An eager audience forgoing sleep to take in the midnight showing of “The Dark Knight Rises” instead were witnesses Friday to a bloody mass shooting at a suburban Denver movie theater. Police said a man clad in black threw a canister that spewed smoke before he opened fire. Witnesses said that at first, they thought it was a prank or a stunt. Then the gunman shot steadily at the audience, not speaking.

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The man suspected in the mass shooting at an Aurora, Colorado, movie theater screening of the new Batman film early Friday had colored his hair red and told police he was “the Joker,” according to a federal law enforcement source with detailed knowledge of the investigation.

At least 12 people were killed in the rampage and 59 were wounded.

…Witnesses to the shooting described him as wearing a gas mask that concealed much of his face and head. But the federal law enforcement source’s information about the suspect’s appearance fits with a statement from New York Police Commissioner Ray Kelly, who was briefed by Colorado authorities Friday. …

Police say Holmes, 24, dressed head-to-toe in protective tactical gear, set off two devices of some kind before spraying the theater with bullets from an AR-15 rifle, a 12-gauge shotgun and at least one of two .40-caliber handguns police recovered at the scene.

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Jordan told the paper that one girl was struck in cheek, others in stomach including a girl who looked to be around 9-years-old. …

“Like little explosions going on and shortly after that we heard people screaming,” he told the station. …

The youngest victim reported was a 6-year-old being treated at Children’s Hospital Colorado, where a total of six victims were taken. Their condition wasn’t known.

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Now, even as we learn how this happened and who’s responsible, we may never understand what leads anybody to terrorize their fellow human beings like this. Such violence, such evil is senseless. It’s beyond reason. But while we will never know fully what causes somebody to take the life of another, we do know what makes life worth living. The people we lost in Aurora loved, and they were loved. They were mothers and fathers; they were husbands and wives; sisters and brothers; sons and daughters, friends and neighbors. They had hopes for the future, and they had dreams that were not yet fulfilled.

And if there’s anything to take away from this tragedy, it’s the reminder that life is very fragile. Our time here is limited, and it is precious. And what matters at the end of the day is not the small things, it’s not the trivial things, which so often consume us and our daily lives. Ultimately, it’s how we choose to treat one another and how we love one another.

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“Our hearts break with the sadness of this unspeakable tragedy,” Romney said, according to a rush transcript. “Ann and I join the president and first lady and all Americans in offering our deepest condolences for those whose lives were shattered in a few moments, a few moments of evil, in Colorado. I stand before you today not as a man running for office but as a father and grandfather, a husband, an American. This is a time for each of us to look into our hearts and remember how much we love one another and how much we love and how much we care for our great country. There’s so much love and goodness in the heart of America.”

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The telegenic schoolmarms we call pundits are all denouncing the politicization of the tragedy in Aurora, calling out the crass opportunists who would dare to use human suffering to advance their preferred public policy choices. I feel terrible about what happened in that movie theater, and I’m agnostic about gun control, but there is nothing wrong with politicizing tragedy.

The talking heads don’t like it, because they think of politics as a silly game about who sang out of tune and whose words can be used against them and whose surrogate undercut whose message, but politics is about life and death and human suffering. At least that’s what it should be about. …

…But politics matters, because policies matter. “Obamacare” and “gay marriage” are not just issues that might play badly with swing voters or turn the tide in Virginia; they’re issues that affect people’s lives. Gun control and the Second Amendment are issues, too, and now seems like a pretty good time to talk about them.

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“Soothing words are nice,” Bloomberg said during a regularly scheduled appearance on WOR 710 AM in New York. “But maybe it’s time the two people who want to be president of the United States stand up and tell us what they’re going to do about it, because this is obviously a problem across the country. And everybody always says, ‘Isn’t it tragic?’”

“I mean, there’s so many murders with guns every day,” Bloomberg continued. “It’s just gotta stop. And instead of these two people, President [Barack] Obama and Governor [Mitt] Romney talking in broad things about, they want to make the world a better place. OK, tell us how. And this is a problem. No matter where you stand on the Second Amendment, no matter where you stand on guns, we have a right to hear from both of them, concretely, not just in generalities, specifically, what are they going to do about guns?”

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The only fitting response to a terrible crime like this is silence or prayer. The idea that acts of mass murder reflect Hollywood violence is absurd; you can’t get more violent than King Lear. It’s true that guns are more convenient than hatchets as mass-murder weapons; they are also more convenient for self-defense. Defense and attack are generally on par in the long blood-stain of human history, and this is the wrong moment for political agitation for or against gun control. (If such laws really did “control” guns it might be different. But as matters stand, if we outlaw guns, we had better outlaw crime also.) A whole generation has been reared, in many parts of society, without the moral compass of biblical religion. Does that make any difference to the rate of violent crime? I don’t know and, again, this is the wrong moment to argue about it. In human life, savagery is a given. God knows we all wish it weren’t.