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Why more people didn't die in Clackamas mall shooting

Improved police practices and greater public awareness about what to do in an 'active shooter scenario' may have limited casualties during the Clackamas mall shooting Tuesday in Portland, Ore.

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Many versions of the AR-15 were banned under the assault weapons law, but it's not known if the gun used in the Clackamas mall shooting was one of them. 

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Police said Roberts had no criminal record and had stolen the AR-15 from "someone he knew."

Does the collected response by shoppers at the Clackamas Town Center indicate that Americans are becoming less daunted by senseless violence and, perhaps, better ready to react? Those who back broad gun rights under the Constitution's Second Amendment suggest a shift may be under way in people's readiness to respond.

In blocking Illinois's ban on concealed weapons, the last such law in the nation, Seventh US Circuit Court of Appeals Judge Richard Posner on Tuesday implied that self-defense readiness in public is not only protected by the US Constitution, but may be good social policy. An awareness "that many law-abiding citizens are walking the streets armed may make criminals timid," he wrote in his ruling.

"As far as a social shift, I think people are getting more intelligent and appropriate in their reactions to shooters," says Dave Kopel, research director at the Independence Institute, a libertarian-leaning think tank in Golden, Colo. "Police training has changed in significant ways since the Columbine [High School] shooting [in 1999], where they no longer wait for the SWAT team to arrive but go in immediately with … the army they have. There's also an awareness [among police and the public] that if you're trying to stop a gangster from robbing a liquor store, you may have a [heck] of a fight on your hands, but that these publicity-seeking guys with mental illness, they basically crumble at first opposition."

The upshot, says Mr. Kopel: "Lying down and cowering doesn't seem to work very well, so law enforcement has gotten smarter and civilians have gotten smarter."

In Clackamas County, Sheriff Roberts said local law-enforcement personnel had trained earlier this year for a shooting scenario at Clackamas Town Center, an exercise that involved both police and retailers. On Tuesday, arriving police, in keeping with evolving police tactics nationwide, formed small teams and quickly entered the mall to pursue the shooter. Police could not say Wednesday whether any officers saw the shooter before he killed himself.

Dennis Curtis, the mall's general manager, noted that police officers told him that they were amazed "how many stores were secured and people were locked in place" upon entering the mall to look for the shooter.

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