Thursday, May 31, 2012

If only someone else had a gun...

This article has been updated on July 23rd, 2012, due to a secondary event that is relevant.

On May 30th, 2012, Ian L. Stawicki, walked into to Cafe Racer about 11 AM. and opened fire with two semi-automatic handguns. Six people died that day, including Stawicki, who turned a gun on himself as police cornered him in West Seattle.  He lived long enough to be transported to the hospital, where he later died.

On Friday, July 20, 2012, James Holmes, dressed in body armor, and carrying multiple weapons, ambushed a crowd in a movie theater.  He killed many -- shot many more. He gave himself up to the police shortly after.

After both tragic incidents, when many are asking, "How could this happen?  How can we make sure it can't happen again?," I hear the different sentiment too.

"What if someone else would have had a gun? They could have stopped the killer."

This article will not address the violence in our society, our cowboy culture, our ongoing affair with the firearm, it's popularity in the movies, gun control, gun banning, or how guns provide us with 2nd amendment solutions when things don't go our way at the voting box.

I'm not wading into the RKBA, the 2nd Amendment, or Gun Control. I'm not going to do it.  That path lies a morass of madness, insecurity, and defensiveness.

I'll address one thing, just one thing. It's something I've heard time and again, on Facebook, in comments to articles in the paper, by talking heads on the so called news programs, ever since these shootings.  I've heard it said different ways but, the meaning is the same.  Whenever any shooting happens, I hear this statement, usually in defense of legal concealed carry.  It's always the same statement.  It's always misplaced.  It's wrong and I'll tell you why.

"If someone with a concealed weapon was there, they could have stopped this man."

I know that it has been said that the media never reports on the incidents where someone uses firearms successfully in self defense (actually they do from time to time).  It's been said we never hear about it.  

What I'm going to address here is the supposed hypothetical heroic actions of an ordinary citizen (even with some training), when faced with a incident where a mad gunman walks into a coffee shop/bar/restaurant/theater/et-al and starts shooting people.

On what is my opinion based?

Lets start with my credentials: I have been a sworn officer of the law, a former member of a combat communications squadron in the United States Air Force, and served in a professional security capacity (mercenary) in Iraq in 2004.  I've been shot near and shot at.  I've heard bullets whizzing by merely feet away -- yes, you can hear them. I have extensive defensive tactics training, always scored in the highest brackets in firearms marksmanship tests, and always performed very very well in simunitions (simulated ammunition that really really hurts when you are shot with it) and mock scene exercises.  I've been the hunter, the hunted, the surpriser and the very so very surprised.  I've "won" and I've "lost". I can tell you, the losses are quite humbling.  I have hundreds of hours of training plus hundreds of hours of exercises and practice.  I used to carry all the time -- I mean all the time. I'm practiced at it.  In short, if I am armed, and facing someone in a battle, I stand a pretty good chance of prevailing.  

Put it another way, one of mindset, one that speaks of intent, "I will prevail."

Now let's address the subject more directly as if a person were talking about themselves with, "If I were there with a concealed weapon, I could have stopped this man."

Yes, I've heard this.  Want to know my answer?  The one I sometimes share with the speaker?

My answer to them would be, "I doubt it."

They always look at me with the most puzzled, sometimes hurt, expression.

Why did I say that? Am I trying to provoke a confrontation?  Am I trying to demonstrate some superiority on my part, or some deficiency in theirs?  Why is that my response? This is why.

It's simple. Unless I'm provided evidence to the contrary, I doubt the person who is making the statement has the training and the experience to engage an armed assailant in a crowded, chaotic, environment.  

Why do I doubt it?  I'll address these three simple points.  So...

You're That Good, are You?

If you have spent any time training, it's shooting at paper targets at the local range.  It's highly unlikely you have participated in any actual combat training. This means training where you are moving, finding cover, acquiring targets, and shooting accurately. Sometimes, during that training you are being shot at, it's dark, maybe an instructor is screaming at you.  Sometimes you have to shoot with your left hand instead of your right.  Shooting paper targets, even those that have nice cartoon characters of thugs holding guns, at a gun range is very different than a live moving person. Let's not even talk about a person who is actually armed and may be returning fire.  That's returning fire at you.  You.  How is your shot grouping now?

You're Always On?

Are you really always on guard?  Really?  You always sit with your back to wall, your face towards the door, and your head on a swivel?  You now where all the exits are.  You have identified concealment and cover because you know the difference between the two.  You never turn your back to anyone, not even for an instant? Because that is how long it takes a determined and planned assailant to draw and fire.  You are always carrying and always in a manner where your firearm is available?  You never carry anything in your gun hand?  Ever? You have actually practiced drawing from your concealed carry method and have engaged targets at a range? By the way, most ranges prohibit this behavior and for good reason.  

You are Ready to Stop an Attack (that usually equals killing someone)?

You are really thought about this?  Really?  You have sat there, and gone through the mental exercises of killing another person.  You've walked through the preparation, the actual act, and the aftermath?  I say this because, if you aren't prepared, you will likely fail in engaging the assailant or, even worse, put others at risk with your firing.  I've seen this happen, first hand, in simunitions training, where recruit police officers failed to engage and were "killed" by our helpful volunteers from the department SWAT team.

I can tell you this is not easy. Should I tell you about the dreams I had where I was in a life and death situation, facing another gun, and my dream brain would not let my gun go off?  I'd pull the trigger in the dram and it would just "click".  Nothing.  It took about a year before it went "BANG" and I saw the effect of me actually pulling the trigger in dream space.

So you have thought about this.  You have thought about killing another human being.  How do you feel about that?  Seriously.  

Let's say all these points are true.  Let's say you are good, you are always on, and you are prepared and you have wrestled with the ethical dilemma of taking a human life.  

You think you are that good, huh?

In 2009, in Parkland, Washington, Maurice Clemmons, a convicted felon, walked into a coffee shop and gunned down four armed and experienced police officers.  Would you even begin to think of an argument where you claim they weren't good, weren't on and prepared?  Would you argue that you, on your way to work, standing at the counter, paying for your coffee, would be better prepared to face someone like Clemmons or  Stawicki?  How about if you were sitting in a dark movie theater with a fist full of popcorn in your gun hand while Holmes, dressed in body armor, starts killing people around you?

So no, I doubt a single armed would be citizen hero would have made much difference in this scenario.  I doubt even two, sitting at a table, sipping coffee, talking about the weather could have responded in any way that mattered when Stawicki walked in and opened fire.  I doubt even a few in that movie theater would have mattered.

Who would be shooting at who, in the darkness or the chaos?

This isn't the movies.  You/they (the so called Good Guy With The Gun) aren't some action hero. 

Does this say that one should'nt try to stop an attacker?  I'm not arguing that one should not.  I'm pointing out that you need to have an honest assessment of yourself and your abilities before opening your mouth on this issue.  Should someone try to stop a killer?  Sure.  I know I'd try my best.  

I don't know where the answer to this problem lies. I hear all kinds of intellectually weak and dishonest arguments on both sides of the fence regarding gun violence in our society.  What I do know is that we have to change the culture of violence in this country, the worship (literally) of the gun, and the ability of dangerous people to access and use weapons against our fellow citizens.

Based on my experience, my training and my examination of the issues, I do know this.  The statement that all we needed was a lone hero, a legally carrying individual added to the equation and all would have been well is not based in any objective reality.  I know that argument is based on many things but I don't see how it is based on any real facts.

"If someone with a concealed weapon was there, they could have stopped this man."

No, you have it all wrong wrong.  The problem is not that there should have been more firearms at Cafe Racer or in Aurora, Colorado.  The problem is that Stawicki and Holmes had them.

Sunday, May 27, 2012

National BBQ Day

I don't know the source of this picture.  It was being passed around a social network site, with the included caption.  I had to look up the information on who this was.  I didn't know James John Regan.  Someone did and it seems that she loved him and misses him very, very much.

I see article after article on site after site about the best things to do on the holiday.  Which events to go to, which parks are open, which shows to see, what sales are happening, and which BBQ sauce is best on your prize ribs.

I hear Budweiser is on sale too, with a special deal on full racks.

So, as you go about your holiday on Monday, or if you don't read this until you get back from your vacation, I ask you not for any real sacrifice.  You see, no sacrifice you can make, no observation, no flag flying (even if you fly it correctly and store it correctly afterward), will approach one fraction of what James John Regan paid and what she pays in this picture.  However, you can do something.

Saying, "thank you for your service," is nice, but it isn't really enough and it isn't what I'm asking you to do.

This is what I'm asking you to do.

As you go about your weekend, in the most powerful country in the world, looking for the best deal on the lastest iPod, picking up that new living room set at Ikea, or cutting that awesome deal on the new car, or even just a full rack of Bud on sale, do one thing.

If you have not lost a friend or family member in these wars I ask you to consider something.  Think about why Sgt. Regan was where he was.  Why did we (you and I, through our proxies in the government) send him to Iraq and Afghanistan?  Think about why his life had to be taken by an IED.  Spend a minute or two thinking of what was going through Mary McHugh's soul as she lay on James' grave at Arlington National Cemetery.  

We go through our busy lives, working, paying our taxes, complaining about our taxes, fighting over politics, raising children, consuming what the corporations tell us to consume.  I wonder what our country would be like if we all considered the questions above.  I wonder if we would be quick to go back to shopping when we hear of another death of an American citizen in a foreign land.  Would we stop and think, "is this enough?  Is this too much?"

Would we?

If not, why not?

Now, where is that BBQ sauce I picked up at the QFC sale on Tuesday?