Everything that’s wrong with the argument against protecting schools with guns
A reader made a very interesting comment in response to my last essay, An unarmed woman stops an active shooter; what that means, and what it doesn’t (http://chrishernandezauthor.com/2013/08/27/an-unarmed-woman-stops-an-active-shooter-what-that-means-and-what-it-doesnt/). I think this comment deserves its own post. This comment is, in a nutshell, everything that’s wrong with the argument against armed teachers.
Of course, not everyone who opposes allowing teachers to carry does so for the same reasons. I don’t accuse them all of being stupid or unreasonable. But I do see these trends:
1) they tend to view the active shooter as so highly trained and skilled, resistance against them is futile;
2) they tend to view armed citizens as so untrained and unskilled they’re absolutely unable to perform even a task as simple as covering a door from six feet away, and emptying a magazine at an active shooter as soon as he enters;
3) they tend to have no tactical training, experience, knowledge or understanding (which doesn’t stop some of them from very arrogantly preaching tactical “truth” to people who actually do know what they’re talking about);
4) they tend to think the active shooter will enjoy every advantage, while the armed citizen will suffer every possible misfortune (i.e., police will immediately shoot the armed citizen on sight); and
5) they seem to think police can’t differentiate between an armed good guy who is being cautious and targeting one person, and a mass murderer who is targeting everybody.
This “Don’t even try to fight back” mindset has become so strong on the left that writers on liberal sites actually argue against anyone without a badge resisting an active shooter. Bob Cesca, in an opinion piece which also reaches ridiculously illogical conclusions about specific shooting incidents (http://thedailybanter.com/2013/02/good-guys-with-guns-will-not-stop-bad-guys-with-guns/), said “No. I don’t want some other dude with a gun in the room. Generally speaking, the addition of a second gun has effectively doubled my chances of being killed by one of the gunmen, intentionally or not.”
Somehow the anti-gun side of the argument seems to equate a coward trying to murder everyone, with an armed, trained good citizen who is trying to stop the killing.
As you read the comment below and my response to it, please look for the mindset I’ve described above. Correct me if I’m wrong, but all I see in this argument is, “Don’t even bother trying to fight. Just give up and die. It’s the best way to save lives.”
Reader “ivyfree2″‘s comment:
Agree with much of what you said, but not all. The shooter could easily have been wearing bulletproof armor (like the Aurora theater shooter). In which case, shooting him first would have been completely ineffective. Second, it’s not easy to shoot a human being. It takes training. It takes reflexes. Even then, it’s hard to do. We are socialized not to attack others. Yes, that can be overcome with training. I doubt very much if university teaching programs will start courses on “shooting a crazed teenager.” Seeing somebody come in with a gun and start loading it after verbalizing his intentions? Okay, MAYBE somebody would have had time to shoot him first. That person would have had to be either carrying a loaded weapon on his person (while at a school) or have to unlock a drawer or shelf to get the gun, making himself a target. Even if you shoot at a human, can you hit him? Most people who use guns practice with paper targets. Hitting a moving target is different. Going deer-hunting or whatever, that’s also different. Killing a human crosses a line that most people can’t do.
But suppose you’re special. You have a loaded gun on your person. You comprehend the situation as soon as the impending criminal (who hasn’t done anything illegal yet) announces that he’s going to kill and pulls out a gun. You grab your gun and you shoot. Maybe you have great aim and hit him, and maybe he’s dumb and hasn’t bought a bulletproof vest off the internet. Maybe you shoot several times and he (the person who has still, at that point, done nothing illegal) is dead. At that point, anyone who has heard your gunfire has grabbed their cell phone and called 911, reporting gunfire at a school. You hear the sirens approaching and police in armor storm the building, looking for the man with the gun. Bang: you’re dead.
First, thank you for your comment. Despite the fact that I am about to tear your opinions to shreds, I do honestly appreciate your willingness to speak up here. As I’ve said before, I don’t want this site to become an echo chamber, where I write opinions to an audience that parrots them right back to me. Dissenting opinions from reasonable, intelligent people are extremely valuable to national-level debates, and to me personally as a way to ensure my views don’t contain logical fallacies.
Second, your post leads me to these conclusions: you have zero tactical training, knowledge or experience. None. Nada. Zilch. And you probably only discuss topics like this with like-minded people who never challenge your blatantly ridiculous assumptions.
I’ll start with this: “The shooter could easily have been wearing bulletproof armor (like the Aurora theater shooter). In which case, shooting him first would have been completely ineffective.”
This statement alone is enough to prove that you have no idea what you’re talking about. I’ve been wearing body armor on a regular basis for almost 20 years. As a cop I wear soft concealable armor, and as a soldier overseas I wore either a military issue IBA vest with protective plates, or a plate carrier with no soft armor. I know the capabilities and limitations of body armor very well. “Bulletproof” vests leave significant areas of the upper body exposed (head, neck, abdomen, etc). They have seams that rounds can penetrate. Soft armor does not stop all calibers. I find it hard to believe that you’ve never heard of a single incident where a police officer was shot and killed, even though he was wearing body armor. It happens at least dozens of times every year. I can’t believe you’ve never heard of a soldier being killed by small arms fire, even though he’s wearing heavy body armor. As a cop wearing body armor, do I no longer have to worry about being shot? I know officers who were shot and wounded, and one who was killed, while wearing body armor. No, bullets don’t become “completely ineffective” if the suspect is wearing body armor.
Next: “…it’s not easy to shoot a human being. It takes training. It takes reflexes. Even then, it’s hard to do.”
As a longtime cop and two time combat vet, I’m aware that becoming proficient with a weapon takes training. I’ve actually had quite a bit of it. However, I’m also aware that we have about 20,000 gun homicides every year. Based on media reports and just about every gun-related murder scene I’ve ever been on, it’s pretty damn easy to shoot a human being. I don’t think the kids who killed the Australian student recently were weapon experts. Neither was the young mother in Georgia who repeatedly shot a burglar last year. Because actually, it’s pretty easy to shoot someone if you have the will. Weapons are designed to be ergonomic, easy to use with a minimum of training. The weapon I carry is extremely easy to operate, with no external controls [correction: it actually has one, not none]. You just draw, point it at your target and pull the trigger. With a few hours of training on the range and the correct mindset, just about anyone is capable of shooting a human being with it.
“Seeing somebody come in with a gun and start loading it after verbalizing his intentions? Okay, MAYBE somebody would have had time to shoot him first. That person would have had to be either carrying a loaded weapon on his person (while at a school) or have to unlock a drawer or shelf to get the gun, making himself a target.”
The entire point of allowing teachers to carry at school is to have them carrying at school. Yes, they should have the weapons on their person. With reasonable training, someone can draw and engage within a couple of seconds. Do you think an active shooter is an eagle-eyed, sharp-witted genius who sees all movements made by everyone in view? Why do you assume that drawing the weapon would automatically make the teacher a target? And what about situations like Columbine or Virginia Tech, where some teachers heard shots outside their classrooms for several minutes before they saw the shooters? Is it possible those teachers could have drawn their weapons long before the shooters were in view?
Your perspective is extremely common among many anti-carry people I’ve debated. You assume the shooter is a tactical genius, all-seeing and unstoppable, while the average good-guy with a gun is so outclassed that he might as well just give up and die rather than fight back. You are objectively wrong about this. Most mass shooters have been untrained, unskilled cowards who folded as soon as they were threatened by good guys with guns. George Hennard stopped shooting people at Luby’s as soon as he heard an officer fire a round into the ceiling. Cho at Virginia Tech shot himself as soon as he heard officers breach a door with a shotgun. Adam Lanza shot himself as soon as he heard police sirens outside. These guys are not SEAL ninja Delta Force Rangers. They are cowards, usually with no tactical training or even awareness, who are only enabled to commit murderous rampages by people like you who view them as mythical, omnipotent gods.
“Even if you shoot at a human, can you hit him? Most people who use guns practice with paper targets. Hitting a moving target is different. Going deer-hunting or whatever, that’s also different.”
You need training and a good understanding of your and your weapon’s capabilities to hit a human. At close, defensive pistol range, the average shooter can hit a human. We’re not expecting an armed teacher to take an active shooter out at 100 yards with her Beretta .380. We’re talking about shots fired within about 10 feet, within a classroom or office. Again, untrained criminals do it all the time. And trained people perform better with a weapon than untrained criminals.
“Killing a human crosses a line that most people can’t do.”
Standing there and doing nothing before someone kills you crosses a line. Taking no action at all as a murder massacres children crosses a line. You think the resistance to killing another human is so great, people would literally rather watch someone murder dozens of children than take action to stop them?
“But suppose you’re special. You have a loaded gun on your person.”
How is that special? Hundreds of thousands of Americans (and that may be a low number) carry a weapon on their person every day. That isn’t special. I’ve carried a weapon on my person daily for almost 20 years. Strangers have no idea I’m armed. Having a weapon doesn’t make anyone special and isn’t some far-fetched idea.
“You comprehend the situation as soon as the impending criminal (who hasn’t done anything illegal yet) announces that he’s going to kill and pulls out a gun. You grab your gun and you shoot. Maybe you have great aim and hit him, and maybe he’s dumb and hasn’t bought a bulletproof vest off the internet. Maybe you shoot several times and he (the person who has still, at that point, done nothing illegal) is dead.”
This is one of the more astounding parts of your post. So a guy walks into a school with a gun, announces he’s going to kill people and draws the gun, and you make the point, twice, that “he hasn’t done anything illegal”? In Texas he has, as well as any other state that doesn’t allow weapons in schools. Besides that, he’s presented an imminent threat to everyone in the area. The only reasonable response is the threat or use of lethal force. If you draw your weapon, he sees it and drops his, then no need to fire. If you draw your weapon and he’s still armed, engage and keep engaging until he’s no longer a threat. If you think the armed teacher has now committed a crime, you need to brush up on criminal law.
And the vast majority of active shooters and criminals in general are “dumb”. Do you think criminals always wear body armor? How many active shooters wore body armor? Can you think of any besides Holmes in Colorado?
“At that point, anyone who has heard your gunfire has grabbed their cell phone and called 911, reporting gunfire at a school. You hear the sirens approaching and police in armor storm the building, looking for the man with the gun. Bang: you’re dead.”
And here’s another beloved fallacy of the anti-defense side: don’t fight back, because the police will immediately kill you. Unfortunately, a police response takes time. At Newtown, police arrived in about three minutes. At Virginia Tech two fully geared-up SWAT teams were on campus when the shooting started. They still took several minutes to reach and enter Norris Hall. Chances are, if you encounter an active shooter at a school you’ll have several minutes before police show up.
And police today are trained NOT to shoot someone just because they have a weapon. We know many people can be legally armed at a shooting; teachers in some districts, off-duty cops, plainclothes cops, parents with concealed handgun licenses, etc. Simply having a weapon does not mean the police instantly shoot you.
And in your scenario, the armed teacher kills the bad guy, hears police sirens and hears the police “storm” the building (which is something else we don’t do; again, please take some time to learn something about this subject), but is still holding the weapon when police reach her? She couldn’t put the weapon back in the holster or simply drop it during the several minutes it takes them to arrive?
I hope you understood my point. Your views on this subject are devoid of actual experience or knowledge, riddled with fallacies, formed by unrealistic myths, and probably supported by legions of others with fallacious, unrealistic beliefs who tell you that you’re right.
What amazes me is that so many of you who oppose armed defense lack even basic knowledge on the subject, yet still feel justified making sweeping pronouncements about it. How does that happen? There are subjects I refuse to debate because I don’t know anything about them. I have opinions on them, but no actual knowledge or experience. So I stay quiet about those subjects because I know my uninformed opinion adds nothing to the debate and just makes me look stupid. I might ask questions, I might say, “I don’t know anything about this, but what about…” and ask a question. But I would never tell a doctor he’s wrong about medicine. I would never tell an economist he’s wrong about the economy. I’d never tell a pilot how to fly.
But many people who are anti-gun and have zero knowledge, training or experience with guns feel completely justified telling me, a longtime cop and combat vet, the “real truth” about armed defense. More often than not they say it’s futile to even try to fight back against an active shooter (as you did). Active shooters are just so amazingly skilled, nobody could possibly win against them. It’s better to just give up and die. It’s better to just let them walk into a school and mow down masses of children. “For god’s sake, please don’t make the situation worse by shooting the worthless, unskilled, untrained, cowardly piece of crap who’s massacring helpless people.” So help me, I can’t think of a more pathetic mindset than that.
Am I off base, guys? Your thoughts?
Filed under: Cops | 83 Comments
Tags: active shooter, armed citizens, self defense