February 13, 2007

Distant Early Warning

Rush. They're one of my favorite progressive rock bands (no; not that kind of progessive rock). The song is more about the threat of a nuclear war than what I'm going to be writing about but it was as title appropriate as I could manage. Besides; it's a favorite song of a not-so-tall hot blonde brunette I know & it reminds me of her (actually it reminds me of a few hot blondes brunettes that I know - go figure) so I've grown fond of it myself. Here's the vid. & here are the lyrics.

There were a couple of mass murders yesterday (though technically only one was an actual mass murder - the u.S. Bureau of Justice Statistics defines mass murder as killing 4 or more people at the same place during the same event).

In Philadelphia 3 people were murdered at a business conference before the murderer killed himself.

In Salt Lake City 5 people were murdered in a mall before the murderer was killed (presumably by police).

The first I can at least understand. I don't condone it but I understand it. Anger at possibly losing a large investment seems a possible motive & it makes sense. not good sense, certainly not good enough to repeat the murderer's actions but it's something we can look at & recognize a motive.

The second leaves me baffled. Shooting people seemingly at random in a mall? The only motive I could see in that is to just shoot people at random for no other reason than they were there. Killing for the sake of killing was always hard to grasp for me. If there was some connection between the victims I could perhaps rationalize the murdererís actions. Again not condone the actions but understand them.

For instance if the latter incident happened at an IRSS office or the regional ATFU headquarters I could make sense of things. The "randomness" part of the equation would be removed & the murders would seem to have some purpose. Perhaps not a good purpose but a purpose. But those things will likely never happen at an IRSS or ATFU office because those folks have security. They have a number of armed agents, some visibly armed & others discreetly armed, stationed throughout such locations.

At a mall there isn't usually an armed guard (in my experience - I don't frequent malls so things may have changed or be different in your area). Usually the shop keepers in a mall don't have a Smith & Wesson under the counter. Most mall patrons are unarmed & all but a very few folks (if there's more than one) are in Condition White. It's not a whole lot different than a school actually, except there's usually a little more room to maneuver.

So I can see from a tactical perspective why a mall is an inviting choice as opposed to a law enforcement office or a shooting range, but I still cannot grasp why someone would decide to shoot random people for no other reason than to kill X number of people before being killed. I doubt I ever will.

But what trips most people up is trying to understand this kind of thing. In any situation involving an organic being it doesn't usually matter why they're trying to do something; it matters what they're trying to do. Deducing motivations is only useful in preventing a situation should similar circumstances occur in the future. It does absolutely nothing to stop most actions.

Let's say you have an employee that doesn't show up for work as scheduled. Let's also say that you're a nice boss & his/her absence didn't hurt your business that much. You try to talk to your employee to try to determine what caused the absence & should a similar situation ever arise again you may be able to prevent another employee absence. In other words you switch payday from Friday to Monday when you don't want your crew too hung-over to work on Saturday. Deduction of motives has its value & can be used for prevention of undesirable consequences in certain situations.

Deducing the murdererís motive likely won't do anyone much good. There may not ever be a decent theory as to his motives, let alone a concrete conclusion. But even if there was it would not prevent the next murderer who decides that a mall is a soft target to go for the high score. If it's concluded that it stems from the loss of a childhood pet you're not going to get the murderer-to-be to unlock & unload by telling him Fluffy is in Heaven.

What needs to happen is to have the murderer-to-be incapacitated. Shooting is probably the most effective means of incapacitation under those circumstances. I think we can all agree on that. if a person is trying to shoot a number of people at random then shooting him (preferably more than once) in the right general area is the best chance of stopping his murder spree.

The problem is finding people willing to do that. Or capable of doing that rather. I'm sure that if you went looking right now you'd find thousands of people who would be willing to kill the murderer who shot & killed so many at a mall yesterday. But they weren't there. Even if they would have been there they likely wouldn't have been capable. They'd have likely been in Condition White & unarmed.

By unarmed I don't just mean they've left their favorite shooting iron at the country club; I mean they have nothing on their person that could serve as a weapon & they lack the capacity to recognize potential weapons within their grasp. A 12 round .40 S&W is real nice to have, but you can make do with more primitive means if you have the right attitude about things.

I spent a good many year as a professional musician. I played in a lot of bars in a lot of states where carrying firearms even with a permit was verboten in such establishments. I have never been robbed or accosted or even assaulted in all those years partly because I was aware of my surroundings & always had something near me to grab in a hurry. I was careful & just paranoid enough to make me a less than easy mark. A microphone stand, a beer bottle, even a pen can be effective if you have your wits about you & I always had one in my hand when anyone approached me under less than ideal circumstances. I have a buddy who played in the same circles I did. He lost his teeth & most of his equipment after a gig one night because a few punks decided he was easy prey as he was loading his gear into his car. He wasn't paying attention to what was happening until it was too late for him to act. Don't misunderstand - the punks were totally responsible for what happened, but if my buddy had been paying attention he might have been able to avoid being hurt as badly, or being hurt at all. He may have been able to control or influence his fate rather than rely on others to determine that for him.

I'm not saying that if you see someone playing skeet with the local mall patrons to grab your trusty Papermate & take care of business. I'm saying that being aware of your surroundings & assets is the most important step you can take for your security anyplace. It's likely that most mall goers simply didn't have a clue what was happening until it was too late to do anything but duck.

From the article about the mall murders:

"Marie Smith, 23, had the day off from Bath & Body Works but stopped there during an errand and saw the gunman shoot a woman in front of the store.
'He was ahead of her, standing still. I don't think she saw that he had a gun,' said Smith, who dashed to a bathroom and locked the door."
(emphasis mine)

The lady didn't seem to see the man had a shotgun despite his standing in front of her.

It's not that I'd have expected her to take the guy down with a shoe. She might not have been able to do anything at all had she noticed the man's implement & intent. But that level of situational ignorance can only lead to you being out of control of your fate. she didn't have nay options because she didn't realize what her predicament was.

I just posted yesterday about two gun owners getting robbed in their own driveway after returning from a range trip. Same basic problem; being unaware & unprepared.

So what to do? First & foremost hope you're never in such a situation. But pay enough attention to maybe realize you're about to be in such a situation. A little paranoia goes a long way towards self preservation. After those things being well armed helps, but being well armed does no good if you're unwilling to utilize said arms or if you're unaware that now would be a good time to do so.

I wouldn't be surprised if for some reason the carrying of arms by non .gov agents was forbidden by the proprietors. In many states carrying arms outside of the home is forbidden or dependant upon securing a permit or license to do so. In most states carrying arms on public transportation or in school or a number of other places is strictly verboten. That makes self defense more difficult but not impossible. It's important if you're in one of those defense free zone environments to have a back up plan. It's not much but I always have at least one small blade on me. Would I rather have it than my Garand if someone started shooting at random folks in a public place? Nope. But running for cover with a knife I know how to use is a helluva lot better than running for cover with nothing on me at all. Being aware enough of my surroundings to possibly spot any sort of trouble will hopefully make the difference. While mass murderers are relatively rare, robbers & the like are common enough to justify looking around a little more carefully.

I feel great sympathy for the families of the victims as well as the victims who survived. I doubt anyone who has heard what happened doesn't feel badly for those left living with a loss as well as those who have been taken senselessly. But if I'm correct this will be used to cause more harm than good - by further restricting places where we may legally be armed.

No matter; the most important thing you can do is pay attention to your surroundings. Being armed gives you more options, but even while armed if you're in Condition White it probably won't do you much good.

Posted by Publicola at February 13, 2007 04:42 AM | TrackBack

I know what you mean - being armed mentally is much more important than having your firearm handy. Also helpful is to have thought some of the more likely scenarios. I think the three most likely (though still a very small chance) are mall shootings, school shootings, and work shootings. If you can think about what you would do if you were in the middle of each of those (both with and without spouse/children) you'll be way ahead of the game if it ever happens. Then, to cover the rest of the less likely situations, have a default set of priorities. Mine are the saftey of my wife and child, then the rest of my family, then a few friends I'd lay down my life for. If none of those are present, my actions would depend on the circumstances.

Posted by: Dave at February 13, 2007 12:09 PM