Tuesday, December 11, 2007

Revisiting the culture of self-defense

A commenter chastised me for my recent post regarding the shooting at a mall in Omaha that took eight innocent lives. Here is what the commenter said, without any edits:
wow. you really think that if the people would have had guns, they would have had time to pull them out and defend themselves?
the second this man stepped off the elevator he began firing. and do you realize that SIX of these eight killed were employees?? you really think employees would have guns behind the counter "just in case" i think you need to let the victims and their families deal with the situation without your input.
I commented back, but in the wake of yesterday's shootings at churches in Colorado that took four innocent lives, let's talk basics about guns, mass-shootings, and self-defense.

One of the toughest crimes to deal with is a mass-shooting. A shooter opens fire without warning in a public place with lots of people, and the shooter is usually bent on suicide. The common factor of all the mass-shootings that I can think of that have happened over the years is that the rampage was ended with a gun. The million-dollar question is: Whose gun will end the shooter's rampage? The gun can belong to the shooter; in which case, he has finished his gruesome business and taken possibly dozens of lives before turning the gun on himself. The gun can belong to the police, who show up as quickly as possible, but not quickly enough to save the lives of 32 people at Virginia Tech this year, or 13 people in Littleton, Colorado in 1999, or 23 people in Killeen, Texas in 1991, or 21 people in San Ysidro, California in 1984. Finally, the gun can belong to a private citizen who is at the scene when the shooting starts. Time and again, private citizens have ended mass shootings; you just don't often hear about it.
  • Salt Lake City, Utah, 2007 - Ken Hammond, an off-duty police officer having a Valentine's Day dinner with his wife engaged a mass-shooter at the Trolley Square Mall. Police credited Hammond with saving countless lives
  • Grundy, Virginia, 2002 - A disgruntled student opens fire at the Appalachian School of Law, killing two teachers and a student. As the shooter exited a building, two students - who had retrieved their guns independently of one another - rushed the shooter and subdued him while other students then piled on and wrestled the shooter to the ground.
  • Pearl, Mississippi, 1997 - After killing his mother at their home, a high school student drove to his school, and upon arriving, shot and killed two female students, and wounded seven others. While that was going on, an assistant principal named Joel Myrick retrieved a pistol from his car, and used it to subdue the shooter. Police soon arrived and arrested the shooter. Myrick was credited with stopping the shooter from continuing his massacre at a nearby middle school.
  • Colorado Springs, Colorado, 2007 - Just yesterday, an armed security guard shot and killed a deranged man who shot up two different churches, killing a total of four people. While the security guard wasn't totally a private citizen with a firearm, she was still someone who was armed and who was on-scene when the shooting started; she wasn't a police officer who had to rush from miles away. But how many churches have the money to employ armed security guards? You can't post security guards everywhere.
The bottom line is that the way to stop or severely limit these shootings is to arm the public, as they used to be armed. We need to go back to what blogger Michelle Malkin calls a "Culture of Self-Defense". My commenter nitpicks the fact that six of the dead in Omaha were employees, and his sudden shooting just off of the elevator gave no warning, blah, blah, blah. Chances are, if we had a culture of self-defense again in this country, that shooter would never have started his massacre in the first place.

Mass-shooters may be psychotic, but they're not stupid. Notice that even in the midst of their irrationality, they are rational enough to go to places where people are almost assuredly unarmed? You don't see mass shootings taking place at police stations and gun shows; those places have a lot of people in them too. The thing to do is take away the locations where disarmament is almost guaranteed.

It's amazing how topsy-turvy our society has become. Once upon a time in our colonies, male citizens were required by law to be armed when they left the house. They were fined if they were found to be unarmed. That, and many other interesting facts about firearms can be found in a new book by Dr. John Lott, called Freedomnomics: Why the Free Market Works, and Other Half-Baked Theories Don't.

You either want people to have the power to defend themselves and others, or you want them to cower in helpless fear. On which side are you?

Good Day to You, Sir


Donalbain said...

You either like cheese or you are a martian!

Chanman said...

Wow... profound. That doesn't change the question: do you believe I should have the power to carry a firearm in public so that I may defend myself and my family or an innocent bystander, or do you believe I don't have the power to do so and should remain defenseless to the predators out there?

John Lott said...

Jeanne Assam was a volunteer security guard. She apparently suggested to the minister that she be allowed to carry her permitted concealed handgun with her when she was at church. Others were also allowed to do so. These were just private citizens who were members of the church and who offered to provide these protective services as members of the congregation.

Chanman said...

Dr. Lott,
I am honored that you visited my humble blog. Thank you for commenting!

You beat me to the punch! I was going to update this post tonight, as I just found out during my lunch hour today that Ms. Assam was a volunteer.

Thank you again for your comments!

Donalbain said...

Oh. I see, you were serious!
I thought we were playing a game to see who could come up with the most stupid false dichotomy. My bad.

Chanman said...

You still haven't answered a very simple question, donalbain.

Either stop being obtuse and answer the question, or drop it.

Donalbain said...

I reject the false dichotomy, and so the question is meaningless.

rightwingprof said...

The only false dichotomy here has to do with cheese and martinis.

Donalbain said...

"You either want people to have the power to defend themselves and others, or you want them to cower in helpless fear."

That is a false dichotomy. In fact, it is pretty much a perfect example of the type. Rather than simply allow people to speak for themselves, it is a common technique to say that people who do not agree with you actually agree with some other, horrible alternative. Another example is "You either agree with my proposal for health care reform or you want everyone to die of horrible diseases!"

Chanman said...

You're right, donalbain. If you take away someone's right to bear arms (as it so far appears you want to do), people won't necessarily cower in fear. They can always go after the shooter with rocks or a knife, or block the bullets with their bodies like that holocaust-surviving professor at Virginia Tech.

So please, solve this so-called dichotomy. What is your solution?

Donalbain said...

My solution? There is no single solution. However, my opinion on guns and gn control (anyone who makes the joke about gun control is hitting the target can eff off and die!) is as follows: I dont know, and I actually care a little bit less.

I know that the right to own weapons is not an absolute one. Nobody seriously argues that the average citizen should be allowed to own nuclear weapons. However, nobody seriously argues that everything that could be used as a weapon should be banned. Somewhere on that continuum lies my opinion on guns. But, however, I dont know where it is. I am unconvinced by the sociology on both sides of the argument, mainly because I remain unconvinced of sociology in general. Perhaps it is because I am a physicist by training, but I find the cause/effect relationships that are suggested to be too loose to convince me. I live in the UK, which has fairly strict gun laws, and I don't honestly mind that. However, if I lived in the US with its various (but all laxer) gun laws, I don't think I would mind that.

My main point in this thread was to point out the poor example of debating style, in particular the false dichotomy.

Chanman said...

What false dicotomy? If laws are passed keeping guns out of the hands of law-abiding citizens, then you have left them to the mercy of the predators out there. There is no dichotomy there.

The Mall in Omaha was a "gun-free zone". Doesn't sound like much wiggle room there as far as being allowed to carry a gun. Do you think the murderer cared about that?

You like Britain's gun control laws? Tell me: since the gun ban in Britain went into effect in 1996/97, has crime in your fair country gone up or down?

Donalbain said...

1) The false dichotomy is "You either want people to have the power to defend themselves and others, or you want them to cower in helpless fear."
As it happens it is possible to be in favour of none of the above.

2) I said that I don't mind the gun control laws in the UK. I really am not in favour or against them. I don't see them as being particularly important to me at all.

3) Having done a quick google, the data seems to be conflicted. By one standard (police recorded crime) the level of violent crime seems to have risen, however, by the British Crime Survey, which seems to be considered a more accurate depiction of crime rates by some people mainly due to the fact that police crime recording methods have changed, violent crime has fallen. As I said, I am unconvinced by the sociology on both sides of the debate. And in any case, both seem to fail to establish any cause and effect. And as such, I don't have a strong opinion on gun laws at all.