On Saturday afternoon, while I sat in a funeral home chapel in Virginia, my phone vibrated softly in my shirt pocket.
About 45 minutes later, I walked out of the chapel and looked at the message from my wife to our entire family. There were reports of a shooting at Crabtree Valley Mall. She was warning our daughters, both now college students in Raleigh, to steer clear of that part of Glenwood Avenue.
I scrolled through my emails and saw email after email from colleagues at The News & Observer reporting bits and pieces of the story as they were learning them.
Another group of people at the N&O office were putting together the pieces in order to put a coherent story together for the website. People who were normally off on Saturday afternoon came into the office or went to the scene to help report the story.
As it turns out, there was no shooting. No one was hurt by gunfire (though some were hurt in the very real rush to get out of the mall.) Police say they aren’t sure what the noise was that several people reported hearing.
We are fortunate this was a false alarm of sorts, but it leads me to realize just how on edge people are about the possibility of a mass shooting tragedy happening here. All too often, people read news about events in places like Orlando, Newtown, Connecticut or Columbine High School in Colorado and reach the conclusion that such violence would never happen here.
Saturday’s incident clearly tells me people no longer believe such things can’t happen here. We are a nation – and now a region, apparently – on edge over gun violence.
I’ve never really had any curiosity about guns and no strong desire to own one or, really, to shoot one. I suspect I may be in the minority among the natives of this Southern state in terms of my lack of interest in guns.
Still, I see guns doing more harm than good and you have to wonder just what it’s going to take to ease people’s rhetoric when it comes to gun control. The slaughter of little children didn’t do it. The systematic slaying of partygoers at a bar didn’t do it. The death of high school students by their fellow students didn’t do it.
Presidents for some time now have tried to approach gun control by limiting what people could buy guns. Convicted criminals were disallowed. People with violent mental illness were disallowed. And, yet, the killing keeps happening.
Perhaps our national leaders ought to consider changing tack. Instead of limiting guns from certain classes of people, perhaps they should look at eliminating the manufacture and sale of certain kinds of guns. Shotguns? Pistols? Single-shot rifles? Fine. There are, after all, legitimate leisure and personal protection uses for some guns.
Rapid-fire guns could be eliminated from manufacturing lines and turned back at the dock when people try to deliver them to the U.S. from other places.
If our leaders took that approach, they could avoid the Second Amendment right arguments because they are not infringing on the right to bear arms. Just like a government has the authority to tell us what cars and trucks are and are not street legal, our leaders ought to be able to determine which guns are and are not “street legal.”
I am sure the gun lobby would have a hissy fit if such an idea ever took root and I suspect some of them may even rake me over the coals for thinking this way.
But we’ve reached a point where people are so scared that a loud noise leads to cries of “shots fired” and people stampeding out of crowded places in fear for their life.
Who wants to live like that?