No additional security was present outside of Harkins Bricktown Cinemas during Friday's afternoon showings of “The Dark Knight Rises,” despite news of a shooting during the midnight premiere of “The Dark Knight Rises” at a theater in Aurora, Colo. All show times at Harkins ran as previously scheduled.
Most moviegoers were aware of the shooting that killed at least 12 and injured at 58 others, but that didn't deter them from going to see what some expected to be the summer's biggest blockbuster.
Aurora police identified the shooting suspect as 24-year-old James Holmes.
“It's probably an isolated incident,” said Gareth Harrier, who saw “The Dark Knight Rises” at Harkins. “You can't go through life trying to avoid crazy people; you never know when you're going to encounter them.”
Harrier, who is from Fort Worth, Texas, was in Oklahoma City for a wedding this weekend. Harrier said he discussed the shooting with a friend before going to the theater but never considered changing his plans.
Some spontaneous moviegoers also decided in favor of seeing the film. Barbara Dalton, from Jenks, decided to take her son, Bryan Davis, 15, to the movie before driving back home. Her son had been attending a summer camp near Canton Lake.
Dalton spoke about the shooting with her son beforehand, but both decided there was nothing to fear.
“It's not going to stop me from going to the movies, but it's still tragic,” Dalton said. “It's horrible.”
Managers at both Harkins and Cinemark Tinseltown in northeast Oklahoma City declined to comment on how the shooting might affect security at their theaters. Calls to both of their corporate offices were not immediately returned.
Kim Carter, director of the Oklahoma Office of Homeland Security, said concern has grown over about so-called “soft targets” such as shopping malls and theaters in light of attacks like those at Columbine and Virginia Tech.
The operators of most such venues already have taken what precautions they probably can, he said.
In the end, there simply isn't much more that can be done once the shooting starts.
“Quite honestly, there's not a lot of ways that a person can protect themselves in an … environment like that,” he said.
But Carter is convinced that during the course of the investigations, lawmakers will find witnesses who were aware that Holmes was planning something.
“I feel confident there's going to be people identified who will say in retrospect … ‘I see now what he was up to and should have told someone,'” Carter said.
Gun control debate
The shooting revived the debate over gun control laws, with some calling for tighter restrictions.
Police said the gunman had a military-style semi-automatic rifle, a shotgun and a pistol.
But Miles Hall, founder and president of H&H Shooting Sports Complex in Oklahoma City, said such tragedies point out the need for an armed citizenry.
He questioned whether a “no-guns allowed” policy at the Aurora theater might have contributed to the carnage.
“It just opens the environment for bad people to do bad things,” said Hall, who supports concealed carry laws.
“I wish somebody … could have put up some kind of defense. It just breaks your heart.”