There are no easy answers to what transpired shortly after midnight Friday morning in that movie theater in Colorado. No easy answers, no simple conclusions.

Ironically, in the hours after James Holmes, 24, opened fire, killing 12 and injuring dozens more, the search for “why” began in earnest as those near and far from the shooting scene tried to bring logic in an illogical circumstance.

We won’t attempt to provide those answers here. About as far as we’ll go is to point out that whenever these types of senseless killings take place, it’s well worth remembering one simple truth: You can’t let these types of events hold you back from living your life.

Because senseless acts of random violence occur without warning — without provocation — it’s impossible to predict where and when they’ll occur. Short of completely withdrawing from society, there is no full-proof way to shield yourself from every conceivable danger.

So what’s a mother or father to do next week when a teen son or daughter asks permission to go with friends to a movie? That’s easy — assuming they’ve cleaned their rooms and done their chores — you hug them close, tell them to be safe and you let them go.

If there is a second truth that is learned — and re-learned — with each vicious random shooting spree, it’s that it isn’t as easy as it sounds to provide early identification of a person likely to commit these crimes.

Looking back to the 2010 shooting of Arizona Congresswoman Gabrielle Giffords and several others at a Tucson, Ariz., supermarket, it was only after the shooting that investigators uncovered clues that Giffords was specifically targeted. Aside from some odd behavior, nobody could have predicted that 22-year-old Jared Lee Loughner would aim his homicidal anger at Giffords.

The same could be said of the killers in any number of shootings, from the May 1998 shooting at Thurston High School in Springfield, Ore., to the April 1999 shooting at Colorado’s Columbine High School.

The best we can do as parents, friends and co-workers is educate ourselves to the warning signs that might hint at the possibility — remote as it may seem — that someone close to us is living on the edge. Some of those signs may include:

• The inability to function normally in social situations.

• Signs of paranoia.

• Drug use, which can exacerbate violent tendencies within those people with a mental illness.

• And contact with law enforcement, even for what appear like petty offenses.

A person who exhibits one — or even all — of these signs is unlikely to wind up on a list of mass murderers. But perhaps vigilance by those who know him or her will help lead the person to a better place. And who knows, maybe save a life.

In the meantime, we are better to live life to the fullest, rather than locking ourselves inside our homes in a vain attempt to protect ourselves from unseen and unknown dangers.

Contract Publishing

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