The first victims of last Friday's brutal shooting in a Colorado theater were laid to rest this week as new details about the shooter's plot were revealed and the president weighed in on the political implications of the tragedy.
"I, like most Americans, believe that the Second Amendment guarantees an individual the right to bear arms," President Barack Obama told supporters during a speech at the National Urban League Convention in New Orleans on Wednesday.
"But I also believe that a lot of gun owners would agree that AK-47s belong in the hands of soldiers, not in the hands of criminals," he added. "I believe the majority of gun owners would agree that we should do everything possible to prevent criminals and fugitives from purchasing weapons...These steps shouldn't be controversial. They should be common sense."
The speech marked the first time the president weighed in on the policy implications of the shooting in an Aurora, Colorado, theater that left 12 people dead and 58 wounded.
The issue, previously untouched by politicians this election cycle, will necessarily be drawn center stage after the shooting and will be exacerbated by reports that gun sales have soared since the shooting.
The House of Representatives also issued a concurrent resolution Thursday "condemning, in the strongest possible terms, the heinous atrocities that occurred in Aurora, Colorado" and praising local and federal police for their work on the case.
New details to the extent of the shooter's plan were also revealed this week, as Fox News reported alleged gunman James Holmes sent a notebook to a psychiatrist at the University of Colorado detailing his plans for the massacre.
"Inside the package was a notebook full of details about how he was going to kill people," the Fox News source said. "There were drawings of what he was going to do in it -- drawings and illustrations of the massacre."
Although the Fox report could not be independently verified, the University of Colorado Anschutz Medical campus confirmed Wednesday a suspicious package was received by campus mail on Monday and was "immediately investigated and turned over to authorities within hours of delivery."
The University, where Holmes studied neuroscience but was in the process of dropping out, denied the package was received on July 12th and "sat on a loading dock" for more than a week. A press release said no further information on the package could be given as per a gag order issued by Arapahoe County District Judge William Sylvester on Monday.
But the public in Aurora and in neighboring towns continued mourning Wednesday, as the first of the shooter's victims was laid to rest in a somber ceremony.
Gordon Cowden, a 51-year old father described as a "Texas gentleman" and "great dad," was laid to rest at Pathways Church in Denver. Cowden took two of his teenage daughters to the movie Friday. His daughters escaped unharmed.
James Eagan Holmes, who surrendered to police custody immediately after the shooting, appeared in court for the first time Monday and appeared dazed and inattentive. He sported bright red hair and did not speak during the hearing.
Holmes, a 24-year-old white American who lived near the Century 16 cinema complex about 10 miles from downtown Denver, allegedly stormed through the emergency exit Friday during a midnight premier of the Batman franchise's "The Dark Knight Rises" and opened fire in the theater after disorienting moviegoers with a smoke bomb.
Witnesses said the shooter was dressed all in black, wore a riot helmet and a bullet proof vest. Aurora Police Chief Dan Oates said two pistols, a shotgun and an assault rifle were recovered from the scene. Updated reports confirm the assault rifle jammed during the shooting, effectively preventing the shooter from claiming more victims.
Since the tragedy, thousands of mourners have come to Aurora to mark the lives of the 12 dead, the youngest a 6-year-old girl. Warner Brothers, the studio which produced the Batman movie, gave a substantial - but undisclosed - donation to the Aurora Relief Fund this week.
Actor Christian Bale, who portrayed Batman in the film, also visited shooting victims at the Medical Center of Aurora on Tuesday after a petition calling for his visit posted on Change.org received widespread support.
Holmes is being held in police custody without bail and is expected to be formally charged next Monday. Prosecutors will most likely request the death penalty.
by RTT Staff Writer
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