Tuesday, June 21, 2016

“‘The Good Guy With a Gun’ Myth is BS” called into question.

I was not happy when I found out that there had been a three-hour delay when the shooting started at Pulse Night Club in Orlando and 'SWAT storming the building' -- especially in light of the 911 call that started caroling, "ISL Daesh is coming to town!"

(New info, it now appears that the initial reports were wrong. Police had control over a majority of the building within minutes after the shooting started. Marteen had retreated to a smaller enclosed area, was cornered and that's where he was when SWAT took him out three hours later. Still for anyone trapped in there with him ...  well, what I'm about to say still applies.)

My grumbling drew some criticism including being told, "Shame on you!" (Wow, that's a new one.) But from that I had a major realization about why the "Good guy with a gun myth is BS" has always made my teeth itch. And here is the ammo to shoot back when someone tries to use it.

Let's start with a few points:

A - There are times when all your choices are terrible.

B  - Building on that, a friend of mine pointed out that when you assume a leadership position you have to stop thinking in moral-based terms and start thinking in result-based terms. (For example, the military took over from the FAA the day three planes crashed into buildings killing thousands.
Let's say you're the strategic air commander that day. All other aircraft have been landed, but you have still have one up in the air. There are innocent Americans on that airplane, but it's off course, heading for DC and not responding. What do you do ...?) This is the true meaning of lesser of two evils. You must make a choice -- usually the option that saves more lives. Make no mistake even if you make the best call possible, it's still terrible. In these  kinds of cases, by your decision, people are going to die. Knowing that, these decisions still MUST be made.

C  - I am often accused of being a cop apologist and utterly pro-cop by cop haters. But actual apologists and pro-cop types don't like the fact that I point out problems with modern policing. (And believe me, there are lots of them.)

D - I am aware of the difference between LEO and military goals, Rules of engagement (ROE) and restrictions. And that is a huge and complex issue. Part of what makes it complex is the policy (which under many different circumstances actually works very well) of the police falling back from engaging, creating a perimeter, and letting the negotiator take over -- until the negotiator unleashes SWAT (including the negotiator tricking the guy to step in front of a  window).

E- I'm really not advocating cops storming in without a plan and dying like flies to save people's lives. Officer safety is a really big issue and -- quite frankly -- my concern for it is what gets me accused of being pro-cop by cop haters. And yet we do have to balance out officer safety with public safety -- especially  the survival rate of those trapped in with or wounded by terrorists. You  want ultimate officer safety? Hit the club with a missile. Oh wait, wrong ROE...

F  - Here's the problem. You have two competing doctrines -- and I cannot stress this enough -- BOTH WORK. With the caveat that both can fail miserably as well.  Fast recap of those ...
Now  a little birdie might have told me -- once upon a time -- that there is a fundamental difference in responses between a crime that goes sideways and ends up with hostages, barricaded individual with hostages versus an active shooting event -- especially when mixed with terrorism. In the former, you bore  them into surrendering. In the latter, quick reaction time is critical especially in light of a common tactic among terrorists is to  pretend to negotiate while:
a) further entrenching themselves
b) increasing the death count by denying medical treatment to the wounded and
c) setting bombs and traps in preparation for the breech
Which call to make is an absolute MUTHA of a problem and I do not envy the commander who has to make such a decision.

G  - The world is changing. I live about thirty miles as the crow flies from Columbine High School. That event changed the rulebook about dealing with active shooters. And quite frankly the argument, trying to fix the problem is still not settled. But now a new player is on the scene  Terrorism. Yes we had 9/11 and the response has crushed the old-style terrorist system. Pretty much gone are the days of the big terrorist operations, 9/11, Beslan, Moscow Opera, Madrid train bombings. But that's created a different problem. As was  described to me, in destroying the big organizations we created a situation where terrorism has survived as 1,000 miles wide and a quarter of an inch deep. That is the 'supposed lone wolf' or active shooters. I say 'supposed' because ... well it's not quite that simple. But what they are is really cheap to pull off and almost impossible to stop preemptively. Literally for under a $1,000 an organization can send out these lone wolf shooters to pop up anywhere there's crowds. These kinds of attacks are becoming if not more common, a very real factor. Fort Hood, San  Bernardino, and now Pulse.

H- So which doctrine do you follow -- LEO or anti-terrorist -- given that this happened on U.S. soil? That is NOT an easy  question because you're talking people dying here.

I  - It's time to talk about the elephant in the room. That is making a call means career and political suicide. A door kicker isn't thinking about politics or the media when making decisions. But a civilian authority who has to make the call is.

J- With that in mind, I can pretty well guarantee you every decision made was covered by and justified by policy. This includes the three hours ...

It sucks, but there it is.

About one of the people who objected to my grumbling. A  self-identified 'door kicker' argued that the three-hour delay between when the shooting started and when SWAT stormed the building is not only understandable, but is in fact damned good response time. It was that he was hostile and insulting is what got him a less than pleasant response from folks. But here's what I have to say to the people who got bent out of shape with him ...

I don't disagree with him. In fact, I actually agree.

It takes time for personnel and equipment to arrive. (Like getting SWAT and  the Bearcat there). It also takes time to plan an effective raid. ALL of which are true. But what is also true is how fast the call for these goes out and when the order 'to go' is finally given influences the time between when an incident starts and when it ends.

Straight  up, I don't question the door kickers or blame them for the three hours. (Besides who doesn't want to rip down the freeway at 80 mph in an armored vehicle at 2 am?) I might want to have a discussion with the guy who appears to have not wanted to cry havoc and let slip the dogs of war.
But the door kickers? No. Never.

That is not, however, the point of this.

One  of things that I talked about in my booklet, "Writing Violence IV: Defense" is the importance of time in a violent encounter. I argue that guns are a distance weapon that rely on time and distance to ensure the shooter's safety. But they are in fact not so hot for blocking or deflecting an incoming attack. Unless you shoot someone just so in the brain pan, death is not instantaneous. Usually immediate incapacitation doesn't happen either (unless specific criteria is met.) It's usually the distance that gives the bullet time to take effect. Basically his leaking way over there messes up his aim and lessens the chance of him getting close enough to be accurate with his return fire-- thereby  keeping the shooter safe. It doesn't necessarily mean he's dead, it means he's incapacitated. If he's shot, the same bleed out issues apply to him as to the people he's shot.

Understanding that sets a  base for this: About ten years ago, I had an ER doc tell an entire class that if someone with a single gunshot wound got to him within two hours he'd have about an 80 percent survival chance. Now that is dated information about triage and gunshot wounds. Triage has improved since then, and I  don't know what the current survival rate is. But I'll bet you twenty bucks it hasn't gotten worse. That being said, multiple GS wounds obviously make it harder, but still ...

So bottom line, everything else aside, when shot your survival strongly depends on help getting to you ASAP. If there's still an active shooter in the immediate area (or it's turned into a barricade situation) that is going slow down help getting to you. And it turns out -- straight from the words of a self-identified door kicker -- three hours is a damned good response time for SWAT to come busting in.

Stop and think about that -- especially if you're one of those in need of medical help.

Not too long ago in a Planned Parenthood Clinic (PPC) in Colorado Springs you had a mass shooting -- arguably a situation started elsewhere -- but the  shooter took refuge inside the clinic and it turned into a five-hour standoff. Was his target the PPC all along or something else? (There  are still questions because the shooting started outside.) Interestingly enough, it appears that the early exchange of gun fire derailed the 'plan' and gave people time to escape so the clinic was mostly empty when he went inside.

I give you the Colorado Springs PPC example, but I'll throw out the question of: How many of these situations turn into stand-offs? Stand-offs that can deny the wounded immediate medical attention?

As I thought more about the "three hours  is good response time" statement, the idea came to me that time had raised its  head again. But this time in regard to how fast or slowly people get medical attention.(I should also mention the indications that there were people inside Pulse getting other people out factored into my  thinking.) Then it hit me ...

A strong contention --  read knee-jerk screech -- by the anti-gun crowd is the "good guy with a gun myth is BS." Or worse, "that there has never been an instance where an armed civilian stopped an active shooter." Then my all time favorite -- people shooting back at a shooter increases everyone else's danger.

Few points about those
a- The first is using a very specific definition of 'good guy' -- specifically not police, security, military, or federal officers. (Face it, cops, guns, dead shooter is the result of almost all of these.)
b - is a dismissal by calling it a myth
c - if not factually wrong, are unsupported contentions.

Here's  why. A blanket claim of BS (or it's a lie) is easy to say -- especially  with conviction. But it doesn't provide supporting credible evidence to the contested point or support one's position that shooting back doesn't work. In fact, it's kind of an appeal to authority -- except the  authority is the speaker. "It's bullshit because I say it is so," which, face it, is a better tactic than copping to parroting what you heard someone else say.)

I've spoken elsewhere about the  distinction I make between active and mass shootings. (Everyone is a  target versus specific targets). Also something else I talk about is how  most active shootings are ended via a gun -- whether the shooter is shot by others or suicides. (A big factor in the latter is target denial.)

The second  contention of 'never stopped by a civilian shooting back' is just demonstrably wrong.

The  third contention of higher casualty rates and Wild West shoot-outs is where we have to lift our hands and say, "Wait a minute. Maybe yes. Maybe no. Possible but ..." That's the one I really want to look at.

Here's the basic question. What's going to create more casualties? Three hours before SWAT comes in or more bullets in the air?

And more bullets in the air comes in one of two forms. One is an unopposed active shooter shooting more people. Two is somebody shooting back (and thereby creating a two-way shooting range).

Except this time we also have to ask, "Despite there being more bullets in the air does shooting back buy time for others to get out, much less get others out, as well? This even if the person who is engaging the original shooter goes down too? Or hell, maybe the guy shooting back gets lucky and the original shooter is now on the bleed out team. The point is that we don't know which of these choices is going to result in the fewest deaths.

Remember I started out by pointing out that sometimes all the choices suck? Well, it's back.

Three hours or more bullets in the air? Personally, I'm not a cheerleader for either option. What I am flat out against, however, is the demand that everyone be forced to wait for three hours against avowed terrorists or active shooters.

The truth is I'm not arguing for everyone to carry a gun. Personally, I hate carrying a firearm as a  day-to-day thing. It's not something that is practical given my current lifestyle. Ordinarily I'm not in danger nor operating in dangerous  environments, so I don't usually feel the need to be armed in this manner. But it is a choice that I make. I do not insist on others making  the same choice -- or being forced to be disarmed.

If someone wants to carry a gun that's his or her choice. The key word here is choice.

Now the flip side of that argument. I am a big fan of property rights. If a business owner doesn't want guns in his or her store or a homeowner doesn't want them on his or her property -- that's  their right. It's been both upheld in court that your right to carry a  gun doesn't extend to other people's property or trump the Federal Gov's ability to say 'no guns on our property or in schools for minors.' Now how different states handle guns in businesses that sell booze is another can of worms.

But the constant in all of those is you DON'T have to go there. (I will for the record state that I am  seriously bothered by pro-gun people who go on about 'mah right rawr  rawr' and insist on going armed into businesses and onto properties posted for no guns. No, it's not your right and you're pissing on the rights of others. On the plus side, most of them are only putting their concealed permit in danger. But personally, I think insisting on carrying in such places is just tacky.

If someone chooses not to carry a gun, well good on them. Congratulations on living a lifestyle where that is a viable choice. But if you do, kindly do me a favor and don't demand that everyone else be disarmed, too.

Because in  light of that three-hour delay before SWAT comes crashing through the  wall (followed by medical help) your supposed concern about 'more bodies' if someone shoots back is a little ... problematic.