Colorado Theater Shooter Carried 4 Guns, All Obtained Legally

With 12 dead and 58 injured, attention turns to Colorado's gun laws and how the alleged shooter 24-year old James Holmes obtained his arsenal

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Thomas Cooper / Getty Images

Police search what is believed to be the car of James Holmes, the suspect of a shooting in a movie theater, outside the Century 16 movie theater July 20, 2012 in Aurora, Colorado.

After every horrific crime involving the loss of innocent lives, a substantial amount of reaction includes the question: “How could this happen?” While gun control advocates have effectively taken up their own arms against the Second Amendment in the wake of the movie theater attack, Aurora Police Chief Dan Oates put to rest all questions of legality about the weapons used by James Holmes in the attack — even at the risk of sounding like a broken Speak-and-Spell:

“All the weapons that he possessed, he possessed legally,” Oates said at the Friday evening press conference. “And all the clips that he possessed, he possessed legally. And all the ammunition that he possessed, he possessed legally.”

(MORE: Who Is Suspect James Holmes?)

While it does take, primarily, a particularly deranged person to shoot up a crowded theater during one of the most anticipated movie premieres in recent memory, it also takes some serious firepower.

James Holmes had no shortage of that. When police apprehended him outside the Century Aurora 16 theater Friday morning, Holmes had four guns on him. He was carrying:

– An AR-15 assault rifle

– A Remington 12-gauge 870 shotgun

– Two 40-caliber Glock handguns

Three of those weapons, including the shotgun and the assault rifle, he brought into the theater, according to Aurora Police Chief Dan Oates. A single shooter with three high-powered guns: It’s hardly shocking that the massacre took the lives of 12 and injured 58 others. During a press conference Friday morning, Oates couldn’t even put a number on the shots Holmes fired. The chief admitted it was beyond his team’s scope of calculation, limiting his confirmation only to “many, many rounds.”

The massacre has already reignited the debate on gun control, particularly in Colorado. How was one man allowed to amass four high-powered weapons? But a look at the Colorado laws seems to indicate, at least on the surface, that Holmes was within the law in his gun possession, according to two statutes:

– The state of Colorado prohibits gun registration [CRS 29-11.7-102].

– Colorado allows a person to carry a firearm in a vehicle, either loaded or unloaded. Handguns (ones with barrels under 12 inches) are allowed in homes, businesses, or cars, as long as they’re not concealed[C.R.S. 18-12-105(2)].

(MORE: Aurora, Colorado: Portrait of a Suburb)

It’s thought that Holmes concealed the weapons while bringing them into the movie theater, a presumed violation of the law, as he didn’t have a concealed weapons permit according to information obtained by TIME. But Professor Richard Collins of the University of Colorado Law School says he could have almost certainly obtained one had he wished to: “If he’s not a felon, if he’s of age and there’s no indication that he’s mentally ill, then the sheriff must give him a permit.” This comes thanks to Colorado’s “shall issue” law, meaning that the state must issue a weapons permit if the person complies with all the requirements – and Holmes had no police record aside from a traffic ticket.

Oates said Friday night that Holmes had purchased 6,000 rounds of ammunition on the Internet. He purchased his four guns at area gun shops, the first of which, a Glock, he acquired in May at Gander Mountain, a national chain of outdoor retailers. Six days later, he went to a local Bass Pro Shops to purchase a shotgun. Between the two stores, over the next two months, he would also buy the AR-15 and the Remington. “Background checks, as required by federal law, were properly conducted, and he was approved,” Larry Whiteley, a Bass Pro Shops spokesman, said in a statement.

The AR-15 assault rifle is the largest gun Holmes used, though it’s a gun widely distributed by many manufacturers and available at many sporting-goods stores. He is thought to have purchased and used an aftermarket high-capacity magazine for the assault rifle, a clip capable of launching “50 to 60 rounds, even if it was semiautomatic, within one minute,” Oates said. But this, too, was legal – a prior ban on such magazines, under the federal assault weapon ban, expired in 2004.

(PHOTOS: Scenes from Aurora: Aftermath of the Theater Massacre)

In Colorado, gun legislation faces a battle of state vs. local legislators. The home-rule cities such as Aurora that populate the state are permitted by the Colorado state constitution to govern themselves, which creates a constant tension with the state. “The battle is whether the home-rule cities have the right to have tougher laws than the state, and it’s a matter before the courts. The outcome is uncertain,” Collins said. It’s even uncertain which law takes precedence. “For example, the city of Denver has a law forbidding assault rifles of a certain sort,” Collins said. “But Aurora, a separate home-rule city adjacent to Denver, has no such laws. So the assault weapon was not illegal.”

While pundits are focusing on whether the restrictions are too lax, it’s unlikely any sort of additional oversight, aside from the background checks that were done, would have raised a red flag. “The guy basically had normal guns,” Eugene Volokh, an expert in constitutional law at the University of California, Los Angeles, told the New York Times. While guns wouldn’t have been allowed inside the private premises of the Century Aurora 16 movie theater, “It’s hard to prevent someone who is really bent on committing a crime from getting them,” Volokh said. “It’s unlikely that gun laws are going to stop him.”

Which means this incident becomes just one more in Colorado’s legacy of stunning gun violence. Thirteen years ago, international attention focused on another Denver suburb, just 20 miles across town, after a similarly shocking massacre. When Eric Harris and Dylan Klebold unloaded two shotguns and two handguns on Columbine High School, killing 13 and injuring 21, support for stricter gun laws initially spiked but eventually cooled. “I’m fairly confident no changes will be made in the laws after this incident,” Collins said bluntly. “Columbine didn’t.”

MORE: The Mindset of a Shooter’s Parents

85 comments
EricAnderson
EricAnderson like.author.displayName 1 Like

What is the point of mentioning that Colorado law doesn't require gun registration?  If the guns had been registered what difference would it have made?  We already know who did it. 

Gun registration serves one purpose only:  To facilitate taking guns away from law-abiding people.  That's exactly why the Nazis required citizens to register their guns.....closely followed by going door-to-door TAKING THE REGISTERED GUNS. 

EricAnderson
EricAnderson like.author.displayName 1 Like

Define "high-powered"?  You consider a Glock handgun "high-powered"?  Compared to a Daisy BB gun with a compass in the stock, I guess it's "high-powered." 

Most of the victims were shot with the Remington 870....the most popular pheasant hunting gun in the country.  NOT semi-automatic.  


What difference does it make if he bought them legally?  He USED them illegally.  It's ILLEGAL to murder people.

ReilyDog
ReilyDog

Just read all the comments below and for all the bickering over gun control I haven't seen one argument for making mental health resources more approachable / available to people that need it. This kid was identified as a complete psycho well before the shootings occurred, even to the point that his psychiatrist broke her oaths and approached the police with a warning about him........ guns don't kill people, people kill people. 

EricAnderson
EricAnderson

@ReilyDog:  They WERE, before the liberals emptied the mental hospitals in the 70s and 80s.

budzy1911
budzy1911

This article is so poorly written by someone that has never seen or shot a gun that is a disservice to journalism. The statement 'How was one man allowed to amass four high-powered weapons?' - really?

Anyone can go to the gun store and buy 20 of these at one time - and the gun store will call the FBI as they are required to do and get a background check on the person. The FBI will then give the gun store an approval code to put on the form and the guns are yours.

The bottom line is the movie theater banned concealed weapons from the premise and therefore THEY are now responsible for your safety – and they failed. Ask yourself this – when is the last time there was a mass shooting in a gun range or police department?

Personally I don’t go in to places that won’t allow me to carry a concealed handgun unless they have armed police like government buildings or airports. Any place with a ban on concealed weapons is an invitation to nuts like this to carry out evil.

EricAnderson
EricAnderson

@budzy1911:  I've "amassed" more than four.  And some of them are a whole lot more "high powered" than a Glock (a relatively small caliber handgun) or an AR-15 (a medium-powered rifle, at best.) 

Guess what?  If I owned a MILLION of them I can only fire one at a time.

Ken Lowder
Ken Lowder

In aurora co has sever gun restrictions. It's illegal for concealed carry there and you can't carry in your car either. Both laws that this criminal ignored as well as carrying into the theater. How's those laws working for the unarmed law abiding citizen again?

Michael David Slowik
Michael David Slowik

We live in the dumbest nation on earth. To have this amount of weapons is absolutely ridiculous, 1 gun per person if even that. He had enough to kill 6000 people. Is that protecting himself?

EricAnderson
EricAnderson

@Michael David Slowik:  The United States is #1 for gun ownership per capita.   #28 for murder rate.  Great Britain, the gun-grabber's paradise, has a violent crime rate FOUR TIMES HIGHER than the U.S.

You can only use 1 gun at a time.  Maybe two, if you have a pistol in each hand, but you won't hit anything.  I've never seen anyone who can use guns in his hands and feet at the same time.

hellobadger
hellobadger

I think unfortunately most  of the Americans posting on here have too much faith in other Americans. You can’t expect people to be normal and sensible –they’re not. People have really f@cked up lives and live in a really f@cked up society. Give people guns and they will shoot each other. The only way around it is to ban people from having guns. Sorry but you all know it’s true, look at the UK vs US gun crime stats.

EricAnderson
EricAnderson

@hellobadger:  BILLIONS of rounds were fired from "assault-style rifles" in the United States last year, by civilians.  About 340 people died as a result.

Your claim is wildly out of the realm of truth.  More people were murdered using HAMMERS.  (According to the FBI.)

If these type of weapons are "killing machines" or "made for killing people" then they are the most dismal failures of any devices ever conceived.

I have accounted for tens of thousands of those rounds fired, and never once even aimed at a person.  (I don't even shoot jackrabbits.)

The states with the most gun-friendly laws also have the lowest violent crime rates and the lowest murder rates.  Name ONE state with statistics that back up your absurd claim.  And I'll counter with......ILLINOIS!   The LEST gun-friendly laws, and a murder rate that is out of control.

JeffSchultz
JeffSchultz

@hellobadger and then look at the UK crime statistics as a whole as well as their mass killings. Clearly, it hasn't worked.

EricAnderson
EricAnderson

@JeffSchultz:  Exactly.  Great Britain has a violent crime rate more than 4 times higher than ours.  But liberals figure you're less raped if you're raped at knife point instead.

Equip 2 Conceal
Equip 2 Conceal

If you have any questions regarding the CWP law or training contact www.e2c.us or 1-866-371-6111 and the Instructors at Equip 2 Conceal will be happy to help you.

Jacklyn Johnson
Jacklyn Johnson

My prayers for

comfort to the family and friends of the victims. Thanks for the heads up on

the Evertalk memorial page Christina. I will make sure to visit it.

Squeesheiro
Squeesheiro

Once more the absurdity of a country where health is not a basic right but owning guns is. What do you need guns for? Protecting yourself? From whom? People with... guns?

EricAnderson
EricAnderson

@Squeesheiro:  "Health" can't be a basic right unless it's possible to secure it.  You can't wish yourself healthy.

You have a right to SEEK health care.  You have a right to get a JOB with health benefits.  You have a right to get education and job training so you can get a better job, if yours doesn't offer benefits.

You do NOT have a right to make slaves of other people.....and if any of your "rights" require the resources of others to provide, then you have made slaves of the providers, by definition.

koreandude
koreandude

1) AR-15 is based off of an assault rifle platform, but it's not an assault rifle. It's semiautomatic. 

2) Glocks are used by enthusiasts, police, militaries, and CCW license holders worldwide. It's a reliable, durable weapon that's easy to use. 

3) The Remington 870 is one of the most ubiquitous civilian firearms ever made. If an American household has a gun, chances are that it's a Remington/Mossberg shotgun.   

qdiscqus
qdiscqus

No, like the second amendment that says "well regulated". He was not part of a well regulated militia.

EricAnderson
EricAnderson

@qdiscqus:  You don't know what you're talking about.  The guys who wrote the Constitution and the Second Amendment also wrote many volumes explaining exactly what they meant, and the historical context behind it.  I've read them.  Have you?

They codified "militia" very early on.  According to Federal law, there are two "militias":  First, the "organized militia", which consists of trained, war-ready citizen-soliders who are to fill the required levies in time of war.  Second is the "unorganized militia", which consists of "the body of the citizens."  ALL citizens.

"Regulated" was an 18th century military term which meant "to be proficient in the use of arms."  NOT "regulated" in the modern sense. 

The Second Amendment means exactly what they said it means.  No more, and no less.  Educate yourself.

qdiscqus
qdiscqus

Which says "well regulated", meaning that those purchasing arms should be subject to superb training as a militia man or woman in both weapons and the code of conduct and regulations of a militia.

kwco
kwco

I know this is difficult, but lets work through this logically. The article claims you need serious firepower to commit this type of crime but did this individual really have that?

60+ people were hit with gunfire (a small number of the wounded were wounded by other means), yet only 12 died.  That equates to a kill rate of 20%. 80% of the people shot survived. This is not surprising - the AR15 and the .223 military rounds it fires are not primarily designed to kill. They never have been. They are primary designed for wounding affect. This is what they call a force multiplier in military terms. Kill an enemy soldier you take out one man, wound him and you take out three (the wounded man and the two others who must carry him off the field). 

Had the shooter used a 7.62 mm (.308) military style rifle the kill rate would have been  higher, around 50%.  Had he used a standard hunting rifle in .30-06 caliber you should expect over 80% of the people shot to die. Hunting rifles (which gun control groups seem to think are the only acceptable types to own) are designed to take out big game (like an elk that weighs 500 lb). A 200 lb person shot with one has almost no chance of survival.

Although AR15s look menacing to people who hate guns (and they look cool to people who like guns) the statistical reality is that they are not particularly lethal in comparison to other, more "socially acceptable", weapons.  

It's the same with handguns. In spite of higher magazine capacities of 15 to 30 rounds available in recent years 80% of people shot with handguns will live, a number that has been constant since the 60s (with the introduction of more powerful synthetic antibiotics that combat infections better than penicillin  did).

EricAnderson
EricAnderson

@kwco :  Don't confuse the liberals with logic.

scallywag
scallywag

Did Holmes intend to literally copy cat the Batman reality, turn the Hollywood fantasy into some sort of lurid hyper reality? Was he attempting to use the occasion to make his own grand statement about reality, art, violence, identity, to cement his own credo as the all time villain of all time, the real Joker, the real enemy not just that of Batman but that of a live film audience, and the town of Aurora at large?

How Jason Holmes must have marveled to himself as he pummeled bullet after bullet over and over...

http://scallywagandvagabond.co...

 

EricAnderson
EricAnderson

@scallywag He wasn't attempting to do anything rational, and to attempt to extract rationale from his actions is a waste of time.  He was NUTS.  The end.

itsmeusee
itsmeusee

You check your numbers, accounting for population and per capita and they overwhelmingly disprove your "points".

itsmeusee
itsmeusee

Since even prior to the 1900s hunting rifles and military rifles have always been intercahngable back and forth and military rifles have come from hunting rifles and hunting rifles have come military rifles. It has always been "yesterday's service rifle is today's hunting rifle."

itsmeusee
itsmeusee

F/F didnt start under Bush that was proven a lie and retracted. And FYI modern M16s are not full auto either.

itsmeusee
itsmeusee

Yours is a false argument. Its people like you who wont exicute violent offenders, and would rather hamstring law enforcement and keep letting gang members roam the streets. Plus the money you donate for weed contributes to the criminal element and life style and culture.

Alohajonny
Alohajonny

A Remington 8-gauge 1270 shotgun?????????????  How about a Remington 870 12 GA my God, but what do expect from Obama Media

EricAnderson
EricAnderson

@Alohajonny I have no idea what a "1270" is, but an EIGHT GAUGE would only allow for one shot before he'd had to have his dislocated shoulder fixed.

echamberlain
echamberlain

How does one bring a shotgun and a rifle into a movie theater without being noticed?

EricAnderson
EricAnderson

@echamberlain:  One goes out the emergency exit near the screen, leaves it propped open, and retrieves ones guns from ones car which one has parked near said exit.

One would assume.

Heterotic
Heterotic

Two points may define a line but do not determine a trend.

Kalendrix
Kalendrix

Guns dont kill people lay a gun on a table and say shoot him it will just sit there. People kill people

PauseThinkDo
PauseThinkDo

Crack cocaine does not kill people.  Lay crack cocaine on the table and it will just sit there.  Crack cocaine in people kills people.  Should crack cocaine be legal?

EricAnderson
EricAnderson

@PauseThinkDo:  Put people in cars and thousands die.  Should cars be illegal?

stholiday
stholiday

Harm principle dumbass.. read it

PauseThinkDo
PauseThinkDo

Aww.. no name-calling on the pwaygwound!

But do explain.

TucsonTerpFan
TucsonTerpFan

Where do all the "shooters" arrested in Chicago and other cities get their guns?

Do they too get them legally, or do they get them illegally?

Do most criminals get their guns legally? 

Usually the source of most of the guns involved in illegal activity is  not reported.

It would be interesting to many on both sides of the "gun issue" to see the source of most guns used in illegal activity.  Were they purchased legally or illegally before being used in a crime?

EricAnderson
EricAnderson

@TucsonTerpFan For that matter, where did the guy in Norway get his guns....and explosives?  In a country with strict gun control, surrounded by countries with strict gun control, on a continent with strict gun control......he bought them ILLEGALLY in a country with strict gun control.  From CRIMINALS.  Result:  Worst mass shooting in history.  Nobody had guns except the criminal.  Even the first cops who showed up were unarmed and couldn't do anything but hide.

Gary McCray
Gary McCray

The inevitable backlash of wacko based events like this is that somehow we ought to be able to eliminate the wacko's ability to cause harm so everybody would be safe.

The fact is that the world is inherently not safe and in order to have prevented this particular wacko from having access to guns we would seriously have to compromise everybody's freedom and personal safety. 

Guns are dangerous, cars are dangerous, knives are dangerous, all of them can be used to kill and cause bodily harm.

The expectancy is that people are expected to behave responsibly and use them appropriately and the vast majority of the time they do.

Irresponsible people cause accidents and deranged people do all sorts of things.

You can't stop every wacko or kid with a grudge and trying to prevent everybody from access just makes it worse for all of us.

The problem isn't the guns, its the person as well as our own perception that somehow the world is supposed to be completely safe.

The media focuses on this because they can.

They are muckrakers at heart because the more they can incite, the more they can sell their articles and gain notoriety themselves.

808independent
808independent

It is a total cliche, but when guns are outlawed, only the criminals and police will have guns. The law abiding will be the only victims with no way to protect themselves. Michael Moore already made the point that it is not guns per se that are the problem, but the culture of fear we live in. This guy, with his purported level of intelligence, could have easily set off a bomb in the theater or devised some other way to inflict mass harm. This was clearly his intention and no law was going to stop him. That's why he deserves the death penalty.

Cheri Shire
Cheri Shire

You are absolutely correct. A maniac with a high IQ is not going to be stopped by gun control laws if he wants to kill a large number of people. He could have planted a number of bombs in the theater instead of his apartment and I bet the body count would be as high or higher. He could have thrown Molotov cocktails, or used a sprayer with gasoline, or a whole list of other methods.

We need to concentrate less on the method used by these killers and more on how they can be spotted and helped before these crimes occur.  He is obviously deranged and I guarantee there were many warning signs that were ignored.

PNik
PNik

Always the same three arguments from the gun nuts:

1) "We need to do more to spot them in time!"

2) "Even without guns, they would kill!"

3) "Only criminals would have guns"

#1 This is impossible, almost every shooting spree madman have had a perfectly normal life up to the point when they go berserk. Also, I very seriously doubt anyone would be much in favor of mandatory mental health checks for the entire population.

#2 False. The stricter the gun laws in a country, the less murders they have. Just check the numbers some time.

#3 Also false, see #2.

Now, I'm not saying it's wrong to support the second amendment. But at least be honest about the price that carries and spare us the above three silly claims.

stholiday
stholiday

actually you are wrong on #2, I can email you the documents I have if you want proff

Conversationalist
Conversationalist

If murder statutes failed to stop him from murder, I doubt he was too worried about violating gun laws regarding bringing the guns into the theatre.

It's interesting that the article said he possessed "normal" guns.  I'm specifically thinking of the assault rifle.  I can't think of any valid reason why everyday citizens need assault rifles.  Want to scare off a burglar?  Sure, a shotgun or a handgun.  Shooting deer?  A rifle.  But why do you need an assault rifle if not for mass killing?

itsmeusee
itsmeusee

What interests me is how everyone is useing the term "assault rifle" when an AR15 (armalite 15) isn't even an "assault rifle" I love how people misuse definitions they dont understand. Assault or small light full auto weapons used for short and quick intermediate ranges as back up to a primary or to support an infantryman's main battle rifle, and by crews such as tankers who dont have room for a MBR.   

Alohajonny
Alohajonny

Obviously you have never shot one fun as heck although the ammo can get costly, and with the new Zombie Rounds you are covered..

Pseudostein
Pseudostein

^this.

You might want to ask the same question about extended mags too.

As far as I can see there is no valid reason whatsoever to legalize it in a civil market.

Bad thing is, I'm quite sure nothing's gonna change. Some soothing words from politicians, some gibberish about gun laws and in the end: nothing (maybe a minor tweak somewhere).  American 'tradition' and corporate concerns for the win!