The incident, in which a crazed individual burst into a movie theater, spraying the crowd with bullets, killing 12 and wounding 58, has raised profound questions about the nation's gun laws, identifying mental illness, and how the media covers these sensational crimes.
They are important debates - ones that should not fade into the background when the news cycle moves on.
One of the clearest voices of reason to emerge in the aftermath of last Friday's tragedy comes from New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg, an outspoken advocate for tighter gun restrictions, especially on the sale of assault weapons and extended-capacity magazines like those used in the shootings in Tucson, Arizona, and Aurora.
Bloomberg has criticized both presidential candidate Mitt Romney and incumbent President Barack Obama for not articulating their positions on specific pieces of gun-control legislation. Bloomberg believes that a public referendum on laws banning weapons like assault rifles and armor-piercing bullets would prove that most Americans support reasonable limits on gun sales, despite what the anti-gun-control lobby says.
Those are fighting words in the West where the Second Amendment carries more weight than the First. The mere mention of tighter enforcement of existing gun-registration laws or reinstating the federal assault-rifle ban that expired eight years ago merits a high-noon showdown. But after the shootings at Columbine, Virginia Tech, Tucson and now Aurora, many are questioning whether it's time to tone down that Wild West rhetoric.
Others are focusing on how a clearly disturbed young man could have planned and executed a massacre without raising any red flags. How is it, we ask in hindsight, that the suspect could purchase, order online and take delivery of a massive arsenal without triggering some sort of alarm. The question itself is fraught with conflicts between privacy and security. Should the purchase of 6,000 rounds of ammunition have roused a response or would that constitute a breach of Internet privacy?
Again, that is a debate we need to have.
Among those of us in the news business, the shootings in Aurora have forced us, once again, to ask uncomfortable questions about how we handle such troubling stories. Are we unintentionally rewarding the perpetrators with media attention and notoriety? Are we victimizing the victims by drilling down for more details? Are we subverting the legal process by revealing too much too soon?
Those questions float amid our fears about whether any of us and especially our children are safe in theaters, at shopping malls or at their colleges. It has been an unsettling week, but it is important to continue talking and looking for solutions.