Recent shootings at a shopping mall and church reminded people that they can become victims even in the most benign public places, says USA Today. A USA Today/Gallup Poll of 1,011 adults last weekend found that three in 10 people worry they could be victims of similar attacks. Crime analysts and psychiatrists say fears are understandable following high-profile crimes, but they caution that temporary wariness shouldn’t become permanent paranoia. “Events like these shatter the illusion” of safety, says Jim Sorrell, associate professor of psychiatry at the University of Nebraska Medical Center in Omaha. “That rupture in our social fabric takes time to restore  but it’s still random. It’s getting hit by lightning.”
Crime statistics do not show an increase in shootings with multiple victims. Between 1996 and 2005, shootings that left four or more people dead occurred about 18 times a year, according to FBI crime data, and represented about 0.2% of the nation’s total homicides. The shootings reinforced feelings on both sides of the gun debate. The alleged culprits in the recent shootings “all had easy access to guns,” says Paul Helmke, president of the Brady Campaign to Prevent Gun Violence. Wayne LaPierre, executive vice president of the National Rifle Association, notes that Jeanne Assam, a security guard at Colorado’s New Life Church saved lives by shooting a gunman. “The only thing that’s stopping these bad guys with a gun is a good guy with a gun,” he says.