As Coloradans gathered in churches, synagogues and temples this weekend, they created soft targets for potential mass killers the likes of the maniac who shot up the Route 91 Harvest Festival in Las Vegas.
We know about it better than most in Colorado Springs, where an active shooter showed up at New Life Church in 2007 with enough rounds to kill thousands in the arena-style complex. The killer shot five, two of whom died, before parishioner and heroic lifesaver Jeanne Assam stopped him with her gun. She brought a concealed handgun to church that day, with a permit, as part of New Life's organized security program.
Most religious organizations have long forgotten the mass killing that nearly took place at New Life, and few have any semblance of a security program.
After Las Vegas, we can no longer go about our lives as if large gatherings are inherently safe.
"We need to think outside the box to cover every eventuality and scenario that can happen so that what happened in Las Vegas doesn't happen here in Colorado," said Chris Villalpando, owner of Fort Collins-based Code 4 Security Services, in a Gazette story by Ellie Mulder and Liz Forster.
Code 4 provides security for large outdoor events in Denver and along the northern Front Range, and it seems a safe bet their firm and similar businesses will be in growing demand.
No one likes walking through metal detectors at airports and courthouses, and few Americans look forward to more security measures as part of their routine lives. Unfortunately, our increasingly complicated and divided society contains human monsters who commit calculated acts of evil we cannot anticipate. Each mass killer seems determined to beat the record of the number of innocents wounded and killed by the last.
School districts, private schools, employers, religious organizations, event organizations and all others responsible for drawing or hosting crowds have to develop enhanced security mindsets. They should assess their vulnerabilities with the assistance of security professionals and law enforcement, looking for reasonable measures to enhance public safety.
"As a security professional, I'll tell you, I wake up every morning with the idea of, 'never again,' " said Colorado native Chris Robinette, president of Prevent Advisors, a sports and entertainment security consulting firm.
"If and when these events occur, we now need to be more thoughtful of mass casualty," Robinette said. "How do we evacuate a facility? How do we direct law enforcement into the venue against the threat? How do we direct first responders? Do we have a plan for victims or those injured to move to hospitals on the magnitude that we've seen here? There's a lot of new variables that we now have to take into account."
No law and no amount of security can eliminate the threat of another mass killing. Much can be done to reduce the risk and the number of potential casualties, so we can continue enjoying public events.
This is not a problem politicians and law enforcement will resolve for us behind the scenes. Authorities and experts can and will help, but a more secure country requires all Americans to think and prepare for the event a deranged killer arrives where people are gathered.