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

113 comments
PaulCottager
PaulCottager

I want to know where he got the money?  He obviously was not working.  His mental state and hair, and just his bizarre demeanor would have kept him from being employable.  That leaves one source possible since financial aid is given in an amount slightly less than market rates for rent and costs of books and tuition if he qualified for a full payout.  He was paying rent and in school.  So obviously the parents gave him the money right?  They also knew he has been homicidal since the age of 12 or so.  So why in Gods name would his parents A. send him away to another state for school and allow him to live alone and without a roomate and B. continue feeding him tens of dollars that this arsenal would have cost him without first setting up a joint account so that they could monitor his spending?  The parents have done nothing but demonstrate that they were aware of their evil son's attentions and even subsidized his efforts.  Sickness or no sickness, if your son or daughter does something so attrocious that it makes the entire nation call for his head, even many who are typically against the death penalty, you not only turn your back on your evil spawn but you should also at the very least side with the victims and ask for the most just and equal sentence one can receive be handed down.  They have not even divorced themselves from him.  They are his only advocates for life.  If you ask me they are accomplices to this crime against humanity, and should also face We the People in the court of law.  Without their financial as well as emotional support this dog from hell could have never pulled off such a disgusting act.  How come no one is asking for them to face justice themselves?  I find it insulting to the victims that they are asking for the State of Colorado to spare this pigs life.  End his life tomorrow and put his parents in prison for the rest of their lives so that they can never support evil again.  Obviously they are capable of doing just that.  

EricAnderson
EricAnderson

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

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. 

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.

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?

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.

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?

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.

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...

 

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

echamberlain
echamberlain

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

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

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?

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.

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?

sbiemails
sbiemails

Heavenly Father, we stretch our hands to you; no other help we know. If you should withdraw yourself from us whether shall we go. By the power in the name and blood of Jesus,  I lift this tragedy to your throne of mercy and grace, and pray that you have mercy and rescue, heal, deliver, and help everyone involved.

Only you LORD have the power to bring complete recovery to all those still alive; and grant comfort, peace, and strength to the families of the deceased.  Lord and Savior Jesus Christ may your grace protect us daily; and may your perfect divine will be done in the earth as it is done in heaven. In your name Jesus I pray. Amen.

Dan Bruce
Dan Bruce

Someone should put these post-massacre gun-control/gun-rights arguments on DVD or YouTube so we can play them again next massacre, because the arguments are the same time after time, and they make no difference. As much as I hate to admit it, I have come to realize that most Americans feel that the killings and maimings are an acceptable price to pay in order to allow everyone to have a gun, or two or three, or, in some cases, a personal arsenal. Nothing will change because the majority of Americans don't want it to change. When we do want change, we will get it.

genomega
genomega

Being confined to one area makes this a big deal, but the body count on a typical Chicago weekend is as bad or worse.

christinasmythe
christinasmythe

Deepest sympathies to the family and friends of the innocent victims. Someone created a memorial page for these victims on Evertalk within Facebook. There is a memorial fund on this page and people can donate to help the families of the victims of this terrible tragedy. Here's the page. 

https://apps.facebook.com/ever...

USACynic
USACynic

Another proud moment for the NRA.  71 people are very glad their second amendment rights were protected when the NRA got rid of the assault rifle ban in 2004. Banning assault rifles and military/police equipment does not make sense. They have one purpose only to kill people. Just like Arizona and McDonald's in San Diego (San Ysidro) where 27 parents and kids died, they all have one thing in common. The were done with military assault weapons. Nobody ever does this with a .22 or a deer rifle or "citizen" type gun, it's always a military weapon. The NRA is the best friend gangs have (young, no record , legal)  buy all this crap and bring it back to the gang for use in your neighborhood. NRA: Not Really American

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