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Are guns allowed in movie theaters? State statutes, local ordinances, and a private business' policies all aim to answer that question. But as the Colorado movie theater shooting shows, enforcement isn't always possible.
Like many other states, Colorado requires a permit for an adult to carry a concealed handgun. But the permit is not valid everywhere.
Some places are off-limits to concealed handguns, pursuant to federal law. In Colorado, site of the Columbine massacre in 1999, public schools are also generally off-limits to concealed-carry permit holders.
So what about movie theaters?
Colorado's concealed handgun statute allows private property owners and business entities to set their own policies regarding guns.
Local ordinances, like those in Aurora where the Colorado shooting took place, can also affect whether guns are allowed in movie theaters.
Aurora's ordinance prohibits anyone from carrying a firearm onto private property if there is "posted notification that the carrying of firearms is prohibited." Verbal notice of a no-guns policy is also sufficient.
As of this writing, news reports had not indicated whether guns were allowed at the theater where Friday's shooting happened. But chatter on various Internet websites suggest Century Theatres, which is owned by Texas-based Cinemark, enforces a strict no-handguns policy.
Some commentators claim Cinemark employees have ejected them for carrying guns into movie theater lobbies, after which they've been offered a refund. Others say they've quietly walked into other theaters while armed, and no one was the wiser.
Those anecdotal examples show that laws and policies about whether guns are allowed in movie theaters can't be enforced at all times. Gun ownership and concealed handguns are polarizing topics in America, and a tragedy like this can make the debate that much more heated.