The question that was on many people's lips Friday as the horror of the Aurora, Colo., midnight theater shootings took hold was a simple one-word one: "Why?"
The answer is: We may never really know.
We know what happened and when. About 30 minutes into the midnight showing of the newest Batman movie, "The Dark Knight Rises," a gunman clad in a gas mask and armor tossed tear gas into a crowded theater and then opened fire with guns. Reports have said that 12 to 14 people were killed in the hail of bullets and more than four dozen others, the youngest a 4-month-old baby, were injured.
Authorities seem certain they know who. On Friday, they arrested James Holmes, 24, who had bought the weapons that law enforcement said was used in this murders over the past couple of weeks. As of Friday night, attempts by authorities to enter Holmes' apartment were being thwarted as they tried to determine how to get around an elaborate set of booby traps they found at the residence.
For some reason, a man from San Diego described as smart, high-achieving and shy who had been studying for a doctorate in neuroscience at the University of Colorado-Denver decided to withdraw from that program and, according to New York City Police Commissioner Ray Kelly, who said he had been briefed on the matter, began painting his hair red and calling himself "The Joker," after Batman's green-haired, murderous arch-nemesis, before turning into a mass murderer. Whether Holmes is proven to be the killer in this case is for the judicial system to determine.
But there was a gunman, and why this thug committed these despicable acts may never be known. There are any number of reasons frustrations, fears and insecurities can manifest themselves in violent fashion. But what is clear is that the individual who did this foul act meticulously planned out the details and tried to hurt even more innocent people by booby-trapping the apartment. Regardless of the murderer's reason for committing these heinous, inexcusable crimes, he deserves the death penalty. That won't breathe life into any of his victims, but this is such a cowardly, premediated, purely evil act that this murderer has forfeited his right to live.
There will, of course, be attempts by factions to argue their various positions that, for instance, tighter gun controls are needed to stop violence, that looser gun controls are needed so that victims can shoot back, that violence depicted on movie screens and TVs and in video games and comic books leads to violence in real life, and others.
But what it all boils down to is this: If an individual is intent on committing a violent crime, he or she will find a way to rationalize a reason for doing it. That criminal alone is responsible for what he or she did, and that criminal is the one who should pay the price for the crime.