Making cops’ lives easier (at the public’s expense)

07Jan13

I keep hearing an argument against private citizens responding to active shooters, and I’m going to address it. It shows how unimportant some people think the lives of average citizens are. Here’s the argument.

“Private citizens or teachers shouldn’t be allowed to carry weapons and respond to an active shooter. If they do, when police arrive they’ll see a bunch of people with guns and won’t know who the bad guy is. How are the police supposed to do their jobs if everyone’s carrying a gun?”

I don’t have a clue how the hell anyone could possibly think this. Something needs to be set straight here. In a situation where dozens of innocent people are being murdered, consideration number one shouldn’t be “The police must be able to easily do their jobs”. Making my life as a cop easier isn’t the goal. The goal is to stop the killing as quickly as possible.

I’ll put it this way, to make sure nobody misunderstands:

ANY POLICY DESIGNED TO MAKE LIFE EASIER FOR COPS, AT THE EXPENSE OF THE PEOPLE WE’RE SUPPOSED TO PROTECT, IS AN AUTOMATIC FAILURE.

When I took the oath to become a police officer, it wasn’t to make my life easier. I knew I was taking on more responsibility, long hours, crappy shifts, time away from family, and most importantly, more danger. Being a cop doesn’t mean society puts itself in more danger to make me safer. We’re here to keep the public safe, not the other way around.

Is a police officer’s ability to identify the bad guy an important concern? Absolutely. Will armed citizens make it harder for police to quickly identify the bad guy? Maybe. So is it better to let the killer keep murdering people until police show up? No. Hell no.

Let’s revisit the hypothetical situation I described in my post Cowards, Mass Murders and the American Public. If you haven’t read it, it’s a fictional (but painfully plausible) mass shooting scenario, where you the reader are hiding under a table with your family in a mall food court as an active shooter approaches. If you’re in the food court, hiding and hoping you don’t get shot, watching innocent people being mowed down by a murderous coward, what is the most important thing on your mind?

Is it:
1) Stopping the shooter from killing you and your family? Or
2) Ensuring the first police officers on the scene can easily identify the bad guy?

My vote is, “Stopping the shooter from killing me and my family”. The only way to do that, short of miraculously having a police officer right there when the shooting starts, is for armed citizens to shoot the bad guy as quickly as possible.

Here’s a sad truth. In many active shooter situations, the bad guy was extremely easy for the police to identify. He was the corpse with the self-inflicted gunshot wound to the head, holding a weapon, lying among all the murdered innocents. In other words, it was over by the time police arrived.

What about the situations where the shooter or shooters were still killing when police showed up? At the Luby’s restaurant in Killeen, Texas, George Hennard was armed with two pistols and was shooting at everyone; a good guy with a gun would likely be armed with only one weapon, and would definitely be much more deliberate with his gunfire. Even if he or she panicked and emptied a magazine, it would be in one direction. There is a good chance responding officers would have been able to tell the good guys from the bad guy.

The shooters at Columbine were carrying long guns and wearing pseudo-tactical gear. They were also shooting in multiple directions. Would they have been hard to differentiate from an armed teacher, who would be wearing normal clothes and carefully firing in one direction with a pistol? I doubt it.

Seung-Hui Cho, the Virginia Tech killer, had two pistols and a backpack full of ammo. He was forcing his way into classrooms (read my earlier post about unarmed teachers for details) and shooting in multiple directions. Would police be able to tell the difference between Cho, who was murdering everyone he could, and a teacher covering the door with a pistol in a classroom? I think so.

Good guys with guns don’t act like bad guys with guns. I think cops, and people in general, can tell the difference between a regular guy holding a pistol trying to protect people, and a brutal coward trying to kill as many people as possible in as short a time as possible. A murderer does not behave the same way as a protector, even if they’re both holding weapons.

I’d like to ask a question of those who don’t think citizens should respond to active shooters: do you also think an off-duty cop shouldn’t respond? If I’m at a restaurant with my wife and someone opens fire, should I not take action? After all, just like an armed citizen, I’ve got a concealed weapon, regular clothes, no radio, no body armor, and other than a small badge don’t look any different than Regular Joe. Being a cop doesn’t mean I have a force field that protects me from friendly fire. I’ve got training and experience, which is extremely important, but I don’t have any more guarantee of safety than an armed citizen. And when the on-duty police arrive, they’ll see me and not immediately know I’m a good guy.

So by the logic of those who oppose armed citizen response, if I find myself in the middle of a mass shooting as an off-duty cop I shouldn’t shoot back. I shouldn’t draw my weapon. I shouldn’t take action because it would make the on-duty police officers’ jobs harder.

Well, get this. If I ever do wind up off-duty in an active shooter situation, I’M GOING TO TAKE ACTION. If I quit being a cop and am carrying as a private citizen, I’M GOING TO TAKE ACTION. I’m going to draw my weapon. I’m going to close the distance to the bad guy. I’m going to open fire if it’s at all possible. I’m going to trust that responding police can tell good guys from bad guys. I’ve already accepted that I might get shot by a good guy. If that happens, I’ll try not to be too upset about it. If I stop the killing and then get shot by a cop, that’s still better than standing by and doing nothing as a murderous coward kills everyone around me.

I would hope armed citizens make the same pledge, because if they don’t take action, more innocent people will be killed. Yes, without question, armed citizens can complicate things for police. But in the end, this debate isn’t about making life easier for cops. It’s about defending the innocent.



20 Responses to “Making cops’ lives easier (at the public’s expense)”

  1. 1 Andy

    On point my brother, on point.

  2. 2 Heath

    Great post. I agree 100%.

  3. 3 Brian Wilson

    I have never been a cop. I am a 64 year old veteran with a CCW. If I ever find myself in a situation like this, yes I will take action to stop the killing.

    I just discovered your web site just today. Wow! I am delighted to read of a man whose heart is like mine. Thank you!

    • Brian,

      One thing I don’t think I’ll ever understand is why some cops are so scared of having guys like you carrying in public. Shouldn’t we be happy that armed citizens are out there to defend themselves and others?

      Thanks for reading and commenting, and for your decision to step up and act if necessary. Please stop by and add more comments in the future.

      Chris

  4. 5 Peter

    I’m a software engineer and have a similar philosophy about the code I write: “Forcing hundreds of users to do more work to make a single programmer’s life slightly easier is a false economy.”(http://www.codinghorror.com/blog/2006/03/web-forms-death-by-a-thousand-textboxes.html)

    I understand that you are specifically commenting on armed response to an active threat in this article; how do you think this philosophy applies to other legislation, such as making warrants easier to obtain?

    -Peter

  5. I agree with you completely, I would much rather be able to defend my family and those around me in a situation like this over just waiting to be shot and watching others be killed. If the officers that arrive on seen mistake me for a bad guy and shoot me then at least I would have been able to save others and would be willing to take that risk.

    • Will,

      I’m glad you feel that way. We have to recognize that taking action can lead to bad things happening (like getting shot by the good guys), but that doesn’t mean it’s better to stand by and do nothing. Nothing can make a mass shooting not suck, and if you intervene it might still suck, but you almost can’t make it suck more.

      Thanks for commenting, I appreciate it.

      Chris

  6. 8 James

    Awesome posting! Thank you, Officer.

  7. 10 Ted N

    Example 1: Looks relieved that the police have started to show up, holsters or points their weapon in a safe(r) direction, happy to give their best guess where the bad guy is: probably not the bad guy.

    Example 2: Looks pissed, shoots at the police, runs away: decent chance this is the bad guy.

    I don’t know how people mix these up, and think they’ve got an argument.

    • 11 Ted N

      Also, just found your blog. Good stuff, and thanks for being one of the good guys.

    • Seems pretty straightforward to me. I know reality is never simple, but I don’t think it’s been real hard to spot any recent mass killers. James Holmes wasn’t immediately identifiable, but he also wasn’t shooting when police arrived. Thanks for reading, and for the later compliment.

      Chris

  8. 13 Jason Partridge

    You sir are a true patriot! You have renewed my faith in LEO. Far too many in my area (Bloomington, IN) look at armed civilians with disdain and contempt! You can rest assured that if I ever, god forbid, end up in a mass shooting incident, I will most definitely be fighting back!

  9. 14 JimP

    I think that I understand why many LE organizations (and most certainly the senior leadership of many if not most large urban LE oranaizations) feel that any response by an armed citizen is a bad thing: These oganizations have (d?)evolved to the point that The Organization itself is more important than the accomplshment of the mission the Oganization was formed to accomplish in the first place….. i.e. it more important that The Organization be seen to be the sole protector of the Public, than the public actually being protected……. more job securityand ever bigger budgets that way……. They have forgotten Sir Robert Peel’s wisdom, because that wisdom does not serve their actal goal …… The Peelian Principles fly directly in the face of most of what large urban LE organizations actually DO …….

    I am reminded of something I read in Jeff Cooper’s Commentaries: “Of what value is the redoubling of your efforts after losing sight of your goal?”

    • Jim,

      This is just my personal opinion, but I don’t think most Chiefs and agency spokesmen represent what the rank and file believe. In my experience, there’s a huge divide between street cops and administrators when it comes to armed citizens. Guys on the street tend to be very supportive of armed citizens, yet the senior level guys who have access to media are the opposite.

      The reason I wrote this essay was because I heard Judge Jeanine on Fox speak out against armed teachers because of the “it’s too hard to cops to identify the bad guy” thing, and I read a couple of writers on the Huffington Post who said the same thing. At the time I wrote it I hadn’t heard any police say that, but after I published it I did see an interview with a school district PD who said the same thing. It’s pretty ridiculous.

  10. 16 Keith

    Well done, Sir

  11. 17 Bob

    One is expected to render aid and assistance to the injured if you happen upon an accident or emergency situation. This is even more so if you have the ability(ie first aid training) and equipment. Why would you not give aid and assistance to those around you if there is an armed killer indiscriminatly shooting innocents? I consider my concealed carry as not only a right but a duty. This is even more so if you have the ability (concealed firearm) and training. JMO
    I have the ability and equipment in both situations and although I have never had to perform either service, I consider it my Christian duty to my fellow man to render aid. I also just happened upon your blog. Thanks for your service as both LEO and reservist. Air Force vet.

    • Thanks for that explanation Bob, it’s a good way to look at it. I always find it strange that some people on the anti-gun side look at people with your mindset as delusional and dangerous. I’ve also never had to use my skills, and people around me don’t have a clue that I’m armed. But some people still consider me dangerous for carrying a weapon to protect myself and people around me. I don’t get that.

      I appreciate your comments, and your service.


  1. 1 Anonymous
  2. 2 link dump #3 | Jurmond's Arsenal

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