In a month already filled with gun related incidents, today’s shooting at a Maryland shopping mall will continue the gun control narrative. The latest incident took place this afternoon at The Mall in Columbia, Maryland. Details are still being gathered, but at this time three people have been confirmed dead. One of the bodies was found near a gun and some ammunition, but authorities are not commenting on the identity or the status of the shooter at this time.
The incident was first reported at 11:15am local time when a 911 call was placed. Soon after, pictures began appearing on Twitter showing mall employees hiding in storage rooms. One image was even taken of a bullet ridden wall. The Howard County Police Department also made use of Twitter to confirm the fatalities and urge patrons at the mall to take shelter. A plan is being developed to evacuate the mall, but some customers are reportedly being directed to the AMC Theater within the mall as a temporary shelter. Maryland state authorities have announced that they will be holding a press conference later today to release more information regarding this incident.
The Maryland shooting comes on the heels of a single casualty incident on the Purdue University campus last week, as well as a “false alarm” at the University of Oklahoma. Teaching assistant Andrew Boldt was killed at Purdue in what authorities are currently describing as a “targeted” killing. The suspect is believed to have intentions to only kill the victim, not stage a “mass casualty” event. A few days later there was a false alarm on the University of Oklahoma campus as machinery sounds were mistaken for gunfire, leading to a brief panic. These incidents, along with today’s shooting in Maryland will continue the ongoing gun control narrative in the United States.
Gun control did not begin the year as an important objective on President Barack Obama’s domestic agenda. Political observers expected immigration reform to be the top priority for Obama and Congressional Democrats, along with issues of income inequality and the sluggish economy. After renewed efforts at gun control legislation failed in 2013 however, both Obama and gun control advocates promised that they would not let the issue drop. The recent spate of gun related incidents provides the opportunity to continue that debate.
While nothing is known about the shooter in the Maryland case as yet, questions regarding their mental state will be asked in the coming days. In many previous “mass casualty” events, the perpetrator suffered from some sort of mental illness. This has become a crucial issue to those opposed to stronger gun control legislation. They argue that identifying and treating mentally unstable individuals will be far more successful in preventing large scale gun related incidents than increased regulations.
Gun control remains a highly controversial topic in the U.S. There is a long tradition of gun ownership in the country and proposed legislation on the topic tends to be viewed with skepticism. Today’s shooting in Maryland mall, along with this month’s previous incidents, will serve to continue the gun control narrative in the U.S.
Editorial by Christopher V. Spencer