Could a Brave Citizen With a Concealed Weapon Have Prevented the Aurora Shootings?

Reporting on Politics and Policy.
July 20 2012 1:40 PM

Could a Brave Citizen With a Concealed Weapon Have Prevented the Aurora Shootings?

Pet theory, hard to prove: Rep. Louie Gohmert, R-Texas, was actually invented by liberal blogs in order to put ridiculous statements in the mouths of Republicans. Jennifer Bendery listens to Gohmert on the Heritage Foundation's interview show. I'll skip past the moralizing (which is really happening in both directions—Gohmert's and the angry commenters), and focus on Gohmert's theory that a brave citizen could have stopped James Holmes. (Gohmert is talking to former congressman Ernie Istook.)

David Weigel David Weigel

David Weigel is a Slate political reporter. 

GOHMERT: Before we ever had concealed carry in Texas, there was just a senseless shooting, years ago, in Kileen, Texas, in a restaurant. If we'd had concealed-carry permits at the time—there was a woman who had to leave her gun in her car. If we'd had concealed carry, the guy would have been stopped before he killed so many people. And I don't know what the laws all are in Colorado, but we've found over and over again, when people are authorized to carry ...
ISTOOK: Colorado does have concealed-carry permits.
GOHMERT: OK. It does make me wonder, with all those people in the theater, was there nobody that was carrying a gun that could have stopped this guy more quickly? I mean, in Tyler, Texas, my home town, we had a shooter come in over a domestic matter and just start shooting people. And it was a guy with a concealed carry—he got killed, but his shooting at this guy caused him to run and no doubt saved a lot of lives. He was hero.
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It'll be a while before we hear anything so knuckleheaded about the shootings. The fact that Colorado has these laws is evidence that they don't stop all massacres. (UPDATE: Really important note—these theaters didn't allow weapons inside.) What massacres can they stop? Well, in April—in Aurora—Kiarron Parker went on a shooting spree during a church service. He was stopped after an off-duty cop, Antonio Milow, pulled his concealed weapon and killed him. Gohmert recalls the 2005 incident in Tyler when Mark Allen Wilson saw a man, David Hernandez Arroyo, in a stand-off outside of a courthouse; Wilson disrupted the crime by shooting him.

Let's compare.

Kiarron Parker. He entered an open space (the church) during daylight hours and moved around the building looking for victims. He was shot by an off-duty cop with training unavailable to the average bystander.

David Hernandez Arroyo. He wasn't stopped until he was outside the courthouse—another open space in daylight. The hero heard the shooting while in another building, came over, and got the drop on Arroyo.

James Holmes. He wore a bulletproof vest, helmet, and gask mask, and entered a movie theater that was playing The Dark Knight Rises—so the room was dark and loud. He tossed a "gas canister" that went off and would have obscured the vision of anyone looking back at him. From the AP:

They saw a silhouette of a person in the haze near the screen, pointing a gun at the crowd and then shooting.
"There were bullet (casings) just falling on my head. They were burning my forehead," Jennifer Seeger said, adding that the gunman, dressed like a SWAT team member, fired steadily, stopping only to reload.
"Every few seconds it was just: Boom, boom, boom," she said. "He would reload and shoot and anyone who would try to leave would just get killed."

You've got dark, panic, an enclosed space, and some kind of painful gas. No one's in any position to get the jump on the shooter. No one has a place to hide from him—he has a perfect vantage point of every seat. And he's wearing protective gear.

So, I think the answer for Gohmert is: No. No one was in an ideal position to pull a Dirty Harry on the man shooting at him/her in a panicked theater.

For a second opinion, read my interview with firearms safety trainer Greg Block.

David Weigel is a Slate political reporter. 

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