An apparent lone gunman’s rampage in a Denver movie theater during a midnight showing of “The Dark Knight Rises,” raises questions once again about the easy availability of guns and the prevailing social psychology that motivates people to engage in wanton murder.

According to police, the shooter, identified as James Holmes, 24, of Aurora, Colo., had no discernible motive and has no links to any organized terrorist group.

“We’re treating this as an active shooter investigation working with Aurora police,” according to an FBI statement. “No indications at this early point in the investigation of any nexus to terrorism.”

The shooting, which left 12 people dead and at least 50 wounded, appears so far to be the random act of a loner. Holmes is not known to have a criminal record, the only real impediment to obtaining weapons. As it was, he had no trouble buying four weapons and a bulletproof vest to commit the crime.

Holmes also reportedly told police he had explosives in his car and his apartment. Explosives require special permits to obtain, making them far more difficult to buy than a gun. Not surprisingly, no explosives have been found.

Easy access to guns, of course, is only part of the problem. The other question to ask is what motivates individuals to shoot innocent, unarmed people in a random, cold-blooded mass murder. Alienation, frustration, isolation? There are no easy answers.

Holmes appears to have had no history of treatment for mental illness. He obviously values his own life. He surrendered without incident when confronted by police.

The fact that the shooting occurred at a midnight showing of “The Dark Knight Rises” seems at this point to be nothing more than a target of opportunity where the gunman knew a large, unsuspecting, and largely captive, gathering of people would be waiting.

Would more security at the theater have helped? Perhaps have ushers stationed at the emergency exits might have prevented the shooter’s ability to use the emergency exit to get back inside the theater after leaving to arm himself. But where do you draw the line on security and at what cost?

These crimes occur largely because they are random and, therefore, unpredictable. Is this the price we pay for a free society, or can more be done?
Let us know your thoughts.

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