Four people were injured after a fight at a Pennsylvania shopping mall escalated into a shooting this past weekend, but it could have been much worse were it not for the quick action taken by an armed citizen.
According to witnesses inside Lancaster’s Park City Center on Sunday afternoon, the incident started with a couple of guys jawing at each other before the confrontation turned physical.
Hana Ali, 57, of Lititz, said the shooting took place after a fight in front of Tabarek Al-Hana, an international food store she owns along with her sister.
Ali said an argument broke out between a group of four people just outside the store around 2 p.m. or 2:30 p.m., centered around two adult men. A scuffle took place, during which one of the men brandished a gun and began making threats to the others.
The gun was knocked from the man’s hand and the second man then mounted him and shot him, Ali said.
A second man, also part of the group, was also shot, though Ali was unsure how.
“Everything went so fast,” she said. “We were scared so we were hiding behind my register.”
Other shoppers scrambled for the exits once they heard the sound of gunshots.
Kevin Young, 68, of Lancaster, was shopping upstairs when he heard shots ring out through the mall.
“There were too many to count,” he said. “It was like a lot of firecrackers going off.”
Young saw a mass of people running throughout the mall, headed toward the exits. Some people were lying on the ground.
Young was ushered into a back room where he hid for about half an hour, he said.
What Young and most shoppers didn’t realize was that the threat had already been stopped by a legal gun owner and a concealed carry holder.
The unidentified bystander, who legally possessed the firearm, had heard gunshots related to a fight between two males that knew each other, police said. The bystander remained on scene until security and police arrived.
Police said the initial shooting stemmed from an altercation between two males who knew each other and at least one of them — a 16-year-old boy — had a gun.
They, and other people then struggled for the gun and the 16 year old fired at least two shots, striking at least one of the people involved.
The bystander, who had been in a store nearby, heard the shots, came over and “then engaged the subjects fighting over the gun and fired shots, striking one of the suspects.”
So far the 16-year old is the only one facing charges in the shooting, and thankfully it looks like no one suffered life threatening injuries. While police say they continue to investigate the actions of the armed citizen, from what’s been reported it sounds like he was acting in defense of others when he drew his firearm and shot the armed suspect.
Rather than highlight the fact that an armed citizen was able to stop this shooting before more people were injured, though, the editors of the local paper chose instead to rail about guns in their op-ed about the shooting.
We don’t yet have enough information about what transpired Sunday at Park City Center to assess the actions of the bystander who intervened. But consider the following statistics. Guns rarely make us safer.
… There are more guns in circulation in the United States than there are people — more than 393 million guns, approximately 120.5 guns for every 100 people, as the Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia website notes.
So perhaps it shouldn’t surprise us when a shooting occurs at a movie theater or a grocery store or a college campus or in a neighborhood or home. Guns are everywhere.
And we’re supposed to live with this fact, as if it’s normal. We’re supposed to be OK with the fact that only some mass shootings make the national news in the United States, and then only occupy our attention for a few days.
If the problem was simply the presence of firearms, our violent crime rate would be far worse than what it is right now. The fact is that even with the growing number of privately owned firearms over the past two decades, violent crime and homicides have steadily declined across the country, at least until last year’s crime spike.
And contrary to the paper’s claims, it’s not too early to assess the actions of the armed bystander. He clearly responded to a dangerous situation and stopped the threat. He might have violated the mall’s “no guns allowed” policy, but so did the 16-year old who was allegedly in illegal possession of a firearm. If anything, this shooting shows us once again that gun-free zones are completely ineffective at preventing violent crime.
This incident also serves as a reminder that armed citizens can and do save lives, even if the local Lancaster paper would prefer to downplay the actions of the mall patron who stopped the shooting at the Park City Center.The fact is that things likely would have been a lot worse if the armed citizen hadn’t been there and responded to the gunfire with shots of his own, but the anti-gun crowd can’t and won’t acknowledge that simple reality.