To Protect and Serve

~by Ward Smith

In the light of the Aurora shootings and the many like them before a little known theme has emerged. The police are under no obligation whatsoever to protect citizens.

The 911 tapes indicate that the police were already at the Cinemark Theater in Aurora within 90 seconds after the call.

Then they did what they always do in circumstances like this. They waited around outside for the perpetrator or perpetrators to exit the theater where they could take them into custody from positions of concealment and cover. This is what they do. They do not go into blazing buildings to save innocent victims (that’s what firefighters do.)

They call for backup, establish a cordon with overwhelming force and prepare to shoot it out with the bad guy (or guys) or arrest them if they’re willing to surrender.

If there are hostages they’ll throw in a cell phone and have a negotiator speak and if it is a murderous rampage, they’ll simply wait for the perp to run out of ammo. This is precisely what they did at Columbine too; the video footage was at once compelling and damning. They were making no effort whatsoever to enter the school and confront the shooters, they were establishing a perimeter and pulling students and teachers away from the school (while confirming that they weren’t themselves the perpetrators.)

This whole conversation may still be too soon for the likes of Will and others. Perhaps there will never be a time to address evil in our society beyond the palliatives that our elected officials and pundits wish to offer up. Obviously to any thinking person, when guns are criminalized only criminals will have guns.

And while we may imagine that our police are here to protect us from harm, nothing could be further from the truth. We are always and everywhere responsible for our own safety, and that includes our safety from elected officials, unelected officials and the police. We are far more likely to be shot as a law abiding citizen by law enforcement than we are to be shot by a crazed psychopath. Of course getting stats on civilians shot by law enforcement accidentally on purpose is problematic. No one in government wants to track this statistic because of the obvious embarrassment factor. Therefore we get stalwart citizens like Jim Fisher cobbling the numbers together the best he can.

But this OP is not meant to be a polemic against police officers regardless of how I feel about them both individually and in the aggregate. The reason is obviously in response to Bloomberg’s recent rants and missteps including recommending that all police officers should go “on strike” because of handguns in the hands of citizens – whoops not even close to true since the police are in favor of civilians owning guns. Not that all officers want to carry them themselves, the IACP was on record opposing the federal CCW for off –duty officers. The legislature was undoubtedly ignorant of the fact established by the Supreme Court that officers are under no obligation to defend citizens in the /specific/ but merely in the general. In other words you as an individual should have NO expectation of protection from a gun wielding maniac from any police officer, but “you” as a society reading this do. Confused?

According to Warren vs District of Columbia, you (*the individual you) have no rights to police protection unless and until “a special relationship exists.”

Got that? You’re in a theater minding your own business and a crazed psycho starts shooting at you. The police can be outside ordering Milk Duds at the concession stand. They don’t know you; they don’t have a “special relationship” with you. You’re pretty much on your own. Now admittedly there are possibly going to be some fine officers out there with a hero complex and an adrenaline addiction who will be more than happy to come in guns a blazin’. They might even hit the bad guy, but in direct contradiction to the commenters in this thread and elsewhere on the net, they are more likely to miss and hit innocent bystanders as a private citizen with a concealed weapon permit.

Certainly James Holmes could have staged his attack at the school where he was no longer matriculated. But then he’d have likely faced armed resistance. He may have been a schizophrenic maniac, but he wasn’t stupid.

We live in dark and dangerous times. We have less beds in mental hospitals in this country than we did in 1850 (and there weren’t enough then.) For budgetary and other reasons, the mentally ill are free on the streets and because of HIPPAA regulations we don’t get to know who they are or what’s wrong with them, unless and until they go uncorked. We also have a cacophony of new and dangerous drugs that could turn relatively normal people into raging maniacs. The zombie apocalypse could be upon us at any time.

My ideal scenario is that more states have more and better CCW (Concealed Carry Weapon) laws. As Lott proves, an armed society is indeed a polite society. In states that have more citizens carrying guns, especially CCW, the statistics are that crime has gone down. Illinois gets to be the holdout we can all point to for statistical purposes as we examine the null hypothesis. Many states already require certificates of training and proficiency just to get a CCW and all states require criminal background checks. This should be improved; we could have even MORE proficiency requirements and deeper background checks (although the same bias that wants guns made illegal wants HIPPA rigidly enforced so there will be a catch-22.) A person who goes to the trouble of receiving a CCW has been vetted by local, state and federal authorities. That’s a lot more than can be said about a multitude of other professions in whom we daily place our safety and welfare.

And of course there is always open carry. I’ve been to a few places where this was going on and had not the slightest concern for my safety from the various CPA’s, contractors and retired military present. I’m also more than convinced that would be assailants like other cowardly predators will look for easier sheep to attack. Your mileage may vary.

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139 thoughts on “To Protect and Serve

  1. Thanks for spending the old news that that you generally have no right to police protection. I’ve always found that amusing. Maybe if enough liberals knew this they will start calling for that right as well though I would just prefer I had a right to carry everywhere. I found this recent robbery attempt that was caught on camera to be informative. As soon as the old lady fired her gun the perps couldn’t run fast enough out the door.

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    • True she missed but she sent the perps running and they won’t come back. She might have even saved her life given that so many robbers won’t just rob but kill as well. Besides, if she had killed one of the perps you’d see his family on TV crying about how he was a good boy and why did she have to kill him. Then they would sue her and ruin her life.

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      • The purpose of deterrence isn’t death but deterrence. We’ve become accustomed as a society to “perps “being shot dozens of times by police. What we’re not as accustomed to are perps simply running away because they didn’t like their odds.

        Even though I’m legally entitled to, I don’t conceal carry. There are lots of reasons for this too many to get into here. The main problem for me is I’ve competed at a national level in pistol shoots where you draw and shoot at stationary and moving targets. I’ve very good at that, but when I have to draw and shoot from concealed carry, I’m horrible. Open carry no problem, I’m as good or better than everyone I’ve ever faced (admittedly not shooting at each other (mostly) but at targets. I’ve also done the non-lethal rounds and protective clothing, the same that elite SWAT teams practice with.

        SWAT teams are designated to take down serious bad guys, not so much to take down crazed killers. The majority of their training consists of going into buildings and assuming /everyone/ they encounter not wearing a SWAT uniform is a bad guy. And thanks to 911’s largesse, billions of dollars went to small communities so they could have their very own SWAT, whether they needed them or not. I would not want to be a hostage getting “rescued” by SWAT.

        Once when much younger I had a man put a 32 semi-auto in my face while I was sitting in my car. I slowly reached under my seat and pulled out a long barrel 357 magnum. I didn’t even point it at him but he got the point. Sure I could have died, then we wouldn’t even be having this conversation. Perhaps via string theory that “other me” already died and I’m just a remainder artifact. What he saw was me staying calm (calmer than he was) and holding a bigger gun more adeptly than he was. He never bothered me again.

        Unfortunately I’m heading out of town this weekend and won’t have internet access since I’ll be camping (unless by some miracle I can get cell coverage). Therefore I won’t have much chance to participate in the discussion. There are a number of misconceptions going on here, perhaps I’ll have the chance to straighten them out when I get back.

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        • See, this is an example of what I am talking about; you weren’t in a life or death situation that called for a firearm.
          When a guy brandishes a gun like that, in such a way that you know you have time to calmly and slowly pull your piece, it is obvious that he is wielding it like a prop, a toy that is meant to frighten women and little children, but in reality he never had any serious intention of hurting anyone.

          You could have slapped his face, or pinched his ear or walked past him laughing for all it mattered; the outcome would have been the same.

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          • You bet your life. I mean, you’d bet your life on that?

            “Forty-six-year-old Joyce Cordoba stood behind the deli counter while working at a Wal-Mart in Albuquerque, New Mexico. Suddenly, her ex-husband — against whom Ms. Cordoba had a restraining order — showed up, jumped over the deli counter, and began stabbing Ms. Cordoba. Due Moore, a 72-year-old Wal-Mart customer, witnessed the violent attack. Moore, legally permitted to carry a concealed weapon, pulled out his gun, and shot and killed the ex-husband. Ms. Cordoba survived the brutal attack and is recovering from her wounds.

            This raises a question. How often do Americans use guns for defensive purposes? We know that in 2003, 12,548 people died through non-suicide gun violence, including homicides, accidents and cases of undetermined intent.

            UCLA professor emeritus James Q. Wilson, a respected expert on crime, police practices and guns, says, “We know from Census Bureau surveys that something beyond a hundred thousand uses of guns for self-defense occur every year. We know from smaller surveys of a commercial nature that the number may be as high as two-and-a-half or three million. We don’t know what the right number is, but whatever the right number is, it’s not a trivial number.”

            http://townhall.com/columnists/larryelder/2005/09/01/how_often_do_americans_use_guns_for_defensive_purposes/page/full/

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            • “you’d bet your life on that?”
              Of course. Look at the facts as laid out by Ward.
              A guy is pointing a gun in his face.
              Yet when Ward – slowly- reached under and pulled out a gun of his own, the guy didn’t fire.

              What does that tell us?

              Ward didn’t fear for his life. He wasn’t trying to get the drop on the guy (there was already a gun pointed in his face, and the guy had plenty of time to see what Ward was up to, yet didn’t pull the trigger.
              The guy had no intention of using deadly force; neither did Ward, for that matter. If Ward really thought the other guy was about to pull the trigger, he would have shot. Had the other guy really thought Ward was going to shoot, he would have shot first.
              According to his own words, this was a case of dick-measurement, and Wards package was bigger. [high 5, dude!]

              I dwell on this, because this is a classic of the “guns as self defense” genre.
              I bet that if asked on a sociology survey by Mr Wilson, Ward would check “Yes” on the box saying “did you ever have to defend yourself with a gun”.

              Again- referring downthread- I really am curious. Of all the cases of “self defense” cited by surveys, how many are used by innocent civilians who are confronted by criminals?
              Not criminals shooting at each other, not drug deals gone bad, or drive by shootings, but actual cases where a civilian is in need of a gun?

              Keep in mind that this is a nation of 300 million; if someone asserts that the number is “millions” yearly that means out of 100 people you know, one of them was in need of a gun at some point within the past 12 months. Every 12 months.
              Sound realistic?
              Not to me- what sounds more realistic is the statistic that the vast majority of crimes are committed by a small number of people; I would bet money the same holds true for gun violence.

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              • And a friend of mine handed over his wallet and got shot anyway.

                As James Q. Wilson said, the number of times a year people use guns [usually brandished, not fired] is not knowable, but it’s a significant number.

                And as a question of natural rights, I can’t deny anyone the right to self-defense.

                Did the uber-left Judge Steven Reinhardt of the 9th Circuit just admit that???
                http://www.volokh.com/2012/08/04/judge-reinhardt-carrying-a-gun-is-a-second-amendment-right/

                And I say all this as not particularly a gun nut. Have a shotgun around here someplace. No ammo. I’m just tired of the bad facts out there. And one thing I’ll tellya—I want women to have guns, The Great Equalizer.

                But a good rebuttal, Lib60. Props. I just don’t think the question can be reduced to policy. Even if it were statistically better to ban guns, you can’t deny people the right to self-defense. Europe can, social contracts can, tyrannies can, but America is based on rights, not mere social contract. That’s why the anti-Federalists’ price for ratification was the Bill of Rights. If nothing else, the B of R establishes that rights come prior to government, not granted by it.

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                • For the record:
                  I enjoy guns; I trained my Scout troop on rifle shooting,and bought my son a rifle, and harbor a inner hankering for a pump action shotgun to indulge my love of skeet and trap shooting.
                  I also enthusiastically support the right to bear arms.

                  What I don’t support is this notion of a violent society, only held in check by my swaggering around with a big piece.

                  As I mentioned, any honest discussion of guns has to acknowledge how powerfully guns are fetishized among men. This drives what should be a simple discussion about gun sports and possible self-defense into a fear-crazed fantasy where manhood and sense of identity are the subtext.
                  What began all this was the author’s assertion of a world in which we are all alone, without the protection of society or police, and the only course of action is to arm ourselves.
                  That idea is a direct assault on the very idea of a civil society.

                  If I go out to the market armed, I am making a statement, of my lack of faith in our societal structure and my belief in the possibility that I may need to take a mans life.

                  Oddly enough, it was James Wilson who made famous the idea of broken windows; the idea that subtle visual cues tell us when a neighborhood is safe or violent.

                  What is more frightening and destructive to the fabric of society, a boarded up window or shoppers at Walmart wearing handguns?

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                  • Lib60:

                    “What I don’t support is this notion of a violent society, only held in check by my swaggering around with a big piece.”

                    I’m not sure what you mean by support, maybe you mean don’t believe the notion. The fact is that violent crime does happen randomly, in good parts of town and when you least expect it such as on a trip to Wal-Mart as the woman below found out. (She was killed by an illegal alien) The point is that violence can happen and since the cops can’t be everywhere I want to protect myself and family. I consider CCW an insurance policy kind of like the ones on my house and car, nothing more.

                    http://www.buffalonews.com/city/article955464.ece

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                    • “She was killed by an illegal alien.” Why was this relevant?
                      “I consider CCW an insurance policy kind…” Good to know that there is at least SOME form of insurance that you think everyone should have access to.

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                    • But how do you protect yourself against killer bees?

                      http://wvgazette.com/News/201207210061
                      Here is a news story about a man stung to death by bees, and now his fiance is trying to raise awareness of the need for people to carry an Epi-pen with them at all times to use as an emergency treatment.

                      Sure, carrying a .38 special is fine and all, but as for me, I am going with a fully loaded, nickelplated Epi-pen with custom rubber grips.

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                    • I could see the “illegal immigrant” thing being used if the argument was part and parcel with an attitude that laws that cannot be enforced well will be enforced badly… and an our eventual gun control law will work about as well as our immigration laws have proven to.

                      But I don’t see Scott following up with “so open the goddamn borders and send everybody a goddamn Walther PPQ (maybe send ladies a Walther P22)!”

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                    • Lib60:

                      No problem you carry a epi-pen, I’ll carry a gun.

                      Kazzy:

                      The part about the illegal just adds that je ne sais quoi. As for that “insurance”, we already have a 2nd amendment despite liberals attempts to argue other wise. Thank goodness there are folks like Mr. Heller that will fight.

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              • Liberty, flat out the s the weakest argument you’ve ever made here. You’re judging Ward’s event by the outcome, not by the nature of the situation itself. You state that Ward wan’t in danger even though he said straight up that he knows he could have been killed. Even if the kid really didn’t want to shoot, a) Ward couldn’t read the kid’s mind with any certainty, and b) the kid could have been twitchy and shot by accident.

                To say sure you had a gun in your face but your life was never in danger is not an argument that can be taken seriously.

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                • Yes, Ward DID read , if not his mind, at least his intent.
                  Assume you were in such a situation, where someone was pointing a gun at your face.
                  1. Assume he really wants to kill you if you make the wrong move; What is your best course of action?

                  A) If you are a complete and utter fool, you slowly reach and let him see you are pulling out a weapon. You are then forcing him to either shoot or surrender, provoking him to shoot.
                  B) If you are Keanu Reeves, and can move in bullet time, you reach under your seat and pull your weapon and fire, before the guys finger can even pull his trigger.

                  We know Ward isn’t a fool, he is a pretty smart guy. We also know he wasn’t moving in bullet time.

                  2. Assume he is bluffing, and so you do exactly what Ward did.

                  Ward knew the guy was bluffing, and demonstrated that conclusively by pulling his weapon.

                  Have you ever heard of this scenario from cops and soldiers in combat situations?
                  “I had an Al-Quaida/ gangbangers gun pointed directly at me, so I slowly pulled out my weapon, letting them see me do it, and when they saw how big my….piece.. was, they got all intimidated and backed off.”

                  Seriously?

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                  • No, Ward guessed that the guy was bluffing; it was not possible for him to know that. And, as I said, even if Ward was confident about the kid bluffing, the situation was still life threatening because the kid could have twitched in fear and shot accidentally. Or he could have been so freaked out in response to having a gun drawn on him that he might unthinkingly have done what he wouldn’t purposefully have done.

                    I’m not a gun guy (don’t own one), but years back I did a little bit of competitive shooting at the urging of a friend. The first mistake I made was to accidentally “sweep” someone. Obviously I had zero intention of shooting someone, but the responses made it very clear how seriously they viewed having a gin even momentarily pointed at someone. They did not view that much more benign and less tense situation as non-life threatening. Quite the opposite.

                    To identify any gun-pointed-at-a-person situation as non-life threatening s to make a fundamental category error.

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                    • As I was writing this, you wrote that you enjoy guns and trained a Scout troop in rifles. Then I have to assume that you know that every time a gun is pointed at another person it’s a life-threatening situation. I would really struggle to imagine you not doing so.

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  2. While in favor of gun ownership and concealed carry, given the circumstances, I do not think armed citizens would have matterhorn in Aurora. He was heavily armed, wearing body armor, and causing confusion with something resembling tear gas. Police storming the theater would have been a disaster. Baricaded, armored gunman would have massacred the police.

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      • The initial reports I read said body armor, groin protection, ballistic leggings, and ballistic helmet. If this is old news and there is more up to date information, yes let’s go with better information. Also the police didn’t know what he was wearing at the time so maybe irrelevant. Still this was an active shooter with weapons on par with SWAT. police officers are not paid to go home at the end of the day.

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        • David:

          I think it is important to know if he really was wearing body armor. The linked Slate article says he had body armor and then uses this “fact” as proof that the NRA stance of armed citizen resistance is foolish.

          http://www.slate.com/articles/health_and_science/human_nature/2012/07/the_aurora_shooting_bulletproof_vests_swat_gear_and_body_armor_refute_the_nra_.html?fb_ref=sm_fb_plugin_activity

          Furthermore, I have to quibble with your statement that, “still this was an active shooter with weapons on par with SWAT. ” All the weapons he had, a .40 Glock, a 12 gauge shotgun and an AR-15 copy are weapons that you could find in a police squad car in many parts of this country today and have been issued to regular cops for some time. Below is a link from 2002 discussing the Erie PA police, not SWAT, getting AR-15 rifles. The rifles will will replacing the shotgun in some squad cars.

          http://old.post-gazette.com/localnews/20020428erie0428p8.asp

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          • I agree with you. I would like to know if he had armor on. I would also like to know how many rounds did he actually shoot? How many of the injured were due to over penetration, i.e he shot won person and the bullet continued on to injure or kill someone else given the weapons he was using.

            M4 type rifles — carbine version of AR-15/M-16 — are essentially the standard along with MP-5 9mm SMGs for SWAT in this country. Yes, an AR is a standard patrol rifle. It is also standard issue for special forces, Army, Marines, etc. Essentially the AR platform is the standard platform for modern rifles in the United States. Their popularity in this country among LEO and civilians can not be under stated. Yes 12 ga shotguns and assault rifles in 5.56 mm, and handguns chambered in .40 SW are parity weapons wise with the police. It’s not like SWAT uses rifles chambered in .438 WinMag. They anticipate shooting at people, not moose.

            My attempted point was that going into an active shooter situation like this is probably one of the most dangerous situation for police. Standing off and controlling the situation, rather than charging in, was probably the smartest tactical decision. Running in and trying to stop one more civilian from dying might have caused several police officers to be wounded or killed not to mention even more civilians being injured from the cross fire. They are trying to control a situation, not win a fire fight.

            By and large I ignore what the NRA says. I used to read American Rifleman when I was a member 20 years ago and the teeth grinding that ensued wasn’t very nice.

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    • Baricaded, armored gunman would have massacred the police.

      Why is that a better protocol than letting him, as JB said, “run out of ammo” shooting at civilians? What are we paying them for: to cordon off a crime scene? I know a bunch of people who can do that for alot less money and hassle. And after he runs outa ammo … well, even the guy who ordered two sodas and extra-butter popcorn could take him out.

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  3. You make some good points about, eg, the police, but also have some issues.

    You imply that the potential for armed resistance deterred the Aurora shooter from attacking his former school. Even leaving aside the ability to know the mind of another person, especially that as you note is not typical, is there any reason to believe people are less likely to be armed in a movie theater than on a college campus? Or is it simply that, even in a state like Colorado with relatively loose gun laws, only a minority of the population carries, and you can’t count on an armed resistor being present in any given location?

    The idea that “bath salts” are some sort of dangerous new drug is a mostly fact-free panic, and, per the toxicology report, were not even in face-chewer Rudy Eugene’s system (http://reason.com/blog/2012/06/28/the-bath-salt-panic-wall-of-shame). And, of course, and claim of a “new” threat of violence has to deal with those historically low rates of murder and other violence.

    Now, that the murder rate is historically low doesn’t mean it can’t go lower, nor that we shouldn’t try to push it lower. But, as I’ve said before, making policy based on newsworthy events, which are newsworthy precisely because they’re unusual, is a bad idea.

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  4. So, if basically the police are under no onus to risk anything to protect citizens, why exactly do they need all that paramilitary SWAT gear?

    More importantly, why exactly do I owe them that unquestioning respect that they seem increasingly more likely to taser or pepper-spray me for not giving?

    As for an “armed society is a polite society” — puh-lease. I live in Texas. An armed society is exactly like an unarmed society, except when someone gets pissed off beyond the ability to think straight, sometimes they have a gun rather than a knife, their fists, or a bottle of whatever they were drinking.

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    • So, if basically the police are under no onus to risk anything to protect citizens, why exactly do they need all that paramilitary SWAT gear?

      Which is a question libertarians led by the sort like Radley Balko and Jim Fisher have been asking for years.

      More importantly, why exactly do I owe them that unquestioning respect that they seem increasingly more likely to taser or pepper-spray me for not giving?

      Ditto with this. (The answer for a long time was ‘9/11’, maybe it isn’t anymore. (good))

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  5. The cops waiting for to figure out what the hell is happening and for overwhelming force has nothing at to do with “rights” but with what they see as the best tactics to deal with a confusing, chaotic situation. That tactic may be good or bad, this post doesn’t actual disuses that at all. Stats show, i believe, you are more likely to be killed by a family member then a cop or goth teen or nutzoid grad student.

    But with all the draconian gun control measures the prez has established by fiat since Aurora, i can clearly seen the reason for this post.

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  6. As the OP notes, when a violent gunfight is going down, the police do not burst through the window, firing two guns simultaneously whilst flying through the air sideways.

    Why?

    Why do they take as their first response, the tactic of separating the noncombatants, establishing a perimeter, and establishing the facts of the situation?

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  7. The argument that more guns = less crime is a nice one. If everyone were armed, then rational people will be less likely to commit crimes because of the likelihood of deadly-force retaliation, and irrational people will be gunned down before they can maximize their death count. Fair enough.

    So, assuming it’s correct, what’s the argument supposed to achieve? Is it justification for extending and easing conceal carry laws? Is it an argument for eliminating any restrictions on the right to carry guns? Is it an argument that people oughtto carry, (to defend themselves because the cops won’t)? Is it an argument if we, as a society, want to minimize crime, all of us have a moral obligation to carry weapons?

    I’m always confused about what the point of the argument is supposed to be. In most states, people can carry if they want to. It always strikes me that these types of arguments only make sense as a form of advocacy: that we, as a society, need to arm up – buy the weapons, train with them, get the CC license, practice killing people – if we are serious about minimizing crime. But since liberals don’t want kill people, they’re obviously not serious about minimizing crime.

    That just seems fucking crazy.

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    • This, plus the argument is premised on the idea that we “live in dark and dangerous times”, and itimagines a world in which every trip to the grocery store is a gauntlet of small arms fire and explosions, and the only sensible precaution is to go everywhere and always heavily armed.

      Who lives in that world? As I mentioned before, how many times has anyone here personally been in a situation where they needed a gun? I think one person in the last thread answered in the positive.

      There is always that same anecdote, some old lady scaring off an intruder with her trusty Red Ryder 200 Shot Range Model Carbine Action rifle.

      Snarky? Of course.

      We can’t have a serious discussion about guns without acknowledging the prevalance of adolescent heroic fantasy that drives so many adult men to channel their inner Ralphie and fetishize guns.

      Crime is lower now than anytime since 1970’s; you are more likely to get stung to death by bees than shot by a spree killer;

      If you don’t belong to a criminal gang, buy drugs, or engage in any other kind of risky violent behavior, your odds of getting in a gunfight are about equal being abducted by aliens.

      Yet we are continually harangued about the need to carry a sidearm to the grocery store, to bars, into church, and now theaters.
      Yes, there is an element of fantasy wish fulfillment in all this; not a regrettable reaction to a violent world, but a longing for it.

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  8. If Aurora proves anything, it’s that this armed society is not a polite society. If the world is a dark and dangerous place, and it is, while the gun owners refuse to back sensible legislation which might keep thousands of rounds of ammunition out of the hands of a crazed maniac, we can dispense with the rest of anything they might say.

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    • The trouble is that there’s no way to keep guns out of the hands of crazed maniacs who are willing to plot for months and build their own bombs. We can’t even keep guns out of the hands of Mexican drug cartels, or drugs out of the hands of teenagers. If he’d have raised enough red flags and had ties to a crime syndicate, the BATFE probably would’ve given him guns just to see where they end up.

      The shooter was already on a list of potentially violent threats to the Colorado campus, and yet nobody did anything. He had a tactical assault vest brimming with ammo pouches and he was making bombs with sophisticated trigger mechanisms, so he could’ve just as easily made a suicide vest and blown himself up in the lobby. Iraqi suicide bombers typically kill 15 to 50 per attack, which is more than the Aurora shooting. If he’d have targeted a packed dance club in an older building, blocked the emergency exits, and used incendiaries, the death toll would’ve been much, much larger.

      What’s somewhat disturbing is that his attack pales in insignificance compared to what was depicted in the Batman movie. Maybe we should quit giving psychos ideas about inflicting mass civilian casualties in random attacks on crowds.

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      • As drugs are flowing over our borders, weapons are flowing the other direction, into Mexico.

        Every time I hear “If guns are criminalised, only criminals will have guns” I grimly smile. Gun owners and gun dealers have resolutely refused to present any solution which might keep guns — but more specifically ammunition — out of the hands of criminals, repealing every semblance of regulation and damning anyone who cares about such things.

        George, I really don’t want to be bothered with the debate any more. The gun owners aren’t worried about criminals coming into possession of firearms and ammunition. They’re positively encouraging it. They honestly believe the solution is to return fire.

        Now I’ve pointed a shotgun at a crazy man and that dude came within a millisecond of having his head blown off. I’m all for legit gun owners being able to defend themselves. I’m all for the legit sales of weapons and ammunition because I’m a Liberal and I believe in the Second Amendment as much as any of the other amendments. I’m sick and tired of Liberals being demonised over this issue. It’s just pointless trying to talk about guns and criminals and crazies with people who advocate for mail-order ammo.

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        • Blasie:

          Maybe you could tell us why mail order ammo is such a bad idea given that I or anyone else could buy a case or two just by going to the local Wal Mart, sporting goods stores or a gun show. Personally, I’ve bought ammo via the mail and at gun shows by the case. (FYI the best time to buy ammo at at gun show is Sun afternoon just before the dealers pack up, they will cut you a deal so they don’t have to take it home.) In Illinois, land of gun, control you need a Firearm Owner’s Identification Program (FOID) to buy guns or ammo (even via the mail) yet somehow murder in Chicago is still a problem. How can this be?

          As for drugs coming in from Mexico and guns going back, maybe part of the solution is for the fed gov to control the border, something they refuse to do themselves and won’t let the states do. Or maybe the gov’t could stop letting guns disappear into Mexico.

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            • Blaise:

              Come on, you rant about mail order ammo but can’t tell us why it is so bad given all the others sources of ammo. And as I said before, even in the land of gun control, their controls don’t keep guns or ammo from the bad guys. If you just want to throw your hands up and say it is pointless fine then don’t rant.

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              • Come on, you rant about mail order ammo but can’t tell us why it is so bad given all the others sources of ammo.

                BP: “It seems wise to prohibit mail order purchases of large quantities of ammo, to make it a bit harder for the crazies to arm up like they do.”

                Scott: “But why, there are all sorts of ways to purchase lots of ammo, like – over the counter at an ammo gettin place.”

                BP: “Maybe we could restrict over the counter sales.”

                Scott: “What good would that do, people could just get it via mail order.”

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              • I’m not ranting about anything. I’m asking for recommended policy from the gun owners and gun dealers. Clearly no such policy is forthcoming.

                And no, it’s not fine. Clearly, you think the crazies should be able to order up as much ammunition as they’d like. And this is okay, because you and your fellow upstanding, gun-owning citizens view the Bad Guys the same way you do wild game. Maybe the state should sell Bad Guy Tags, like bear tags. That way, you can go patrolling along darkened alleyways just like creeping quietly along a logging trail in search of a bear.

                All these folks could thus hunt game which could shoot back or ambush them. I think this is a fine idea. It would rid the world of a host of tough talking Billy Bad Asses, a great benefit to society at large. Pest control, getting rid of many of these NRA dumbasses. The Bad Guys would at last serve a truly useful purpose in the world at large.

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                • Blaise:

                  You really are amusing when you rant. Nether I nor anyone at the NRA has ever said that, “crazies should be able to order up as much ammunition as they’d like” or buy guns for that matter. I’m still waiting to hear you articulate why mail order ammo is so bad considering all the other sources. Oh and you’ve never asked for policy recommendations, just made vague statements that “legit” gun owners should support “reasonable” gun control.

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                  • Which organisation lobbied to remove the Internet ammunition sales restriction? That would be the NRA. In point of fact, when I do mention it, you’re full of great advice on how to get good deals on ammo at gun shows. And that’s you.

                    I really do not expect you to put forward any statement which might even admit crazies exist, much less that they shouldn’t be sold weapons and ammunition. Vague? Well, I’m asking you what good policy might look like, All I’m getting from you is gun show ammo purchasing strategy.

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          • I LIKE mail-order ammo. I also like the possibility of sending bombs in teh mail, if it comes to that. (Yay private solutions to PUBLIC nuisances!) ;-P

            Some people think of guns and cigarettes. My friends tend to dream a bit bigger.

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        • There seems to be a certain subset of libertarian/conservative whose reason of existence is too piss off imaginary liberals. Starw-men liberals who want to assign five social workers to every citizen from craddle to grave.

          There are a lot of times when I am convinced that if you told a conservative or libertarian that a liberal policy solution would have a 100 percent (or even 90-95 percent) success rate, the libertarians and conservatives would still be against it. Their reasoning would be to annoy liberals.

          You are right about not being able to argue with these people. I am generally not a fan of internet memes but I saw one from a friend this week. The statement was “Arguing with Republicans is like playing chess with a pigeon. You can be the best chess player in the world but the pigeon will still walk all over the board, knock over pieces, and squawk in victory”

          I can get behind that statement.

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          • If you weren’t already persuaded that liberal arguments are the most correct ones, you might realize that conservatives and libertarians tend to see liberals the same way. In all groups, the level of agreement with the group’s ideology is strong enough (for many, perhaps most, people) that it is difficult to impossible to see any logic in another group’s beliefs or to grasp why they can’t understand the clear truths we’re showing them. Every group believes it’s playing great chess and that others are pigeons.

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    • An armed society is a polite society. If that’s right, then pro-social behavior and manners only result from a threat of violence. Social norms are irrelevant, the causal conditions that give rise to criminal behavior are irrelevant, threat of imprisonment is irrelevant. Only the likelihood of immediate use of deadly force is sufficient to make people behave. On the conservative view, that is.

      If that’s right, then of course libertarian calls for voluntary cooperation based on incentives is right out the window, since the only incentive sufficient to ensure non-sociopathic behavior is the threat of deadly retaliatory force. And of course, the liberal view that material conditions give rise to crime is tossed out as well, since even if criminal’s material conditions were better they’d still engage in anti-social behavior – but for the likelihood of immediate deadly force, that is.

      I guess the view is that people are fundamentally sociopathic unless and until external factors – like the persistent legitimate threat of violent death at the hands of others! – force them to behave better. I wonder: do conservatives who argue this stuff think it’s true of them, as well?

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      • Oh I dunno. We would all hope the people who are armed are also polite. From what I’ve seen of heavily armed societies, they all exist in a twilight of fear and exaggerated respect: in a world where a man will sell his shoes to buy the bullet to shoot you for disrespecting him, that man knows if he tolerates any disrespect, other people will close on him like a pack of wolves pulling down a sickly deer.

        But then, if I mention such things, I’m sure I’ll get no end of scoffing. Oh Blaise, I’m sure they’ll say, there you go making your Somalia argument again, you and your billy bad ass attitude. But Somalia does exist, it’s not a figment of my imagination. Guatemala, Iraq, Niger, Pakistan, Israel, Mexico, all real places: heavily armed societies and none of them are polite.

        People are stupid, fearful creatures and guns make them feel safe. Never mind that they aren’t really safe, that their guns are more likely to be used to shoot family members than anyone else, never mind that their weapons are unsafe and their ammunition even more so — this stuff doesn’t matter. It really doesn’t.

        Fact is, we have a great deal in common with Afghanistan and Somalia, we live in a society where guns make powerless people feel powerful. There’s no talking sense to any of these people. Without their guns, they’re nothing. It’s a religion. The gun is a talisman of worship. And that’s the sad part: any attempt to point this out will only anger them. So why bother?

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      • An armed society is a polite society. If that’s right, then pro-social behavior and manners only result from a threat of violence

        I’m not arguing for he arms= politeness argument, but I think your argument falters on the “only” claim. Logically, pro-social behavior could be the norm, and the threat of violence works at the margin, an added incentive for those who otherwise are not inclined to follow the pro-social norm.

        To the extent we see the force/violence of government as fulfilling a deterrence function, we already have that view, and expanding the range of who can exercise that force/violence only builds on it.

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        • If someone thinks that current society is impolite, even with pro-social norms and governmental sanctions against criminal behavior in place, and they also believe we aren’t “armed”, then it follows that norms and sanctions aren’t sufficient for “politeness”. Arming up is required.

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          • I doubt you’ll find many people who think society is wholly impolite. Rather, they think there is a significant amount of impoliteness, and perhaps they think the degree of impoliteness is growing. So the norms would still be seen as sufficient to motivate politeness in mist people, just not all. So again, it’s an argument about changing the incentives at the margins, not about needing to properly motivate everyone or even most people.

            That’s not to comment on whether thry’re right or wrong, but if we misunderstand the argument we can’t make an effective response to it. We might make a response that feels good to us, but it will be one that actually misses the point.

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            • I disagree that I’m misstating the argument. The view is that an armed society is a polite society. In the abstract, that means the threat of deadly retaliatory force suffices for ensuring politeness. In an impolite society (like ours, per the OP), prosocial norms fail to motivate people to a sufficient level of politeness. Given that armedness does suffice to accomplish these goals (by hypothesis!!), armedness is necessary for our society to be polite.

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              • I think you’re overdetermined they”armed = polite” phrase. It’s a rhetorical trope, not the strict summation of their fully thought out position. Rhetorical tropes almost always lack nuance, but assuming they represent a position lacking any nuance is neither charitable nor, in most cases, realistic.

                Since the case in point is the OP, only Ward can really settle ourcdisputecas to what he means. But I have a hard time believing that he doesn’t have an (at least implicit) marginal approach in mind.

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                • Yeah, you really don’t have to examine the armed-society-is-polite-society theme very deeply to see where it leads. The only way guns serve as a deterrent to impoliteness is if at least a few impolite people have been gunned down to establish the deterrence. And this is what they want? Let’s just say that’s exactly what opponents of gun proliferation are afraid of.

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                  • So the left’s big worry is that somebody might have shot James Holmes before he could have killed more people?

                    Oh, you were using “polite” in an ideologically convenient way so as to ignore what your opponents really mean. My bad.

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                    • I meant polite in the normal everyday sense of the term. Are you saying when the armed-society-is-polite-society people say polite, they mean “not having a propensity to mass murder”?

                      Also, I have no idea why you think I speak for “the left”, or who you think my “opponents” are.

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                    • Did I misread you? I thought you were being serious. My point, tongue-in-cheek though it was, is that when folks like Ward say an armed society is a polite one, they’re obviously not using the word in the every day sense.

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  9. Walking around prepared to shoot the mofo who isn’t civil isn’t society properly understood but an anarchic fantasy. As another commenter put it above, there doesn’t seem to be any real interest in keeping weapons from people regardless of intent. While I’m perfectly willing to indulge people in their gun ownership fantasies regardless of how silly I find them, I need to be met halfway in my desire to live in a civil society. Hearing the present debate, I’m increasingly convinced that gun owners’ stated desire to increase civil society is bull. Their stated desire is just tickling the ears. Instead, nothing can come between them and their hobby.

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  10. if we really, really wanted to prevent random lightning strike style wackadoodle events like this – as a society, i mean – we’d liquidate the mentally ill at the first sign of symptoms, outwardly directed or not. but who can run on that? neither liberals nor conservatives are really willing to jump into the chasm of true safety. the mental illness lobby has their totally crazy fingers wrapped tightly around washington.

    will no americans stand up for true safety?

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  11. Should we expect more from our Police Officers than that?

    If we agree that we shouldn’t (or that we can’t), maybe we could authorize fewer no-knock raids on non-violent weed smokers?

    I mean, I get irritated when SWAT teams kick down doors and shoot dogs and point guns at children and it turns out that they happen to be at the wrong house… but, on one level, hey. These things happen. It breaks my brain, however, when we find out that when there is someone who we know has a gun and we know that they are willing to fire it that the official police policy is “wait for him to run out of ammo”.

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    • Why is cop protocol to shoot a dog in a no-knock raid and to not shoot a guy firing off rounds in a crowded theater? There’s got to be some kind of institutional analysis that could account for it…

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      • I might expand your second instance to say that it’s not cop protocol to carry a handgun, with the safety off, against the flow of a mob of people, into a large dark room with an unknown number of shooters in it. And largely for fear that the cops will wound/kill some unknown number of innocent people in that scenario. Let’s face it; the cops aren’t ever going to adopt rules of engagement that would be better suited to special forces in a hostage situation. And quite possibly that’s a good thing, since we’re not going to spend the money putting all of the police through SF training — and then have them spend the vast majority of their time doing traffic stops and theft investigation.

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    • I agree there is a real issue hypocrisy about SWAT teams, no-knock warrants, and aggressive tactics used non-violent suspects in a way that they aren’t used in actual dangerous situations (despite the fact that those dangerous situations were what SWAT was originally envisioned for).

      I’m not sure the hypocrisy is quite so clear cut in this case. I would guess that the officers first on the scene (the 90 seconds number that grabs headlines) were probably not a SWAT team. And even for a SWAT team, it’s not simply a matter of arriving at the scene and immediately rushing full-tilt through the door. It’s not like the police lingered outside for an hour; the suspect was in custody 6 minutes after the first 9-1-1 calls.

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      • It seems like there are a lot of little policies that each, individually, aren’t terribly problematic but, when you add all of them up together, you get to a “WAIT THAT’S SCREWED UP” situation.

        Police receive militarized training and special equipment not available to the general public that they argue should allow them to deal with such things as armed bad guys (flashbang grenades, tear gas, etc).

        Police cannot be expected to go into a room where a bad guy is shooting innocent civilians.

        Normal citizens should not be allowed to concealed carry.

        I’m sure I’m missing a few.

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  12. My ideal scenario is that more states have more and better CCW (Concealed Carry Weapon) laws.

    To what end? Here in Colorado, it’s damned easy to get a CCW permit. Pick the right place to get certified and it’s four hours of classroom time, zero on the range. In short, so long as you stay off of the small number of lists that law-enforcement maintains, you can buy a gun and get a CCW permit with minimal investment of time and money — and never have to have fired a gun before in your life. So what do such relatively easy laws get you?

    Out of 5.1M people, roughly 90,000 have CCW permits. That’s only an estimate, because county sheriffs are not required to report the people to whom they issue permits to any central authority, and about two-thirds of them don’t. Call it 1.7% of the population, somewhat more than that when minors are excluded. In a state where it’s easy to get a gun, easy to get a CCW permit, where violent crime is (IIRC) typical for the country, and where there’s some history of mass shooters. The truth is simply that only a very small percentage of people are willing to purchase and carry guns around. And just my personal opinion, if you make things easier than Colorado, the extra people that get permits is going to have an over-representation of people who aren’t quite as stable as we would prefer.

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      • If they’re so dangerous, why do so many people live there? And given that so many of the people who live there support strong restrictions on concealed carry, why do you think that more than the kind of small percentage that get permits in Colorado would get permits in those cities? And even having the permit, would carry the weapons, knowing that there would be many places of business where they aren’t allowed entry if they’re armed?

        If we use homicides as a surrogate variable for overall danger, the “danger” in big cities tends to be somewhat concentrated. In New York City, to choose an example, 25% of homicides occur in five (of 76) precincts. There are certainly dangerous parts of town, with a high correlation with poverty and unemployment. At least to me, this suggests that bringing jobs into those areas is a much bigger policy concern that bringing in more guns.

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  13. Yeah, the cops should totally have gone in all guns blazing, killing more people than James Holmes would. What kind of idiocy is this? NRA paid advertisement?

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    • And because the cops weren’t stupid enough to just enter and start shooting anything that moves, the only solution is everyone should have guns so we can have Western-style gunfight and increase the death toll. Again, is this a paid NRA advertisement?

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    • It never ceases to amaze me that this is how we view the police now.

      They have one job: to treat every single potential perp as a target. If we are unwilling to have the police go in and start shooting everything, we should keep them on the sidewalk.

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      • So if you have the misfortune to be in a building with a gunman, your life is basically forfeit at that point with the cops as well? Not just the gunman. Then why have hostage negotiators? Why not just storm in in every hostage situation? Hey, if you’re stupid enough to be taken hostage, your life is worthless, not just to the gunman, but the the police as well.

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      • And it never ceases to amaze me the kind of people who go for the “we definitely could take that guy down if only we have a gun!” You wouldn’t think this person would think like that, but apparently the “I’m master of the universe” mentality can affect anyone.

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  14. I want to thank everyone for commenting. This OP was an experiment of sorts on getting comments. I figured I’d make it controversial and open ended. Unfortunately I didn’t figure ED would sit on it for a week and a half until I was gone on vacation. Was way out in the toolies and didn’t have a whisper of a cell signal.

    I’ve noticed that when Murali for instance writes an OP it is neat, concise, logical and there’s nothing really to add or subtract, hence crickets. I’ve written this one with some raw meat for everyone and was hoping everyone would chip in.

    Fundamentally do I believe everything I wrote? I know the dynamics of force better than most. The fact is when you are unarmed and someone else is armed, you are in the vernacular, “their bitch”. Much of the reading and interpretation of the Second Amendment concerns an armed citizenry keeping an armed government in check, a kind of 4th branch of government. When only one side has a gun and the other doesn’t there is no such thing as dialog or negotiation, at best only the illusion of same.

    We do live in dark and dangerous times, but not necessarily in a dark and dangerous /place/. The world itself is pretty dark and dangerous but most of you reading this haven’t been to the dark and dangerous parts. I’ve been to many of them and Blaise has probably been to more. I’ve gone on business trips with armed bodyguards. One of the problems there is can you trust your own bodyguard? Mexico has some of the strictest gun laws in the world, obviously it is doing them no good whatsoever.

    Fundamentally this is a sheep and wolves problem. The majority of “polite” society are sheep and that kind of politeness is meaningless in the presence of a wolf pack. Ice Tea is right, we can all give up our guns when everyone ELSE gives up /their/ guns. Until then they are the closest thing to deterrence we have.

    BTW, while I was out in the woods I was armed. Now that I’m back in society I am unarmed. Even after writing this OP I couldn’t convince myself to carry concealed. I’m just hoping that my /place/ is less dark and dangerous than elsewhere seems to be. I still believe even politicians (perhaps especially politicians) can be sociopaths. The very best liars in the world, hands-down are sociopaths. Statistically as Patrick eloquently proved, we have better odds of winning the lotto than being a victim of a crazed shooter. On the other hand as Germany discovered to their dismay falling under the influence of a crazed sociopath changes those odds considerably. BTW, one of the first things the national socialists did was institute Waffenbesitzkarte, strict regulation of firearms (and the Treaty of Versailles was already onerous). Since gun ownership was heavily regulated it was trivial to collect weapons from “undesirables” like Jews and dissidents. I’ll wrap up with a song to the number one sociopath of all time, hope you guessed his name.

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      • Yup CCW is deterrence, amazingly you’ve nailed this one on the head. It is simply wrong to assume every situation ends in gunfire, most (thankfully) do not. Mutually Assured Destruction operated as the guiding principle of our best military minds for decades vs the Soviet Union. That was also deterrence. MAD won’t work against the ayatollahs in Iran however, since they welcome Armageddon. Sociopaths operate that way. They are such egocentric existentialists they can’t imagine the world going on without them anyway, therefore why worry about nihilistic end of world scenarios?

        As for disarming someone with a knife. I’ve done it thousands of times, I not only took martial arts I taught it. I like my odds against anyone of normal size in a normal confrontation. I have a friend who is 6’10” weighs 275, always carries. I could not disarm him if my life (literally) depended on it, he’s too big and too strong. Them’s the breaks, life isn’t fair and I’m glad he’s my friend and not my enemy. I also pity the fool who would make an enemy of my friend.

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  15. The part I don’t get is why people don’t weaponize themselves. A six person dog pile results in the person on the bottom not breathing.

    4 minutes later you can take a vote on if the meatbag receives CPR.

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