Like many of you, I was shocked to wake up last Friday morning and read about the mass shooting spree in Aurora, Colorado. I used to live there, and went to that theater fairly regularly. Hell, I used to walk there before I had a vehicle of my own. To know that there had been a shooting spree someplace where I had eaten somewhere in the neighborhood of three metric tons of buttered(ish) popcorn and drank approximately seven hundred and forty-three gallons of Cherry Coke while bleeding out of my eyeballs watching “The Lord of the Rings” trilogy hits pretty close to home.
We didn’t know much of anything at first. We didn’t know who had done it or why, we didn’t know much about the attack itself, and what we did know wasn’t much more than the media publishing the ravings of still hysterical survivors who hadn’t yet come down off their adrenaline high. Some reports said there was one shooter, some said two. Some said there were shooters mixed into the crowd. There was at least one report that said the shooter stalked from theater to theater inside the building, hunting down anyone who was still hiding.
As the facts started to become clear, though, we all began to form our own theories as to what had happened or who was involved. After listening to some of them over the last week, I have to get a few things off my chest.
One Armed Citizen. . .
Okay, I’m going to address this right off the bat and put this crap to rest. Before we knew anything about what had really happened, gun-nuts, braggarts, and internet tough-guys started saying the following or a reasonable facsimile thereof: “If there had been one armed citizen in the crowd they could have stopped the shooter before this whole thing began, or at least stopped him before too many people got hurt.”
My friends, the above quote is 100% pure, unadulterated BULLSHIT.
The same line is said everytime there is a public shooting, from the Virginia Tech shooter to the Ft. Hood shooter. There is always a group of people who firmly believe that one guy with a pistol shoved down his shorts could have put a stop to it before if began.
Now don’t get me wrong, I’m a major advocate of the right to own and carry a firearm. I’m a huge proponent of concealed carry and am a lifetime member of the National Rifle Association. However, I’m also a pragmatist who’s actually had bullets flying at him on several occasions, and I think it is important to engage the critical thought processes God saw fit in His wisdom to grant to us when talking about these sorts of situations.
Let’s talk about the idea of an armed citizen at a mass shooting in a public place. A lot of people who advocate this kind of nonsense say they’d just pull their weapon and return fire. This is incredibly stupid for a number of reasons.
Reason number one as to why this is incredibly stupid has to do with the fact that while everyone else is running away from the shooter or trying to hide, your dumb ass is facing him, not running, not screaming, and not diving behind the nearest piece of furniture. My friends, that is going to make you stick out like a sore thumb. You might as well hang a neon sign over your head that says, “Shoot me!” The shooter will immediately notice someone not running in fear, and guess where he’s going to point his bullet-thrower next?
Reason number two has to do with the fact that while you may be a crack-shot on the pistol range, a real life-or-death situation is completely different. First of all, you may not have a clear shot thanks to people running and screaming in a panic. Second, your shooter is a moving target, not a piece of paper handing from a wire. Third, no matter how much of a bad-ass you think you are, your adrenaline is going to be through the roof and you are going to lose your fine-motor skills and the ability to finesse your weapon to make the headshot you think you are going to make. Even the best police and FBI shooters, who put in a hell of a lot more range time than your average concealed-carry citizen, normally have a hit ratio of about 14-15% in a life or death situation. And they’re trained professionals.
Reason number three is if a shooter opens up and you are actually smart enough to take cover with everyone else before you pull your weapon, there stands a VERY good chance that once you do you are going to be in a world of hurt. Not necessarily from the shooter, but from the people with whom you just took cover. You see, THEY don’t know you are about to act in their defense. All they know is some lunatic is shooting people, and now here’s another guy with a gun in the same spot they went to in order to get away from the bullet-spraying asshole in the next room. At the very least, chances are the people you’re hiding with are going to start screaming like crazy, which will draw the attention of the gunman. At worst, they’re likely to take action on their own and attack you themselves. Believe it or not, after the initial fight-or-flight kicks in and people chose flight, they often revert to fight after they’ve been cornered. You pulling out a piece in their supposed “safe spot” stands a very good chance of triggering that fight response.
Reason number four is the police response. Let’s say you’ve got yourself a crazy gunman who’s blasting every moving thing in sight. Now let’s say you’re stupid enough to immediately respond and, against all odds, you actually either take the gunman down or force him to surrender (hey, it can happen. . .by the way, are you in the market for a bridge or some bottom-land?). Now in rush the police, and what do they see? Your dumb ass with a gun in your hand. Unless you immediately drop that weapon and hit the floor, you’re likely to end up with a few new holes in your torso, courtesy of the Boys in Blue.
Now, let’s think about what happened last Friday. The shooter came in through the emergency exit after the movie had already started and everyone’s attention was on the Big Screen. He tossed in a gas or smoke grenade (we still aren’t sure which one as of this writing) or two, then started shooting into the crowd. He was heavily armed and was wearing fully body armor. The theater was a dark room full of hundreds of people packed tightly in narrow rows of chairs all bolted to the floor.
By the time ANYONE would have been able to assess the situation with a clear enough head to be able to draw and return fire, there would have been hundreds of people now climbing over those rows of seats that are bolted to the floor, trampling each other, jumped over each other, and generally running like hell to get away with their very lives. In a dark room obscured by smoke or gas.
I can’t think of a worse time, place, or condition in which to try and aim at someone and pull a trigger.
I have had a couple of people say that if more people carried it would have prevented this, not because they would have blasted the guy, but because if there had been a chance that a lot of the people in the theater were packing then this guy wouldn’t have tried it in the first place. There’s some merit to that, I do believe. The fact that he was covered head-to-toe in protective gear tells me he didn’t have a death wish and had no intention of going out in a blaze of glory. The fact that he surrendered to the police without resistance tells me the same thing. Had there been a good chance of him walking into a room full of heat, would he have done this anyway? Maybe, maybe not. The guy is batshit crazy, so who knows.
The Shooter Himself and Modern Stereotypes
When I arrived at work on Friday morning the discussion immediately centered around the previous night’s shooting. There were a few coworkers of mine who hadn’t heard anything about it yet, so I relayed what I already knew. What greatly disturbed me was the response I received when I mentioned that the guy was wearing body armor. What was said by damn near every single person I talked to was something resembling the following line: “That sounds like a damn Soldier.”
Really? This is what we’ve come to?
A few years ago the Department of Homeland Security put out a memo stating the groups of people who were most likely to be home-grown terrorists. The Republicans and Independent Conservatives (and a number of Democrats, now that I think about it) were absolutely furious that near the top of the list was the entry: “Former Soldiers returning from one or multiple overseas deployments.” The idea that we had sworn an oath to protect and defend the Constitution of the United States and obey the orders of the President, honor our oaths while we were deployed several times into two very unpopular (and very questionable) wars only to be labelled as potential terrorists left a taste in my mouth so sour that it almost drove me out of military service completely. It was really hard to continue to do what I do for an employer who felt that way about me and my brothers and sisters.
But I got over it and moved on, secure in my belief that no one believed that we were that big of a risk to the nation. And then the mere fact that a mass shooter wearing a bullet-proof vest caused the people around me to immediately think that he was a Soldier or former Soldier. Never mind that bullet-proof vests are available for purchase to damn near anybody. Never mind that the shooter was using commercially available weapons and ammunition.
Now, I’m not going to sit here and claim that the possibility this guy was a brother who cracked and went batshit crazy never entered my mind, because it most certainly did. What bothers me the most, however, is the fact that that very possibility was the very first thing to pop into the minds of several different people of several different backgrounds that Friday morning.
I’m familiar with some of the moonbat conspiracy theories out there concerning the military and the government. I’m active on a few internet political forums where there is always a couple of people who firmly believe that the military is getting ready to forcefully subjugate the American populace and place all dissenters into concentration camps run by FEMA (I’m not making this up, Google that shit. People actually believe that is coming). The push behind those ideas changes depending on who is in office. For instance, just a few years ago it was going to be done by Bush by sparking a crisis in Iran resulting in an invasion coupled with a few “revolts” here at home in order to justify him declaring martial law and therefore avoiding the expiration of his second term so he could remain in office indefinitely (not making that up, either). Nowadays its either because the Obama Administration is dead-set on mirroring Europe’s economic policy and is driving us toward a singular form of socialsim, or because Obama is a patsy to the New World Order (fronted by the UN) and is planning on overthrowing the Constitution in favor of a One-World Government (also not a figment of my imagination). It didn’t bother me too much, though, because these sorts of stories were limited to a relatively small subset of the population.
But in the last couple of years I’ve noticed a change. For example, last year I met someone I had been chatting with online for years. He and I had become good friends, and I was on a road trip close to where he lived and sent him an e-mail letting him know I’d be coming his way. I suggested making a side trip and meeting him for lunch. We set a location and a time, and then I told him I’ll be in uniform. His response? “Oh, I’m not intimidated by people in a military uniform, man, don’t worry.”
I hadn’t told him I’d be in uniform to warn him in case it made him uneasy, I’d told him so he’d know what to look for. We hadn’t met before, and I’m not especially photogenic. I figured it’d be easier for him to look for the idiot in ACUs than anything else. The thought that a Soldier in uniform in a public place would make someone uncomfortable or wary never entered my mind, and, frankly, why should it? It wasn’t that long ago that people were running up to me to shake my hand, after all.
And that’s just one example of many. I’ve had business owners of places I frequent tell me they would much rather I change clothes before coming in if I’m going to be a regular. I’ve had people take a few steps back when they hear that I’ve been in combat zones a few times, especially when they find out that “things have happened” while I’ve been there.
Slowly but surely I’ve noticed that the idea that our Soldiers are here to protect us and fight for us has been slipping away and is being replaced by the idea that Soldiers are dangerous people. That saddens me to no end.
Now for the section of this piece that’s going to result in me having poo flung my way for a few weeks. Gun Control.
I’ve mentioned before that I’m a lifetime member of the NRA and that I’m a major advocate of gun ownership and concealed carry. The first time I mentioned that I’m sure a lot of you formed this image in your heads of me acting like Ted Nuggent and carrying around six or seven handguns on my person while having a veritable arsenal at home. I’m sure some of you even pictured me standing next to a three year old boy (holding a rifle) next to a deer carcas strapped to the hood of my pick-up truck. Well, you couldn’t be farther from the truth (except for the truck, I have a four-door Frontier).
The U.S. Supreme Court ruled a couple of years ago that the Second Amendment to the Consitution of the United States grants an individual right to bear arms. Meaning, of course, that Americans have a personal right to own a firearm. That being said, however, I’m a big fan of regulation and restriction on the sale and possession of something that can kill people with the flick of a finger.
There are a lot of things I think need to happen concerning firearms and the law. Number one, I think all firearms should be registered and “fingerprinted” (ballistics testing), and all gun owners should be licensed. Personal sales should be accompanied by the paperwork needed to transfer ownership of the firearm. I also think that no extended magazines should be for sale to the general populace, and I also don’t think that certain types of ammunition should be available for civilian use, either. Also, I firmly believe that the sale of ammunition needs to be tracked in some sort of federal database (this dillhole bought over 6000 rounds over the course of a few months; that’s a lot of dakka) and a red flag pop up when someone is buying an obscene amount. I also believe in the licensing of people who press their own ammunition and the restriction of the tools and resources needed.
I know I run afoul of the Second Amendment on some of the above, but that’s how I feel on the matter. I think the background checks we currently do are sufficient, provided the retailers actually do them, but you can’t run a background check on a face-to-face sale between private owners. And most states allow face-to-face sales between private owners without any paperwork or registration. I think that is a MAJOR hole that needs to be patched over, personally, and the only way I can think to do that is with what I suggested, above.
However, a hell of a lot of people are going to disagree with me on this, on both sides of the equation. There are people who believe the government has no right whatsoever to know what firearms they have. I disagree, because you have to register an automobile with the government in order to legally use it for its intended purpose, and its intended purpose doesn’t include taking the life of a sentient being. On the flip side, you’re going to have people who think that guns themselves need to be tightly controlled and more laws need to be passed further limitting what is available for civilians.
First of all, I need to go cliche on you all and point out that gun control laws aren’t going to stop criminals from getting guns; they’re criminals, for crying out loud. Even though the Aurora shooter purchased his guns legally, do you honestly think he wouldn’t have been able to get his hands on what he wanted if they hadn’t been available for legal purchase? He was a neurosciences grad student. He was smart enough to figure it out. Not to mention he wired his apartment to blow using commercially available chemicals and supplies. You think he wouldn’t have rigged more and used them in the theater if he’d had to? Come to think of it, he probably could have done more damage with a bag full of molotov cocktails.
Second, yes, I understand this fool used a 100-round drum magazine in his AR-15, and,frankly, it’s a good thing he did, because it could have been a lot worse. The drum jammed, and they are notorious for doing so. It’s the reason such magazines aren’t used by the military. We should consider ourselves lucky he didn’t research it that well and didn’t decide to load up on standard 30-round magazines. With just a little bit of practice you can change out a 30-round magazine in less than a second with one hand, and as long as they’re kept in good shape they’ll never jam on you. That said, I’ll repeat what I said above by saying that the 100-round drum should never have been available to a civilian, nor should any other extended magazine.
Third, most gun control legislation is written by people who don’t know a thing about guns. Some of it makes sense, such as the restriction on folding stocks that turn pistol caliber weapons into rifles or, worse, turn rifles into concealable weapons. I get that. What I do not get is banning rifles with a bayonet lug on the barrel, or banning magazine-fed rifles with a pistol-style grip. I’ve even seen proposals to ban weapons made of anything other than wood or metal. My friends, these are laws meant to ban weapons that look scary instead of banning anything that is more dangerous in the hands of a madman. Contrary to popular belief, the “AR” in AR-15 doesn’t stand for “Assault Rifle,” and just because a weapons looks like a battlefield weapon system doesn’t mean it’s going to spray eight hundred rounds a minute at your local playground.
Last week someone dyed their hair bright orange and waltzed into a movie theater loaded for bear. He killed ten people on the scene, wounded dozens more, and two more people died after it was all over. He wasn’t a PTSD-ridden former Soldier, he wasn’t a Muslim extremist, he wasn’t some pro-anarchy anti-government wing-nut. He was someone who went batshit crazy, and we’ll probably never understand the details. At least he was taken alive, which is one thing we can’t normally say about these kind of incidents.
What I ask all of you, however, is to not succumb to the knee-jerk reactions that generally follow this type of incident. Tighter restrictions on available hardware wouldn’t have prevented this; he’d have gotten what he wanted anyway, or he would have made his own. Stricter background checks wouldn’t have prevented this; his background was clean as a whistle. Mandatory delays between purchases wouldn’t have prevented this; he bought his weapons over several months.
This is a Presidential election year, and everybody gets politically stupid during this season. Let’s all try and keep our wits and focus our rage on who really deserves the blame for this: the guy with the orange hair in the court room.
This is a Free Country. Freedom carries certain risks. Freedom doesn’t mean safe, it means free. You can be free, or you can be safe. You cannot be both. You cannot have one without sacrificing the other. We trade our freedoms for safety all the time. The question is, how much of one are you willing to trade for the other?
#1 by Rita Rippetoe on July 26, 2012 - 11:31
Great piece; well reasoned and well written. Thanks for your contribution to this discussion, especially the step by step dismissal of the “If I’d been there with my gun, I could have stopped him” delusion. I’m always amazed by people who try to make sense of crazy–what part of crazy do they not understand? If this guy ever starts talking it still won’t make sense–unless it turns out he really is part of some terrorist organization, which I think is extremely unlikely. I actually ran into one blog that claimed it was an FBI sting gone wrong. Wow, just wow.
As for the chill toward service members–history repeating itself. We don’t have a strong anti-war movement right now because we don’t have a draft. But the public is getting tired of the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan and is beginning to suspect that the whole thing has been a waste of money and lives, American and Middle Eastern. So part of that discomfort is being projected onto the forces on the ground. And, once again, we are aware that our service members are returning to us in a very damaged condition, which may include brain damage that could lead to violent behavior. I remember when half the police dramas on television featured a crazed Vietnam vet. I hope we don’t get that kind of dynamic going with the current crop of vets. Maybe its some kind of psychological displacement–we subconsciously feel that we deserve to be attacked by our own troops for having misused them–like the “You broke it, you bought it” signs in some gift shops.
#2 by Trebissky on September 9, 2012 - 18:46
Hello, I got the link to your blog from one of your old posts at the yuku board US Politics Outland. I gather from the lack of an ID on your posts that you’ve since deleted your account with yuku, and I have to say that’s a damn shame.
I read your post above, and particularly the parts about “if someone else had had a gun” and “if there were tighter gun restrictions”, and I agree with you 100%. Every word you said was nothing more than good sense and the truth. Criminals with guns don’t care if they got them legally or not, all they know is they want a gun, and they’ll get it any way they can.
I have to say, if you HAVE deleted your yuku account, I wish you’d reconsider and rejoin the forums. There are, frankly, far too few voices of reason on there lately.
From a former 3rd Armored Division tanker… HOOAH!