I wish I could say that the news of the mall shooting in Omaha this past week shocked me, but I’m kind of surprised that it took this long for something like this to happen. Granted, I don’t go to that many malls (over the past five years the mall I visited the most was the one in Westland, Michigan, back when they had a good arcade in there), but whenever I go to malls I always look at all the different inventory loss control systems set up in the front of each individual store, and I can’t help but think to myself that it would be a lot easier if the stores could come to some sort of standard, and then to just have the inventory loss/metal detectors set up at all the entrances and exits to the malls. I don’t know that much about how those devices work, so maybe it would be difficult to get them all standardized, but when you see so many of them as you walk through a mall, it’s hard not to think that there’s probably a fair deal of waste there. More to the point, given the kind of traffic that malls get, it just makes zero sense that there’s no kind of metal detector at each entrance just to catch the most obvious stuff.
I will say that as much as I saw something like this happening, though, I wasn’t expecting that the violence would be gun-related; I expected that there would be some sort of bomb attack, perhaps even a suicide bomber. There wasn’t much strategic value to al-Qaeda in hitting the World Trade Centre, but there was a lot of symbolic value to them because, for them (and others), it represented the evils and excesses of American capitalism. American malls are nearly as much of a symbol of our capitalist economy, and particularly in the days leading up to Christmas they get a tremendous amount of traffic. I don’t recall if there was an increase in mall security after the 09.11 attacks, but every time I’ve been to a mall since then I can’t recall seeing more than the odd rent-a-cop walking around. My heart goes out to those who lost loved ones in the Omaha shooting, but at the same time I can’t help but hope that this episode will lead to the country re-examining how lax mall security is, and that maybe at least some steps will be taken to lower the future possibility of someone armed with a gun or a bomb being able to waltz into a mall unhampered and kill lots of people.
On top of this, earlier today a gunman opened fire at a megachurch in Colorado Springs, killing someone before an armed guard shot and killed him. On the one hand I’m glad that the gunman was stopped before he could kill anyone else, but at the same time I can’t help but wonder what it says about our society that churches now have their own armed security forces. I’m not questioning the logic of it (particularly given that those megachurches can have more people in them than all but the biggest of malls), but it’s still one of those things that makes you despair a little more for our society as a whole.