Commentary

What a way to live: Raleigh mall panic highlights the terror (and costs) of a society awash in guns

News outlets are reporting today that there is still no definitive evidence that gunshots were actually fired this past weekend at a Raleigh mall. This is from Raleigh’s News & Observer:

“Police are still trying to determine what caused the ‘loud noise’ reported as gunshots at Crabtree Valley Mall on Saturday afternoon and are asking for the public’s help.

Police say they still have found no evidence of gunfire, including shell casings or gunshot victims. After interviewing witnesses, police concluded “there remains no explanation for the loud noise that people reported,” said spokesman Jim Sughrue.

Eight people endured minor injuries, mainly in the rush to leave the mall, Police Chief Cassandra Deck-Brown said the day of the incident.”

In other words, several people were injured, thousands of lives were disrupted, boatloads of money were lost and wasted and one of the largest shopping centers in the state was crippled for days all because people did the natural thing in our current mass shooting-paralyzed culture: they assumed the worst and ran for their lives. A few hours later, a similar event took place at New York’s JFK Airport when, it appears, people cheering and celebrating in response to Usain Bolt’s victory in the 100 meter race at the Rio Olympics spurred a similar panic.

Though some people are questioning whether officials and emergency responders may have somehow overreacted to the two incidents, such criticisms miss the much more obvious point: the root cause of both incidents is our modern, gun-obsessed culture.

Simply put, guns and mass shootings have become so pervasive in modern America that people have started to factor the likelihood of such events into their daily lives. Schools, churches, movie theaters, hospitals, retail outlets and virtually every business, public or private, that interacts with the public are now operating on the assumption that it’s just a matter of time until they too are engulfed in the nation’s gun violence epidemic. Meanwhile, average citizens, children included, have become permanently jumpy, on edge and, well, terrorized.

This situation is, in a word, madness. By flooding our society with tens of millions of killing machines (and thereby guaranteeing that a large percentage will fall into the hands of people who should have no business possessing or using them) American politicians and their bosses in the gun lobby have quite intentionally undermined one of the chief objectives spelled out the in the preamble to the Constitution — namely, to “insure domestic tranquility.”

What a ridiculous way to live.

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