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Shooting at movie theater kills two, injures nine

A shooting at a movie theater in Lafayette, Louisiana, has left two dead, and nine injured. The shooting comes in the wake of two recent mass shootings, one in Chattanooga, Tennessee, where four Marines and a sailor were killed, and another in Charleston, South Carolina, where nine members of the Charleston AME church were killed.

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    We take a deeper look now at last night's deadly shooting in Louisiana and the broader questions raised after tragedies involving guns.

    William Brangham starts us off.


    Police and emergency responders quickly descended on the Grand 16 movie theater after gunfire erupted during a showing last night of the comedy "Trainwreck."

  • WOMAN:

    We were buying popcorn at the concession stand when a whole group of people, teenagers mainly, running out, telling everyone to run for their life. And then we saw a lady with blood all over her leg. I just grabbed my child. I mean, we just all ran.


    The gunman, identified as 59-year-old John Russel Houser, opened fire on the crowd just 20 minutes into the film. Investigators this morning characterized Houser as a drifter.

  • JIM CRAFT, Lafayette, Louisiana, Police Chief:

    It is apparent that he was intent on shooting and then escaping. What happened is that the quick law enforcement response forced him back into the theater, at which time he shot himself.


    Court papers from 2008 revealed that Houser's family had filed a temporary restraining order against him, saying he was violent and mentally ill. The court filing also stated Houser's wife , Kellie, who filed for divorce in March, had removed all the weapons from their house out of concern over his mental state.

    Officials today said Houser had been denied a concealed weapons permit in 2006 because of an arson arrest and a domestic violence complaint. Last night's tragedy comes in the wake of two other recent high-profile mass shootings. Four Marines and a sailor were killed in Chattanooga, Tennessee, last week, and, in June, nine members of Emanuel AME Church in Charleston, South Carolina, were killed during an evening Bible study.

    The FBI today said suspect Dylann Roof should've been blocked from buying the gun used in that attack, but the background check failed to pick up on Roof's previous narcotics charge. At the scene of the Lafayette shooting today, state Representative Terry Landry called for stricter gun control.

  • TERRY LANDRY, Louisiana State Representative:

    It is our job as legislators to close the loop holes in these gun laws. When a person that has a mental capacity — or not mentally stable can get access to a gun and wreak havoc on our community, it tells me we have to have a serious conversation, we have to have some serious repeals in some of these gun restrictions, or lack of gun restrictions, in our community. If not, we will be meeting somewhere another day another time.


    Back in 2013, President Obama mounted an ambitious effort to overhaul the nation's gun laws. That push followed two tragedies, the 2011 Tucson shooting at an event for then-U.S. Representative Gabrielle Giffords and the 2012 rampage in Newtown, Connecticut, where 20 children and six adults were murdered.

    But, ultimately, the president's proposals failed in the U.S. Senate. Yesterday, in an interview with the BBC just hours before the Lafayette shooting, the president said he intended to keep pushing for gun control.


    If you ask me where has been the one area where I feel that I have been most frustrated and most stymied, it is the fact that the United States of America is the one advanced nation on Earth in which we do not have sufficient commonsense gun safety laws, even in the face of repeated mass killings.


    Calls for a reform of the nation's gun laws come amid the ongoing sentencing phase in the trial of James Holmes, who killed 12 people and injured over 70 in a shooting rampage at a movie theater in Aurora, Colorado, in 2012.

    For the PBS NewsHour, I'm William Brangham.

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