The nation awoke Friday morning to the grisly news of the movie theater massacre in suburban Denver.
A gunman, armed with what turned out to be a military-style semi-automatic assault weapon, a shotgun, pistols and hundreds of rounds of ammunition, opened fire on the crowd that packed into the Century 16 theater Thursday in Aurora, Colo. for the midnight showing of the new Batman movie, “The Dark Knight Rises.”
Twelve people, including a 6-year-old girl, were killed and 58 were wounded.
As the nation mourned the theater killings, Rev. Jesse Jackson was joined Sunday by several youth, faith leaders and others – including members of the West Point Baptist Church — outside the AMC River East 21 Theater, to pray for the Colorado victims and their families. He also called for gun control, including a revival of the assault weapons ban that expired in 2004.
The civil rights leader and Rainbow PUSH Coalition founder said that Friday’s carnage was one of the latest events to evoke widespread fear.
“Movies are a place where people can go freely, relax and enjoy themselves. Now people are afraid. If they’re afraid to go to the movies, they’ll be afraid to go to any public places. … We’re living under domestic terrorism and it’s a national security issue. We would hope that the president and (presumptive Republican presidential candidate Mitt) Romney would make this central to the national debate: Revive the ban on assault weapons,” Jackson told the Chicago Citizen as he walked in circles outside the movie theater.
Aurora, Colo. police Chief Dan Oates said in a news conference Saturday that the accused killer, James Holmes, 24, legally owned all of the weapons and ammunition he allegedly used in his spree. Holmes had recently bought the weapons at a gun shop there and had purchased 6,000 rounds of ammunition online, according to Oates.
Condolences poured in from all over the country and President Barack Obama cut short a campaign event in Ft. Myers, Fla. and cancelled one scheduled for Winter Park, Fla. The movie’s premiere in Paris was also cancelled.
“As we do when confronted by moments of darkness and challenge, we must now come together as one American family. All of us must have the people of Aurora in our thoughts and prayers as they confront the loss of family, friends, and neighbors, and we must stand together with them in the challenging hours and days to come,” Obama said in a written statement released by the White House after news of the shootings broke.
“I hope that over the next several days, next several weeks, and next several months, we all reflect on how we can do something about some of the senseless violence that ends up marring this country,” Obama said after visiting Sunday with survivors and victims’ families.
Jackson and demonstrators reflected on Chicago. Similar Rainbow PUSH Coalition-sponsored prayer demonstrations were held the same day in cities from Boston to San Francisco.
“The Dark Knight Rises” is playing at both of I.C.E. Theater owner Alisa Starks’ movie houses and also featured midnight screenings of the movie are scheduled there. In the wake of the Colorado killings and calls for beefed up security at movie theaters, Starks said she doesn’t expect to make many security changes at her Chatham and Lawndale theaters.
“We already have sufficient security measures in place,” Starks told the Chicago Citizen. She explained that she would, however, follow the industry’s lead. Starks added that what happened in Colorado was a “tragedy” that no one could have predicted.
Sean Crayton, 34, demonstrated Sunday with other members of his West Point Baptist Church and Jackson as a show of “compassion” for the Colorado victims but also to call attention to gun violence that is also rampant in here.
“I was appalled to hear about (the Colorado shootings). … The worst part I felt about it was the fear they gave everybody on the news saying ‘be careful when you go to the movie theater,’” he said. “When did you have to start looking out for people at a movie theater? That’s a family, fun place to go to.”
Jackson said gun violence has put many urban areas, including Chicago, in a “state of emergency.” He said those who are staunchly pro-gun also get financial gain from them.
“They’re profiting from war, from guns and gun flow,” he said. “The gun factories make money, the gun lobbyists make money, the gun salesmen make money and the NRA invest in the politicians.
Illinois is the only state in the nation to ban concealed weapons in public. Chicago had its handgun ban struck down by the Supreme Court in 2010.
By Rhonda Gillespie