Yet the suspected gunman, former doctoral student James E. Holmes, 24, hadn't been in custody a day before politicians, pundits, pollsters, and even some gun-control advocates predicted the carnage wouldn't lead to more sensible gun-control laws.
Both President Obama and Republican challenger Mitt Romney offered heartfelt condolences to victims and their families, but said not a word about gun control.
Philadelphia Police Commissioner Charles H. Ramsey said too many policymakers "lack the courage to do anything."
But it wouldn't be hard to keep guns out of the hands of disturbed persons without revoking law-abiding citizens' right to hunt, collect guns, or carry one for self-defense.
To start, restore the ban on assault weapons and limit large-capacity ammunition magazines. Next, impose a monthly limit on gun purchases to thwart anyone like Holmes, whom police say legally purchased his four-gun arsenal within weeks. Such steps could limit the killing power of assailants when other measures fail to keep guns out of their hands.
What hope there is that the Aurora killings will prompt more gun control may rest in the fact that, unlike with most urban violence, there's a realization that any of us could have been in that theater when the new Batman movie flashed on the screen.
When gun violence gets that close to the world of everyday Americans and threatens to make them victims, it shouldn't be possible to turn away.