Mall robberies. They seem to be happening everywhere these days. No longer confined to Gauteng Province alone, the phenomenon has well and truly migrated to other metros in South Africa. Durban and Cape Town have had their fair share, with over 9 shopping centres in and around Cape Town being hit. Some of them multiple times.
The criminals mostly target cellular phone and electronic stores (they have an obsession with Apple products for some reason, clearly nobody told them how crappy the iPhone 6 is), grab as much loot as they can get their grubby little mitts on, and make their escape. It is not just electronics dealers that suffer these heists, with jewellery stores and cash-in-transit personnel also being attacked.
Sometimes the robbers just make a run for it, and other times they shoot their way out. Let me rephrase: they shoot randomly in the general direction of other shoppers regardless of whether or not they are being pursued by security or police.
These guys are trigger happy thugs who have no regard for human life, and they will take what they want by force and shoot at the public even when unprovoked.
Mystery Security Theatre 3000?
Obviously this is a serious problem. Shoppers become understandably nervous when they perceive that their routine grocery outing can turn into a scene out of Die Hard. Fortunately for us the management of several shopping centres have come up with a cunning plan: they will put up NO GUNS ALLOWED stickers, and get security guards with metal-detector wands to do random searches of shoppers.
I can go on about how criminals, being individuals who exist outside the boundaries and scope of laws and ordinances, probably care less about unarmed mall security and NO GUNS signs than they do about astrophysics, but that would be boring. These elaborate little pieces of security theatre achieve nothing except to create the illusion of safety and control, and to inconvenience shoppers. Case in point, Monte Casino is equipped with full-on X-ray scanners and walk-through metal detectors, and they were robbed twice; once in 2007 and again in 2009. In the former case a gang of five men armed with AK47s were only stopped after a shootout with police: metal detectors and X-ray scanners did nothing to deter them. It required good guys with guns to take them down.
So where am I going with this?
Well, Canal Walk has recently decided that it was always their policy to never allow anyone carrying a firearm on their premises. That being said, I have gone there more times than I care to remember and always carried my handgun. Just like I normally do every day. Now I can no longer go there. Neither can any of the hundreds (if not thousands) of legally armed Capetonians who frequent the mall…well, not if they intend on carrying their firearms.
This has obviously upset a lot of people, myself included. Why are the law abiding and the responsible again being targeted (victimised?) because criminals (people who live outside the law) target shopping centres? Just in case this hasn’t been made clear: we are not the problem. The criminals are the problem. Repeating this phrase as much as I have recently, it feels like I am trying to explain Lego instructions to an eight-year old.
The issue has been confronted on several different fora, one being the Firearm Owners Boycott Canal Walk Facebook group (go take a looksee), as well as disgruntled and now unwelcome legally armed shoppers venting their frustrations directly on Canal Walk’s page. There is also a Twitter hashtag of #CWhatesyou trending out there in the Twitterverse…or whatever it’s called. In short: the people ain’t happy.
This is actually funny. Mall Security Theatre is not.
Conceal Carriers are Customers too
Mall Management, I get it: it makes you nervous to think that there are armed citizens browsing your department stores’ lingerie sections, paging through the Gay Pages and Popular Mechanics in Exclusive Books, buying coffee at Mugg & Bean, and generally being good folks getting groceries. The thing is, we have been doing so for years. The only reason you haven’t noticed thus far, is because you haven’t tried taking our rights and privileges away from us.
Guess what? None of us want to get involved in a shootout on your premises. In fact, we don’t want to become involved in a shootout anywhere. What are legal gun carriers going to do when they hear shots fired somewhere in your shopping centre? They are going to high-tail it in the opposite direction double time, along with every other sentient person with a sense of self preservation. We are, despite your worst fears, not John McClane. Nobody is John McClane, because he isn’t real.
We carry our guns to protect ourselves and our families. When criminals rob an iStore in your mall we are not going to rush there to save the day (I like Apple, but not that much). That is a public problem that concerns the public at large. When a bad man has a gun pointed at me, or my wife, or (one day) my child, or somebody I care about…that is a personal problem that concerns me. Nobody else can be expected to save us. But at that moment, in that situation: I can. Disarmed I am just another victim.
The Makings of a Real Solution
We have all realised by now that we live in a country where crime is omnipresent. The wicked do not rest, and they are becoming more brazen by the day. I think I speak for a lot of people when I state that I am not willing to leave my gun at home, and thus make myself and my family defenceless against criminals, just so that I can shop at a mall.
Criminals don’t just attack people in malls folks. They strike in parking lots, on highways, in driveways, at stop signs and red robots…anywhere really.
I am a firm believer in risk management, and part of that process is avoiding places and situations where I have less control over the variables that can negatively affect my safety. Bearing in mind of course that the definition of “safe” never means “risk free”. Going somewhere that I can avoid visiting that does not allow me to EDC my handgun is a big no-no in my book.
After the Westgate Mall attacks in Nairobi, Kenya back in September 2013, the Chief of Interpol stated that armed citizenry would be beneficial in preventing future terrorist attacks and mass shootings. He went so far as to say that it would be in the interest of the international community to ponder this point.
Noble said there are really only two choices for protecting open societies from attacks like the one on Westgate mall where so-called “soft targets” are hit: either create secure perimeters around the locations or allow civilians to carry their own guns to protect themselves.
“Societies have to think about how they’re going to approach the problem,” Noble said. “One is to say we want an armed citizenry; you can see the reason for that. Another is to say the enclaves are so secure that in order to get into the soft target you’re going to have to pass through extraordinary security.”
“Ask yourself: If that was Denver, if that was Texas, would those guys have been able to spend hours, days, shooting people randomly?” Noble said, referring to states with pro-gun traditions. “What I’m saying is it makes police around the world question their views on gun control. It makes citizens question their views on gun control. You have to ask yourself, ‘Is an armed citizenry more necessary now than it was in the past with an evolving threat of terrorism?’ This is something that has to be discussed.”
If the Chief of Interpol is willing to unequivocally state that armed citizens can be a very real benefit to the security of other, unarmed citizens, then why are shopping centres targeting legally armed citizens with their policies?
I understand that this is a knee-jerk reaction. I also understand that it may not be the malls’ intention to target legally armed people. But that is what they are doing, intention or not.
We are not the problem. We can in fact be part of the solution. Security theatre does not work.
If the malls are not willing to welcome us with open arms, that is fine by me. However, banning us is not the answer either. Rather just quietly accept that we are also your customers and clients, and that we deserve just as much as anyone else to be able to frequent your premises.
Remove those stupid NO GUNS ALLOWED stickers, as well as the line from your disclaimer prohibiting our carriage of firearms in your centre, and we will be back. Until then we will shop at places where we are not treated like escapees from a leper colony.