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…