A 'good Samaritan' with a gun stopped a shooter in an Indiana mall. I have mixed feelings.

I grew up with guns. By college, I was a pretty good skeet shooter. And, when my family passes my great-great-grandfather’s gun onto me, I’ll take it into my home. But I am also a social scientist.

Amanda Jayne Miller
Opinion contributor

A "good Samaritan" killed the shooter.

That phrase alone immediately evoked mixed feelings for me. 

I had just driven past the Greenwood Park Mall on Sunday right before a man with a gun killed three people. He was stopped when an armed bystander shot and killed him. 

My home in Greenwood, Indiana, not even 5 miles away from the mall, is halfway between the city of Indianapolis and the rolling Indiana countryside. While of course I am thrilled lives were saved, I can’t help but imagine that the events that occurred will be fodder to further loosen gun regulations. I can’t be the only one who feels split in two on this contentious issue.

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Like many Hoosiers, my dad hunted deer, so I grew up with guns in the house. By college, I was a pretty good skeet shooter. And, when my family passes my great-great-grandfather’s gun onto me, I’ll take it into my home.

Amanda Jayne Miller, right, with her family as a child in Jasonville, Indiana. Her father hunted for deer when she was growing up, and she later became a skeet shooter.

I grew up around guns, and I know how dangerous they can be

But I am also a social scientist – I collect data and analyze research. I know that gun-related suicides and homicides are up – the highest they have been since a quarter of a century. I know that about 430 people die every year in the United States from accidental gun deaths. Sadly, I know that those accidental gun deaths happen disproportionately to children and young adults. And I know that women who are abused by their partners who have access to guns are five times more likely to be killed than other women.

FBI agents gather at the scene of a deadly shooting on July 17, 2022, in Greenwood, Ind.

Reconciling these two experiences – growing up around guns and people who use them responsibly – and the knowledge of guns' potential danger – is something many of us attempt to do.

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At the beginning of this month, a law went into effect allowing permitless carry in Indiana. 

If not already, then soon, politicians will use this tragedy to score political points. Online community boards and local Nextdoor sites will pop up with the inevitable fights:

“Good guy with a gun” or “Shooter never should have gotten to purchase a gun.”

“But Chicago has a murder problem.”

“Yes, with guns that have come from Indiana.”

“The 2nd Amendment says…” “Well regulated militia.” And on, and on and on.

And all groups will be right. And all groups will be wrong. And then the next shooting will occur.

Who I care about in this debate over gun safety

There will be some – likely many – who will argue that I completely missed their “side’s” point. They may be right. But, in truth, I’m too exhausted from mass shootings to care about philosophical nuances. What I care about are the individuals in our town whose loved ones are not coming home. And those bystanders who were terrified. And those first responders who had to deal with something horrific. And those whom this will happen to next.

Amanda Jayne Miller

Somewhere between the blue cities and the red countryside, there has to be some reason. It's up to us who live between the big metropolises and the tiny towns to play a part in figuring out why America, by far, leads so many of our peer nations in gun deaths.

Suburbanites have to come together to talk about issues of gun violence and safety well beyond National Night Out block parties. We have to model for our politicians that compromise, in many instances, is not a bad thing. We have to vet our city, county and state representatives better – ensuring we find good folks who will work together to make us all safer.

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While baby steps are small comfort to those who have lost loved ones to gun violence, they are better than no steps at all. And we have to actually run for office and vote for those who seem inclined to do more listening than talking. Suburban residents have played a crucial role in recent elections, perhaps because we are in a physical place where we can see rural and urban sides of many issues.

Now, can we push our legislatures to work together to save lives?

Such complicated issues deserve far more than sound-bite “solutions.” These issues and the lives of our fellow Americans are worthy of the hard work of legislating for all. Somewhere, there is a very complicated solution.

As for me, I’ll continue to vote in favor of most gun control measures – and give my great, great grandfather’s (unloaded) gun a place of honor in the house. I just won’t buy any bullets.

Amanda Jayne Miller is a professor of Sociology and director of Faculty Development at the University of Indianapolis. Her book (with co-author Sharon Sassler), "Cohabitation Nation: Gender, Class, and the Remaking of Relationships," won the 2018 William J. Goode Book Award for Family Sociology. She is a Public Voices Fellow through The OpEd Project.