by: TRIBUNE PHOTO: CHRISTOPHER ONSTOTT - Police prepare to search Clackamas Town Center after Tuesday afternoon's shooting.There is no more normal or comforting sort of place than the interior of Clackamas Town Center, where the background music is muted, the trolley weaves among shoppers and daylight floods through ample skylights overhead.

Nor is there a more joyful time to be at the mall — despite the holiday hubbub — than the second week of December, when shoppers have kicked into full purchasing mode as they work their way through their Christmas gift lists.

As we all now know, it was just such a day at the town center on Tuesday when a disturbed young man stormed through the mall, wearing a mask, and opened fire with a semi-automatic weapon. His rampage destroyed lives, as well as our collective holiday sentiments of peace and joy.

When horrific events occur in the most benign places, we all are left jarred, reeling and asking why. It’s much too early to attempt to address that question in this case. But even when all information is made available about the shooter and his victims, the odds are that we still won’t know exactly what triggered this particular person to inflict violence upon others and himself.

It is wholly unsatisfying, however, just to say such tragedies are a risk of modern life we all must accept. Even with limited knowledge of what drives young men — and they are always young men, it seems — to perform such senseless acts, we can identify root causes and think about prevention.

The questions we must explore include issues of mental health, the availability of assault-style weapons and the potential ability — with better technology — to make our public places safer while also not encouraging a police-state atmosphere.

This week, all of Oregon is mourning for what was lost at Clackamas Town Center on Tuesday. Our hearts ache for family members of the victims, and we lament the shattered illusion of suburban safety. At a time intended for peace, joy and fellowship, we are left with instead with shock and grief. As we move forward, though, it is important also to think about how to decrease the chances of such events occurring in our community ever again.

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