Letter to Editor criticizing Paddock Mall shooting coverage

Marion County Fire Rescue paramedics arriving on the scene at 3:52 a shooting at the Paddock Mall. They entered before the building was cleared by law enforcement on the scene and thirteen minutes from the first shot. [Jennifer Hunt Murty/Ocala Gazette] 2023.

Home » Opinion
Posted January 10, 2024 |

The Ocala “Gazette”’s Jan. 5 coverage of the Paddock Mall shooting omitted that:

–           the suspect, Albert Shell Jr., was precluded from legally possessing a firearm due to any one of his numerous felony convictions dating back to 2003; and,

–          the Paddock Mall prohibits possession of “firearms or other weapons of any kind.” according to its website.

Did the mall’s prohibition against firearms keep the “Gazette”’s publisher from otherwise legally concealed-carrying her laser-sighted revolver that day? She chose not to share her rationale for not having her revolver that day, so we do not know. She does wonder what other firearm carriers might have done if she possessed and drew her firearm and concludes with the non-sequitur: “So, no, having a gun isn’t always the solution.”  This is particularly true when one does not have a firearm when needed.

The suspect ignored that he was legally barred from possessing a firearm and ignored the mall’s prohibition against carrying firearms, again illustrating that criminals do not adhere to firearms laws or restrictions. They just don’t care. It is law-abiding firearm owners who do, such as the “Gazette” publisher. It is interesting that these significant facts were not included in a major local story, perhaps because they are counter to liberal slogans about firearms and how to prevent firearm crime.

Bruce Atkinson

Micanopy, Florida


Editor’s note: While the “Gazette” typically does not reply to letter writers, we are offering a response here given the personal nature of the news story and the questions being raised.  

It was not an intentional decision not to carry my revolver that day. I merely forgot to move my revolver from my bedside to my purse before I left for the mall to help wrap gifts and raise money for a domestic abuse shelter.

The letter writer incorrectly implies the “Gazette’’ intentionally did not state that Shell was prohibited from owning a firearm because of his convictions. Perhaps it was a revelation to the letter writer that convicted felons typically lose their right to carry a firearm (unless they have their rights restored). We trust that most, if not all, of our readers are aware of this fact and do not have to have it spelled out in every crime story.

As for carrying a firearm inside a business establishment that has posted a sign prohibiting them, you won’t get arrested for ignoring the sign. Under Florida law, the owners and management can only ask you to leave (this assumes they even know you are carrying a concealed weapon). If you refuse to leave, they can call law enforcement and you could face a misdemeanor trespass arrest or citation.

A minor point, but for the record: My sentence was NOT a non sequitur. It logically followed my reasoning that if you and/or other people at the mall had a gun that fateful day, that fact alone might not have changed anything that transpired for exactly the reason I stated: Under those circumstances, no responsible gun owner would have or should have started blindly firing into a crowd of hysterical, terrified innocent bystanders. So, no, having a gun isn’t always the solution.

Jennifer Hunt Murty


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