**UPDATE: The events described here happened almost one week apart, not one day apart as originally thought. The stark contrast between them is not weakened by the number of days separating them, however. See why below…
Last night’s deadly incident in Aurora, Colorado at the late-night showing of The Dark Knight Rises was a tragedy. Our thoughts and prayers go out to the families of the victims as well as to those survivors who are wounded physically and traumatized.
Word of the incident spread rapidly—as with any situation involving guns and fatalities. By the time I awakened this morning, Facebook and other social media outlets were awash with news of the shooting. Many people expressed sympathies (quite appropriately) and remorse over the absolutely unnecessary loss of life.
One of my first reactions was to recall the signage I’ve seen at our local AMC Theatres location in Sarasota, Florida. The theater has exercised their rights under Florida law to prohibit weapons—including lawfully-carried firearms—on their premises.
This means that law-abiding citizens who wish to respect the wishes of the business will leave their weapons at home (or securely encased in their locked vehicle in the parking lot) or will choose to take their business elsewhere. Either way, this greatly reduces the chances that someone who possesses a legal firearm and is capable of using it will be there to take down a gunman on a shooting spree like the one that took place in Colorado.
Criminals will, of course, ignore the sign.
The Other Shooting Incident
Consider what took place in Marion County, Florida, just
one day six days (turns out the date on the YouTube video didn’t match the date of the event) prior to the Colorado incident. In this case, there were two armed gunmen—this time with robbery as their intent. They entered an internet cafe pointing guns at the customers and making demands for valuables.
This situation did not make national news. It didn’t spread like wildfire through social media. In fact, were it not for the Colorado tragedy, I might not have ever known about it.
Because it ended quite differently. See for yourself:
Regardless of one’s opinions or politics, the law is clear. Florida has a “shall-issue” policy concerning Concealed Carry (CCW) permits, which are available to citizens who pass a background check (no felonies, etc.) and demonstrate basic proficiency with a firearm. This permit authorizes citizens to lawfully carry concealed firearms for their own protection throughout the State with certain notable exceptions (schools, certain government buildings, bars, etc.).
71-year-old Samuel Williams, though admittedly quite scared by the masked gunmen, legally drew his weapon and fired at both of the would-be robbers, who turned up later at hospitals being treated for their gunshot wounds after fleeing the scene empty-handed.
Whether or not the gunmen intended to shoot anyone, the crime was stopped and the man quite justifiably shot them to protect his wife, himself and the other customers at the cafe. More on this story here.
Liability for Deaths & Injuries
All of this begs the question…
Do businesses (like AMC Theatres) have any liability or responsibility for deaths and injuries that occur on their premises because they have prohibited citizens from legally carrying concealed weapons to protect themselves?
I’m not sure whether Samuel Williams would notice or comply with the “No Weapons Allowed” sign at AMC Theatres, but perhaps businesses—especially those that draw large crowds—will reconsider their policies in the aftermath of the Colorado tragedy. I, for one, would want proficient, legally armed citizens nearby if a moron like James Holmes showed up on the scene intending to do harm.
For the record, I’m not familiar with the policies of the Century 16 Theater, owned by Cinemark Theaters. Speculations abound. If the theater prohibits legal firearms like AMC Theatres does in their locations nationwide, then the Samuel Williams of the world won’t be there to return fire.
With 12 dead and as many as 59 injured, this incident is being reported as the largest mass shooting in U.S. history. Ultimately the responsibility for this tragedy lies with the shooter. However, I have to wonder what businesses are thinking when they attempt to prohibit legal firearms. And I’m sure that the families of the victims as well as the 59 injured will be considering this in the days ahead.