Aurora shootings: Is there any precedent?

Sadly, acts of random gun violence in the United States have occurred in a wide variety of places. Those include schools (the Virginia Tech massacre in 2007 and the Columbine, Colo., shootings in 1999, among other tragedies) and military bases (Fort Hood, Texas, in 2009).

But there has never been a shooting in a movie theater on the order of the tragedy in Aurora, Colo., where at least 12 people are dead and 38 injured after a man opened fire at a “The Dark Knight Rises” screening early Friday morning.

Previous incidents of gun violence in movie theaters have resulted in few fatalities. In January 2010, a man opened fire in a Philadelphia-area movie theater, striking a Drexel University student and an off-duty police officer. Both were seriously wounded but survived.

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In 2009, a movie patron in Homestead, Pa., was shot and later died after an altercation following the screening of the 50 Cent movie “Get Rich or Die Tryin’.” The shooting resulted in the film being pulled from the theater and a public comment from 50 Cent denouncing violence.


And more than 20 years ago, violence erupted at several screenings of the street drama “New Jack City.” Among the incidents, gang gunfire at a Brooklyn theater resulted in the death of one man, while looting and other violence broke out in Westwood after would-be ticket-buyers were informed a screening of the film was sold out.

Nor have incidents been limited to this country. In a disturbing turn in Latvia last year, a moviegoer killed another manat a showing of"Black Swan"because the second man was chewing popcorn too loudly.

Unfortunately, as law-enforcement officials pointed out Friday morning, a movie theater could again become a venue for violence in the future. The crowds and the dim lighting offer a tempting target for a would-be gunman, and many theaters are reluctant to move to a strict airport-level of security for fear of discouraging customers.


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