Cowards, Mass Murders And The American Public
Let’s be honest; we’re not surprised anymore. We’re no longer surprised when some pathetic, pitiful coward attacks a school or mall full of innocent men, women and children. Maybe we were shocked this time, but only because the victims were so young. These incidents have become so commonplace that when we see a headline or breaking news alert about the most recent mass shooting, we just shake our heads and say, “Jesus Christ, not again.” And wait for the next one.
This time the murderer outdid most others, and his victims were younger than usual. But all the other factors were depressingly predictable: an unstable man, semiautomatic weapons, helpless victims with no defense other than hope. As is often the case, the murderer committed suicide rather than fight the police or face justice. As usual, we see gut-wrenching video of parents crying out in unimaginable grief, police officers with heavy body armor and assault rifles maneuvering around a school as if it were an enemy bunker, and crime scene tape roping off areas where hidden dead lay.
And we see, in every case, calls from well-meaning people for something to be done, anything, to protect the innocent. They demand mandatory visitor sign-ins at schools, cameras, metal detectors, “gun free zones”, and of course, restrictions on firearms. These ideas and measures aren’t new, and aren’t effective (we’ve now learned that the Newtown shooter simply shot his way through Sandy Hook Elementary’s locked doors). After a mass murder, students or patrons are made to feel safer with expensive but empty displays of improved security. Those warning signs, cameras, new laws or metal detectors rarely improve safety.
Now I’ll ask you to put yourself in the shoes of an intended victim of an active shooter.
You’re having lunch with your family at a mall food court. It’s a pleasant afternoon, no different than any other day you’ve visited the mall. Bored, unarmed security guards on Segways patrol the walkways. You barely notice them as your family discusses your son’s upcoming school play.
Suddenly you hear a scream. You look toward the sound and see a woman running in terror. At first you’re just curious; you aren’t sure what’s happening. Then you hear gunshots. Rapid gunshots, six or seven in a row. Dozens of people are suddenly on their feet, running and screaming.
You follow your first instinct and drop to the floor with your family. The gunshots keep coming. You hear the high-pitched crash of tables and chairs being knocked over by fleeing shoppers. Looking under tables, you see motionless bodies strewn about the floor. Everyone you see who’s still on their feet is running. Everyone, except one person.
One pair of legs is walking slowly, with determination, turning back and forth. You can’t see the upper body above the tables, but with every gunshot, a shell drops by the pair of legs. You’re looking at the shooter. Your breath catches in your throat as you have a sick realization: he’s moving toward you. Toward your family.
Adrenaline saturates your blood. You force yourself not to panic because you know your family needs you now, more than ever. You grab your children and pull them close. A desperate thought crosses your mind, and you know it’s fantasy even as you think it.
Is someone making a movie or something?
Ten feet away, a woman and child are huddled under their table. The woman screams, “We’ve got to get out of here! Oh my God, we’ve got to get out of here!”
You look toward the shooter’s legs. They’re closer now, maybe thirty feet away. You stay silent, not sure if the woman is right. Should you get up and run, or stay where you are?
Near the shooter, a shrill voice shrieks, “No, please! Don’t shoot me!” The man answers with gunshots. Another body falls to the floor.
The woman ten feet away grabs her child’s hand, lurches to her feet and runs. A voice yells “Bitch!” and more shots are fired, four or five in no more than two seconds. You hear something heavy and soft slam to the linoleum floor. A child’s voice screams in terror. Another shot is fired, and the scream is silenced.
You look to the shooter. Less than twenty feet away. He takes another step in your direction. You don’t know if he’s seen your family yet, but if he hasn’t, he will soon. You close your eyes, say a prayer to your God, and make your decision.
I’d like you to ask yourself a question about the situation I just described: what measures could have protected you and your family?
Cameras? No, video just helps with the investigation after the fact. Metal detectors? Maybe they would have deterred the man from choosing that mall, but let’s be realistic. Malls aren’t going to put metal detectors at every entrance, they’re not going to become mini-airports with customers waiting an hour in line to get in. They’d lose all their business.
What about the “gun free zone” sign on the wall? That obviously didn’t work. People who plan on committing mass murder followed by suicide could care less about getting in trouble for illegally carrying a gun. Unarmed mall cops? They can call the police, but that’s about it. Gun control? As I heard a wise man say recently, “That genie is already out of the bottle”. Making new laws won’t eliminate guns already out there.
What about calling the police yourself? As a cop, I can tell you the phrase, “when seconds count, the police are only minutes away”, isn’t a joke. Unless one of us happens to be right there when the shooting starts, the first officers will arrive several minutes later to find many citizens murdered and one coward dead from a self-inflicted gunshot wound.
So what is the only realistic defense available to you and your family? Armed, trained citizens. Hopefully, many armed, trained citizens. Armed citizens who can be anywhere, unlike the limited supply of police and security guards.
Much of the American public will have a knee-jerk reaction against this idea. People will say, “How can you expect a civilian to go up against some heavily armed, psychotic killer? Civilians aren’t trained for that.”
Maybe they’re not, but they’re there, with a gun. A half-trained guy with a weapon who is on scene and ready to take action immediately is worth more than a highly-trained SWAT team that arrives thirty minutes later. If you’re under the food court table watching as a murderer approaches your family, would you prefer to wait five minutes for the first patrol officer to arrive? Or would you rather have some fifty year old used car salesman with a concealed handgun license attack the murderer before he reaches you? I’ll take the car salesman over the cop, because the car salesman is there when I need him.
Aside from that, we should keep in mind that most active shooters aren’t well trained. No special training is needed to shoot defenseless people. We’ve seen evidence in many shootings that the murderers really didn’t know how to handle weapons. In Aurora, Colorado and Portland, Oregon, the shooters opened fire with military-style weapons and then had no idea what to do when the weapons malfunctioned. In both of those cases, they just dropped the rifles. One of the Columbine shooters used his very cool-looking, sawed off, pistol grip shotgun to kill one victim. When he fired it, the weapon recoiled, hit him in the face and broke his nose. This isn’t the mark of a skilled shooter. We shouldn’t act like active shooters are Delta Force ninjas. Many can barely operate a weapon, and all are cowards.
I’ve used the term “coward” several times, and I don’t think the importance of this fact can be overstated. These people are the epitome of cowardice. They don’t want to fight anyone; they want to murder people who can’t fight back. Shooting a bunch of unarmed people might take nerve but not bravery.
Typically, these murderers commit suicide as soon as they’re confronted. The Newtown shooter apparently shot himself as soon as he heard sirens. One of the Columbine shooters traded shots with a police officer outside the school, then ran away; both shooters shot themselves before police made entry. Seung-Hui Cho, the Virginia Tech murderer, shot himself as soon as he heard police officers enter the building. What is the likelihood that the typical active shooter will fold as soon as an armed citizen opens fire on him? My gut reaction is that it’s pretty high.
But people will still object to the idea of armed citizens responding to active shooters. Another issue that will be raised is, “If private citizens try to fight back against an active shooter, they might accidentally shoot an innocent person. So they shouldn’t try it.”
They’re partly correct. There is a chance a civilian could shoot an innocent person in the confusion of an active shooter incident. A highly trained police officer might make that mistake too (remember the recent New York City shooting?). However, you’ll have a hard time convincing me that’s worse than allowing a murderer to fire dozens of rounds into a mass of innocent people.
Let’s invent a series of seven hypothetical active shooter situations. In each situation, ten people are murdered. That’s seventy victims. Now, let’s inject an armed citizen into each situation. The armed citizens manage to stop the killing after three people are murdered. That’s twenty-one victims. Now let’s say the armed citizens accidentally kill an innocent person in every situation. That’s twenty-one victims killed by the murderer, plus seven killed accidentally by the armed citizens. Twenty-eight victims total, versus seventy.
Granted, this is a hypothetical. But I think it illustrates my point well enough. Even with a possible additional risk of friendly fire, it’s still better for armed citizens to respond to active shooters.
We recently heard a public sports figure claim that had he been in the Aurora, Colorado theater during that shooting, he would have preferred to have been unarmed rather than shoot back. This is because “fighting back would have just added to the carnage”. I cannot even begin to understand this thinking. A man walks into a theater and opens fire into the crowd with an assault rifle, and shooting back would somehow make things worse? Is it better to just allow the murderer to keep shooting innocents until the police show up, or he runs out of ammo, or gets bored and stops firing? What about the basic right we all have to defend ourselves, and our families? What about doing what any real, brave man or woman would do, stepping up to defend the defenseless?
Next objection: “We can’t tell civilians to fight back against active shooters. If there are two guys with guns running around, how are the police supposed to know who the bad guy is when they arrive?”
Fair point. We cops won’t know who the bad guy is when we arrive. But we do know not to assume that everyone with a gun is a bad guy. We train for that. We understand that we may encounter off-duty cops in plain clothes, armed civilians, security guards, even people carrying illegally but still trying to help. We may make a mistake and engage the wrong person. That’s the reality of lethal, armed encounters, and there’s no way to eliminate that risk. But that doesn’t mean people shouldn’t take action to defend themselves, their families and innocent people around them.
I’ve attended several Law Enforcement Active Shooter training courses, and was an assistant instructor for a few years. In addition to helping teach many classes, I also had the opportunity to participate in advanced training scenarios, and to play the role of an active shooter in numerous training exercises. I’m no expert on how to deal with an active shooter, and there are police officers who will disagree with me; however, in all the training I attended and instructed, I never saw a single reason why armed citizens can’t effectively respond to an active shooter.
This subject requires a 500 page research paper to fully explore, and I won’t inflict that on you. However, I’d like to leave you with some final thoughts.
We see pathetic cowardice from murderers in every active shooter incident. We don’t need to see cowardice disguised as virtue from the intended victims. Refusing to take action against a brutal murderer isn’t “exercising good sense”; it’s relying on nothing more than hope. We’ve seen that hope fail in tragedy after tragedy.
Someone once said, “Violence is rarely the answer, but when it is, it’s the only answer.” When a coward opens fire on a crowd of innocent people, new laws and passive measures have failed; immediate, massive violence returned toward that coward is the only answer. The only people who can inflict that violence are those right there, in his path.
My dream is that committing mass murder becomes too dangerous of a proposition for anyone to even consider it. My dream is that the American public stops putting responsibility for their own lives into someone else’s hands. My dream is that every useless loser who thinks he’ll “be somebody” by carrying out a massacre changes his mind, because he knows he’ll be shot down like a rabid dog within seconds of trying it. My dream is to see multiple armed citizens mow down every sorry excuse for a human being who tries to commit a mass murder. In the end, this righteous response is the only thing that will end the threat from these cowards.
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Tags: active shooter, mass murder, mass shooting, newtown, sandy hook, school shooting