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.


  1. I appreciate your addressing what I think of as "white hat syndrome."
    - E

  2. When you actually see gun violence on You Tube, it takes your breath away. There is no time. People are panicked and they're screaming! Who is doing what is not even obvious. And there is *no* time.

    No, I don't think more guns is the answer either. And the paranoia that folks carrying around a concealed fiream nurse hoping that they'll be ready (on all of the time) and the way that they then must look at their fellow human beings cannot breed a sense of trust and shared community.

    I used to keep a bat in my car at all times. I imagined needing to use it. Now I recognize that I was living under a cloud of fear that colored everything I thought and did. And I don't think for one instance that the bat would have been worth a damn to me in all but the most minor situations (which would have possibly escalated to a much worse situation with the presence of the bat).

    We all want to be safe. We all have a deep hatred towards anyone who would rob us of our life or liberty. But walking around pretending that any one of us is going to be as cool as a cucumber and have the time and circumstances to be Rambo in real life is deluding themselves.

    1. This is a fantastic comment. I struggle to answer when asked why I don't carry (I'm a woman & a survivor of assault) - it's a struggle because I don't want to be overly blunt. That fear you cite is spot-on; the fear and what it does to your attitude towards people is a very significant reason not to go around armed with a deadly weapon.

    2. Another more frightening aspect of always on is the triggers of this state of action, the *appearance* of danger. Many accidental deaths and accidents are from jerk reactions from over heightened, paranoid minds. Sit in a dark room imagining someone is outside the window long enough, even a paper blowing past becomes immediate danger.

      Going out with a gun, ready to act, is more likely to cause violence than stop it.

  3. You know, when I looked at my first target I'd shot at the gun range, I realized that before I hit the "intruder" I would have taken out my flat screen TV and killed my dog. And that "intruder" was standing still (as it was a paper target). Most untrained folks, or people who trained enough to get a concealed carry permit, but don't practice, would likely hit something unintended. (Confirmed by the recent news of a 71 year old vigilante in Florida's wild shooting at two robbers who got away despite ONE being hit twice. I'd call that ineffective, and darn lucky that a bystander didn't get shot.) Not what I'd want in a movie theater or anyplace else: please don't try to save me in this way!

  4. I don't carry or own. One more gun in that situation might not have done anything for the good of those folks, but guns exist. They will continue to exist. If good people don't have them more of us will be subjected to the whims of the mad men.

  5. "If good people don't have them more of us will be subjected to the whims of the mad men."

    The evidence does not bear this out. Other countries, with significantly stricter gun laws, have less gun violence.

    I have NO wish to take guns away from responsible people who want to use them. I just think that feeling safer because you have them is a delusion.

    The fact is that as long as there are humans, and humans can be beaten, bullied, humiliated or born into mental illness, there will be violence. Like terrorism it is something that we can work to reduce, but we cannot eliminate, or prevent completely. Episodes like this WILL happen. And if we all lose our minds and freak out every time it does, we are all reduced as a society.

    I really appreciate your thoughtful post. A bit of calm, reasoned reaction is sorely needed.

  6. I sold my Browning High Power 9mm pistol 20 years ago. I enjoyed owning, shooting and caring for it. A well made weapon that demands respect on every level. I came to the conclusion that I didn't need it and sold it without reservation.

    Since then, I have never traveled about in fear, ever. I face the day like any day in the past... with a smile and a clear confidence that my life has meaning and that certain things are completely beyond my control. This mindset allows me to concentrate on living and not being obsessed about it. I am lucid and happy. If I am to face danger, I will do my best to deal with it and if I get hurt or die, then that's what happens. Period.

    I have never ONCE...EVER, laid awake at night or questioned my 2nd amendment rights. It's never even occurred to me and nor do I care. I have no desire to use that right or lose sleep over it.
    The obsession I see with our 2nd amendment is largely caused by those who wish to use it as a means to further an agenda and I would absolutely wager that more than 50% of those who yammer about their 2nd amendment rights wouldn't know what to do with it should the occasion arise where they would have to bear arms.

    Fear can cause damaging results when faced with armed adversity and most of us are not equipped to deal with it. I know I'm not, and I'm a grown confident man. The poor souls who needlessly lost their lives minding their own business need not have died in vain by our reckless diatribes about our rights. It doesn't move our society forward in a positive direction at all, and never will unless a consensus is realized through common sense and respect for each other.

    It is my hope that our society can use the tools of reason instead of anxiety and emotion to carry us to enlightened solutions.

    Billy Yates
    Venice Ca.

  7. The town in Georgia's got a law on the books, it says if we all have guns then we won't have crooks.

    1. what town? Do they have zero crime? Citation needed.

    2. That would be Kennesaw, Georgia. I don't know the statistics because I can't be bothered, but I'm sure they are easy to look up.

  8. Of course, many criminals who engage in mass shooting specifically choose venues where they are the least likely to meet any armed resistance. Others will engage in an ambush of people that they know are armed (cops sitting around in a coffee shop) before turning their attention to others. They do this because they want to be the only armed person in the situation.

    You are correct that it is harder to function, think, and act when someone is shooting at you. This fact would also apply to the criminals. Instead of getting to enjoy the thrill of being the one with the gun, the taker of lives, the one with all the power, the one who can remain calm and act while everyone else panics and reacts, the criminal faced with an armed target (or targets) loses control of the situation, doesn't get to enjoy the power trip, and can't spend as much time killing and harming others.
    Whether or not the armed citizen is able to drop the criminal with a single shot, or shoot the gun out of the criminal's hand, they will make the criminal's task more difficult simply by fighting back.

    1. I don't mean to argue with your comment, or mock it in any way but, "shoot the gun out of the criminal's hand"?


    2. That's some prize shootin' there!

  9. Why do people think, a good guy with a gun, turns into a bad guy?
    Every freedom we have came from a gun in the hands of a good guy.
    If there were 4 or 5 people returning fire, lives would have been saved.

    1. I never, once in this post, argue that a good guy with a gun turns into a bad guy.

      However, who is the good guy and will he stay good.

      By all accounts, the shooter in the movie theater was a good guy. No criminal record. Phi Beta Kappa. Look at his photo. He looks like a nice guy.

      And yet...

  10. Lost my post. Try again.

    We can't figure out who the good guys are, and who the bad guys are. As you said, the Aurora shooter would have been seen as a good guy.

    Because we don't know who good/bad is, the chances more weapons cause less deaths is incredibly unlikely.

    Much like other areas of life, the extremists ("no guns" vs NRA-style "rights") cloud the issue, making it hard to find a true middle ground. Think about compromise as picking numbers. If I really want us to compromise at 7 but I know you want 10, I'll say 4. But now you'll say 16. Pretty soon we are screaming at each other for these polar extremes and unhappy with compromise.

  11. I agree that even if people did have concealed weapons, they might not have made any difference. I am trained in CPR, but even though I have lots of classroom training, I panicked the first time I was faced with having to do it on a real person. I wasn't mentally prepared. And that was to save a life. I don't think I could shoot another live human no matter how much target shooting I had done.

  12. The “what-if” scenario is a dangerous game to play, because it applies to both sides equally, and though you are a very reasonable person and your post is very well written, you too are guilty of it. Would an armed person have made a difference in the situation? I have absolutely no idea. But then, you don’t either, do you? Your answer was, “I doubt it.” Here’s the simple fact: we will never know if a person (or persons) legally armed with a concealed weapon would have made a difference in any of the mass shootings this country has faced, because the situation has never occurred. In every one of these horrible atrocities the same tragic scenario plays out. A madman who is armed to the teeth goes to a public place where guns are prohibited and where there are lots of people, and proceeds to kill as many innocent civilians as he can before he’s finally taken down. The ending of the story changes, as sometimes he’s killed, sometimes he kills himself, or sometimes he’s captured, but the heart of the story remains the same: he accomplishes the goal he’s set himself upon: the wanton and deliberate murder of his fellow human beings. We’ve seen these people attack schools, universities, theaters, malls, diners, workplaces, and homes. We’ve seen the heartbreak of the survivors, and the grim determination of the police who are tasked with the thankless job of trying to make sense of the utterly senseless.

    But we’ve also seen stories of the ones who stand up and defend the helpless.

    Their stories are often buried beneath the tragedy, but that makes it all the more important to recognize them, for they are stories about ordinary citizens who stepped up when all about them others lost their heads. There is the story of David Benke, the teacher who tackled the shooter in Littleton, Colorado. Professor Liviu Librescu, the noble teacher who sacrificed his own life to buy his students time to escape during the Virginia Tech shooting. The stories go on and on, to include the massacre in Aurora, where stories of people turning back to help the injured or to block a door abound.

    What if these people had been armed?

    Even if there was no chance to take out the shooter, would the simple act of someone returning fire have been enough to drive him off or make him hesitate long enough for the police to arrive? Like you, I’ve read accounts from both sides of the gun control debate claiming “facts” about what ordinary people could or could not do during the shooting if they’d been armed as well. It was dark. It was confusing. There was smoke/tear gas. It was crowded. There was panic. Those are not facts; they are excuses. The fact is no matter how much “make believe” and “what if” we play, we will never know if someone with a concealed weapon could have made a difference, because they were never given the chance to step up. That option was taken away from them by the laws that the shooters themselves ignored.

    Am I saying that putting more guns on the street is the answer, even if those guns are in the hands of qualified and licensed owners? Absolutely not. But what I am saying is that what we have right now simply isn’t working, for it is the worst of all worlds. The gun laws we have are not stringent enough to keep guns out of the hands of potential madmen, but they are stringent enough to keep law-abiding citizens from having them or carrying them in the places the shooters gravitate towards. Until one of these cold-blooded murderers intent upon committing an atrocity walks into a room filled with people carrying guns, we will never know “what if”. But sadly, we do know what happens when the killer walks into a room filled with unarmed people, for we’ve seen it happen time and time again: senseless tragedy. So to the government I say this: it is up to you to level the playing field. Either take away everyone’s guns, or let people use them for their intended purpose.

    1. But if you think back to the Gabby Giffords' shooting in Arizona, Joe Zamudio, an armed bystander and hero, admits that he came very close to shooting the wrong guy in the confusion:

      "The new poster boy for this agenda is Joe Zamudio, a hero in the Tucson incident. Zamudio was in a nearby drug store when the shooting began, and he was armed. He ran to the scene and helped subdue the killer. Television interviewers are celebrating his courage, and pro-gun blogs are touting his equipment. 'Bystander Says Carrying Gun Prompted Him to Help,' says the headline in the Wall Street Journal.

      "But before we embrace Zamudio's brave intervention as proof of the value of being armed, let's hear the whole story. 'I came out of that store, I clicked the safety off, and I was ready,' he explained on Fox and Friends. 'I had my hand on my gun. I had it in my jacket pocket here. And I came around the corner like this.' Zamudio demonstrated how his shooting hand was wrapped around the weapon, poised to draw and fire. As he rounded the corner, he saw a man holding a gun. 'And that's who I at first thought was the shooter,' Zamudio recalled. 'I told him to 'Drop it, drop it!' '

      "But the man with the gun wasn't the shooter. He had wrested the gun away from the shooter. 'Had you shot that guy, it would have been a big, fat mess,' the interviewer pointed out.

      "Zamudio agreed: 'I was very lucky. Honestly, it was a matter of seconds. Two, maybe three seconds between when I came through the doorway and when I was laying on top of [the real shooter], holding him down. So, I mean, in that short amount of time I made a lot of really big decisions really fast. … I was really lucky.'

      "When Zamudio was asked what kind of weapons training he'd had, he answered: 'My father raised me around guns … so I'm really comfortable with them. But I've never been in the military or had any professional training. I just reacted.'"

    2. A good response. Thank you.

      However, nothing in my article advocates against defending yourself or another from the imminent threat of grave bodily injury or death.

      I'm guilty of nothing except applying my life and experience in offering an informed opinion on this subject.

    3. I’m not certain how you came to the conclusion that I thought your original post advocated against defending yourself or another from the imminent threat of grave bodily injury or death, but if I somehow implied it, it was completely unintentional. Quite the contrary, actually. From your background it is readily apparent that you believe wholeheartedly in placing yourself in harm’s way to protect others. But now that you mention it, your response brings up another important point in this discussion. I apologize in advance if this will come across as being either flippant or sarcastic as neither is intended, but when I read your response, the very first thing that came to mind is a quote from the movie “Aliens.”

      “What are we supposed to use, man? Harsh language?”

      One of the biggest problems with this spate of mass shootings is that we simply have no idea when someone is going to go off the rails. Holmes was a college graduate working on his PH. D., with no history of violence and no criminal record. He bought the guns and ammo legally, and he passed the required background checks necessary to purchase his weapons. So, on paper, James Holmes was the perfect candidate to own a gun.

      Now that he’s committed his atrocity, we can look back with perfect clarity and see that there were signs that perhaps something was off. In particular, there are stories now of a gun range owner who found Holmes “creepy” enough to deny his application. I find that more than a bit telling, because if one person sensed it, I’m almost positive others must have as well, but we may never know.

      You’re right: nothing in your article advocates against defending yourself. But the important point to consider here is not about the right; it is about the means, and by following the laws that Holmes himself ignored, the only means the people in that theater had to defend themselves with was harsh language.

    4. Cute use of the alien quote, and appropriate. What should people use? Why, any legal means at their disposal and, if their life is on the line -- any means. Period.

      Look my article wasn't about RKBA, gun control, or any host of things surrounding this mess of gun violence in this society.

      It addressed *one* thing. Just *one* thing.

      That was what my friend calls, "white hat syndrome."

      In the aftermath of the Cafe Racer shooting here, in Seattle I wrote my response to the people who claimed that someone else with a gun would have stopped the killer. I heard it *again* when the shootings in Aurora happened.

      That is the only thing my article is about; the blindness to the facts, the ignoring of the reality, of having to address a determined and armed person intent on killing a lot of people.

      They all made it sound so easy.

      Well, it's not. That was my point; addressing the internet heroes out there.

      That was all it was about.

    5. Absolutely agreed, and you made your point very well in your original post. You carefully explained the difficulties and obstacles that would have to have been overcome, and you did it from a position of experience. My point had nothing to do with that, and does not bring your conclusion into question in the slightest.

      You say, even armed, it would have been all but impossible to stop a determined killer from carrying out his chosen task. "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 reality. I know that argument is based on many things but I don't see how it is based on any real facts." You're right: the fact that both Stawicki and Holmes had a weapon in the first place meant they had the will (and presumably the ability to use said weapons), while an untested civilian would not have had the same luxury, and in the microseconds they had to react, it is doubtful they could have made a difference.

      My point was, "they were never given the option."

    6. Thanks for taking the time to respond as you did. I appreciate it.

  13. Very well said! I would like to go a bit further : what if 50 vigilantes ready to defend their fellows rose up in the theater to stop that maniac? How woudl they know to discriminate between themselves who was with or against the maniac? Who would shoot who? Or try to shoot who as you said and how many more victims would fall of well meaning armed citizen friendly fire?
    Is their aim as good as their intentions?

  14. Thanks for this post; I'm always in favor of a voice with experience speaking out on any topic. In this case, I also wholeheartedly agree.

    The issue of violence in our country doesn't get solved by adding more violence. It gets solved by changing the culture of fear in which we're raising our children. A culture that's fed by the media in many forms, and perpetuated by parents who spend much of their time afraid of what might happen.

    As a father, I want my daughter to believe in the good in the world, and to go out and create some of that good herself. Teaching her to fear what might happen doesn't fix anything.

  15. As a legal, licensed concealed carry holder in Texas, I have often thought about all of your points (and many are an ongoing discussion, research, and continual review!). I do realize the numerous concerns and limitations that you have addressed. However, as Lt. Col. Dave Grossman so skillfully points out, the very best situation is the one that NEVER HAPPENED. This point may not apply in the Aurora, Colorado murders, but had the theater not been 'posted' to prevent those legally carrying - would this killer have even attempted this crime? He seems to have quietly surrendered once confronted by the police (as opposed to those who plan their death by police as the last violation act of their crime). Had he feared being stopped, or someone actually killing him, since concealed carry is very common in Colorado - except where they can't legally carry – and those places are clearly identified (and I would think, noted by those criminals that plan harm and disregard (no – better put as they use them) to find a path of least resistant and most likely to succeed. Realistically, in ’this case’ he would have just chosen a different 'soft' target - with a large number of unarmed people. The deterrent effect probably does stop many opportunistic crimes and shouldn't be discounted. Back to your well-presented comments - I prepare as best as I can as a 'citizen', and certainly pray that I'm never placed in that position of having to decide to shoot or not shoot. Yet, I think about anyone sitting there in that theater during this terrible crime, that HAD ‘lawfully’ left their gun in their car outside – “Could I have made a difference?”

    1. Not likely. Remember that he had flooded the theater with tear gas, which would have precluded any "defense."

  16. "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."

    Did you miss the part in the news where it took 2 days for the bomb squad to clear the IED's in Holmes' apartment?

    Except for the fact Holmes probably wanted to pull the trigger first hand, I'm going to posit the people of Aurora are probably better off that he had a gun instead of utilizing the planning and effort he made into IED's to do even more damage.

    The problem isn't that these people have guns--unless that's the ONLY tool in their toolbox--it's that they have the desire to kill other people and acted on it. There choice of a gun is often as much a limitation to their ability to kill as it is an advantage.

    As you've described yourself, in spite of being proficient and trained, you doubt your ability to face down a shooter like this and succeed. However, these shooters have done that very same thing and succeeded. What's the difference?

    It isn't the guns or access to guns. It's the differences in their minds that both motivated them to kill people and to do so in a planned manner. These men took advantage of the natural resistance to pulling the trigger on another human and the delay as a normal mind struggles to both recognize the situation as dangerous and take action in their targets in order to create one-sided situations they could use to kill people.

    This a personality trait, not a technological limitation.

    For another illustration of this, watch footage of the North Hollywood Bank Robbery from 1997. Technically, anyone could have stopped these guys if they got close enough and were able to put enough rounds into peripheral locations until a lethal shot was available. This is--for normal people--a pretty emotionally challenging task.

    Consider what snipers in Iraq were doing facing a vaguely similar situation with well-armored enemies.

    The difference is mentality and a willingness to realize what's going in, accept killing the enemy for whatever reason, and then reacting in a trained manner.

    The third alternative is to simply but psychological distance between the act of killing and the thought of it. Ergo: using an IED remotely.

    However, the problem isn't the guns, the guns in the situation, or even who has the guns, it's the willingness to overcome the resistance to killing other people that's the problem with these people. Identifying this trait is how you stop these killers, especially the intelligent, socially non-unsuccessful*, people who have the ability to plan ahead like most of these guys do. Not having an "easy" plan A doesn't normally stop them, it only ratchets them up to a slightly harder plan B, which--for guys like Holmes--has the potential for being a whole lot more deadly.

    * - I used "non-unsuccessful" because most of these guys aren't particularly socially successful, but they tend to not fail enough to become obvious to most people. If they were unsuccessful socially, they would likely be identified a whole lot sooner and measures--like treatment, incarceration, etc.--could be applied preventing their later success.

    1. Yeah, I should have read that a little closer during the preview... There<-->their issues.

    2. "As you've described yourself, in spite of being proficient and trained, you doubt your ability to face down a shooter like this and succeed."

      If you continue to draw unfounded conclusions from my posts, I will be forced to delete your comments. I never said I was incapable or unwilling to respond. I pointed out just how difficult the situation is, even for the well trained.

      Please retain some intellectual honesty if you are going to participate here.

      I never said that the guns are the problem. Please read what I wrote.

      Here is what I wrote:
      "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."

      That means not that there should be no guns, but that more guns in that situation would have unlikely made any difference. The problem isn't the number of guns (arguing for or against gun control). The problem is them getting into the hands of people who should not have them.

      Until we, as a society, are brave enough to address this, we will revisit tragedies like this again.

    3. "If you continue to draw unfounded conclusions from my posts, I will be forced to delete your comments. I never said I was incapable or unwilling to respond. I pointed out just how difficult the situation is, even for the well trained."

      I apologize for any confusion. I should have rephrases that. I mean that your lack of confidence of success--given your stated proficiency--was more likely due to the normal patters of psychological response to a crisis than a lack of gun handling skills or tactical knowledge (assuming you would be carrying a weapon you had trained with). Which tends to be normal for most people, or so I've read. Simply recognizing a threat and generating a proper response is a challenge in some, chaotic situations.

      "That means not that there should be no guns, but that more guns in that situation would have unlikely made any difference. The problem isn't the number of guns (arguing for or against gun control). The problem is them getting into the hands of people who should not have them."

      In general, I agree with you, except you need to substitute "any lethal weapon/technology" for guns. Which is where I diverge because--frankly--we live surrounded by potentially lethal technology.

      I mean, when I heard about smoke grenades and booby traps, I was honestly waiting for the second, more lethal event. Two months of preparation, the creation of enough IED's to require two days to render safe, and this guy just stopped at 12 dead when he could have done a lot more damage.

      That's the scary part and why I totally agree on identifying the wrong hands before an event, but it's got to be more than guns we're concerned with.

      So, once again, I apologize for any misconception from what I wrote.

    4. This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.

    5. Simply stating that it would be a challenge for me acknowledges, not any deficiency in my own training or preparation (mental and physical. It points out two things:
      1) How monumentally difficult situations like this can be, even for the well trained (see: winning and losing in my original article).
      2) The sheer lack of preparedness on the part of most who carry.

      Look, I know what you are trying to say here. You are trying but, don't mistake my measure of the difficulty of the task as something about me. This is not about me. I was using my training and experience for an example -- nothing more.

      Thank you.

    6. "Look, I know what you are trying to say here. You are trying but, don't mistake my measure of the difficulty of the task as something about me. This is not about me. I was using my training and experience for an example -- nothing more."

      It's not specifically about you, but you offer a good contrast to these shooters who do go into chaotic situations--of their own creation--often with little actual training and kill many, many people. In this case, this Holmes guy killed 12. Seung-Hui Cho shot and killed many more at Virginia Tech.

      The reason why they were "successful" is they don't have the normal resistance to killing other people normal people have, created a "target rich" environment for themselves by essentially making everyone else a target, and generally resolved the whole question of shoot/no shoot before-hand by creating the situation.

      That's why it would be and is such a challenge for even trained people in such a situation and what many people making the suggestion "If only someone there was armed..." don't completely comprehend.

      And then there's--like you point out--lack of preparation on the part of civilian shooters.

      For me personally, I used to own a couple of pistols and would change what I carried based on clothing or how I felt that day. After walking into a training class with my more frequent concealed carry gun and finding myself fighting my training based on the pistol I've shot the most, I sold off the concealed carry pistol and have stuck with the somewhat "petite" pistol I've practiced with the most.

      I think--just doing that, focusing on a single pistol--probably would be a gift to myself should I ever actually need to employ it. Thousands of rounds and--at the very least--I can run the gun I have without much focus on it.

      The rest--identifying when there's a problem, identifying what the problem is, and reacting appropriately to the problem in an effective manner--that's still a question unless/until I'm actually required to "solve that problem" myself.

      Again, I'm not assuming your assessment of the difficulty of the task as being something about you, per se. I'm assuming your assessment would probably apply to most individuals with experience and training and is something inherent in being a normal human being who generally does not desire to arbitrarily kill people (like Holmes, Chu, and others). Willing to--if a damned good reason presented itself--but something done out of necessity and not desire or enjoyment.

      I would also expect someone who is less trained and prepared is likely to have more problems resolving such a situation in a quick, low-casualty manner.

      Good luck, and I'll take a look at that other article if I can find it.

    7. Great response. Thanks.

  17. the colorado shooter was wearing a tac vest, not body armor. correct?

    1. There are many different grades of armour. I have read conflicting accounts of what he was wearing. If he was wearing the bare minimum of what was reported, it would take some luck and skill to deal with him.

  18. you deleted my post? what was wrong with it.. >(

  19. Sorry, Apeface, I think I deleted it by mistake and it's non-recoverable. You are free to post it again if you wish. However, allow me to give you a note on what I read.

    While I agree with you that people have the right, sometimes the responsibility to defend themselves, please keep in mind the context of this article.

    I do not think more guns are the solution and most people will not *ever* have the level of training necessary to take on an armed shooter with a AR-15 in a crowded environment.

    Again, you are free to respond again.

  20. In various competitions I've shot paper targets, falling plates, name it. When you're practicing, all is easy. When you're on the line, even just in a match, no life or death situation, everything changes; heart rate, breathing, nerves...I believe you would have to be damn lucky not to quickly join the victims...but I'd still try

  21. Izus, I appreciate your comment. It strikes me as balanced. Yeah, I'd try too. I don't think I could not.

  22. This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.


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