Let’s pump the brakes on celebrating the “good Samaritan” in the Indiana mall shooting

That an armed bystander was the only person around to stop a mass shooting in progress is not the win the right thinks it is.

GREENWOOD, IN - JULY 18: A mall employee works outside of the food court entrance to Greenwood Park ...
Jon Cherry/Getty Images News/Getty Images

Just after 6 p.m. local time on Sunday evening, an unidentified gunman walked into the food court at Greenwood Park Mall outside of Indianapolis, Indiana, and began firing with what officials believe was some form of long gun. His motive remains officially unknown thus far. What is known, however, is that after killing three mallgoers and injuring several more, the gunman was himself shot to death by an armed 22-year-old bystander, who has been dubbed a “good Samaritan” and a “hero” by local and state officials.

Textual inaccuracy aside, the plaudits for the as-of-yet unnamed “good Samaritan” have been predictably effusive from right-wing gun advocates eager to latch onto this single instance of vigilante violence as proof that widespread firearm ownership is necessary in this scary, unpredictable world of Democrat-induced disarmament.

Particularly given the catastrophic unwillingness of Uvalde, Texas, law enforcement officials to stop the mass shooter at Robb Elementary School several weeks ago, there an almost palpable sense of hunger among gun enthusiasts to latch onto this one instance as a counter-narrative — one that says, “Yes, good guys with guns are the heroes we’ve always claimed them to be!”

But take a step back from the laudatory Fox News headlines and celebratory “we told you so”s from the various corners of the right-wing slime culture and consider what, exactly, is being held up as the ideal here: a random 22-year-old opening fire in an already chaotic scene, and only after multiple other people were dead or injured. The police, meanwhile — the people actually paid and empowered to do something in this situation — are essentially treated as afterthoughts. Is this truly a best-case scenario? Particularly as envisioned by the same “back the blue” crowd who have spent years screaming how vital police forces are for situations just like this?

According to Greenwood Police Chief Jim Ison, the man who killed the gunman was “lawfully carrying a firearm in that food court and was able to stop that shooter almost as soon as he began” — which is to say, only after he’d already killed or wounded several people. What’s more, while gun enthusiasts love to claim that gun-free zones invite criminal violence, and the threat of other people packing heat acts as a deterrent, none of that seemed to actually play out in this case, given Indiana’s recently enacted permit-less carry law, which seemingly did nothing to scare the mall shooter away.

Ultimately, the Greenwood Park Mall shooting is a tragedy, and the fact that it ended the way it did does nothing to lessen the horror of living in a country where simply eating in a food court means risking finding yourself in the middle of a crossfire between two gunmen. That’s not a story of heroism. That’s just proof of just how bad things have gotten.