James Mapes may not be charged for bringing openly displayed gun into movie theater

Update below: Moments ago, we reached James Mapes, the man who was arrested late last night for visibly wearing a weapon into a Thornton movie theater. Mapes has a concealed-carry permit and says he wasn't attempting to garner attention for Second Amendment-related subjects by wearing a gun in plain sight. He blames the concern that he generated, and his subsequent arrest, on "that jackass in Aurora."

"It wasn't really a political statement," Mapes says. "I just went to see a movie. But it's a political statement that one madman out of four-and-a-half-million people shouldn't be dictating to the rest of us that we should stay in our houses."

According to Mapes, he's a regular patron of Cinebarre, which he's been visiting since it opened several years ago, as well as a movie fan in general; he goes to shows every week or two, he estimates. Moreover, he frequently carries a gun with him when he does so. In most cases, the weapon is covered, but not always, depending on the time of year and the amount of clothing he's wearing due to the weather, and he says he's never before had a problem or caused concerns.

Because last night was warm when he got home from work, he showered and donned shorts and a T-shirt. He declines to provide the full slogan on the shirt, which starts with the word "LIBERALISM," but insists that his attire wasn't politically calculated, either. The shirt was handy, so he threw it on without giving it much thought, never believing that it'd imply he'd set out to be arrested, and headed to the theater to catch The Watch, a new comedy about neighborhood watch volunteers confronting aliens that stars Ben Stiller and Jonah Hill.

By the way, Mapes notes that he saw The Dark Knight Rises, the film that was screening during the Aurora theater shooting, on opening night at the same Thornton theater where he came into contact with cops last night. He was viewing it during the attack across town, and says he was carrying a gun then, too.

The gun was visible last night, Mapes acknowledges. "The only thing I could have done is untuck my T-shirt," he says. "But it's the size of a brick, so obviously you're going to see it. But then somebody calls the police because they're all paranoid about what happened."

Judging by his tone of voice, Mapes is frustrated by being charged with a municipal violation for doing something that he's done countless times before without the slightest trouble. Still, he doesn't express regret for bringing a gun with him -- although he concedes that "if I'd been thinking about it, I probably would have worn a different shirt."

By the way, the allegation against Mapes concerns carrying a weapon into a venue that serves alcohol. We didn't get the chance to ask if he'd thought he was breaking the law during his previous visits to the theater when he ended the call.

Update, 12:24 p.m. July 30: A short time ago, we spoke to Officer Matt Barnes, spokesman for the Thornton Police Department, about the arrest of James Mapes for investigation of possessing a dangerous weapon in a liquor and beer establishment. Barnes says the city attorney is currently looking at the case to determine if any charges will be filed -- and there's every possibility that the entire matter could be dropped despite the turmoil it caused at the Cinebarre theater last night.

Barnes says a Thornton ordinance targets individuals who display a dangerous weapon (the list even includes air guns and slingshots) "in a manner calculated to alarm another person." And there's no question that Mapes's presence at the theater wearing a gun in plain sight did just that. According to Barnes, seventeen officers responded to the call "in light of recent events," evacuating nine theaters and dealing with a number of panicky patrons -- some of whom returned to the venue after police took Mapes into custody.

However, Barnes adds that Colorado "is an open-carry state," and the city attorney could determine that this status supersedes the local ordinance, particularly given that Thornton doesn't have an open-carry rule, as does Denver. Instead, Thornton businesses can post information informing customers that weapons are off-limits -- but since Cinebarre didn't do so, that couldn't impact any case against Mapes. And because the element of the potential charge regarding liquor and beer is what Barnes terms "a sentence-enhancer," it wouldn't apply if the dangerous weapons charge is found to be a non-starter.

A determination about charges could come later today or shortly thereafter. And if the city attorney feels Mapes's actions were lawful, even if they were ill-timed, no charges will be pressed and, Barnes says, "we'll just look at everything else that happened as unfortunate."

Look below to see our earlier coverage.

Original post, 7:34 a.m. July 30: Last week, we told you about an arrest at a Los Angeles movie house in the wake of the Aurora theater shooting, prompted by fears that the man in question had a gun (he didn't). But there doesn't appear to be any doubt that James Mapes was armed. Mapes's weapon is said to have been in plain sight when he was busted late last night at Thornton's Cinebarre -- and he may have been trying to make a political statement.

According to a news release sent out by the Thornton Police Department just after 1 a.m. this morning, officers were dispatched to Cinebarre, 10001 North Grant Street, at about 10:15 in reference to a ticket buyer with a handgun strapped to his waist line, in what the department refers to as the "open-carry position, visible to others."

In response, officers quickly evacuated several theaters as a precautionary measure even as they searched for the 48-year-old Mapes. He was subsequently taken into custody regarding possession of a dangerous weapon in a liquor and beer establishment and released on a municipal summons.

A number of questions are left unanswered by the information made public to date. For instance, does Mapes have a concealed-carry permit? And if so, did he violate that permit because the weapon was in the open-carry position? Did he buy, or try to buy, a ticket for The Dark Knight Rises, the film that was screening during the massacre at the Aurora Century 16? And then there's the matter of what slogan adorned the T-shirt he wore at the time of his arrest. As you can see by the full-size photo below, the word "LIBERALISM" stretched across his chest:

James Mapes.
James Mapes.

Common T-shirt designs that start with the word "liberalism" include "Liberalism is a Mental Disorder," "Liberalism is a Disease" and "Liberalism Destroyed America."

Note also Mapes's Facebook page, which features plenty of images like this one:

James Mapes may not be charged for bringing openly displayed gun into movie theater

There's also a specific reference to the Aurora theater shooting, shared about eleven hours ago at this writing. The post reads, "Hey, I got an idea! We can get James Holmes a bath with these guys. If he's crazy, he'd do it -- if he refuses we know he's sane and can get on with the hanging. Either way, we get rid of him." Here's the photo:

James Mapes may not be charged for bringing openly displayed gun into movie theater

We've requested more information from the Thornton Police Department. When and if a representative gets back to us, we'll update this post.

Update: Still haven't heard back from the Thorton Police Department on the arrest late last night of James Mapes for wearing a gun on his waistline at a movie theater. However, we did manage to track down a Denver Post letter to the editor he wrote in March, which argues passionately in favor of carrying concealed weapons and maintains that doing so could prevent mass shootings. Here's the letter:

Your editorial falls short of the mark for common sense. The courts upheld the law -- surprisingly not, in this case, electing to legislate from the bench. The facts around concealed-carry permit holders show that those who obtained permits are not irresponsibly committing crimes. Just one concealed-weapon holder in a classroom where a random criminal attempts to shoot the occupants could and would reduce the casualties, as they would either take out the offender or at least distract them while others managed to get distance from the shooter.

Jim Mapes, Northglenn

More from our News archive: "Clark Tabor busted in L.A. theater after saying he should 'go off like in Colorado.'"

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