Viewpoint: Thwarted SLC mass shooting reminds us to be aware

The Trolley Square shooting was a little more than six years ago, but this week, Salt Lake City was almost the center of another mass shooting. On Tuesday morning, local news stations reported that police had arrested a man planning a mass shooting today at and around City Creek Center. With a new shooting or terrorist act haunting the headlines almost daily, this story probably won’t even be a blip on the national news radar. Thankfully, no one died. No bullets were fired. Someone saw the warning signs early and acted. But it could have been worse.

In many other places around our country and the world, it is. On Sept. 16, a man opened fire at the Washington Navy Yard. On Sept. 19, four men participated in a drive-by shooting at a Chicago park. Early this week saw a terrorist attack and hostage crisis at a Kenyan mall. Tuesday heard news of an armed man killed at a North Carolina campus after exchanging fire with police.

This Viewpoint today isn’t meant to scare you. It isn’t going to be a political rant urging tighter/looser gun control, a discussion on how our society’s health care system often fails mental health patients, or an argument about religion and race. We’ve talked about guns here before. It’s to get you to think. Because sometimes, all it takes to stop or limit a tragedy is one person paying attention.

Too often we hear people we know say they just don’t want to think about things like this. They don’t want to scare their families, especially their children. They don’t want to live in fear every day that such terrible manmade disasters might happen to them or people they love. And besides, it’s depressing stuff. But if you aren’t thinking about it, then you aren’t alert, you’re less likely to see warning signs, and if by chance you find yourself in such a situation, you might not know how to respond in a way that will help you and others.

As employees working in the Shepherd Union Building, many of us have gone through Shots Fired training, a program by police officers that teaches employees and students what to do in the event of a shooting. Weber State University has had a deadly shooting before in 1993, so it isn’t farfetched to think it might happen here again. One of the points made during the program is that, in many instances, there will be warning signs, verbal or visual red flags that might indicate a problem leading up to a perpetrator acting out in violence.

We hear about this all the time in the news when a new mass shooting rocks the nation. Investigators dig into the shooter’s history and come out with buckets of evidence that something was wrong. The public asks why no one saw it before, why someone didn’t speak up. While you shouldn’t be so paranoid the police know you by your first name, don’t be silent. If you see something you think might be a warning sign, say something. It’s better to alert authorities for a possibility that turns out to be a false alarm than it is for everyone to assume something will take care of itself, only for it to turn deadly. Wherever you go, keep aware of your surroundings. Trust your instincts.

And don’t be too afraid to think about it.