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2 min Read
Published August 14, 2016

“Active Shooter” — Gun Lessons From Crabtree Valley Mall

On a busy Saturday afternoon, people browsing diamond rings and munching on Subway sandwiches got the shock of their lives. Gunshots rang out, then people began fleeing and shouting that someone had a gun. The fear was real, and the resulting chaos sent at least one person to the hospital.

Police were called. Crabtree Valley Mall was locked down. The roads all around were blocked off. The shooter wasn’t going anywhere. He was going to get taken down.

Hours went by as Police combed the mall. Friends and family members of on Facebook, Reddit, and watching WRAL, each waited for news that people trapped in the mall were okay. After the fourth hour, Police announced that they would continue the investigation but had found no shooter, no victim of a gunshot, and no shell casings.

Active Shooter -- Gun Lessons From Crabtree Valley Mall - 2
Raleigh police clearing Crabtree Valley Mall. Photo courtesy Tony Rice.


There were conflicting reports from eyewitnesses. Some heard a noise and thought it was nothing. Others thought they recognized a single gunshot. A few more thought they heard 4-6 pops.

The investigation is still ongoing, so it’s hard to say whether there was a gunman at all. If there was, he fled immediately.

The most real part about this scary event was the resulting panic. People fled and were trampled. One person fell 30 feet over the parking deck trying to escape. EMS treated several people for lacerations or possible fainting. Details are still emerging, but it’s clear that the damage the panic caused was worse than what instigated the panic in the first place.

Crabtree’s private security force aren’t allowed to carry guns. They did the right thing calling in the Wake County Police. On Sunday, Crabtree Valley Mall reopened and life moved on. However, some commenters say that if Crabtree security had firearms, the shooter would have been caught. There are many things wrong with that idea. To name a few, no one can determine if there even was a shooter; no one would have been saved by the addition of more guns because no one was shot by this potential shooter; and the panic would likely have been much worse because people would have actually seen a gun instead of just heard noises they thought were gunshots.

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Visitors evacuate Crabtree Valley Mall. Photo courtesy Harry Lynch, AP.


This is what gun fear does to citizens, in a society that allows private citizens to carry them. Everyone who doesn’t carry a gun is afraid of people who do. Everyone who has a gun is willing to use it to protect themselves from other people with guns. Everyone who wants to protect themselves from someone with a gun can only do so with a gun of their own. It’s a self-fulfilling prophecy; the more people have guns, the more likely you are to need one to protect yourself.

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That’s a dangerous cycle to take part in, or even stand adjacent to. The Crabtree event teaches us that even our understandable fear of guns can hurt us, without so much as a shot fired.

Courtesy of @Laurrrenbaker

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  • Greg Trombley


  • I'm an RDU-based novelist and passionate champion of scientific progression. Nature and science live side-by-side in my heart. I clean dinosaur bones in my spare time, and love reading about local history. All my articles.

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