Archive for January, 2011

Scattershot

January 15, 2011

When I began this blog lo those many moons ago, I promised myself that I would stay well away from political commentary. God knows there is already way more political blogging than anybody needs or wants. I don’t even read poli-blogs.
But as the old saying goes “The vow that binds too strictly often snaps itself” and now I want to break my own vow just for today. Then I will try to be good the rest of the year. Promise.
Since the tragic mass shooting in Arizona last weekend, there has been a lot of talk in the media about gun control or the lack thereof. Predictably, as happens after just about any mass shooting, a certain type of person comes out and says “If more people had had guns at that supermarket/mall/church/school/hospital, lives would have been saved because they could have taken out the shooter before he could do so much damage.”
Now, I have no computer-simulation thingy to prove or disprove this, but I would like to take a commonsense, level-headed look at this scenario and apply some very basic laws of human behavior to it.
All right, set the scene: it’s a store, and lots of people are milling about, and somebody pulls out an assault weapon and starts shooting. Okay. Let’s say just two of the people in the crowd also have guns, and they spring into action, trying to stop the original shooter. Still with me? Good.
Now in the best-case scenario: the two Samaritans are both Marine snipers or have skills on that very high level. They have practiced this very situation many times, and lo and behold the scenario they practiced for is exactly identical to the one they face now. More than that, they know each other and have coordinated their actions perfectly. So that’s all good.
Now for the people in the store. They freeze. They don’t rush to get away and they don’t try to help those already injured. In fact, they are all out of the Samaritans’ range and they stay that way.
The shooter himself helps out by not moving an inch, by not having anybody or anything between him and our heroes. He has a fully loaded automatic, but after his initial burst he doesn’t fire any more. He just holds it quietly. In other words, he waits to be shot.
As you can plainly see, this is not even within shouting distance of reality. So what really happens?
Lone Gunman starts shooting. People go down, people run to escape, people try to help and protect the wounded. The shooter moves around looking for targets. He has a lot of ammunition and he uses it.
Our Samaritans have guns with them. Maybe they’re even loaded. But they’re in different areas of the store and maybe they can’t even see each other. One is fairly competent on the gun range, but the other has never found time to go to the range or even practice with bottles and cans in his own yard. Maybe he left his glasses in the car. And they’re both very upset and nervous. They decide to try and take the shooter out.
You can pretty well predict what’s going to happen next. A scene that’s already pandemonium becomes double pandemonium. People hear shots from other parts of the store and they don’t wait to find out if they are from friend or foe. All they know is somebody else is shooting.
And the original shooter? He’s still moving around, looking for targets. These people are very singleminded once they get going on their rampages. Maybe he even takes hostages and uses them as human shields.
The end results are ugly in any scenario. But in the scenario proposed by those wanting more Americans to be armed in public, the risk of some innocent bystander being killed by (not very) friendly fire means that almost surely more lives will be lost than if the shooter was the only one armed.
We now return to our usual non-political blog. Thank you.