…there may be unintended consequences to our oversaturated coverage of mass shootings and the widespread belief that they’re increasing, even if neither produces a single new law. In 2010, there was an incident at a Las Vegas-area Costco that bears a striking resemblance to what happened in Ohio. Police gunned down Eric Scott, 38, outside the store after employees complained about the gun he was legally carrying. Though the Costco had a surveillance system, the store claimed that the cameras mysteriously malfunctioned at the time of the shooting. Scott was a West Point graduate with no criminal record. His family says he may have been agitated when hassled about a gun he was legally permitted to carry, but like Crawford’s family, they find it hard to believe that a guy with no criminal history or emotional problems would have intentionally provoked the police into shooting him.
It isn’t difficult to see how the misconception that mass shootings are becoming ubiquitous might make us see threats and potential mass killers instead of, say, a guy checking out a pellet gun, or a Costco shopper with a legal sidearm. And it isn’t difficult to see how a frightened witness might even exaggerate what he saw to get the police to take him seriously. Last month, the California State University San Marcos campus was put on lockdown and a SWAT team was sent in after someone mistook a staff member carrying an umbrella for a mass shooter. Umbrellas have caused similar lockdowns in Issaquah, Wash.; Fort Washington, Pa.; and Akron, Ohio.