Making cops’ lives easier (at the public’s expense)
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?
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.
Filed under: Cops | 20 Comments
Tags: active shooter, Adam Lanza, mass shooting, school shooting, virginia tech