Social Question

Cruiser's avatar

A man starts shooting in a crowded theater, what do you do?

Asked by Cruiser (34984 points ) July 20th, 2012

Do you try to run and hide?
Do you reach for your handgun and fire back?
Do you wish you had a handgun so you could fire back?
Do you wait for your chance to jump the shooter and disarm them?
Will you now go out and buy a handgun?

Answer as you will. I listened to the author of a book about psychopaths who had very interesting comments on why these people do what they do. There simply is no easy answer to this insanity.

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49 Answers

tedd's avatar

Sitting here, thinking about it after the fact… I like to think I would’ve tried to stop him. I like to think I would’ve found a sharp object, and somehow got behind him and just stabbed the SOB right in the throat.

But then it’s easy to imagine yourself doing things when you’re not faced with such a horrible situation out of the blue.

Just a horrible situation. Hope they give the guy the chair.

snapdragon24's avatar

I’d wish for a handgun just so that I can fire back… Question of self- defence and protecting others :)

Blueroses's avatar

Shooting back in this situation probably would have made things worse. If your vision and sensibilities were impaired by gas, chances are you wouldn’t be able to tell where you were firing.
I’d run, and probably wish I’d done something heroic after I was safe.

filmfann's avatar

In a movie theater, you have everyone sitting in long rows of seats. It doesn’t lend itself to simply jumping up and running away. The fact that the theater is dark makes it doubly hard to escape.

LuckyGuy's avatar

Never been in the situation. Don’t want to be in the situation.
But, in my mind, I’d duck down and watch him through a crack between the seats with my tritium night sights aligned. (legally owned and carried)
I would do everything possible to prevent being another innocent victim.

linguaphile's avatar

The news is running this nonstop right now…

I’d probably be like a guy they just interviewed on TV—hyper-vigilant and hyper-alert, paying attention to every detail and watching for the right moment to dart and run, taking as many people with me out the door as possible. I’m the kind of person who is calm and focused mid-crisis, then freaks out after everything’s settled.

Horrible, horrible, horrible situation. I feel for those who lost loved ones and those at the hospital right now.

jca's avatar

I would get down as low as possible on the floor.

ZEPHYRA's avatar

Hide somewhere among the rows hoping not to be seen, then kiss my ass and say goodbye!

bookish1's avatar

I hope that I would try to help children and/or physically disabled people near me get out. I really hope that is what I would have the presence of mind to do.

Cruiser's avatar

@linguaphile This story took me back to the horrific shooting that took place at Northern Illinois University in 2008 (my alma mater) and I just re-read some of the details….

” Some students who were not able to immediately escape hid under or in between the seats. When Kazmericzak paused to reload after firing three rounds, some students shouted “He’s reloading” and began to escape. Others continued to hide or were too shocked to react.”

The difference of last nights shooting is there were so many young kids there and anything I have read so far shows there was little to nothing you could do but try and run. I feel so bad for everyone there.

ucme's avatar

Here in england town, not many people own guns, certainly not like in ee-merry-ka.
Any “shooting” going down in a cinema at midnight over here is more than likely being done by a random pervert in the back row while watching a shady porn flick.

Sunny2's avatar

I’d be with the others down on the floor. I’m no hero. I always thought that if war came to the US and everyone was involved, I’d have to be one of the cooks.

Buttonstc's avatar

Likewise, I would hit the deck and try to pass for dead. At barely 5’2” with no cartilage left in my knees, realistically I’m in no shape to run very fast and no match for trying hand to hand combat with someone armed with an automatic weapon. That’s just reality.

But if I did have a gun, I wouldn’t hesitate to put every single bullet in my gun into him and hope to kill the SOB. (no chance of a lawsuit if I kill rather than just wound him. Stranger things have happened)

But I think this whole scenario is just impossible for anyone in it. You’ve got a nut with a gun in a confined space with few exits and little protection. Just horrible.

Even the kids who weren’t killed will be traumatized for life (and many adults also). I feel so bad for them.

Encountering insanity and random violence like this is just not something for which we can do much to prepare (short of carrying a gun on us wherever we go).

BTW : are there that many 6 yr old kids whose parents commonly take them to the movies at midnight? I know it’s Batman, but still. 6 yrs old?

I’m certainly not suggesting they were negligent in any way. I was just shocked to see mention of a six yr. old little boy killed. His parents must be devastated.

This whole thing is just so sad. Reminds me of the Gabriel Gifford shooting. Just awful.

linguaphile's avatar

James Holmes shot around the theater during a shooting scene in the movie, so most people were too confused or disoriented to really process that it wasn’t part of the show, couldn’t identify whether it was real gunshots or movie gunshots and didn’t react quickly. The shooter was able to get up really close to the moviegoers because of that.

I’m not sure what I’d have done in that situation. As of right this minute, the crisis isn’t over because he booby-trapped his apartment with explosives. The people who live in that apartment building and surrounding buildings are evacuated. If I was in their shoes, I’d probably be sitting across the street waiting. And Fluthering to keep myself sane.

poisonedantidote's avatar

Bullet to people ratio would suggest I’m statistically safe if I keep my head down and head to the exit.

Cruiser's avatar

@poisonedantidote I wouldn’t count on that as people in the adjacent theater were shot by bullets that passed through the wall. Though you are right the odds would be in your favor.

gondwanalon's avatar

Keep a low profile until an opportunity arises. The shooter’s gun jams, he pauses to reload etc then charge the SOB and attempt to rip his head off.

SpatzieLover's avatar

I would lay on top of my son and look/listen for an opportunity to get out.

woodcutter's avatar

I would be speed studying any possible uses for soda or popcorn as a potential weapon or diversion tactic. I go to the movies maybe once a year so I would be like…seriously?

Coloma's avatar

Impossible to say. I’m pretty calm in a crisis, but, I have never been shot at. Well..not on purpose anyway, but have dodged some stray bullets out here in my hills over the years.
I think I would just hit the deck and hope the shooter was not going to canvas every isle looking for crouching victims.
If I saw an exit and felt the odds of making a run for it were decent I’d bolt.

I don’t think anyone can predict their reactions to a situation like this.
Ideally one would retain some presence of mind while also fueled by some serious adrenaline, not sure how these two factors would converge.

jrpowell's avatar

@Cruiser :: Do you have a link that said people in other theaters got hit? I’m just curious since the walls at our theater were cinder blocks with two in thick slabs of foam on both sides to make it so sound can’t get through.

Coloma's avatar

@johnpowell I don’t have a link but I read a man in the adjacent theater was struck in the neck by a bullet. Obviously the walls were not concrete.

Cruiser's avatar

@johnpowell I don’t have that link up anymore. Sorry. BTW…cinderblock would not stop .223 ammo from an Ar-15 he used and doubt it would even stop the .40 caliber handgun ammunition he used either.

Found this tweet..
“We did see bullet holes n the left side wall of our Theater 8. Sounded like someone setting off fire crackers n our theater. #aurorashooting”

Cruiser's avatar

@johnpowell I found another Denver news story that has a ton of details.

“Witnesses told 7NEWS that the gunman opened fire in Theater 9, but bullets also pierced the adjacent Theater 8 injuring moviegoers.”

WestRiverrat's avatar

@Blueroses how could someone shooting back have made it worse? At the least the return fire would have focused the shooter’s attention away from others, giving them a better chance of getting out.

As fast as he gave up when confronted in the parking lot, getting shot at by a citizen may have scared him enough to run instead of shoot.

Supacase's avatar

I think I would shove my daughter to the ground and as far under the seats as possible, then do my best to protect her with my body. I might very well be one of the runners, but I don’t think I would if she was with me. Duck, cover, wait and hope.

What chills my blood is that he stalked the aisles picking off victims as he went. He even went outside to shoot people who were getting out. I assumed he had walked in and blindly opened fire, but I’ve been a nervous wreck since finding out what really happened. This was so cold and calculated.

WillWorkForChocolate's avatar

I like to think I would’ve tried to do something heroic. See, I wouldn’t be able to run, because my usual movie friend is night blind and I have to lead her in and out of the theater. So running would mean I was abandoning her.

We usually go to movies late at night, and because of the hour and the long distance we usually have to walk between the theater and the car, I carry my mace and an oversized, folding buck knife. So, the only scenario I can imagine would be to somehow jump him with my weapons.

WestRiverrat's avatar

@Supacase apparently he busted down the fire exit and came in through it.

Yetanotheruser's avatar

@WestRiverrat “getting shot at by a citizen may have scared him… ” Judging by the armor he was wearing, I don’t think he would have been afraid of being shot.

WestRiverrat's avatar

@Yetanotheruser how many shots did it take for the Aurora PD to apprehend him? Having the equipment to resist getting shot does not automatically give one the mindset to deal with getting shot at.

jrpowell's avatar

@Cruiser :: Thanks for the info.

filmfann's avatar

This is part of Roger Ebert’s op ed piece in the NY Times today. It is amazing.

Immediately after a shooting last month in the food court of the Eaton Centre
mall in Toronto, a young woman named Jessica Ghawi posted a blog
entry.
Three minutes before a gunman opened fire, she had been seated at the exact
place he fired from.
“I was shown how fragile life was,” she wrote. “I saw the terror on bystanders’
faces. I saw the victims of a senseless crime. I saw lives change. I was
reminded that we don’t know when or where our time on Earth will end. When or
where we will breathe our last breath.”
This same woman was one of the fatalities at the midnight screening in Aurora.
The circle of madness is closing.

talljasperman's avatar

From experience I would listen to him and allow him to feel safe to tell me If I can help him… If he says no I will just walk away.

Blueroses's avatar

@WestRiverrat I was thinking about the 2 canisters the shooter activated before opening fire. Whether they were smoke or tear gas seems to vary by sources, but either would impair any heroic return shots. Chances would be too high of hitting innocent people.

woodcutter's avatar

Most people trying to avoid being hit by this dick are going to be scratching for the floor as low as thy can be. The shooter will be like a crow sitting on a fence post there. I would feel confident enough…to at least try to take him out, or at least suppress him to the point to make him realize he has an opponent, who knows how to hit.. By that point in time there won’t be much to loose. Wearing bullet resistant gear means even if the projectile fails to penetrate it, there’s going to be enough kinetic energy from the hit to topple the guy, and it’s going to hurt. It could buy enough time for more patrons to get away. All speculation of course, but if I was packing that night I would feel obligated to at least concider killing him.

Blueroses's avatar

Again @woodcutter , he was wearing a gas mask, presumably to be effective in the gas he released in the theater.

You want to trust your instincts to hit the bad guy only?

Cruiser's avatar

Anyone with a gun in that theater would have to be more than a good shot…they would have to be lucky as the shooter was wearing full body armor. This dude came prepared.

What I found to be “interesting” was that it was the people trying to escape that were the ones he targeted. Plus why did he just stop shooting with two full clips left and then just leave and wait to give up?? Seeing as he had his entire apartment booby trapped, I think he really planned to make a show of this event and I believe he wanted to be alive to see the results of his handiwork. Full on psychopath!

woodcutter's avatar

@Blueroses I have been trained to hit. I spend lots of money to keep that skill up to snuff. I compete against shooters who are better than I am in sanctioned matches. A gas mask won’t have much on a 40 caliber handgun round fired from the short distance of a cinema. Only hits count….I hit. Those who are unarmed have no options but to die or nearly die. The armed have more options. They save their own life and they save many in one action. To crouch and wait for it to come to you (sure death), while you are there with the means to stop it is wrong.

woodcutter's avatar

In some instances there is an acceptable level of collateral damage. It sounds harsh because it is. Holding off as more and more people get it because there hasn’t been the perfect guaranteed Hollywood pink mist target yet is waiting too long. The guy was shooting fish in a barrel. You hit someone in the side even with body armor there is a high probability he will suffer a broken rib and other damage. It may have adjusted his tactic enough to retreat or make the mistake of a bad presentation of a weakness to exploit. I think he came prepared to dominate. Getting tagged by an anonymous shooter is enough to shake the confidence and his plan starts to unravel because his invincibility is gone. The choice to return fire would be easy for me as like all the others there, my back would have been against the wall.

Blueroses's avatar

ok @woodcutter, I’ve also been trained in firearms, have worked in law enforcement and I own guns. I’m a damned good shot, but you’re still discounting being impaired by tear gas. I wouldn’t ever take a chance at hitting the bad guy if my vision was compromised.

There is no acceptable level of collateral damage.

woodcutter's avatar

@Blueroses For official L E they have their protocol to follow that the rest of us in defense of our lives may have to do a work around. I know what a muzzle flash looks like at night so that’s where I’ll be looking. Just saying. If theres a shot I would take it because by that time in the scenario there’s not much to loose. If you stay there long enough with all the ammo that guy had it will be a matter of time before its your turn. A guy all geared up standing there with a gun is a presentation worth looking at. I would bet none of the patrons are looking like that. Die with a full mag or die with a spent one. Sorry but I can’t just sit there and politely wait my turn out. If I wing some guy in his ass while engaging some guy with an 870 I will apologize after assuming I survive. Chances are he was toast anyway, as we all would have been.

flutherother's avatar

The only guns in our fair land are those seen on the screen. If I thought the audience was armed I wouldn’t go to the movies.

jrpowell's avatar

Since I am Rambo I would blast his ass.

In reality I would probably miss and shoot some children. My dreams of being a hero dashed by adrenilane and reality.

jca's avatar

Of course, the reality is you really don’t know what you would do until and unless you are in that situation. Every situation would be different, your location, the shooter’s location, the level of light, how many other people are around, their reactions and their locations – a lot of variables.

Coloma's avatar

Well….some years ago when my psycho neighbor would go on random shooting sprees on his 20 acres that backed up to my 10, he dropped a pine tree branch on my head in my own backyard. I ran like a gazelle back down the hill to my house. lol

This guy was the talk of the neighborhood, a retired postal worker,of all things. haha.
He would sit on his deck and shoot into the woods while drinking, once he waved a rifle in my face threatening me and my dog when my dog escaped and was trespassing on his land.
I am surprised nobody ever got shot with this nutcase in the hills.

FutureMemory's avatar

@Coloma: some years ago when my psycho neighbor would go on random shooting sprees on his 20 acres that backed up to my 10, he dropped a pine tree branch on my head in my own backyard.

God I hope you had him arrested!!!

Coloma's avatar

@FutureMemory I would now, but back then the guy intimidated me. Think drunk, crazy Italian guy that would go into his arm and hand gesture routine while holding a rifle. lol
Uh, would you mind not pointing your gun at me. He was a piece of work no doubt.

Skaggfacemutt's avatar

I would go hide behind @LuckyGuy .

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