My cousin Tara brought up a parody (in comments on Gord's previous post) I wrote a few years back about the ease of buying guns in this country:
"Git this new Winchester repeatin' rahfle for only fahr-nanty-nan'. Git it today wit' Val-U-Pay, sev'nty two payments on yer credit card. And today only on the Gun Show Channel, no background check. By golly, y'all kin be Ted Bundy and we don't care, we'll even throw in fahve hunnert rounds of full metal jacketed, 150 grain, Manstoppers feh-ree if y'all order in the next ten minutes. Son, Ah don' care if you is in Meridian, Mississippi or Noo York, we'll ship this baby out to ya overnight and no extree charge."
As I said in reply, I don't have the problem with keeping and bearing arms for self-protection. Protecting one's home and family (considering the police response times around here) is something one should consider. With an education and training in the use of firearms, you could be the only thing standing between some asshole who wants your stuff and your family. I understand and support this.
What I don't support is the ease at which guns can be bought and sold, and the fact that in many places there is no control and oversight. I don't support groups like the NRA who "deify" or "fetishize" firearms and turn the call for any type of regulation into "big government (the black man in the White House) is trying to take away your guns". I doubt even the most Lefty politician would commit that political suicide.
The fact that guns don't stop crime was shown in full light this weekend in Arizona (a free carry state). Where were all these big Rambo-type guys when this idiot decided to start shooting? Where was the postulate that "if everybody had a gun, people would think twice about committing a crime"? This nut thought more than twice and has been planning it for a while. If the "guns for everybody" crowd were right, this would never have happened (nor would the guy who shot up the school board meeting in Florida). But you know what, I'll be charitable and give them that point.
Now, let me put myself in the crowd on Saturday replete with sidearm (Colt Model 1911 .45 cal auto preferably). At close range I don't doubt my ability to hit this guy in the "center of mass", probably feel comfortable taking a head shot. Let's look at the timeline, shall we?
1. I'm standing in the crowd, finger up my ass, waiting for my chance to meet the Congresswoman. The odds I'd spot this guy for what he was as he got out of the taxi are slim (I'm window shopping while I'm waiting, or wondering just what the Congresswoman looked like naked, or some shit) because nobody, including me, is expecting what is about to happen.
2. If I'm lucky, thanks to the military, I'd spot the telltale arm movement of someone drawing a weapon in my periphery. Again, odds are I won't.
3. Odds are better I'd spot him taking aim at the Congresswoman, better that I'd hear someone scream when they saw the shooter's weapon. At that point, I go for my sidearm, draw it, and flick the safety off (if I'm carrying for protection, you damn well bet I have a round in the chamber).
4. By the time my pistol is on its way up to a firing position, he's probably taken his first shot (adding: he would have to shoot quickly to be certain he would get his target). If I wasn't lucky enough to see him take aim, I would have gone for my sidearm when I heard the first shot. Either way, the Congresswoman is already down.
[Now shots have been (are still being) fired and everybody there is running around like headless chickens in panic. I'm getting jostled and knocked around (maybe even knocked down) by people trying to get out of there in a hurry. I could be jumped on by a couple idiots who wanted to be heroes, thinking I'm the shooter. In that light, we continue:]
5. Now my pistol is up and I'm looking to get a shot. Thoughts go through my mind rapid-fire: Clear shot? (can I hit him without shooting an innocent). Distance? (will my rounds go through him and kill innocents behind). Target? (can I get the "center of mass" or will I have to go for a secondary target) Secondary target? (Head, leg, arm; will I miss and who will I kill instead; will it make him stop shooting; see #6)
6. If I'm not lucky enough to get off a man-stopping shot, will he return fire at me (this was the case in Florida where the shooter continued to engage security, even when down), thus putting more people in danger? Will my action cause even more people to die? Thinking about it, I'd probably risk a few "collateral"* injuries to stop a massacre but I can never be certain.
You've noticed I use the word "luck" and its derivatives quite frequently. A lot of it would be needed to take this guy down before he killed somebody, let alone not make the situation worse.
The thing that keeps popping up in my mind as I write is that what if there was another guy like me in the crowd. If I spotted him drawing on the shooter, would I engage him not knowing his motives? Would he engage me and force me into a defensive position where more innocents would be put in danger? The carnage would have been astronomical then.
An observation, as I wrote in comments on Gord's post:
... I don't think being a combat vet would have helped either. In combat, generally, everybody downrage is the enemy. You shoot until they all go down. In this situation, picking one guy off in a crowd of friendlies, it would be equivalent of "destroying the town to save it".
Combat experience would only have made me aware of the situation faster than most and put me in the zone, allowing me to keep my head when all around me are panicking. Combat tactics (unless I was a trained sniper and even then, a pistol is a far cry from a long rifle and scope [and the time to set up for a shot] when it comes to accuracy) would not have been appropriate in this situation.
Looking at the whole situation in hindsight, someone untrained in the use of deadly force with a firearm probably would have made the situation worse instead of stopping it. Even an off-duty cop (cops are notoriously bad shots, probably a symptom of "unlimited ammo syndrome") or a combat vet would have probably exacerbated the casualty toll by a few.
In my humble opinion, unless this shooter was stopped before he got into the taxi to the event, there was no way anyone could have prevented it. Well, maybe those who got the crazies all fired up in the first place.
Just thinking about it some more. I doubt an armed protection detail for the Congresswoman could have prevented this (unless one of them alerted on the shooter when he approached, before he drew his pistol) in this type of all-access venue. They might have limited the casualties somewhat but I'm pretty sure, without metal detectors and a sealed area for the event, Rep. Giffords would still have been shot.