Thursday, June 18, 2015

Gun Shields

"It took Obama exactly four minutes to politicise the massacre of nine innocent people in a church," wrote Breitbart's John Nolte. "He's just awful."

He went on to say the best way to have prevented this attack was to have armed parishioners.

He pointed to a South Carolina law prohibiting concealed weapons in churches. "Good reason for mass-shooters to believe a South Carolina church would be filled with helpless, unarmed people," he tweeted.
Charleston church shooting: Obama's 'hopeless' push for gun control
Despite the fact that I'm both socially liberal and a terrible shot, I don't share the Left's general fear of/distaste for firearms. I'm simply disinterested in taking the time to learn how to shoot one well enough to be useful with it. And I have enough respect for guns to know better than to simply carry one around unskilled.

But even though I recognize the utility of firearms, I'm always surprised at the "conservative" reaction to firearms violence - namely that the presence of a small subset of people in our society who feel that the ability to use personal violence to solve their problems is best countered by everyone else in our society being ready, willing and able to use personal violence to solve their problems. Nolte's "solution" to events like the shootings in Charleston's Emanuel AME Church seems less like a serious policy prescription and more like a really tone-deaf advertisement for Smith and Wesson (who, I might add, likely have the good sense to stay FAR away from such insinuations).

But, let's humor Mr. Nolte for a moment, and assume that the nine people shot were packing heat along with their Bibles. Would it have really made a huge difference? In late 2009, a man named Maurice Clemmons walked into a Forza Coffee Co. in Lakewood, Washington, and gunned down four police officers, all of whom were wearing bullet-proof vests. One survived long enough to shoot back at Clemmons as he fled the scene, striking him in the abdomen, but not killing him. (Clemmons didn't bleed to death, either - instead he was shot dead by a Seattle Police Department officer a couple of days later.) So we have four people who deal with violent situations as part of their day jobs, who are wearing body armor and carry firearms and are specifically trained in how to use them, with between eight and fourteen years of experience in law enforcement. None of them survived an encounter with one guy. Given this, why on Earth would anyone think that everyone in the Emanuel AME Bible study group being armed would have been anything more than people wasting their money? Without regular, focused training, it's unlikely that any of them would have the presence of mind to draw their weapon from concealment, aim and fire accurately in the sudden chaos unfolding around them. While I'm not going to claim that Dylann Roof would have walked (or run) away from the scene unscathed, and I freely admit that one of his targets may have landed a lucky shot and killed him, smart money says that the presence of nine more guns in that room simply would have meant that Roof would have left with a backup piece or three.

Being the sort of person who understands the difference between an automatic pistol and an automatic rifle, can explain the technical distinction between a clip and a magazine, knows what point-blank range is and geeks out over advanced firearms technology, I've encountered a fair amount of people who are gun owners in my day. And while serious gun owners are as varied a bunch as any other group of people, the ones I've known have had one thing in common - they do not in the least subscribe to the idea that the simple fact of having a gun on one's person equals being prepared to defend oneself in a lethal force situation.

It doesn't take rocket scientist to understand the political motivations behind Nolte's remarks - his criticism of President Obama brought out people who were so eager to pile on, some couldn't be bothered to read the remarks that Nolte was criticizing. But I think that it requires someone smarter than I am to comprehend how the simple act of carrying a gun armors everyday citizens against gun violence, when it doesn't work that way for soldiers or police officers.

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