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Colorado movie theater shooting rampage grabs headlines abroad

July 20, 2012 |  5:37 pm


The shooting rampage early Friday that killed a dozen people who had been at a Colorado movie theater grabbed headlines from Brazil to China, reflecting global fascination and horror over the violence.

The tragedy in the Denver suburb of Aurora -- a gunman opened fire at a screening of "The Dark Knight Rises" -- was a top story in papers and on news channels worldwide.  French President Francois Hollande told Le Monde that  he was shocked and sent condolences to American families affected by the shooting. The Paris premiere of the new Batman film was canceled and interviews with the stars in the French capital were reportedly scuttled.

In Rome, the Vatican's spokesman was reported as saying that Roman Catholic Church officials were praying for the victims of the shooting. The news also ran in Mexico, Argentina, Russia, Japan, South Africa and India. It was the most read story on news websites in Chile and Britain, running alongside world news about continuing carnage in Syria and the aftermath of a bus bombing in Bulgaria.

The Aurora shootings alarmed readers across the globe because of the horrific circumstances of a lone gunman entering a movie theater and opening fire on unsuspecting moviegoers. Ten died in the theater, two died at hospitals and nearly 60 were wounded, with many in critical condition, officials said.

Beyond the frightening crime itself, some analysts and commentators said, the shootings represent something about American culture that many other countries find difficult to understand.

“This is seen as a very American story. Many people see our gun laws and the 2nd Amendment as exceptional, if not unique,” said Geneva Overholser, director of USC's Annenberg School for Communication and Journalism. “And it seems like a phenomenon in American culture that we have these young men who just kind of go mad and shoot large numbers of people.”

Outside the United States, many commentators argued that the tragedy was tied to the nation's  gun laws, widely seen as far looser than those of other countries. Haaretz, an Israeli daily, ran a column dubbing mass shootings “as American as apple pie,” decrying its “outrageously liberal gun laws.”

In China, the Global Times interviewed the director of the Center of American Studies at Renmin University, who held American gun culture partly to blame in the attack. And in the United Arab Emirates, the Khalej Times editorialized, “The powerful gun lobby runs America and all attempt to restrict sales has always been met with stiff opposition.”

The tragedy combines a cultural phenomenon that can mystify outsiders with a familiar situation they can easily empathize with, Overholser said, making the story intensely interesting around the world.

"All of us can picture ourselves there, trapped in the dark. Who doesn’t go to the movies?” she said.

While sympathy for the Colorado victims and their families poured in from all over the globe, the fascination with the Aurora tragedy nagged at some people. Some Twitter users, for example, wondered why killings elsewhere in the world weren't generating as much instant attention and outrage.

"obviously i care about the #theatershooting, cuz every life matters, but i wish ppl also talked about the hundreds martyred today in #Syria," one Syrian woman born in the United States wrote on Twitter.


'All you heard was 'Get down! Get down!''

Massacre unfolds 15 miles from Columbine

Feinstein: Shooting raises gun-violence issue

-- Emily Alpert in Los Angeles

Photo: Police block access to the Town Center Mall after a gunman opened fire in the Century 16 Theater in  Aurora, Colo.,  early Friday. Credit: Bob Pearson / European Pressphoto Agency