Now it’s normal to carry a gun to a movie


Tampa Bay Times

It should have been a mundane Monday afternoon at the movies, people settling in their seats for a film about Navy SEALs. It should have been that everyday escape into familiar dimmed lights and popcorn smells, air-conditioned and safe, with Raisinets.

It couldn’t have been more normal, more everyday-in-America.

A man there to see Lone Survivor with his son — a movie title lost on no one afterward — would later say two guys got into an argument during the previews. The younger was texting. The older wanted him to stop. Older guy complained to management. At some point, popcorn flew.

And how everyday-America is that, too — technology and common courtesy, butting heads?

It might have ended in a few harsh words, a punch, somebody asked to leave. Conan O’Brien could have made late-night fun of two Florida guys duking it out at the movies over texting.

Except there was a gun.

Now a 43-year-old husband and father is pointlessly dead, a 71-year-old respected retired cop charged with second-degree murder.

Because, even in a place as benign as your local movie theater, there was a gun.

The words are grim déjà vu. Three years ago and one county south, a man named Trevor Dooley got in a truly stupid dispute at a park over whether a kid was allowed to skateboard there.

A neighbor disagreed. It might have been fisticuffs at worst, but for the gun tucked in Dooley’s pants.

Now 73, he is out on bail appealing a manslaughter conviction and eight-year prison sentence. The little girl who was playing basketball with her dad at the park that day is growing up without him.

Where isn’t there a gun anymore? Not far away, the University of South Florida was recently forced to let students keep guns in their cars because of an appeals court ruling. We are gun-mad, with no plans to change.

If 20 schoolchildren shot dead in Connecticut aren’t enough to make us look hard at our gun culture, can anything?

The New York Times reports that in the year since the elementary school massacre, 109 state gun bills became law, 70 of which loosened gun restrictions.

In the Wesley Chapel movie shooting, I’m betting on a “stand your ground” defense based on our infamous law that says you have no obligation to retreat if you feel justifiably threatened.

Given that the weapon apparently was popcorn, such a defense would have to do with sudden moves in a dark theater. And maybe that the man with the gun, Curtis Reeves Jr., had impressive law-enforcement experience with firearms and tense SWAT situations.

And I’m guessing there won’t be nearly as much discussion about why in the world a gun was there in the first place.

Do we even care about these stories anymore? By the following morning, a local radio wag was referring to Reeves as “Old Man Shoots-A-Lot.” Ha.

Still, it made us news right up to CNN. “It was a movie theater,” says Pasco Sheriff Chris Nocco. “Those are places we automatically assume to be safe.” Or, not.

One of the witnesses, the former Marine there to catch an afternoon film with his son, said this: “I can’t believe anybody would bring a gun to a movie.”

Believe it. Turns out it’s who we are.

Sue Carlton is a columnist for the Tampa Bay Times.

Read more Other Views stories from the Miami Herald



    Dade, Broward lead the way

    Miami-Dade and Broward county jails have stopped detaining immigrants for the federal government at taxpayers’ expense. Florida’s other jails and prisons should do the same.

 <span class="cutline_leadin">GANG WARFARE</span>: The end of a truce between street gangs in El Salvador has led to a steep rise in homicides this year, adding impetus to the migration of youths and children to the United States.


    The real failure in Central America

    The failure to manage the crisis of Central American child refugees at the Mexican border is not only about the inability to enact a comprehensive immigration policy reform. The real problem is the failure to build transparent and competent criminal justice institutions in Central America, especially after millions of American dollars have been provided to reform and strengthen security institutions there.

 <span class="cutline_leadin">EXULTING:</span> Vladimir Putin is still refusing to accept complicity in the shootdown of a Malaysian airliner as Western leaders fail to agree on sanctions.


    Historians will recall our leaders’ inaction

    When historians look back on 2014, they will note not just how flagrantly Vladimir Putin disregarded international law or how stubbornly Gaza and Israel kept firing missiles at each other. They will also be puzzled at how poorly the United States handled its economy.

Miami Herald

Join the

The Miami Herald is pleased to provide this opportunity to share information, experiences and observations about what's in the news. Some of the comments may be reprinted elsewhere on the site or in the newspaper. We encourage lively, open debate on the issues of the day, and ask that you refrain from profanity, hate speech, personal comments and remarks that are off point. Thank you for taking the time to offer your thoughts.

The Miami Herald uses Facebook's commenting system. You need to log in with a Facebook account in order to comment. If you have questions about commenting with your Facebook account, click here.

Have a news tip? You can send it anonymously. Click here to send us your tip - or - consider joining the Public Insight Network and become a source for The Miami Herald and el Nuevo Herald.

Hide Comments

This affects comments on all stories.

Cancel OK

  • Marketplace

Today's Circulars

  • Quick Job Search

Enter Keyword(s) Enter City Select a State Select a Category