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Discretion crushed in theater shooting

Posted Jan 13, 2014 by Tom Jackson

Updated Jan 13, 2014 at 09:03 PM

You could jawbone this a thousand years and still never come up with a decent explanation for why what happened inside auditorium No. 10 at the Cobb Grove 16 multiplex had to happen.

One man is dead and another is in jail — and likely will never walk free again — over what? The victim was rude and had a smart mouth, the suspect had a low threshold for violence. Together, the pair formed an explosive mixture. Is this what we think “stand your ground” means now? Has discretion lost all its valor?

Yeah, Chad Oulson, forever 43, was texting in the wrong place, and by mocking the 71-year-old Curtis Reeves after he returned from seeking help from theater management, he unwittingly splashed gas on a smoldering fire.

Still, it was the matinee. Witnesses reported a slender crowd; probably 80 percent of the seats were empty. Nobody could have moved? Nobody could have said, “This ain’t worth it,” and found an alternate, equally suitable viewing location? Or are we all Sheldon Coopers now, obsessively compulsive about the ideal place to sit in a movie house?

Time to rethink that dispositional quirk, then.

How does stuff like this escalate? Rudeness becomes an argument; argument rises to shouting; popcorn flies and suddenly, instead of someone responding with Raisinets, there’s a gun and a single world-altering shot. Nicole Oulson, mom of the 3-year-old Chad said he was texting — 3-year-olds have smartphones? — takes a bullet through the hand trying to protect the life of her daughter’s daddy, and suddenly a patch of red blooms on Chad’s shirt.

Perplexed, the dying man utters precisely the right phrase: “I can’t believe I got shot.” No one can. Things like this just don’t happen, until they do. Then, victim, perpetrator or witness, there’s a shared sense of astonishment.

And then Oulson said no more. He chuffed blood and collapsed into the arms of Alex Cummings, celebrating the birthday of his 68-year-old dad Charles, a Vietnam veteran, with an afternoon at the movies.

It was about 1:30 on an otherwise mundane Monday afternoon. The Oulsons and Reeves were on dates. Happy times. They’d waited out the weekend crowds to take in the current No. 1 box office hit: “Lone Survivor,” about four Navy SEALs pinned down by Taliban insurgents in Afghanistan. Three didn’t survive; the fourth — the lone survivor — Navy Cross winner Marcus Luttrell, was recently asked, in light of subsequent events and former Defense Secretary Bob Gates’ book, “Duty,” whether he thought his friends’ sacrifice was worth it.

Time to ask again. Is the thrill of texting when you know it’s provoking others worth risking a bullet? Is enforcing your code of conduct with deadly force worth the rest of your life behind bars? The questions answer themselves. Nobody’s looking for super-tough guys at a Monday matinee.

So that’s it. Let the usual suspects chew over the fresh evidence — and, oh, they just cannot wait! — regarding whether we should confiscate everybody’s guns, or whether we should make sure everybody is armed.

But as they take up the cause once more, this also must be weighed: Birmingham, Ala.-based Cobb Theaters has a gun-free zone policy, and that’s exactly what the Cobb Grove 16 in Wesley Chapel was … until Curtis Reeves showed up Monday afternoon.

Reader Comments

Por (Sianmink) on January 14, 2014 (Suggest removal)

Why… why drag Stand Your Ground into this, when it had no bearing on anything? Are you just trying to get more hits to your blog?

At the very least, this tragedy where perhaps noone save the wife was entirely innocent, but one was certainly more guilty than anyone else, sheds light on what a fanciful, air-headed fantasy ‘gun free zones’ are.

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