# Why People will Over-React to Tonight’s Mall Shooting

Looking at tonight’s events in terms of other deadly occurrences, what happened at the Clackamas Town Center Mall was no worse than a moderate drunk driving accident. Two people dead, plus the shooter makes three, and the press loses its ever loving mind. Mathematically speaking, tonight’s events were insignificant. But due to the way people perceive risk that’s not the way it will play out in the media . . .

I wrote a similar piece about the over-reaction to the Aurora shooting, and the exact same thing that happened then is about to happen now.

The probability of being killed in a “mass shooting” incident is insignificant. I can’t even get my calculator to display it without using scientific notation. You’re vastly more likely to be killed in a car accident or die in a house fire than you are to be killed in a mass shooting like this one or the one in Colorado. But if you ask someone about their top risks as they perceive them, topping the list will be mass shootings and plane crashes — two of the most statistically insignificant events that could happen.

They exaggerate their fear of the event out of proportion to the actual probability that it will happen. It is the textbook definition of an irrational fear.

The reason for that irrational fear is control, or rather the lack thereof. People aren’t scared of situations where they feel they have some sort of control over their fate. Driving their own car, for example, they believe that because they are in control they are safer. But in reality, they would be much safer flying in an airplane with someone else at the controls rather than driving on the road in their own car.

People use that “control” factor to weight their perception of risk. Things where they feel in control they weight lower, and things where they have no control they weight more. Which explains why a “spree killing” is topping the list, since that’s an event that they have absolutely no control over whatsoever. Their life is in the hands of a complete stranger who already wants to kill them. No wonder its scary.

But fear isn’t a valid reason to create legislation. Fear evokes a knee-jerk reaction, one where people try to reclaim that lost control without any regard for long term effects. Controls such as gun control, for example, where there are countless documented cases of lives being saved by legally owned firearms that will be thrown aside by “gun control advocates” scrambling to enact new laws to regain some of their perceived lost control.

Right now, the iron is hot. The American public scares easily, and there’s no doubt that this will have them on edge. I fully expect political pundits to try to use this event, these two murdered individuals, to try and enact additional gun control legislation that would restrict the legal activities of millions of Americans. And unfortunately, the most we can hope for is that people realize the nature of their own irrational fears and keep from acting on them.

Perhaps there should be a five day waiting period on legislation…

1. Gregolas says:

Three points:
1. Obama declared a 5 day legislative waiting period, then promptly violated it.(Gee, just like criminals do with gun laws); and
2. You’re absolutely correct that most Americans don’t understand risk assessment. Which is why we’re not currently getting most of our electricity from nuclear power. and
3.Your point about lacking control creating unwarranted fear is illustrated(I think) by my complete lack of fear of mall shooters b/c I’m trained,armed and alert.

2. Lance says:

Less worried about ay federal action since House is progun majority. Worry about Oregon which has a Democratic Legislator so I hope we fight to protect Oregonians.

3. Ralph says:

Outstanding, Nick, but you skipped over one important point. That irrational fear will be exploited by the media and the disarmament crowd who want nothing more than to ensure that Americans remain passive and under control.

The probability of someone being killed in a mass shooting is around the same as being killed in a terrorist attack. Yet, both scenarios are cynically exploited to build a multibillion-dollar bureaucracy and as an excuse to roll back a hundred years of protections against intrusion into the lives of ordinary people by a government that has run amok.

1. sanchanim says:

Queue Bob Costas in 3….2…..1…. 😉

4. Loren says:

Excellent article! I’m curious to see how we (Oregon) reacts politically and socially.

I do find it ironic that the shooting happened in the valley – the more liberal side (Eastern Oregon is far more pro-gun, and its where I grew up) with far more gun restrictions.

1. Dan A says:

To be fair, Clackamas county seems to be more pro-gun than Multnomah or Washington counties.

1. ensitu says:

But it’s only a matter of degree and Kitzhaber is a freaking Commie!
BTW it took an HOUR for SWAT to show up., was that a tacticle decision?

1. Scott Henrichs says:

SWAT isn’t a dedicated position in that county so for the officers to assemble and roll out an hour sounds about right. Most officers have a carbine in their patrol car and are trained in clearing buildings as a team. SWAT would be an added resource but not really vital.

2. sanchanim says:

For those in Oragon, I have to say the cops seemed to put a squelch on things. They were leaking out information over time, as best they could. In fact first reports stated the shooter had a long rifle. I like that, doesn’t sound like an anti gun group there..
Within minutes of the Aurora shooting people were waving bloody T-Shirts and AR’s in the camera.

5. Aharon says:

Violent crime occurs in the Portland area yet relative to other places nationwide it is small. There are some local progressive politicians who would like to increase gun control or ban guns yet overall the Greater Portland area population is gun friendly or at least gun tolerant. IMO, new environmentally-friendly ammo laws will get approved before any state laws tightening restrictions on semi-autos. Then again, I can be wrong.

1. rosignol says:

Yeah, as gun laws go, Oregon is pretty good. The local anti-gunners are pretty much ineffectual, and are likely to stay that way.

6. Jim Barrett says:

What could happen is what happened in Colorado after Aurora. A substantial increase in CCW permit applications and lots of new gun owners who want to protect their newfound rights.

1. In Memphis says:

This right here!

7. Mark N. says:

I may prove wrong, but this doesn’t smell to me like a spree killing, but a targetted killing, i.e., domestic violence. Early reports do not indicate a lot of shots fired, and given the low number of causualties, no spray firing or walking through the crowd shooting seems to have occurred. When the gun man shot who he was after, he killed himself. But we will see…

As to the risk perception, the risk is always viewed against the background where the shooting took place. A killing in a private home never leads to the massive media attention one in a public place like a mall does. For example, there was a domestic incident in California on an Indian reservation, yesterday or the day before. Man goes into a home, kills two. Goes to a shed out back, kills another. Puts his kids in the car and shoots them both (one dies, the other seriously wounded). Flees, but eventually pulls over and is involved in a shootout with police that results in his death. This incident receives no national attention although five are dead. The fear, then, is not domestic violence–that is understandable if regrettable–it is random violence by deranged killers that freaks out the masses.

1. Loren says:

Hmm, that is an interesting idea. I didn’t think about the possibility of it being a specific attack, as the location seems rather odd, but the numbers are definitely not in the spree shooter realm.

It is interesting to hear about how people reacted who were inside the mall at the time of the shooting. Hiding in rooms was the one that had me wincing, i would not to wait around doing absolutely nothing.

2. ensitu says:

There are witness reports that the Rifle jammed, did he have a second firearm?

3. JustAJ says:

I think you’re dead on about location. Not 3 miles from me there were 4 people shot in a home. That’s 2 times as many dead as this most recent shooting (shooter doesn’t count), but there’s no huge freak out happening over it. Hell, it was off the news in less than 36 hours.

8. Average_Casey says:

If they want to fix this with legislation, ban gun free zones.

not one fu*kin person had a gun on them in the whole god damned mall to stop this asshole? he fired 60 rounds i’m heart felt on the 2 innocents. thank god he couldn’t hit the side of a barn….un real

1. In Memphis says:

Well maybe that thought will wake up some fence sitters and send them over to our side. The dark side may have cookies but we have guns.

2. Jan says:

I think the mall was/ is a gun free zone. Another article pointed out that they did not even honor ccw permit holders.

1. rosignol says:

Yup. People with CHLs tend to be the sort who abide by the rules, even if we don’t agree with them.

3. ensitu says:

Gun Free Zone =Free Victim Zone

1. Scott Henrichs says:

It was posted last time I was there 3 years ago. I think the sign was broken though because it didn’t seem to stop me from walking in. hum

thats the point i’m trying to make just because there is a sign that does not mean i’m going to abide by it i wear my piece every were i go (with the exception of getting on a plane…etc…) I would rather be judged by six that buried by six…

10. chris says:

“If we relinquish our rights because of fear, what is it exactly, then, we are fighting for?” Rand Paul, and he went on to say “We have nothing to fear that should cause us to relinquish our rights as free men and women,” “I urge my colleagues to reject fear, to reject the siren call for ever more powerful government.”

11. Scott Henrichs says:

I think things like this scare most people because it exposes the violence that lurks beneath the thin veneer of society. They come face to face with their own inability to defend themselves. Rather than take action and learn the skills they try to ban guns. Because in their mind it is uncivilized to fight back. That is the mindset that is slowly changing and slowly winning people back to our side. More and more people are waking up to the reality that the government isn’t able to protect them. That they need to stand on their own two feet and be prepared.

1. LeftiesRLoonies says:

Why is it the few times some white guy(s) go on a shooting spree there are cries for gun control measures, meanwhile there is gun violence on a daily basis in the black and Latino communities and people never get as outraged with that? Why is it the few times a white person harms a nonperson there are calls for more ‘Hate Crime’ laws or more anti discrimination laws, yet nobody talks about the fact that most racially motivated crimes in this country are black on white?

1. Tanner says:

I sincerely hope you meant non-white instead of “nonperson”.

12. Steve Ramsey says:

They have been trained to over react. In the same manner we as a society over react to “terrorism”. We have given up freedom, and given over power to the government, because America, as a society, is spoon fed and weak willed. The government and media want people to think “I’m Next” so they can continue to cage us all in, and have us serving them, in their vision of utopia, which is nothing more than soft tyranny at best.

13. Jeff Cameron says:

Nick,

you are out of line. it isn’t even a day since the shooting and your already talking about how people are going to “over react” you don’t even live in Portland Oregon. I live in Portland Oregon your thousands of miles south in Texas. the people involved in the shooting the victims the people effected by the matter have every right to feel the way the do. if gun laws get stricter. its to keep the mentally ill from getting their hands on them. if i have to be subjected to a five day waiting period to get a gun fine by me. i believe that everyone has a right to own a fire arm but at the same time i believe only people MENTALLY together should be allowed to own one because while the second amendment says that everyone shall have the right to bear arms unfortunately in this day in age that’s simply not the case a large majority of people suffer from things such as depression and you’ll find a lot of shooting cases involve people that were depressed or even suicidal. you have no idea the statistical likely hood of a person getting shot in a mass shooting because it all depends on the person doing the shooting and the weapon used as well as the victims involved. they could sit there and target people individually or they could go in spraying rounds like rambo. i understand everyone has a right to their own opinion but it would have been more appropriate to at least wait a day or two. also try being shot at like these people today n see if you still feel the same way. no one knows what its like till they are actually the ones getting shot at.

1. FCMatt says:

You’re right, we’re far away down here in texas, which is why we’re not taking this personally. Nick made a concise and logical presentation on the psychology of fear and risk. If I were standing next to a victim’s family I would give them my condolences, but this is the damn internet and I’m hundreds of miles away from them. I seriously doubt their families are surfing TTAG reading articles right now, so why should we wait? Save the ignominy for reporters that try to interview victims minutes and hours after a tragedy.

Next time you want to rant take a nap before you hit post, that wall of text is barely understandable. Your emotional response is just making an argument for emotion playing NO part in how our God given rights should be restricted or regulated.

2. LeftiesRLoonies says:

Doesn’t matter. I live in Colorado and I felt sad when the Aurora shooting happened, it was close to me, but I knew this was something the liberals and gun control lobbyists would pounce on to push for more gun control.

3. Accur81 says:

Nick is a good guy, and he is spot on. I feel for the victims, but I have no desire to be one.

1. Gregolas says:

Mr. Cameron,
None of us lack sympathy for the victims. Our outrage at these incidents comes from the easy prevention/mitigation of such events if armed citizens had been “allowed” to be there.
As for your theory about preventing psychos from getting guns and causing harm, the fact is that any normal person could conceivably snap. Ask any shrink, and she’ll tell you that there is NO reliable test to predict any person’s actual propensity for violence.
All we’re saying is that should someone snap and attempt mass murder in a public place, we would like the legal opportuity to terminate his irrational frenzy ASAP.

4. Kendahl says:

Jeff: I agree that mentally ill people, if they are dangerous, should not have access to anything, not just guns, that they can use to do harm. The only way to accomplish this is to confine them to secure mental hospitals as long as they are dangerous. However, no one wants to do this. It’s much easier to ignore them until they explode. Repeatedly, we learn that spree shooters had longstanding, well known histories of untreated or poorly treated psychiatric and/or drug problems.

14. Jeff Cameron says:

all you people are pathetic you turn a senseless shooting in the a political oh my god they’re gonna take my guns. sure i agree guns have saved lives before BUT ONLY in the hands of individuals TRAINED how to PROPERLY use them and HAVE THE RIGHT MENTAL FRAME OF MIND. but if it were up to you people who whine my guns my guns my guns boo hoo every man woman and child would have one and we’d be no better then iraq or some other third world country. hell lets just have it your way stick a gun rifle and shot gun in the hands of everyone and have cops say fuck you dont call us we dont care and see how many people are left standing. i agree gun control sucks but instead of saying why is the federal government trying to create gun control ask yourself what type of people are giving the federal government a reason to create the gun control and target those people. instead of bitching about it find a solution to the problem. because id the american people had it the way some of you are talking there would be alot more school related shooting and shooting like what happened here in portland Oregon. whether we like it or not no matter how much we bitch or moan the federal government is ALWAYS gonna be in control there were back in the 1700’s and they will be long after all of us are gone. if someone is doing something you dont like instead of constantly fighting them step back look at the reason why they are doing it. find a solution to that reason and you just might get what you want faster. people long before us have been fighting the federal government and people long after us will be too.

1. Steve Ramsey says:

What you demand is impossible. In Tacoma Washington, the police chief went mad and murdered his wife. With his service weapon. In public.

As to politics, we now respond immediately yes. We have to. The track record of the anti gun interest groups and media is to dance in the blood of the victims without hesitation. They show no remorse in furthering their agenda, which is civilian disarmament and making money. I suggest you reserve some criticism for them.

Gun laws don’t work. Neither did those “Firearms Prohibited” signs that were most assuredly on every door of that mall.

You mistake our defensiveness for callousness, That is false, especially since a great many of us in the firearms community, have the ability, means, and motivation to bring such an event to an end.

2. FCMatt says:

1. Ralph says:

Guess he can’t read. He sure can’t write.

15. ensitu says:

@Scott Henrichs
Well that’s a compeling rational

16. JFP says:

Jeff, who is mentally competent? Who makes that call?

Dr. Repeat Retread er I mean Gov. Kitzhaber? The legislature? The state legislature will be dem controlled next month. The state gov is setting up their cordinated care organizations (CCO) as their state exchange for obamacare, will they make the call? Heck, the Gov has just gotten a special session of the legislature for this Friday to get some tax deal passed for placate Nike (keep them here long term). Oh, and the Gov was just given “emergency powers” by the voters last month. I would not be surprised at all to see Rep Ginny Burdick toss in a last minute law banning guns or a waiting period etc..

Look up the David Pyles case from two years ago down in Medford for whats to come with waiting periods and paranoid cops/bureacrats and citizens driven by irrational fear. Look at all the talk thats occured this year from high profile gun crimes (while the killings continue in gun free Chicago, mostly ignored), its not a stretch for Mr Leghorn to make the assumptions he did.

17. Curzen says:

People tend to overreact when there are singular events that when put in perspective aren’t all that significant. That’s how we ended up with the Patriot Act, TSA and all that bullshit and how gun control legislation gets an opening.

1. Ralph says:

^^^
This.

18. Chas says:

“They exaggerate their fear of the event out of proportion to the actual probability that it will happen. It is the textbook definition of an irrational fear.”

Yet they’re the same crowd who will question our decision to carry a weapon for self-defense using that same irrationality.

How many people have to die in gun-free zones before they get it?

19. Tommy Knocker says:

My take is that the antis will put this into the constant drone of the msm machine. Like the tiny river that carves the canyon. It builds the social consensus that guns are bad etc.

20. mdc says:

Changes are a coming,it’s the grand plan.

21. Pulatso says:

There were reports on Twitter that the shooter was wearing a Guy Fawkes mask, not a hockey. If that turns out to be true, I expect this story to disappear quickly.

22. TRUTHY says:

500,000 people in the US die every year from the effects of smoking, makes these deaths seem pretty small numbers-wise.

23. Low Budget Dave says:

This board is fascinating to me. Every time there is (what appears to be) a random shooting, this board overflows with hatred against “liberals”. I keep coming back, expecting to see at least one voice who says: “Wow, what a terrible act, maybe this will encourage people to work to get some common sense repairs to the gun laws in America.”

1. jwm says:

LBD, we’re awash in “common sense” gun laws. I did not shoot up the mall or any place else, why should my rights be restricted further for the actions of some goblin I never knew?

2. Steve Ramsey says:

If there were “common sense” there would be fewer gun laws, not more. The only gun laws that have any success at all are basically written by the firearms community. The National Instant check system, laws returning the rights of folks to defend themselves. among them. Not the tyranny of the liberal left, which has been one big pile of suck and fail since GCA 68′, which was…wait for it, and over-reaction to the assassination of a Kennedy.

1. TRUTHY says:

Tyranny of the liberal left?? Must be a Fixed News (Faux News) watcher. Probably a Rush “painkiller” Limpballlls listener, too.

24. Tim says:

The likelihood of dying as a result of terror attack on an airplane is also very low, almost non-existent. Does that mean that we shouldn’t bother screening every passenger that boards a plane for explosives?

1. Evan says:

I doubt many here would say that they wouldn’t want some form of security checkpoint before boarding a plane. The question is really about who is doing it and how they do it. The TSA is a make work organization that has been proven ineffective. I don’t claim to know the best way to reduce incidents like terrorism, but I’m sure private security agencies hired by the airlines who would compete against one another could figure it out.

25. Luke says:

Judging by how easy it is for a news anchor or a senator who supports gun control to slip a gun past the TSA, I’d say we could do without them.

26. William says:

How about a five-day waiting period on “news” coverage?