Tuesday, March 12, 2013
I am not a Sheepdog
By Vuurwapen Blog
I have carried a handgun every day since Virginia Tech (the first one). The point was driven home even further by the fact that I had been within a few hundred yards of a school shooting several years before. To me, the danger was not abstract.
Of course, I carried rifles, light machine guns, and pistols in Iraq before that, but this was different. It wasn't legal for me to carry at the time – I was under 21, and I was also in school. The university prohibited weapons on campus, but I didn't care. My 1911 – the only handgun I owned – became a constant companion. I had just returned from Iraq, and I was not about to die at home.
I wasn't carrying a gun to stop a school shooter and become some sort of hero. I was carrying a gun to preserve my own life. Just as I always carried a loaded Beretta 9 mm tucked inside my uniform when with Iraqi policemen inside their "station," I didn't trust that anyone else would be looking out for me first. It's not that I didn't think that the University of Arizona Police Department wouldn't do their very best to stop any potential shooting as soon as possible. I simply knew all too well how quickly such situations could play out, and how help nearby could be no help at all.
My carry philosophy has not changed much since that first day. My parents taught me to be responsible for myself. Scouting taught me to be prepared. Combat taught me to be aware.
Avoiding the Situation
Beyond not walking out of my house every day looking for an excuse to shoot the next Jared Loughner, there are a number of reasons why I might avoid intervening in such a situation. I have listed them in a roughly "most important to least important" order.
#1 - I don't know what's going on. Unless the actual shooting unfolds before me, I would simply be running toward the sound of gunfire. As romantic as that may sound, it is rarely a good tactical decision. I will be facing a threat I cannot quantify, in a location that I may not be intimately familiar with, filled with people that will be reacting – panicking – in a number of ways. This is a recipe for disaster.
#2 - I am most likely going to be alone. If the shooter is simply looking to kill as many people as he possibly can, and I intervene, I have effectively become the protector of dozens or hundreds of people. When I was on a PSD detail in Iraq, it was rare for our dismounts to be outnumbered by the people we were escorting (although it did happen – too often). In addition, there were almost 2 dozen Marines in gun trucks nearby. Although the threat level was higher in Iraq, the math is the same: it is impossible for one person to protect dozens. Yes, it is possible that one person might be able to limit innocent deaths. That is one possible outcome.
#3 - If I am not alone, I am probably not with people that are carrying. I will be looking out for their safety as well as my own, and this will keep me very busy. Unless the threat is very obviously nearby, I will be abandoning my companions if I rush toward the sound of gunfire. See the above point.
#4 - My concealed carry permit is not a badge, and I have not been charged with looking out for the safety of others. When you become an adult, you become responsible for yourself. At the risk of sounding overly dramatic, the world is a dangerous place, and you pays your money and you takes your chances. Some people choose to never wear a helmet when riding. The vast majority of them never die in a motorcycle accident. Hindsight is 20/20.
What I Don't Think About
There are a few things that do not affect my decision making process when it comes to intervening in such a situation.
#1 - Training. I shoot a lot. I am not the best shot in the world, the country, the state, the county, or perhaps even my neighborhood. But I'm proficient with firearms, as I think everyone who carries one should be, public or private. I once met a police officer who was exceedingly proud of the fact that he only fired his weapon once a year, because his department required only an annual proficiency test. Non-gun people, not knowing this, would rely on him to perform miracles that he could simply not perform. I have also met police officers who shoot more than I do. There is no guaranteeing which type of officer will be nearby when I desperately need help, so I train and live as if police officers will never be there for me, or if they are, that they will be completely ineffective.
#2 - Being mistaken as the shooter and subsequently killed by police. Although the situation itself is highly unlikely, either a police officer will be close enough to intervene immediately, or they will only arrive after many are dead. If I have decided to intervene, it is because I think I can end it now, and there are no other options (such as nearby police who are already in the process of intervening). In making that decision, I am already at great personal risk. Should astronomical odds be stacked against me, and a police officer arrives just in time to shoot me - well, that is a risk I take, but it is not a likely outcome. Similarly, the likelihood of a second concealed carrier being close enough to arrive and shoot me after I have presented my own handgun, but not close enough to identify me as a "good guy" before doing so, is also extremely low.
#3 - Legal ramifications. I sometimes carry in places where I am not allowed to. While I have little desire to be arrested for violating state or federal laws, I have even less desire for myself, my family, or my friends to be dead.
#4 - Arming the shooter. Mass shooters almost always carry multiple firearms and extreme amounts of ammunition. One more handgun – possibly with little or no ammunition inside – is unlikely to affect the outcome. If I have done nothing but die in front of the shooter, I will at least have given other people a chance to get away in the meantime.
So I'm Definitely Not a Sheepdog, But Am I a Heartless Jerk?
Some things would cause me to make decisions that I otherwise would not. I don't want people to think that I would simply stand by and watch as little children were being massacred. However, in most cases, I would be left with no good choice but to not run to the sound of gunfire - and I believe that any concealed carrier who takes the time to truly think about the way these things work will come to the same conclusion.
Posted by Zee at 9:51 PM