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Monday, Sep 22, 2014
Joe Henderson Columns

Henderson: Movie theater shooting proves, again, no place is safe

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Published:   |   Updated: January 16, 2014 at 07:27 AM

People say the story of Chad Oulson's death is huge mostly because he was shot inside of a Wesley Chapel movie theater. The location is the key, coupled with the incredible fact that the confrontation began with an argument about text messaging.

I guess that makes sense. If Oulson had been shot outside a bar at 3 a.m. in a fight over a football bet, it wouldn't have been front-page news. His passing probably would have been noted with a short story deep inside the newspaper.

Few people outside his family and friends would have noticed. The bond hearing for the accused shooter would not have been televised, and we all would have quickly moved on with whatever passes for everyday life. But the shooting happened someplace where we assume we'll be safe, and now we're supposed to be afraid.

Fair enough.

Would someone be so kind to tell me, though, where exactly people can go these days where something like this couldn't happen?

We already know about movie theaters here and in Aurora, Colo. We know the carnage that has been unleashed in elementary and high school buildings.

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Just a couple of days ago, a 12-year-old boy at a New Mexico middle school shot two students waiting for gym class to start.

I imagine David James thought nothing bad could happen at a neighborhood basketball court in Valrico, but that was before he got into an argument with 71-year-old Trevor Dooley over a skateboarder and was shot to death.

Churches? Not so much. Last September, a pastor was gunned down in the middle of a service in Louisiana.

An airport? The shooting at Los Angeles International in November pretty well ruined that theory.

A military base?

Nope, as the murder of 12 people at the Washington Navy Yard in September showed.

Still, we keep acting surprised when these things happen in “safe” places.

We shouldn't.

People don't believe government will protect them. They get scared, and they buy guns. More than 1 million people in Florida have concealed weapons permits.

Statistics give a mixed message. FactCheck.org reported in 2012 that while gun ownership had spiked nationwide, gun murders had dropped to their lowest rate since at least 1981. At the same time though, non-fatal gun injuries were increasing. Better medical care, I guess.

That's good news in Florida, where the state's “stand your ground” law tells gun owners they don't have to back away from a confrontation if they feel threatened.

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Trevor Dooley felt threatened on the Valrico playground, and somebody died. George Zimmerman felt threatened when on neighborhood watch duty in Sanford, and somebody died. Now Curtis Reeves Jr. might invoke “stand your ground” because Oulson got mouthy and may have thrown popcorn at him inside Theater 10 at the Cobb Grove 16 Theatre.

In an instant, the illusion of safety was shattered again.

This change didn't occur overnight. We got desensitized a long time ago to the news about any 3 a.m. shooting, mostly because society figures that bad stuff happens when the bars let out.

But then came Columbine, and Fort Hood, and Newtown, and all the rest.

People say they're shocked every time. They wonder how something like that could happen at one of those everyday places we all frequent.

I'm not shocked, not anymore, and particularly not here — not in Florida. This is what we have. It doesn't matter where you are, or what you're doing. You have to assume everyone is packing.

And you can't be surprised if a cranky word or dirty look gets you shot. Not anymore.

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