Jan 14

smoking-guns

A man and his wife were shot in a movie theater yesterday for texting and allegedly making noise. This happened in Florida, in a prominent neighborhood that many friends of mine live in. One friend told me that a fellow band mate of his had gotten into it with the shooter prior to the incident and is now counting his blessings that he wasn’t the one to take a shot from the .380 handgun. What we know is that tempers, seating, and a theater’s failure to act has cost us the life of a father and a husband.

Opportunists are already treating this story as a call to arms (no pun intended) for anti-gun rhetoric, or a cry for citizens to get concealed weapons permits en masse. This latter call baffles me given that I never hear stories about armed bystander guy saving the day (or himself) due to packing his heat at the right time. To put it frankly it’s all sensationalist bullshit. The man who was shot and killed was later found to be checking up on his baby daughter–which further agitated the man behind him–but this too is another controlling byline to pull more sympathy out of us. The story for me is a simple one. There was someone being disruptive in a movie theater and another person–that was paranoid enough to bring a gun into the theater–thought it was worth taking his life for the annoyance.

The shooter is an old man, a retired police chief of all things, and there is no amount of time or punishment that will be enough for what he did. What this disaster has left for us in it’s wake is a wave of paranoia, anger, and ultimately a feeling of helplessness. When you are in the theater you are surrounded on all sides by people, tight seats, and steep staircases. Beyond the theater being entertainment’s worst fire hazard, it is also a free-range shooting gallery for any nut with a gun. Let us not forget the tragedy of Aurora, Colorado when one coward with a big gun decided to unload on a theater full of people.

Placing The Blame In The Right Place

When we hear of these incidents our first emotion is one of fear, then in sets the regret, and finally a reactionary response. We let the cynical gun nuts convince us that a cowboy reality with everyone wearing six-shooters will stop these incidents, or opting to stay home and pirate movies will keep us safe. Being a firm believer of “when your time is up it’s up”, I cannot imagine living a life of paranoia based on the often heard tragedies of violence that happens every single minute. But who isn’t being discussed in these tragedies? The theater and it’s design, and I wonder if I am the only one that notices how nothing has changed in modern cinemas to influence tolerance among audience members, and safety.

We have allowed the movie industry to reap enormous benefits from our patronage while letting them slide on the things that are given back to us. We still have tight seats which allow people to place their feet on our chairs and kick us in the head. We still have seats so close that one guy checking his phone can completely ruin our immersion into what’s being shown on screen, and we still have no monitoring, no checks and balances, and no reassurance. The old man who pulled the trigger had gone to the theater staff about the man’s disruptive behavior but was not given the type of customer service that would have cooled the situation.

Theaters hire children, too young to care, and too green to be authoritative whenever the need is there to cull a situation. I can’t count the amount of times I have lost my temper over someone else violating in the theater and it isn’t always that I am able to sit back and take a breath. Place someone in that situation who is at the end of his line, doesn’t feel as if the theater staff will help, and has a dangerous weapon and you have a disaster on your hands.

Theaters MUST Change

What I would like to ask of you all reading is that while you are making your plans to buy up guns, avoid the movies (for all of two weeks… I mean come on lets be honest about it), and get up and leave when people start beefing; think about what can be done to get the theaters of America to change. When I see movies from the 50’s the layout of the theater is damn near identical to what we have now and I wonder at how they are able to get away with that after so many factors have presented themselves to warrant change. Let’s reward the theaters that are actually trying to fix these things and remove our patronage from those who won’t. From where I sit this is the only thing we can realistically do to slow the tempers, the shootings, and the violence that has become a standard with the American cinema.

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  • Tony Broomes

    The blame isn’t on the theater here, It’s squarely on the man who brought the gun to the movie. The theater had a hand in the escalation especially since he went out to complain, but pulling the trigger, no that’s on the shooter. Could a redesign of the theater help, sure, but ultimate responsibility for pulling the trigger is always on the man with his finger on the trigger.

    I read that he tried to invoke “Stand Your Ground” which is laughable since he left the movie to get the other guy kicked out and was only being assaulted with popcorn once he came back.