As more news emerged about the mass shooting early Friday morning in a Colorado theater showing the latest "Batman" movie, Sunday became a day of remembering the victims in prayerful memorials, a visit by President Obama to thank first responders and the families of those lost and wounded, and a continuing discussion of gun violence in America.
Aurora, Colo., police report that all of the hazardous material in alleged shooter James Holmes’s booby-trapped apartment had been removed and transported to a disposal site. Meanwhile, an FBI Evidence Response Team (ERT) remains on scene processing the apartment for evidence.
Mr. Holmes is scheduled to be arraigned Monday morning. He is reported to be in solitary confinement for his own protection from other inmates who threatened his life upon hearing that his alleged victims included young children.
Officials report that Holmes was able to buy two handguns, a shotgun, an assault rifle, and about 6,000 rounds of ammunition in recent months – all of it legally.
While Mr. Obama and the Republican presidential candidate (and most elected officials, for that matter) have largely stayed clear of the politically toxic subject of gun control, that is not true of all officials.
“As things stand right now, there is absolutely nothing to stop another madman – or even someone on the terror watch list – from walking into a gun store and buying all the large-capacity bullet magazines he could carry,” she said Saturday. Cosponsoring the legislation is Rep. Carolyn McCarthy, also a New York Democrat, whose husband was killed and son severely wounded by a man who randomly shot 25 passengers on a Long Island Rail Road commuter train in 1993.
“It’s up to these two presidential candidates,” Mr. Bloomberg said, referring to Obama and Mitt Romney. “They want to lead this country, and they’ve said things before that they’re in favor of banning things like assault weapons. Where are they now, and why don’t they stand up? And if they want our votes, they better.”
Because it happened not far away in Colorado, the moments of terrifying shooting in Aurora brought to mind the 1999 massacre at Columbine High School.
Tom Mauser, whose 16-year-old son Daniel was killed that day, has become a strong gun control advocate.
"We’ve seen mass shootings in just about any place you can imagine: movie theaters, bars, nursing homes, schools," he told the Huffington Post, noting that more people die in gun violence every day than the death toll in Aurora.
"People see cases like this and say 'it's really terrible but let's not change our gun laws,' " he said. “I think Americans have simply come to learn to accept this level of violence, and many don’t realize that most other developed nations don’t have this kind of problem. It's easy to say this is the price you pay for our freedoms when it's not your child or your neighbor or your friend."
Based on the years he spent studying the mass shooting in Littleton, Colo., 13 years ago, Dave Cullen – author of the book “Columbine” – cautions the public, the media, and even those considered experts not to rush to conclusions about Holmes’s character, personality, and motivation.
To his regret, he joined others in doing just that with Eric Harris and Dylan Klebold, the students at Columbine High School who killed 12 classmates and a teacher, wounding 26 others before killing themselves. What he found was a far more complicated and in some ways surprising story than had been portrayed about the killers.
“Over the next several days, you will be hit with all sorts of evidence fragments suggesting one motive or another. Don’t believe any one detail,” he wrote in a New York Times op-ed column Sunday. “Resist the temptation to extrapolate details prematurely into a whole…. The killer is rarely who he seems.”
As has been the case with other mass shootings (Columbine, Virginia Tech, and Tucson, Ariz., where Rep. Gabrielle Giffords was severely wounded), there’s a fear that too much media attention and speculation – poring over details without adding much understanding – could trigger copycat attacks.
"The media has a real dilemma that I don't know the answer to," Kenneth Lanning, a former FBI behavioral scientist, told ABC News. "I'm not going to suggest they don't cover it, but this will be all over the place, and that fuels the problem of this happening again. It guarantees that one guy with problems will say that's what I want."
A prayer vigil is to be held in Aurora Sunday evening, and Obama was scheduled to spend several hours there late Sunday afternoon.
"These families need that kind of contact by our elected leader," Aurora police chief Dan Oates said on "Face the Nation." "It will be very powerful and it will help them. As awful as what they've been through and what they're going through has been, having the president here is very, very powerful, it means a great deal to them and all of Aurora.”
The Associated Press reports the following:
Aurora shooting suspect James Holmes applied to join a Colorado gun range but never became a member after the owner became concerned over his "bizarre" message and behavior.
Owner Glenn Rotkovich says Mr. Holmes e-mailed an application to join the Lead Valley Range in Byers on June 25 and there were no overt warning signs in that form.
Holmes said he was not a user of illegal drugs or a convicted felon, so Mr. Rotkovich followed up by calling Holmes's apartment to invite him to a mandatory orientation the following week. Rotkovich got Holmes's answering machine and says "it was bizarre – guttural, freakish at best."
Rotkovich left two other messages but eventually told his staff to watch for Holmes at the July 1 orientation and not to accept him into the club.