I’ve been closely watching the news feeds on the theater shooting in Colorado. My condolences go out the the victims, their families, and friends. Of course there’s a lot in the news regarding movie theater security. It seems like we’re always fighting the last war – in that we never seem to see this stuff coming and take action to prevent or mitigate it. We are completely reactive in this country when it comes to matters of security. How many people need to die before we become proactive?
As I mentioned before, I’ve read a lot about movie theater security and so far every report I’ve read is missing the point. They’re talking about metal detectors, armed guards, and even one theater owner who went out and bought a gun the day after the rampage in Colorado. I want to examine all of these “knee jerk” reactions and explain why they are futile.
Metal Detectors – Stupid Idea
Setting up metal detectors at movie theaters is the stupidest idea I’ve ever heard. First of all, you’ll have to show up an hour prior to the show because of the lines waiting to get through the metal detectors. Its another “feel good” security measure that really does nothing. Metal detectors are like placebos. They make people feel safe, but they really do nothing to prevent violent attack. If someone goes the the effort of purchasing an assault rifle, shotgun, two handguns and thousands of rounds of ammo so they can kill a lot of people, do you really think they’re going to try sneaking all that through a metal detector? No, they are going to walk up, shoot the people running the metal detector and then march right into the theater full of people and start killing. That’s if the killer uses the main entrance. The guy in Colorado appears to have entered through an exit. Metal detectors will do nothing to improve movie theater security. It will just be another annoyance that does nothing to make us safer.
Armed Guards or Police – Not Much Better
If a movie theater hires armed security, or has police presence, it will do little to deter the type of attack that happened in Colorado. Most likely there will be one armed guard or cop for the entire theater. He or she would most likely be in uniform and make an easy target for the bad guy bent on killing people. The media calls these attacks “random violence”, but the location of the attack is anything but random. The bad guy is looking to kill as many people as possible. He will have cased different locations and chosen this specific location as it fits within his plan. The killer isn’t random. He has a plan. If he sees a cop or armed guard, he will most likely just work that into his plan. His first order of business will be to kill the guard and then set in on everyone else. The armed guard in uniform will just be his first target.
Theater Owners and/or Employees With Guns
I’m all for people defending themselves, but if you didn’t own a gun prior to the attack in Colorado, don’t go buy one in reaction to it. Owning a gun is one thing. Being able to use it to defend yourself or someone else is something entirely different. Imagine this scenario, a theater owner is working away in his office and suddenly hears gunfire. He or she grabs a gun and runs auditorium and encounters the killer. Unless he or she has put considerable – I MEAN A LOT – of time into receiving professional grade combat training, he or she will just be another dead person.
An attack relies upon three elements; Speed, Surprise, and Violence. The killer in Colorado used all three elements. Surprise is a given. Prior to Friday morning, most people have never imagined being shot at in a movie theater. Over and over again I’ve heard survivors talking about how surprised they were. Surprise stuns you and keeps you from acting. It gives the attacker more time to kill you. The shooter entered through an exit so he was immediately in the area of the auditoriums. This was his speed. And of course he was extremely violent.
Real security, not the placebo, feel good kind mentioned above, addresses each element of an attack. It’s based on the threat. In this case, the threat is a heavily armed gunman entering a theater and killing lots of people. He chooses, the date, time, and location of attack. What can possibly deter, delay, or destroy him.
See attacks rely upon Speed, Surprise, and Violence, but security relies up Deterring, Delaying and/or Destroying the attacker. Unless you have a SWAT team on duty at each theater in the country, you’re probably not going to deter the killer. We need to be concerned with delaying and destroying the attacker. One way of delaying a shooter would be to prevent him from gaining access to the auditoriums. Theaters could install electronic locks on doors going into auditoriums that would be automatically locked down in case of an armed intruder. If someone enters the building with a weapon, even through an exit, security or theater personnel could remotely lock all doors going into the individual movie auditoriums. People in the auditoriums would be able to exit though the emergency doors.
If I owned a theater, I would give free movie tickets to off-duty cops as long as they were armed. Come up the the box office, show your badge, state that you’re armed and get your free ticket. See the killer looks at himself as the predator. What you need is a counter-predator. The killer couldn’t target the off-duty cops because he wouldn’t recognize them. If theaters do employ armed security officers, they should be in plain clothes and blend in with other movie-goers.
Every time I go a movie theater I think about what I’ll do if someone walks in and starts shooting. In a theater you’re like fish in a barrel. Of course I’m always armed so my plan is to return fire. You must learn to think this way. We live in a violent world. You must come to terms with that fact. You must have a plan of what you will do. Think about it and consider how you will react. I’m not saying you need to have a gun, but you need to have trained your mind for dealing with a violent attack.
We always seem to fight the last battle in this country. We need to look ahead and see where we are vulnerable. Movie theater security is just a small issue compared to increasing our safety. This wasn’t the last attack. More will come in the future. They might not be in a movie theater. We need to consider where they will happen and most importantly – what we are going to do to mitigate the threat. Each killer tries to out perform the previous attacks. Future killers will study the attack in Colorado and try to surpass it. We must study it as well and take proactive steps to lessen their chances of succeeding.