Commentary

Saunders: Leave your gun at home when you're going to the movies

bsaunders@newsobserver.comJanuary 15, 2014 

The National Rifle Association can slice it, dice it, fry it up or even – considering the prominent part popcorn supposedly played in this tragedy – butter it any way it wants to.

However NRA President and gun apologist supreme Wayne LaPierre tries to fix it up, though, the indisputable fact is that if Curtis Reeves doesn’t carry his heater into the movie theater, Chad Oulson isn’t dead.

Reeves, a 71-year-old retired cop, did carry his .380-caliber pistol into a Florida movie theater this week, though, and shot and killed Oulson, a 43-year-old husband and father of a 3-year-old daughter.

The confrontation started, witnesses and Reeves’ attorney said, when Reeves told Oulson to stop texting – yes, to stop texting – and then shot him when Oulson allegedly threw a bag of popcorn at him.

Yeah, go back and read that again: I'll wait.

Strapping on a gun

You’ve heard of beer muscles, the strength and bravery dudes get after drinking too many brews?

They are less dangerous than the bozos running around with .380-caliber cojones, which they mainly get from strapping on a gun.

Think about this:

Had Reeves been armed only with some Jujubes and Raisinets, the most aggressive action he’d have taken at the alleged annoyance would’ve been to loudly clear his throat, a favorite – make that former favorite – tactic of mine, or heaved an exaggerated, exasperated sigh or Raisinet at the offender.

Most likely, he’d have gotten up and moved to another seat.

That’s what Anthony Smith, a Triangle psychologist, said Reeves should have done. “Little things can set off the highly strung among us,” he said. “But certainly there are ways to de-escalate these issues.”

Fantasy vs. reality

Smith hadn’t heard about the theater shooting incident when I called him, but he wasn’t surprised, either. “More and more people are getting short-tempered and taking matters into their own hands,” Smith said. “There’s always a way to handle a situation, but in this instant gratification society, we don’t always think through” how to do that.

“When you look at what’s happening to people with these altered states of reality, with video games and fantasy and movies” – he didn’t say endless news reports that frighten the bejesus out of the weak-minded, but he could have – “well, a lot of people aren’t separating fantasy from reality and they think ‘Oh, I can go and take matters into my own hands,’ ” he said. “Some people have a lot of rage, and access to tools of violence ... only heightens the danger.

“Reality,” Smith said, “hits only when they’re sitting in a jail cell trying to figure out why they’re going to be in there for the rest of their lives.”

Reeves is sitting in jail, denied bond, right now, but it’s doubtful reality has set in for Team Reeves: His attorney said, presumably with a straight face, that his client feared for his life after the popcorn was thrown at him.

Yikes.

Is the world a dangerous place?

Sometimes, some places.

After talking to Smith and Patricia A. Smith-Bailey, another therapist, one could conclude that the most dangerous place on earth is between the ears of missile-totin’ misanthropes with anger and control issues who see danger everywhere and who, for God’s sake, carry guns into movie theaters.

Smith-Bailey theorized that perhaps Reeves’ former profession “may have had something to do” with triggering his irrational, wholly inappropriate response.

“As a cop, you’re used to being in control of situations and telling people what to do. I don’t want to make excuses for him, but he may have had post-traumatic stress,” she said. “That’s something that hijacks the brain and your logical self can go off track.”

I doubt if anybody in 10 counties gets more annoyed than I by people texting or gabbing on phones in movie theaters. Since I’m obviously not going to confront anybody over it or continue to plunk them in the head with Raisinets – I stopped doing that years ago – I asked both Smith and Smith-Bailey how one should handle such annoyances.

“Plan ahead,” Smith-Bailey said. “If you know that bothers you, take a breath and let the steam out. Remind yourself that it’s not really that big of a deal. Say ‘I’m willlllllllling to leeeeeeeet thaaaaaaat goooooooo.’

“That’s the ‘in-the-moment’ technique,” she said. If somebody texting or talking in a movie theater really, really upsets you to the point of violence, “you may need an assessment” by a therapist, she added.

Smith said, “Common courtesy, in a lot of cases, has gone by the wayside, but we need to teach folks critical thinking skills so they’ll say, ‘Before I go to 10 and shoot somebody, there are other things I can do.’ 

Yeah, and they start with leaving your gun home when you go to the movies. Too many people have forgotten that we go to the movies to escape reality, not experience it, or , if to experience it, to do so vicariously.

Trust me. Neither Lash LaRue nor Dirty Harry is going to need your help onscreen, so leave your shootin’ irons home.

bsaunders@newsobserver.com or 919-836-2811

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