The United States is confronting yet another public shooting rampage tonight after police in Maryland confirmed that three people had been shot dead inside a shopping mall in Columbia, a suburb of Baltimore.
“We were able to identify three victims in an upper level store inside the mall. One of the victims appears to be the shooter,” Bill McMahon, Police Chief for the area. “We do not think at this point there are any more shooters inside or around the mall.” He said the emergency began at around 11.15 am when gunfire first broke out on a busy weekend shopping day.
Chief McMahon said at a first press conference that he had no known motive for the shooting. He did not offer identities of any of the victims, including of the shooter. Nor would he provide the gender or the ages of those found dead. “We are confident that it was a single shooter,” he said.
The mall, which contains large department stores like J C Penney and Sears as well as many smaller outlets, was sealed as the emergency operation began. More than two hours after the killings many of the shoppers had been escorted out and onto buses while others were still being held inside as police sought to understand the incident. Many of those being held were witnesses of the violence and were being interviewed by investigators.
It appeared that police were confident the episode was over in part because those killed had been found beside what appeared to be the weapon that had been used. A Twitter message from the Police Department said, “One deceased subject located near gun and ammunition. ID unknown”.
Americans have become accustomed – but never inured - to such outbreaks of gun violence in public settings that should normally be considered safe. In recent months and years the most bloody have occurred in places as varied as cinemas, churches, armed forces bases, office complexes and supermarkets.
In 30 years from 1982 to 2012 there were 67 mass shootings across the United States. The most shocking of recent tragedies was the killing of 21 infant school children in Newton, Connecticut, in December 2012. Yet efforts to pass new gun controls, backed by President Barack Obama, have faltered in Congress.