I had a strange experience a few nights ago. My wife and I were out to dinner with several other couples. We were seated in a glassed-in outdoor patio. We were near the end of the evening when we heard a series of "pops". We were all pretty casual until my wife looked out the window and screamed for everyone to get on the floor.
As the news reports flowed out, we came to understand that a middle aged man was waiting in the parking lot for his estranged wife and her girl friend to leave the restaurant. As the women got in their SUV the man fired several shots at them and then turned the gun on himself. A tragedy for everyone.
Putting the suicide and shootings aside I had several reactions to the incident.
First, it's weird how you can be part of an event, but really not be part of it. We were definitely part of the aftermath but we had nothing to do with the incident other than being in extreme danger without knowing it. Yes, we heard the shots but to this day no one knows how many. I thought it was five, others claim four or six; and everyone has different recollections of the cadence. One astute colleague even asserted that the gun must have been a nine millimeter because he recognized the sound. Good for him because that wasn't a sound I ever heard in a hollywood movie. The sound was definitely just like the pop-gun I had as a kid.
Then there was the strange non-reaction to the shots. What was it? Was it a car back-fire? Maybe it was firecrackers? Could have been gun shots? The amazing thing is that we tended to discount what it really was. It's like we didn't want to be embarrassed by over-reacting until my wife told everyone to get down. Even then most of us didn't hide and one women jokingly hid behind a wall. It's no wonder that when we hear of a shooting in a school cafeteria that a dozen students get hit. They simply can't assimilate what's going on.
My final thought is about the aggrandized gun culture in the US (I'm a naturalized US citizen). People here love their guns and their Second amendment rights. I have no problem with people owning guns for what I see as legitimate purposes - like hunting or taking kids to enjoy the outdoors. But the easy access to guns in the US is ridiculous. Any one can get a gun - increasing the probability of bad things happening.
After the shooting one of my colleagues said; "that's it. I'm getting my concealed gun license." Yep, that's true. In Texas you can be licensed to conceal your heat. The thought is that in a situation like we encountered that some brave citizen will unpack their heat and blow the shooter away. It happens everyday in the movies. But in reality it would be chaos. First, we all had a stunned reaction to what was going on; and second, if someone pulled their gun they would just be a target for another law abiding citizen. In the moment it would be impossible to separate the white hats from the black hats. In all likely hood a lot of people would end up as collateral damage.
So, we were in real danger on Saturday night. The gunman could have unloaded his gun into the restaurant before taking himself out. But is the danger over? I don't think so. We're all at risk as long as people think that the answer to their problems comes from a gun barrel.