A Culture of Entrenched Cowardice
Everyone knows of Flights 11 and 175, which hit the Twin Towers on 9/11. We understand that passengers on those flights thought they were facing a “normal” hijacking. They expected the hijackers to land somewhere and make demands, then release hostages. They followed the old advice of, “stay calm, cooperate, don’t fight back and nobody will get hurt.” They did what they reasonably believed was right, which wound up being wrong.
Everyone in America knows the story of United Flight 93, the flight that fought back. Everyone knows of the brave passengers who refused to die as helpless victims. Everyone knows they charged the cockpit and fought for control of the aircraft, forcing the hijackers to crash into an empty field instead of the Capitol. Those passengers are justifiably regarded as heroes.
But how many Americans consider the actions of passengers and crew on American Airlines Flight 77, which hit the Pentagon? As far as we know, the plane was hijacked, its crew forced to the rear, then the aircraft began descending over Washington D.C. – and the passengers and crew did nothing. They apparently sat quietly in their seats, fully aware that they were about to die a horrible, fiery death. At least one passenger knew hijacked airliners had hit the Twin Towers (and to me it’s inconceivable that she didn’t tell the others). But even though they knew they were doomed, even though they literally could not have made the situation worse by resisting, they didn’t lift a finger to stop it. They died as cooperative, unresisting victims.
I’m not blaming them for their inaction. We as a nation learned a hard lesson about trusting those with evil intentions that day. Instead, I’m blaming a widespread mindset that’s poisoned the United States over the past several decades. I think this mindset is directly opposed to traditional American values, and would have been ridiculed by braver generations.
This mindset advocates passive acceptance of victimhood. This mindset tells people, “it’s better to stand by and do nothing as you and other innocent people are brutally murdered.“ And worse than that, it elevates such cowardice to a virtue.
The debate over gun control sparked by the Newtown shooting has partly devolved into a debate about whether citizens should defend themselves from mass shooters. Much of America believes private citizens can and should use weapons to protect themselves and their families. But a very vocal portion of the population considers this idea to be total stupidity.
Since I began writing about mass shootings and armed citizenry, I’ve read many comments to my articles. While most have been positive, I’ve also seen a number of readers who don’t just disagree but can’t seem to think of armed citizenry in anything other than derisive terms.
Here are a few examples, from various internet forums:
“And I think that’s a perfect example of the egoistic hero fantasy BS that fuels this whole problem. . . . everyone with a gun thinks they’re going to be John Mclane.”
“I describe these scenarios as hero fantasy because that’s precisely what they are.”
“’Super good guys with guns to save the day’. Check.”
“I don’t think some overconfident chippy with a pistol in her handbag is going to be of any use whatsoever to anyone. Tell me, Miss Annie Oakley, precisely how you determine who the good guys are and who the bad guys are when everyone pulls out a gun?”
This quote from an article in the Huffington Post directly equates armed teachers with “movie hero fantasies”: “Bruce Lee’s son died in a gun accident on a movie set, but I’m sure that won’t happen in your classroom. Your classroom isn’t a movie set. Well, not until some gun-toting lunatic barges in, in a slow motion climax after about two hours and a classic three act structure, scored by whatever composer Michael Bay uses for his films, and probably while he eats breakfast, and does his laundry, and sits on the toilet.”
A blog post from last year was titled, “NRA gun-toting-Rambo-citizen-hero ‘theory’ soundly disproved in New York at Empire State Building Shooting”.
These sentiments, often expressed by people with little to no experience, training or apparent understanding of lethal violence, are all over the internet. Those who hold this belief view every private citizen who carries a weapon for self defense as a delusional, wannabe superman who is capable of only creating more problems and mistakenly killing more innocent people. They see armed citizens as simply another threat to the public, maybe a bigger threat than the statistically insignificant number of mass shooters.
I don’t claim to know the true motivations of everyone who opposes armed citizens’ response to mass shooters. But I do know that this mindset certainly can be a cynical, self-serving way to disguise blatant fear of taking action as “good sense”. I fear that this mindset is changing us from a brave culture, a culture where people are expected to defend the defenseless, to a culture of deeply entrenched cowardice. A culture where outright refusal to defend even one’s own family is celebrated as a mark of high intelligence.
The realities of sudden violence against private citizens always point to an inescapable conclusion: the only way to protect citizens from violence is to let them protect themselves. I say this as a police officer who spent years training for and teaching other police officers how to respond to mass shootings. Anyone who thinks we police can be everywhere, or can respond within seconds to any public place under attack, are fooling themselves.
We’ve experienced a long string of tragic mass shootings. The Killeen Luby’s, the Amish School shooting, Columbine, Virginia Tech, Northern Illinois University, Newtown, the New York subway massacre, the Sikh Temple shooting, the Aurora Colorado theater shooting, the Giffords shooting in Tucson, the Colorado Springs church shooting, and on and on. In every one, police arrived too late to stop the massacres.
But remember that one shooting, where police arrived in seconds and managed to stop the shooter immediately? No? Me neither. It never happened.
We have a well known, easily understood set of facts regarding mass shootings. We know, without question, that a mass murderer who faces no resistance will kill as many people as possible, as quickly as possible. We know most mass shooters will keep killing until they’re forced to stop. We know police won’t respond in time. And yet, some people take that set of facts and conclude that no private citizen should act to defend themselves.
I understand if someone makes the personal decision not to defend themselves. I don’t agree with it, but a reasonable, intelligent person can decide not to carry a weapon. Some people know they wouldn’t be able to control their fear, or can’t handle a firearm, aren’t prepared for the responsibility, or could never shoot another human being. That doesn’t make them bad people, and the majority of our population is probably made up of people who feel that way. Their attitude might be summed up as, “I’m not the right person to carry a weapon, so I’m glad other people have them.” My comments aren’t directed toward people who make that honest, rational assessment of themselves.
My comments are, however, directed at committed victims who deem themselves morally and intellectually superior to those who would fight back. It’s not enough for them to make a personal decision not to act; for some reason, they have to try to stop others from doing what they themselves won’t.
We’re not talking about intervening in a robbery, or jumping in when a crip shoots a blood over dope-deaing turf. In most of these cases, the best thing to do is be a good witness. We’re talking about the closest thing to black and white, no question, pure evil we’re likely to see in America: a coward brutally gunning down as many innocent, helpless people as possible. If that doesn’t demand an immediate, lethal citizen response, nothing does.
When pacifists advocate passive resistance to violence while smugly assuming armed citizes are stupid and violent, they accomplish two things. First, the pacifists don’t have to accept the true cowardice inherent in their decision. After all, how can any honorable man or woman refuse to act when innocent people, especially children, are being murdered in their presence? And second, these pacifists actually enable violent criminals who specifically seek a mass of unarmed, unresisting victims.
I would like to offer a deal to those who refuse to carry a weapon, yet insult and deride those who do. I won’t hold your decision, which has no bearing on how I should live, against you. I won’t speak badly of you. If I happen to be near you and the unthinkable happens, I will risk my life to defend you. If I’m mortally wounded and have time to recognize my impending death, I won’t feel anger over dying to defend someone who wouldn’t defend himself.
Your part of the deal? Shut up. Stop speaking out against those who would face mortal danger to defend themselves, their families and you. Stop telling good, intelligent people not to fight back against evil. Stop trying to convince people that if police can’t protect them, they therefore shouldn’t protect themselves. If you have zero experience in the subject, stop spreading your tactical wisdom, gained through years of sitting in classrooms and discussing with likeminded friends how stupid gun owners are, about what a gunfight is really like. Stop citing Mother Jones “studies” and 20/20 “videotaped experiments” that were specifically engineered to convince people not to defend themselves. Stop telling me that cowardly mass shooters with no skill or training are unstoppable monsters who no citizen should even attempt to fight, but brave law-abiding citizens with training and good sense are powerless. Stop telling me it’s better to let a childish coward keep shooting at me than to shoot back. Stop projecting your passive timidity onto others. Stop hiding your cowardice behind a veil of smug superiority. People see through it.
When faced with the horrible evil of Newtown, Columbine, or Virginia Tech, we all face a decision. Are we the passive victims of Flight 77, who sat quietly in helpless acceptance of their impending murders? Or are we the men and women of action who took responsibility for their own lives and those of the intended innocent victims below, banded together and charged the cockpit of Flight 93?
You victims made your decision in advance. Just like the Flight 77 passengers, you know the end result of that decision will be tragedy. But I respect your rights, and accept what you’ve chosen not to do.
I, along with many veterans, police officers and armed citizens, have rejected your culture of cowardice. At the very least, you should respect our decision. And if the worst case happens, all you should do is duck out of the line of fire, shut your mouth, and let the rest of us follow the path that we, not you, have chosen.
Filed under: Cops | 86 Comments
Tags: armed citizens, gun control, mass shootings, second amendment