Nick Meli never fired his Glock 22 that bloody December night at Clackamas Town Center.
He’d drawn the .40 S&W pistol and taken careful aim at the head of mall shooter Jacob Roberts as Roberts frantically tried to clear his jammed weapon, but Meli held his fire when he saw shoppers in the background. He moved for a better shot.
Roberts is assumed to have seen Meli and his Glock as Meli moved to a better position, and as soon as he cleared the jam in the weapon, he turned it on himself and ended his life.
We will never know how many lives were saved by the mere presence of Meli with his concealed carry permit, but the effect on his fellow Oregonians was apparently profound.
In Oregon, about one in 15 adults is now licensed to carry a concealed handgun, up from one in 22 adults in 2010. The surge has been particularly strong this year.
The number of concealed handgun licenses issued in Oregon increased 22.7 percent during the first six months of 2013, according to Oregon State Police figures. The increase was similar across the Portland area: 22.9 in Clackamas County, 23.8 percent in Washington County, 26.2 percent in Multnomah County.
The steep upswings in concealed handgun licenses follow the December shootings at Clackamas Town Center, which left two shoppers dead and one wounded, as well as the horrific massacre at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, Conn., which took the lives of 20 children and six adults.
The high-profile incidents at once touched off a nationwide drive for stricter gun control as well as a rush to buy guns before more restrictive laws might be passed. In December, the number of FBI background checks for gun purchases through federally licensed dealers soared by 39 percent.
Although the initial surge is past, the Oregon numbers remain high, suggesting an enduring shift in attitudes and behavior. Reasons for obtaining a concealed handgun license run the gamut, but personal safety is at the top of the list.
Despite a frantic and arbitrary reclassification game played by gun control advocates to try to claim that this and other mass shootings stopped by good guys with guns “don’t count,” citizens know that properly-used guns can indeed save lives, and the surge in concealed carry permits in Oregon is a result of that knowledge.