Washington (AFP) – The US gun lobby on Monday seized on the “heroic” acts of a civilian who used a pistol to shoot dead a young man who had opened fire in a shopping mall, pushing its case in the midst of a fierce debate over the regulation of firearms.
On Sunday evening, Jonathan Sapriman, a 20-year-old white man whose motives remain unknown, opened fire with a semi-automatic rifle in an Indiana shopping mall.
He killed a 30-year-old man and a couple seated in a restaurant space, and injured two more, before being shot dead himself by Elisjsha Dicken, a 22-year-old customer who was carrying an unlicensed pistol, as recently authorized under local laws.
“Many more people would have died last night if not for a responsible armed citizen that took action very quickly within the first two minutes of the shooting,” said Greenwood police chief James Ison during a press briefing.
Ison said the shooter appeared to have prepared for his deadly assault by dropping his cell phone in a toilet and burning his computer in an oven before he set out. He also had a second assault rifle, a pistol and a large amount of ammunition, the police official said.
The powerful lobby group, the National Rifle Association (NRA), immediately seized on the tragedy to reassert its line that an armed public is good for public security.
“We will say it again: The only way to stop a bad guy with a gun is a good guy with a gun,” the NRA said on Twitter.
Another group pushing against any restrictions on firearms ownership, the CCRKBA, echoed the NRA line.
“We carry guns to defend ourselves and others from criminals and crazy people in sudden emergencies,” its chief, Alan Gottlieb, said in a statement.
“That courageous young man is rightfully being hailed as a hero,” he said.
Kris Brown, president of the Brady Campaign, which is pushing for stricter gun-control laws, hit back on Twitter. “Let me be clear: If more guns made us safer, America would be the safest country in the WORLD,” he said.
In the same vein, Shannon Watts, founder of the organization Moms Demand Action, shared graphs placing the United States at the head of the developed countries in terms of weapons per capita but also for deaths by firearms.
Nearly 400 million guns were in circulation among the civilian population in the United States in 2017, or 120 guns for every 100 people, according to the Small Arms Survey project.
More than 24,000 people have been shot dead since the start of the year, including 13,000 by suicide, according to the Gun Violence Archives site.
Several of the recent gun rampages, including the shooting in a school in Texas and a supermarket frequented by African-Americans in Buffalo, caused particular shock across the country, prompting lawmakers to agree in June, for the first time in 30 years, to pass modest reform of gun laws.