James Holmes: Could we have known it before?

After the midnight movie massacre in Aurora, Colorado, a frequently raised question is: Were there any warning signs in the person of James Holmes? Could we have known before that he was up to something sinister?

Let’s look at what we know about James Holmes and you decide which of these would be a “warning sign”:

  • James Holmes was from California.
  • He played soccer.
  • He studied neuroscience.
  • He regularly attended church.
  • He had started a PhD in neuroscience.
  • He was in the process of withdrawing from the PhD program.
  • Within the last two months, James Holmes bought a Remington shotgun, an AR-15 assault rifle, two handguns and 6,000 rounds of ammunition.

I don’t think you have to be a trained profiler to determine which of these actions should have raised concern.

About Andreas Moser

Travelling the world and writing about it. I have degrees in law and philosophy, but I'd much rather be a writer, a spy or a hobo.
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44 Responses to James Holmes: Could we have known it before?

  1. You are absolutely right, Andreas, there was just one clear sign that this nut would crack.
    Now, if only we could outlaw being Californian …. ;)

  2. Luigi O. says:

    You forget, Andreas, that he is a white caucasian homosexual jewish british anglo-saxon european-asian. That’s a great source of screwballery right there. California be damned!!

  3. Pingback: After Aurora, Two Questions for the Gun Lobby | The Happy Hermit

  4. He was a liberal socialist, who didn’t like people.(None of them do, really.) BY all means, lets use this as an excuse to make government stronger than the people it governs. Because history shows that always works really, really well.

    • Katie says:

      I thought trademarks of being liberal socialists are caring too much and forcing everyone to pay for everyone else regardless of social status. While I might not necessarily agree with those views, it doesn’t sound like the generic profile of people who want to go into a crowd of people and kill everyone. Entertain the idea that perhaps politics had nothing to do with this tragedy and he was just batshit insane

    • cirby says:

      No, it’s CLAIMING to care too much and wanting everyone to pay for everyone else, then treating people like cattle and forcing a few people to pay for everyone else that are the hallmarks of liberal socialists.

      When those people snap, they tend to take it out on the people who ignored them or told them they were wrong.

    • Flappy says:

      cirby: Can you cite one incident where that ever happened? I can’t personally ever recall a situation where someone loved people so much he snapped and went on a killing spree. I think maybe what you are categorizing as liberal is something else entirely.

      You seem to have some pre set notions about what a liberal is. You should get to know some liberals. Try volunteering at a soup kitchen some time or contributing to a community project. I think if you had some time volunteering to help people you might actually find that you enjoy it and you might make some new friends.

    • Flappy says:

      As much as I admire your trying to turn this into a political thing, there really isn’t anything to indicate that he was a liberal socialist. Liberal socialists are not known for having a fun fetish for one thing.

      I would suggest not trying to stretch so much to try to make it fit a political agenda and simply let it be what it is. A mentally disturbed young man who committed an attrocity.

  5. jim m says:

    And how, exactly, do you propose to find out who is purchasing large numbers of guns and ammo? You would have to track every gun purchase and every purchase of ammunition as well as purchases of reloading supplies for those who load their own ammo. And once the government has that data what are they going to do with it? It becomes a de facto gun registry and historically, gun registries have been used for one single purpose: To ultimately disarm the populace.

    The sickness was never his purchase of guns (I will note that his apartment is full of explosives, but you seem to be OK with that). The real issue was his sickness. He is clearly mentally disturbed. So obviously so that when his mother was contacted she said, “You got the right person”. What is needed are laws to allow sick people to be given the help they need when they will almost certainly refuse it. He needed help, but people either looked the other way or simply do not bother to try because our laws today concerning the welfare of the mentally ill do not allow us to involuntarily commit people who really need help.

    • Bella says:

      I agree. A person needs to give consent to be treated, but the mentally disturbed are rarely aware they need treatment (they are often in denial), despite the suggestion of friends and loved ones.

    • LisaS says:

      Very true indeed, the mental disturbed are not aware they need help or they are in denial. Look at any republican and you can see that.

    • Stefan MD says:

      I disagree. Do you hear yourself speaking?

      Let’s apply that logic to driving. You need a license to be allowed to drive on the roads, and if you fail to acquire that license by failing the test or failing to renew that test, you have no business driving. Any driver can be a danger on the road, but a driver without a driving license has a higher probability of being a danger on the road. So according to you anyone should be allowed to own a car and drive it on the public road without being licensed and without the necessary training. I want to see you walking or cycling on the same road as these people.

      So let’s apply the licensing logic the ownership of guns – replace the driving test with psychological evaluations which need to be renewed, and mandatory gun training BEFORE being able to buy a gun.

      Of course, criminals will always be able to acquire guns and weapons, they will also be able to acquire unregistered cars, equipment, etc to be used for their own purposes. That doesn’t mean we should make their life easier now does it?

      So you want freedom to buy your guns whenever or wherever you want to. But then you want a law that allows someone to commit another person to a mental institution without their consent. The number of ways such a law can be abused are countless – as has already happened when there existed such a law!

      Some people never learn. Maybe this law should come in and someone will commit you without your consent.

    • barthalomew puckus says:

      uhhh…what?????? Hmmm, assault style weapons and driving licenses – apples and oranges

    • Stefan MD says:

      Mr barthalomew puckus – do you mean to say that assault style weapons are safer and need less restrictions than car-driving?

    • SheLawyer says:

      Yes, he was a sick person. But this sick person would have been a lot less destructive if the current law didn’t put ‘a Remington shotgun, an AR-15 assault rifle, two handguns and 6,000 rounds of ammunition’ in his hands.

      A simple background check would have identified this man as mentally disturbed, I would understand how a background check would be considered too much for buying a gun but clearly one would have to question what a 24 year old, ‘seemingly normal’ PhD student would need a shotgun, an assault rifle, 2 handguns and not to mention SIX THOUSAND rounds of ammunition for.

      The problem with going down the ‘we should be allowed to involuntarily commit people who REALLY NEED HELP’ road is simple: with the magnitude of mental illnesses out there, who decides what qualifies as enough ‘illness’ for one to be involuntarily committed? I can think of ten thousand reasons why people would end up being wrongfully committed just because people in their lives say they need help. For instance, do you have any idea how many people around you think (or could be convinced to think) YOU ‘really need help’?

    • Roger says:

      Yes, most Democrats need mental help. How could you be a Democrat if it wasn’t for mental illness.
      Socialism doesn’t work but people keep trying it again and again. A sure sign of mental illness.

  6. LisaS says:

    I’ll lay odds he is a republican. They are ALL crazy to begin with

  7. Wrong, I have it on reliable information he was closet Democrat, red hair, small penis gave it away

  8. He went to church?LOL dead giveaway. No, seriously. He was a terrorist who wanted to strike fear into America. Throw the book at him and find a way for him to fry.

  9. idont hinkso says:

    What you fail to mention is that millions of other people buy guns as well, but they never end up shooting ANYONE. Just buying guns isn’t any kind of red flag indicating an impending massacre. If anything was a red flag, it has to be the person’s psychological state prior, and even that might not be of any help…you can’t arrest someone before they commit a crime, just because they have the potential to do something awful.

    His mother stated, “as soon as I heard the news, I knew it had to have something to do with James.” She probably wasn’t thinking too clearly at the time, but why would someone say that publicly? You’re just inviting blame. Why didn’t SHE do something about her son before he did something terrible, if she was so apparently not surprised by his actions?

    • My Name Is says:

      buying six thousand rounds of ammunition is a red flag, duh!

    • lancet98tusu says:

      That is an absolute and complete falsehood, and you should be ashamed of yourself for repeating such a ridiculous falsehood. You’re misquoting a news story that misquoted Holmse’s mother in te first place, just to make a more exciting news story! It’s about time you woke up to how really very bad the dissemintation of news IS in the USA! Holmes is mentally ill, severely so, and his crime has nothing to do with politics, Batman, or even, being filled with social angst by the problems of society. He has a brain disease that in a small number of people can cause violent hostile behavior. Most likely, he doesn’t even have a clue as to why he’s in jail, and wouldn’t have shot the theatre up if someone had hospitalized him and insisted he get treatment. Is he insane? Probably not – that’s a legal term and has essentially no relationship to the term ‘mentally ill’, which is strictly a medical term.

  10. Pingback: The face that says “Oops, what did I do?” | The Happy Hermit

  11. Garrett says:

    i bought 3 handguns in a 2 month period and plenty of ammo to go with them. does that mean i’m gonna go shoot a crowd of innocent people? i’m glad i read this so i can save me from myself.

    • When law enforcement have limited resources, I think they should concentrate on checking on people with that kind of buying behaviour, yes. But maybe you have a perfectly good reason for why you need 3 guns and can’t do what you need to do with 2.

  12. Maren says:

    I think when he bought that hair color, THAT should have been the red flag,

  13. Josh Ryan says:

    James Holmes just wanted to be noticed. I’m sure it was a bad childhood and his parents let him watch too much Batman when he was young. There had to of been some reason why he would just wanna kill and blow shit up. Nobody can pull off the real joker. There have been reports of people trying the Texas Chainsaw Massacre and the SAW movies stuff. Its pretty sad if you ask me. Leave people in peace, get your head out of your ass and smile more often. YOLO.
    You Only Live Once.

    • I wonder what will become of me because I have watched the James Bond films too often.

    • Too late – you already are a dashing figure of international intrigue.
      Or else, you’ll become an unemployed alcoholic who will be quickly replaced.
      Either way – you’re not getting older, you’re just coming that much closer to death. :D

  14. This horrible loser just had to ruin the fun for everybody. My heart goes to the victims and their families. We have been excited to watching The Dark Knight Rises for several months and even got our costumes ready to go. I was going to be Catwoman with my boyfriend as Batman. Alas, the theater wouldn’t allow us in.

  15. lancet98tusu says:

    Yes, if anyone with any knowledge of mental illness had been paying the slightest amount of attention this would have been avoided. The man needed to be hospitalized months ago if not much longer ago than that. His uneven academic performance, with one teacher praising him and another one saying he was ‘oddly stubborn’ and an average student shows that he has had other episodes of illness before, that not one single neighbor or contact other than the psychiatrist even realized what was going on, and the psychiatrist called a couple people and then dropped it when he resigned from the school program (a ridiculous move right there, and inexcusable from someone who AUTHORED a risk management process for a huge university) just shows how much ignorance and inaction contributes to such tragedies.

  16. lancet98tusu says:

    That ANYONE is trying to make this a gun issue, a political issue, or wailing about this person being ‘evil’, just shows us WHY we don’t prevent such tragedies – because we are ignorant, lazy and too caught up in our own cause celebres to even NOTICE what’s going on around us.

  17. Stefan MD says:

    And the gun debate starts again…

    • Exactly. With no progress since last time.

    • It was extremely obvious that Holmes was very mentally ill and he made a declaration of intent SIX WEEKS before the shooting in front of a psychiatrist who had the authority to hospitalize him immediately. Same with conn. shooter – had an altercation with the school over a week ago – with his ‘troubled’ history he should also have been hospitalized. SAME with Va Tech shooter – huge report details ad nauseum how time after time after time, his mental illness was mishandled. That guy was judged a danger to self and others by a psychiatrist and the psychiatrist insisted, IMPLORED the hospital to not discharge him, and they did anyway. Yes, in fact the existing gun laws meant to prevent mentally ill from getting guns are very shoddily enforced, just enforcing that would do a great deal to prevent the fast knockdown of multiple victims capable with a gun, but the mental health processes need to be done according to the law too..

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