Guns, Movie Theaters, and Texting

It should come as no big surprise to any of my longtime readers that I’m no big fan of guns. I have nothing against them for hunting, but I’m very much against them for most other purposes. I think the Second Amendment has reached religious proportions with some proponents, and it’s held far too holy and sacrosanct–though of course saying something like that immediately makes you the focus of many foaming-at-the-mouth NRA members, and we mustn’t upset the Rabbids.

But who am I kidding? If a school full of dead children isn’t going to persuade this country that gun control is necessary, what is one ex-cop shooting a texter in a movie theater going to do?

I assume you’ve all read about this case by now. The facts appear to be simple. In an afternoon movie screening in Florida, some guy was texting his daughter’s babysitter during the previews. He was there with his wife on an early date, I assume. Sitting behind them, an elderly couple in their 70s, also out for an early date. The 71 year-old husband asked the texter to stop. He didn’t. Tempers flared. The texter threw popcorn at the elderly man. The elderly man took out a hand gun and shot the texter dead.

My loathing of texting during movies is also well-established. I hate movie theater distractions: talking, phones, babies, texting. You name it. Like most people, I have my fair share of horror stories I can relate. People being obnoxious in the theater. They paid money to be there, why are they doing something else? I’ve given people the half turn, the full turn, and the full turn with the eye roll.

I think I might have told this story before, but it bears repeating. When I was a gas meter reader in days of yore, I had my fair share of run ins with dogs. Big dogs. Huge, nasty, mean dogs. I had a dog come after me and break its chain, and the only thing between me and its teeth was a metal clipboard. But meter readers weren’t allowed to bring any weapons with them. No mace, which is the obvious deterrent for mean poochies. (I love dogs, people–but meter reading can cure a guy of that pretty fast.) Why no weapons? Because we might use them when we didn’t need to. That might seem foolish, but I look at it this way: in my 2 or 3 years reading meters, I never got bit once. Not even by that chain-breaking dog. I managed to find ways to avoid it. I generally stayed out of dangerous situations. I made better decisions.

If I’d had a can of mace with me, I think the odds of me getting bit would have been greater. Why? Because I would have taken more chances. Been more reckless. The fact remains: if you don’t have a gun, you’re not going to shoot anyone. If you do have one, you might. Yes, Nazi ninjas hopped up on drugs might invade your house or your workplace or try to car jack you at any moment. Or maybe something simpler will happen–a home invasion. Life is full of what ifs, and the fact is that even having a gun doesn’t protect you from them. Doesn’t diminish them from happening to you. It just changes a few specifics.

I’m not here today to write about what should or shouldn’t have happened in that movie theater in Florida yesterday. I wasn’t there. I have no idea what went on. But I know this. Two couples went on afternoon dates to go have a fun time and watch a movie. Neither of them planned anything like what ended up happening. Things turned out very differently, and if the ex-cop hadn’t had a gun on him, the worst we’d be dealing with would be some black eyes or broken bones.

Let’s assume for a moment that the facts are as outlined. And let’s take the gun out of the situation. And to further distance ourselves, let’s move into the hypothetical. Two men in a theater. One of them texting, one of them irritated. First off, to the texters: just don’t do it. If you have to text, stand up, walk out of the theater, and do it there. (The same goes for talking on the phone.) Your bright phone screen annoys other people. If it’s “just the previews,” realize that some people really love seeing previews, and they don’t want to be stuck having your glaring bright screen distracting them.

But then, to the people who get irritated: there are many things to do differently. In an afternoon movie with only 25 people in the theater? Just go to another spot in the theater. I’ve done this plenty of times. I remember the screening of Two Towers I went to, there was no one in the theater. My cousin and I sat down, and five minutes later, a very tall, very large man sat down. Right in front of me. The whole theater was empty except for the three of us. What did I do? I got up and moved. I didn’t bother yelling at him or objecting. Why not? Because then I’d have been in a bad mood, he’d have been in a bad mood, and the fun afternoon I’d paid for would have been ruined. So I just moved. No biggie. (Though I still remember his rudeness years later, so maybe it was a bigger deal to me than I thought?)

If you can’t move? Try to see if you can block their phone from your vision with your hand or a coat or something. That’s worked for me plenty, too. If things are really obnoxious, get a manager and have them deal with it. (Managers, please enforce your no texting rules.)

I don’t know. I know the story hit close to home, because I’ve been that irritated guy plenty of times. It’s an experience many people have lived through. So seeing where it ended up is just shocking and sad. And I don’t know if I have anything more to add to that.

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