Last week, a 15-year-old shot and killed an 18-year-old inside the lobby of a movie theater I frequently go to. The shooting was the result of an argument over the 18-year-old standing on, rather than walking down, the escalator.
I am so mad over this, and I haven't been able to cool off. My mind keeps going back to two tragic elements, and I can't decide which is worse:
1. Why was this 15-year-old so lacking in judgment? He committed his crime in a crowded place, downtown in a major city. He ran out onto the street, into Bloomingdales, and was caught by police minutes--MINUTES--after the shooting. There is no way he could have gotten away this, and in one flash he ended both his life and his victim's. He got nothing out of the crime. He didn't know the victim, so there was no revenge or grudge story. He didn't take any material goods. He wasn't in the midst of carrying out some other criminal activity which would have made him jumpy. He simply shot and ran.
2. Why did this kid have a gun in the first place? Why do 15-year-olds have guns, and why are they carrying them to movie theaters? There's no doubt in my mind that if the kid hadn't had a gun, the argument would have ended with both of them alive. It was a snap thing--the killer wasn't engaged enough to have pursued the victim with murderous intentions. It simply would have ended there. This exactly why guns are so toxic. They elevate relatively harmless confrontations into murderous ones. If it had been difficult for this 15-year-old to get a gun, he wouldn't have had one. He had a criminal record, but not a hardened one. He wasn't a determined criminal mastermind, simply a kid who wanted to feel powerful. This is exactly why the Supreme Court needs to uphold DC's handgun ban.
I am also somewhat angry at the movie theater about this, though I'm not sure if that's rational. They didn't issue a statement after the murder. They market themselves as an entertainment center (movie theater, arcade, restaurants) and encourage people to come from all over the city, but provide amateur security. There are many fewer security guards in this crowded complex on the weekends than there would be police officers on comparable city streets. After the shooting, I went to the movies at a different theater in a mall very close by. They were underhanded, and had the security guard taking tickets. Needless to say, this didn't instill a lot of confidence in his professionalism and preparedness for emergencies. When I lived in DC, a fight broke out once when I was leaving a movie, and the security guard said he didn't step in to stop it because he didn't get paid enough. These places hire security on the cheap, paying them $7 an hour to wear a uniform. Then they do nothing to control the violence that inevitably erupts in their crowded arcades and theaters. Right now, I'm not sure if I ever want to return to that theater again.