While much of the nation grieves for the tragic loss of 26 people in a Newtown, Conn., shooting, a community on the West Coast is still trying to come to grips with its own loss after a gunman opened fire in a Portland-area shopping mall.
The Clackamas Town Center was reported to have had 10,000 holiday shoppers in and out of its stores on the day Jacob Tyler Roberts arrived and began randomly firing a semiautomatic weapon in the shopping center’s food court, killing two and seriously wounding another before turning the gun on himself.
No motive has been determined, and family and friends of the shooter say he was a mild-mannered man who never showed any signs of mental disturbance or violent tendencies. He was employed and had plans for the future that he spoke of often; all things that seem to set him apart from many shooters, including Adam Lanza, although details about the Connecticut gunman are still murky.
The shooting immediately prompted one gun advocate to argue that Oregon law should allow citizens with “concealed carry permits” to bring their weapons into malls, but what he may not have known is that an armed citizen was in the mall with Roberts, had his weapon drawn and was ready to fire on the suspect.
Nick Meli, who was at the mall with friends and had his sidearm with him, said that he drew in preparation to fire on Roberts before noticing innocent civilians in the background field of fire, forcing him to refrain from pulling the trigger. For many advocates, this is what is missing from the gun debate – the difference in behavior between responsible gun owners and people bent on doing harm.
The question remains and has gotten louder since the incident in Connecticut: Is the problem really the presence of guns in America, or is it a matter of society’s inability to effectively address mental illness in this country?