How Do We Protect Ourselves From Random Violence?


A headline in USA TODAY 08.20.15 caught my attention.  My immediate attempt to connect the dots in my head was a wrong conclusion.  The last time the General and I went to a movie, I was surprised at the cost of a couple of diet cokes and two tubs of popcorn.  Maybe the formula is simple: $20 bucks for two people to get into the theatre and $20 bucks to get something to eat or drink.  It makes the advertising as simple as 2/40.

I’d be the first to admit it, I’m old school.  When I was a kid the price of admission to a movie theatre was a quarter.  Even in the midst of adulthood, three quarters for admission to a really good movie didn’t seem all that expensive.  2/40 is outside my comfort zone.  I’m not paying that unless, or course, the General and I are together.  Did I mention the General wouldn’t consider omitting the diet coke and popcorn?  I can take it or leave it.  The General is wired differently.

When I saw today’s headlines in USA TODAY, I immediately thought someone had figured out a way to break the system and the system had figured out a way to re-emerge as victor.  The headline simply read:  “Regal theaters now searching bags at door”.  My first thought in reading the headlines was, “Why didn’t I think of that?”  The General and I could have smuggled in our own soft drinks and popcorn and saved $20.  Apparently, the idea came to us too late.  They are now checking backpacks at the door.

Sadly, the search of backpacks and other bags has nothing to do with popcorn and soft drinks.  ‘“Security issues have become a daily part of our lives in America.  Regal Entertainment Group wants our customers and staff to feel comfortable and safe when visiting or working in our theatres,’ the chain’s website says.”

Perhaps killings in movie theatres in the past couple of months are the catalyst for the new policy.  In addition, in 2012, a gunman killed 12 and injured 70 in Aurora, Colorado.  The perpetrator of that crime was just sentenced to life in prison.

How do we protect ourselves from random violence?  It is a tough question.  I’m not sure we can.  Actually, I’m confident that we can’t. There are two forces at work in our world and they are going to figure out a way to clash.

A friend from Abilene recently posted a picture of a sign of Facebook.  The message was clear. To begin with, the message included the image of a man with his rifle aimed and ready to fire.  The caption read:


Staff at

this campus

are armed

and trained to

meet threats

to students

safety with

deadly force

if necessary.”

Is ours a different world than the one we grew up in?  From my childhood memories,  I don’t remember that we lived in an environment of fear with the exception of thinking Russia was going to bomb our country.  Do you remember the door-to-door salesman that were peddling bomb shelters?  We even had drills at our school where we marched into the hallway and sat down and put our head between our knees.  I’m still not sure of the logic.

Are we less safe today than we were in the 1950s?  Perhaps we have more information available to us today than we did decades ago.  Out of curiosity, I did a Google search on the history of school shootings in the USA.  I was surprised.  The outset of school shootings didn’t emerge with the Columbine School massacre.

For example: “NEVADA CITY, Cal., Dec. 7. (1909) – The discovery of the fact that a number of school boys of tender years have been in the habit of carrying revolvers with them to school led today to the capture of an organized gang of school lads who have confessed to robbing a hardware store of revolvers of all sizes and several rifles. The investigation was started last week when one of the boys was shot and slightly wounded in a class room at school.

The sheriff learned that many of the boys went armed all the time, and was told by them the weapons were purchased from certain other boys. The latter were questioned today and confessed that they robbed the store and disposed of the loot at prices ranging from 50 cents up. No legal steps have been taken against the boys.”

School shootings in this country began long before the 20th century.  Let me share with you, some early examples:


  • September 3, 1900: Boise, Idaho, During an exciting school board committee elections, H. C. Branstetter attempted to murder H. B. Eastman. One shot was fired, but the gun was struck down and the weapon was snatched from Branstetter before he could shoot again.[49]
  • February 26, 1902: Camargo, Illinois, Teacher Fletcher R. Barnett shot and killed another teacher, Eva C. Wiseman, in front of her class at a school. After shooting at a pupil who came to help Miss Wiseman and wounding himself in a failed suicide attempt, he waited in the classroom until a group of farmers came to lynch him. He then ran out of the school building, grabbed a shotgun from one of the farmers and shot himself, before running away and leaping into a well where he finally drowned. The incident was likely sparked by Wiseman’s refusal to marry Barnett.[50]
  • February 24, 1903: Inman, South Carolina, Edward Foster, a 17-year-old student at Inman High school, was shot and fatally wounded by his teacher Reuben Pitts after he had jerked a rod from Pitts’ hands to resist punishment. According to the teacher, Foster struck the pistol Pitts had drawn to defend himself, thus causing its discharge. Pitts was later acquitted of murder.
  • July 21, 1903: Jackson, Jackson, Kentucky, at the Cave Run School, James Barrett and Mack Howard fought a duel with pistols over a card game killing each other. Another student James Vires, aged 12, was also found shot in the abdomen while sitting at his desk.
  • April 6, 1904: Chicago, Illinois, Two students who have been fighting over a girl for the better part of a year, clashing every time they crossed paths. Until one fight, where Henry Schaze threw 16-year-old Paul Jelick to the ground, drew a revolver, and shot Paul dead.
  • September 27, 1904: Mount Ayr, Iowa, Two school directors got into a heated discussion over school business. When Director Samuel Egly threatened Director William Kling with an ax, Kling shot Egly through the heart, killing him.[54]
  • November 16, 1904: Riverside, California, at the Indian School, a gun fight broke out between pupils. Charles Colby was hit in the head with a pistol, then returned fire killing Tom Bucanoros and fatally wounding Fred Smith.[55]
  • December 16, 1904: Magee, Mississippi, E. E. Mangum was shot through the head and killed by the principal of the high school, Professor V. A. Alfonso. Mangum remonstrated with Woodward because he had administered a severe whipping to Mangum’s 15-year-old son. Mangum finally lost his temper and shot Woodward through the wrist. Woodward was handed a pistol by a bystander and shot Mangum through the head.
  • February 9, 1905: Colusa, California, At the request of his childhood friend, Pearl Cruse, Elmer Hildreth a 17-year-old non-student, attended a meeting between Miss Cruse and her teacher which ended in “a hand to hand” encounter between teacher and pupil. School trustee, William Ingrim later told others that Elmer was involved in the physical encounter. Unjustly accused, Hildreth found Mr Ingrim requesting he give an accurate accounting to the community. Trustee Ingram, in anger struck Hildreth to the ground, blooding his face, when Hildreth arose Ingrim went after him with an axe. Hildreth ordered him to stop, but Ingrim continued towards him. Hildreth shot him in the stomach. Hildreth was arrested and bail was posted by 5 prominent men in the community. After investigation, Hildreth was found to have acted in self-defense and no charges were filed. Ingrim survived and Hildreth went on to serve with a special team of snipers at the Battle of Chateau Thierry in France.[57]
  • May 18, 1906: Boston, Massachusetts, During the closing ceremonies of the Cambridge Commercial College where they were both graduating, student George M. DeWolfe, aged 18, shot fellow graduate Lillian Thoroughgood, aged 17, before then shooting himself in the head. The bullet was stopped from injuring Lillian by the locket she wore, but her clothes were singed. DeWolfe died from his self-inflicted gunshot.
  • October 10, 1906: Cleveland, Ohio, In front of 60 students, Harry Smith shot and killed 22-year-old teacher Mary Shepard at South Euclid School after she had rejected him. Smith escaped and committed suicide in a barn near his home two hours later.
  • March 23, 1907: Carmi, Illinois, George Nicholson shot and killed John Kurd at a schoolhouse during a school rehearsal. The motive for the shooting was Kurd making a disparaging remark about Nicholson’s daughter during her recital.
  • December 20, 1907: Chico, California, Arthur Roberts, aged 9 years, was shot in the head and killed during a military drill by the school children of the Dayton school district. The children, armed with old guns believed to be empty, aimed and pulled triggers. Instantly the Roberts boy, who had just emerged from the school building, threw his hands to his head and cried, “I’m shot.”

The listing of school shootings goes on and on.  I’m not sure we live in a different world than the one in which we grew up.  For better or worse, the access to media and information simply gives us almost instant awareness of the difficulties we face.

I don’t anticipate Regal Theaters search my backpack at the door will pose a problem for me.  The 2/40 will be enough for me to find a safe alternative at home.

All My Best!



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