debate is about whether or not you and I have the right to protect ourselves and others or if we should depend on professional law enforcement officers. Certainly, a trained law enforcement officer would have been effective in both the internet café and the movie theatre. Unfortunately, it simply isn’t possible to have enough trained law officers everywhere protecting everyone. Even though it was remarkable how fast the police responded in Aurora, it was too late for the victims, the event was over when they arrived. Had the internet café thugs decided to kill people, many or all could have died before they arrived.

So really, how do we stop individuals who decide to attempt something like this? In the Aurora incident, the only thing that could have stopped these murders was an armed citizen, yet, cries to take guns out of the hands of citizens reduce the ability of an individual to protect and defend himself and others. It would take years to remove all the existing firearms from the hands of the public even if the majority of the populace was in favor of it. In countries where individual firearms ownership has been outlawed for half a century, there are illegal guns. Someone as smart as Holmes would have acquired a gun, if not, he would have made a bomb. We certainly aren’t going to change the view of evil in society and culture in any reasonable amount of time; we’ve been on this path for half a century. Censorship isn’t a reasonable recourse in a free country. It’s not possible to profile these people and intercept them; we simply don’t have the resources. The answer is: we can’t prevent these people from doing this kind of thing. We can only stop them when they begin.

The sad commentary is that, as I write this, Holmes is being played off as a diabolical genius on TV and the internet, exactly the character he emulated, the Joker. Somewhere, some twisted soul is watching the same telecast and fantasizing how he could emulate the Holmes/Joker and make himself just as famous for being evil.

Image © iStockPhoto.com/Ron Bailey

Any views or opinions expressed in this article are those of the author and do not reflect those of OutdoorHub. Comments on this article reflect the sole opinions of their writers.
  • Plasmodicus

    I wouldn’t be surprised if this “Joker” was found to be an avid player of violent video games. His lack of human compassion, separation from reality in declaring his alter-ego, and even the hairdo lead me to think he could not separate the targets on the video screen from real people when the time came.

    • http://pulse.yahoo.com/_NKAIQDH3NQCX7ON6AYTNGANSLI The Thinker

      I have been shooting for almost 25 years now. I play these so called “violent” games occasionally. As well as 3-gun, IDPA, IPSC competitions. Is it only a matter of time before I turn violent? Enough with this BS logic.

  • deste66

    If someone was able to CC in the theater all these deaths could have easily been averted and that creep would have been dead ,we should make stiffer punishment for creeps like that than try to take away rights from law abiding citizens!

  • FloridaHillbilly

    It was a gun-free zone, and all the law-abiding citizens inside followed the rules. The criminal element did not, and was not stopped until far too much death and damage had been done. Proof of how well disarming the public works to protect those that follow the rules.

  • James

    So the case isnt really against guns, it’s making it tougher to get them. Controlling the online purchase, and maybe even requiring references to buy. You think this wacko could of gotten 2 friends to co-sign the gun? Doubt it. Also, if 10 people in the theatre started shooting back, we could have more dead. And by the way, Obama is not doing a thing about it. So for all the bad press he got early on, he really isnt the anti gun President now is he?

    • FloridaHillbilly

      He wasn’t known to be a wacko until after the event, so your statement hold not water.

      CC and training saved folks in the internet cafe probably saved lives…and the only ones hurt were the criminal element.

      • James

        actually, he was a wacko, with no friends and didnt talk to anyone. Thats why 2 co-signers wouldnt of happen. If he asked his sister, dad or cousin to co-sign they would of said, “hell no.”

      • FloridaHillbilly

        So no friends + not talking to anyone= wacko?

        Got it. I need to go lock up my grandmother.

        You seem to have intimate, personal data regarding him. You should have done something. /sarcasm off

        Private sales go on every day. It’s Pandora’s Box, no way to get guns out of circulation. But put a gun in every trained hand, and the criminal element becomes less likely to get away unscathed.

        Every CC person I’ve ever talked to has training to some degree. I prefer to walk into a building knowing everyone was carry but me, than to know no one was carrying.

    • http://www.facebook.com/people/Dan-Ess/100000666571492 Dan Ess

      We don’t need to make it tougher to get guns, we need to make it easier for people to protect themselves from wackos. We need to make it known to wackos that they might be taken out before they can count to one. We need to let them know that: We The People are tired of their ruining other peoples lives.

  • http://pulse.yahoo.com/_NKAIQDH3NQCX7ON6AYTNGANSLI The Thinker

    I have seen some less than qualified people get their permits. So having the permits alone and carrying means nothing. It is being aware of your surroundings and having the training to back you up that would have prepared you to react to a situation like this.

    Also, being shot with a body armor on is still no joke. People make it sound like someone couldn’t be stopped with a body armor on unless you have rifle calibers.

    • 9Spoon9

      Thinker…you are correct on the untrained! Risky business with the case in point of the “71yr old man at the Internet Cafe” His ?”style”? of shootig spoke volumes about your point.
      A single layer of body armor will allow a handgun bullet strike to hurt like hell and leave bruises, but the wearer will suvive. Foot/ankle/leg shots with the perfect “right between the eys” brain crusher will defeat armor, at least enough to render all but the most crazed lunatic…and that’s where a head shot counts! In the heat of battle, only a well-trained pistolero may make it count 9 out of 10 times. LEOs…we’ve seen them miss all too many times in a bullet exchange with a BG.
      PRACTICE folks and practice correctly in all possible shooting positions! The lives we may have to one day save…?

  • James

    I would rather a physco have to go to the black market to get an assualt rifle then buy it online anyday. At least we know we are trying to stop them.

    • FloridaHillbilly

      “Trying to stop them” by limiting sales, KNOWING they can get it anyway?

      I’d sleep easier too…whew! glad we tried! The theater comapny “tried” to keep guns out, making legal concealed carriers unable to do so.Tell they families of the 12 dead and see how consoled they’ll be knowing “We tried”.

    • http://www.facebook.com/people/Dan-Ess/100000666571492 Dan Ess

      Sure, it’s a grand idea: Psychos have to buy their weapons through the black market. Now, how do you know who the psychos are? I take it you are saying that those who are not psychos can still purchase on-line, right?

  • c71inc

    I am a licensed and law-abiding gun owner with a CCP. I agree with the fundamental principle of the article – nothing is going to stop someone from committing a crime like this. The only hope is to restrict the flow of illegally sold guns, so that only those of us who obey the law stay armed.
    I have to say that the most disheartening thing is the other comments. No disrespect to the posters, but blaming violence on video games is a copout, and saying that everything would be “easily averted” with an armed citizen is a dream. Would a gunfight between two civilians (one evil, one in self-defense) make this a better scenario? Even well trained cops would have a heck of a time dealing with an armored target in a crowded room with limited movement, multiple friendlies, and smoke bombs. A real gun fight is not a Hollywood sequence, respectfully. I believe in an armed citizenry 100%, but I don’t pretend that “shooting back” makes all the bad things in the world go away. It is that gung-ho extremist attitude that makes our position so easy for anti-gunners to exploit. To say guns are the only answer is just as narrow-minded as saying taking away all guns is the answer.

    • bucket

      Talk about narrow minded, do you have a better answer? Gun free zone, gun control, and other laws are aimed at law abiding people. how would you feel if you were there being shot knowing your gun was in the car. wake up .

  • http://www.facebook.com/people/Joseph-Jr-Vanchieri/100000630756130 Joseph Jr Vanchieri

    It is a little bothersome that we have to explain simple things to uncomplicated people. If you are one of the ” nobody needs guns ” people then you have no place in this conversation. Every citizen with and IQ above 80 knows that law abiding citizens stop violent attacks on a daily bases. I can’t see how gun-law advocates can sit back and say they are happy the way this ended and the police got there as fast as they can. How does their concious let them sleep? Anywhere there is a large number of people gathering you need security( armed ) or armed citizens or both. We have the right to defend ourselves no matter where we are. If I was one of the famiy members of one of the victims I would sue the movie theater for their lack of security and making rules that negate our 2nd amendment rights.

  • 9Spoon9

    First of all, Colorado’s Legislative body has given a whole discloser where there are contradictions in the CO State Statutes. I wrote ‘a book’ about it on another site. Won’t repeat it here.
    CO will issue…so why don’t they allow CCW in all by schools, courthouses, bars like a majority of other states. They say nothing can prohibit the 2nd Amendment/God-give right of self defense and that other’s can’t infringe, but yet allow it. In MO, we can carry in a bar (any establishment that derives over 50% of their business from alcohol sales) with the owner’s/manager’s permission…just don’t be packing and drinking if you know what I mean.
    They did have one good point. Draft and print your own business card/flier to hand to businesses/owners that post signs with the prohibition (they are within their rights on this point) that reads: NO GUNS = NO BUSINESS/MONEY FROM CCW/ME/US”.
    I bet there are a lot of folks “packing” in CO and everywhere across the USA now with little or no regard for signages. Shrewd carry beat being carried by 6! It’s a matter of personal choice.

  • Kimball

    I’m tired of people saying he ‘must be crazy’ how else could he have done this? How about calling it what it is. If it walks like a duck and talks like a duck than he is an evil person. Evil is Evil. Bad is Bad. People do evil and bad stuff all they time, they’ve been doing it since time began. You cannot make a law that stops people from doing evil things. I walk into stores and business where I do business every day with my CC, even if they have a sign that says ‘No Weapons’ no way am I going to be crouching in the corner or down the frozen food section thinking “Oh, crap…my gun is in the car” while my family gets shot up. I’ll take the MISDEMEANOR in the state of Arizona over having to second guess my whole life(or loosing it) as to why I wasn’t a man when the devil came to do evil.

  • Doby Tillis

    The gun/ammunition argument has no bearing on this discussion at all. Iv’e CC’ed for almost 20 years and thank goodness, so far I’ve not been in a situation to use my training to stop a creep like this. I’ve worked in corrections and law enforcement and I’ve seen what would appear to be normal people do some very depraved things. Evil will always appear in the absence of goodness. It is your responsibility to yourself, your family and society to monitor your own mental well-being. Morality and religion have served this role in the past, but modern society seems hell-bent on excluding moral responsibility from daily life. As long as we continue to do so, society will create monsters like this from the same people you live around every day.

  • Nick

    Id rather be judged by 12 than carried out by 6… Easy, simple and a god given inalienable right.

    Don’t like it there are other countries that would love to have you, disarmed of course. Let me be the first to say goodbye.

    Goodbye.

  • hng

    It is obvious that “gun free zones” means only that law-abiding citizens won’t bring their gun in, the criminals will. Laws,signs, etc. do no good at stopping criminal activity or the actions of mentally disturbed individuals. A criminal with a gun is usually stopped by someone else with a gun, someone who is not a criminal–like you or me. Well trained armed citizenry combined with well trained armed law enforcement can and will stop criminals.

  • Cherie

    Great story–I totally agree.

  • http://www.facebook.com/people/Dan-Ess/100000666571492 Dan Ess

    Very good piece Mr. Jones, I liked it a lot. There is much truth to it. Not that everything applies to all people, but there of course, plenty of people who no longer or maybe never have seen or understand the difference between fantasy/imagination and reality. I think there was a good case made of that concept long ago with the D&D crowd. Video games have just gotten into some heads even deeper. There may be some forms of regulation that could be instituted that might help keep the nation safer overall. I think a good place to start would be to eliminate or standardize reciprocity across the entire USA. It’s one nation with one constitution and we should be able to carry anywhere we go if we are legal to do so, based on the current ideology of safe risk per the gun purchase verification process.I personally have no issue with requiring all gun owners to pass a standardized training process and right to to carry conceal or open carry and use of deadly force exam. All states should have the same standards regarding all gun policies. Some are too lenient and a handfull are not only too strict, but there system is biased and corrupt. There is no reason to regulate magazine size, weapon type (outside of current restrictions, could be more relaxed in some areas) or amount of ammo allowed to purchase. We need better education of the dangers of firearms in the wrong hands and the devastation firearms can inflict. I firmly believe that early education of firearms would make our society a safer place. As would national reciprocity equality and standardized certification of those who carry conceal and or open carry. Some states require hunter certification, personal defense certification should be no different. Do we want LEO or Military personnel that are not trained?, so why would we want to accept untrained and certified citizens?

  • love my smith

    First off let me say that I am and always have been a gun owner. I always intend to be. I dont think more laws that dont work or have a chance of being enforced in this case will do anything to protect anyone. I do believe that a ccw COULD have made a big difference as to how many people were hurt or killed here. At very least this guy would have been distracted for awhile maybe letting more get away. Even with body armor it would be VERY hard to keep shooting at anybody else with any kind of accuracy. A .45 probably would have taken him off his feet anyway, a .380, he might still stand but he aint going to be happy. I DO believe that alot of ccw holders get a false security when they carry and that is something we need to work on. At least when I carry I believe I have a chance. It is time for people to take the time to do something for themselves, nobody but you can or will protect you like you will!! just a rule of nature. Thats my 2 cents worth. try to stay safe folks

  • http://twitter.com/lostacresranch Billie Norman

    There is no way of knowing if a CC person could have stopped this. BUT do you really think it could have been worse? So you think if 10 people in that theater had CC permits, and shot at this guy, you think he would have stood there and keep shooting? Of course you have alot of gunfire there is a chance someone gets hit. But there was more chance it would have stopped this than not. Id rather take my chances and shoot back anyday than sit there screaming while a monster kills my friends.

  • hctt

    I repeatedly see reference in comments and forum posts about the “gun free zone”, “law abiding citizens”, “following the rules” , etc. What are the repercussions for breaking “the rules”? At the Aurora theater it would have been being evicted from the theater and missing the movie, nothing more. Sadly following “the rules resulted in 12 senseless murders. I don’t advocate breaking laws, but perhaps if someone had decided not to be a sheep the outcome in Aurora would have been much different.

  • rachegoettin

    The suprise effect of such a heinous attack is so great that very few except for well trained Special Forces veterans would be able to take some form of effective action against such a lunatic and determined killer. Holmes could make sophisticated bombs and booby traps and he could have made his own firearm if no guns were available to him. The sad fact is that such horrible actions but lunatics are not preventable. All we can do is to carry our loaded Sig Sauer P226 or Beretta 92F pistol if we have a CCW permit, learn Karate and Krav Maga and keep very alert everywhere we go. It is a dangerous world out there…

  • Bill

    3 men died sheltering their girlfriends with their bodies…if they had been permitted to carry weapons they might have been willing to die to stop the whole thing; and would not have had to…
    What an injustice .
    I am a korean veteran, 80 years old .
    I carried a BAR; that is a fully automatic weapon
    I was trusted to carry a gun for my country all those years ago…why should I not be trusted now?
    What right does anyone have to take away my right to defend myself and those I love?

    • Fletch

      How is this not the TOP comment?!
      Thank you sir, for your service and wisdom.

  • Jess

    It just makes me sick. This is why I still carry my concealed weapon in certian places regardless of a ban or not. To protect myself! Not saying it happens all of the time like at the movie theater. But its the “What If” aspect. This was a great article!
    I have to agree with buckets comment too. Criminals make their own rules. They will not follow gun control rules.

  • robert

    i am ccw holder. often times i think about incidents like this.i had one person ask why do you carry a gun anyways. my answer was well i cant carry a policeman in my pocket all day can you?seeing all the comments all i can say is we really need to enforce the laws we have and stop letting guys like holems and other of his sort get through the cracks

  • SittingMoose Shaman

    …it IS…MY natural, guaranteed CIVIL RIGHT! Period. I need NOT to explain to ANY man or tyrant bastard in that fly-drawing, elitist post-WW2 nazi-esque U.S. Socialist ‘Democratic’ Party or their uber-rich top GOP cohorts…

  • NJ DAVE

    ILLEGAL TO CARRY…BUT IF ITS LEGAL, RESTRICT WHEN YOU CAN SHOOT, IF YOU SHOOT , DONT SHOOT IF BAD GUY IS RETREATING. STILL SHOOTING BECAUSE BAD GUY IS STILL A THREAT? PROSECUTE GOOD GUY. HOW MANY STUPID LAWS CAN WE PASS? ASK NJ LEGISLATURE. OUR LAWS HAVE TO PASS STUPID TEST BEFORE BEING VOTED ON