Apr 152012

The scene shortly after the fleeing car stopped. Soon to be dead guy at the top, six LAPD officers also visible in the picture.

Here’s an interesting story about a 19 year old youth in Los Angeles – Abdul Arian – who took police on a high speed chase around the city while at the same time calling 911 and uttering threats about what would happen if the police stopped him.

There are two things of interest.

The first is what happened after he eventually stopped.  He got out of the car, surrounded by growing numbers of LA police, and was moving backwards from the police while facing them, before turning towards the police in what was subsequently described as a ‘firing position’ and holding some sort of object in his hands.

No-one can argue about part of what happened next.  Unsurprisingly, the police that had him surrounded shot and killed the youth.

It was dark, the guy was clearly unstable and had threatened to pull his gun on the police if stopped, so when he stopped running away and appeared to present something at the police as if it were a pistol, the police did the sensible thing, and shot to stop the threat.

But – and here’s the but – it wasn’t just one or two police officers that fired four or five rounds each.  Eight police shot at the youth, firing, between them, more than 90 rounds.  That’s a lot of rounds being fired, particularly in a semi-residential area where who knows what was further ‘down range’.

There is video of the encounter on this web page and it appears, based on the voice over narration, that the shooting may have occurred over a surprisingly lengthy period of time (relatively speaking) – ie at least ten seconds, maybe more like fifteen.  Note also how the youth continued to act in a crazy and threatening way during this period of time, even after the police first started shooting at him, before finally collapsing.  He showed little obvious sign of impairment prior to suddenly collapsing.

The lesson here is one of our ‘favorite’ lessons – and to appreciate it, slightly change the scenario and instead of a fool being chased by many police, maybe you are being chased by a road-ranger and end up having to shoot to save your life against the incensed road-rager.

It took eight police officers more than 90 shots between them to reach a point where the guy finally collapsed, and the guy was still nimbly moving about the place prior to suddenly collapsing.  We can only guess at how many unnecessary extra shots were fired at the guy as he was collapsing, and of course, it seems pretty safe to assume that many of the shots missed.

But there’s no reason to assume the police are particularly worse at shooting than you would be; indeed, with at least seven of their friends around them for support, probably wearing bullet proof vests, the suspect generally moving away, and never shooting back at them, their own stress levels, while high, where several levels lower than yours would be when facing a deadly threat all by yourself.

So – answer the question.  How many rounds would it take you to achieve a similar outcome?  And bear in mind we have no idea how many rounds ‘more than 90′ actually is.  It might be 91.  But it could be 99 or way more, too.

Maybe you can do as well with ‘only’ more than 80 rounds, or maybe even more than 70 rounds or more than 60 rounds.  Indeed, why not consider yourself – alone – as being twice as good at eight LA policemen all together, and say that you only need ‘more than’ 45 rounds.

Do you carry more than 45 rounds with you?  If your answer is no, then in cases similar to this, you’ll run out of bullets before you’ve stopped the threat.  You’ll lose.

A related question.  The youth was never more than a second or at the most two from the police.  Once you’ve emptied your gun at the person attacking you, how long will it take you to reload and get back in the fight?  Any more than perhaps 1.5 seconds maximum, and you’re going to have the bad guy on top of you before you get your gun running again.

Remember also that this encounter required more than 90 rounds against a single adversary.  What say you find yourself confronted by two bad guys.  Or three?  Do the math.

The second thing of interest is the massive contradictions of facts as between what the now rapidly becoming sainted dead guy’s family are saying about the guy (I wonder if Muslims become saints?) and what the facts of the matter starkly reveal (better reported in the LA Times article in the first link than in the Huffington Post second linked article).

Remember that every bad guy is also probably a grieving mother’s son, maybe the father to some grieving children, the husband and breadwinner to a grieving wife, and so on and so forth.  Remember also you probably don’t have the moral support and legal resources of the LAPD to back you up and ensure you get at least your fair share of airtime to give your side of any story.

Somehow there’s much more news and emotional value to see a woman in tears while clutching an outdated carefully photographed picture of her dead husband/son/father than there is to see a woman rejoicing and happy at her husband/son/father having survived a deadly encounter by virtue of shooting a bad guy.  Life’s just not fair, is it.

Which leads to our most favorite lesson of all- any time you have a choice, don’t shoot.  Avoid the fight.  Even if you win the encounter, you might lose all the bs that goes down subsequently.

Nov 212011

HR822, the National Right-to-Carry Reciprocity Act of 2011, has now passed the House

One of our ‘holy grail’ objectives is to replace the current crazy patchwork quilt of state level laws about concealed carry reciprocity with other states, and create instead an integrated nationwide program whereby a single license from your home state would be recognized throughout the country.

Sounds impossible?  Sounds impractical?  Well, certainly before the renaissance in concealed carry laws over the last two decades, it would have been both (and pointless too!) because few states allowed any type of concealed carry at all.

But there has been a steady restoration of concealed carry rights, state by state, and as our earlier article on the steady improvement of state concealed carry laws shows, we have gone from only eight states permitting concealed carry in 1986 to now only one state outright forbidding it in 2011.  Sure, there are a few other states that don’t play very fair with their issuing policies, but no-one can deny there’s been a huge change in concealed carry policies.

This has revived hopes for a framework whereby one state’s concealed carry permit would automatically be recognized by all other states.  At present it is tremendously difficult to know, for sure, which other states your home state permit may entitle you to carry in, and the truth changes fairly regularly as states add or remove other states from the list of states they will accept concealed weapons permits from.  Those of us who travel regularly typically end up with two, three, or even more permits in our wallets, and even with all of that, feel somewhat nervous and anxious!

There’s a clear analogous example – driving licenses.  A car is every bit as lethal a weapon as a pistol, and there are for sure way more auto deaths and injuries each year than there are firearms related deaths or injuries.  Different states also have slightly different driving laws (eg turning right on red, speed limits, talking on a cell phone, child car seats, etc) and these variations have not presented any problems in enabling a license issued in one state to be recognized in all other states (and most foreign countries too).

For the last many years, there has been a growing swell of support for a nationwide carry law, and just last week, the House of Representatives passed the ‘National Right-to-Carry Reciprocity Act of 2011’, currently in the form of HR 822 (click the link to see the text of the bill).

The bill was passed by a solid majority of 272 to 154 (click the link to see how your congressman voted).  A rush of amendments that would have massively watered down the provisions of the bill were all defeated by similar or even greater margins.  Anti-gun amendments were most recently proposed by Reps Sheila Jackson Lee (D-Texas), Alcee Hastings (D-Fla), Carolyn McCarthy (D-N.Y.), Hank Johnson (D-Ga), David Cicilline (D-R.I.) and by a Republican too, Rob Woodall (R-Ga).

Before it becomes law, two more steps remain.  It needs to also be passed by the Senate, and then signed into law by Barry Soetoro Barack Obama.

There is of course a Democrat majority in the Senate, unlike in the House, so this makes for a tougher passage.  But as the most recent opinion polls show, gun ownership is enjoying the most favorable level of public support in decades, and so at least some Democrat senators may prove sensitive to the winds of public opinion and join the Republicans to pass the measure.

Which leaves our President’s approval as the remaining obstacle.  For whatever reason, the current President has shied away from overt anti-gun acts, and in total, he has only vetoed two pieces of legislation in his almost three years in office.

He has been silent so far on whether he would support the legislation or not, so who knows what would happen at that point.

Criticism of HR822 – Is it a ‘Trojan Horse’

Some normally pro-gun rights groups have spoken out against HR822, claiming that it would create a new federal right to interfere in state level gun rights.  These people believe that any time we pass any element of gun related rights and legislation to the federal government, to the Department of Justice and to the BATF, we risk having those rights surreptitiously diminished and taken away.

We can certainly understand the cynicism of such people.  But if you read the text of the bill that has been referred on to the Senate, there is nothing in it at all to be concerned about.  Furthermore, the various amendments that would have indeed added provisions that would be negative or constraining were all soundly defeated.

So, if HR822 passes as it presently is written, we would seem to have a great bit of legislation that removes rather than adds gun control restraints on us.  And if there are attempts to rewrite HR822, at least at present there is little reason to believe such attempts would be successful.

The Inequity of HR822

Although we are enthusiastically supporting HR822, we have to observe that it is not without its problems.  We can understand the reasons some states require its citizens to pass a formal education course, and in a few cases, even to pass a range test too, before allowing its citizens the right to carry a concealed firearm.  It could be said this is similar to the process of getting a driver’s license – every state requires its residents to pass both a theory and practical exam before giving them a driving license.

At present, many of the states that require a format course of study prior to granting a concealed weapons permit have chosen to only recognize permits issued by other states that have similar training requirements, and have refused to recognize permits from states that issue permits without requiring any training at all.

HR822 would now obligate states with more restrictive training requirements to accept permits from out-of-state citizens who were granted permits on a more liberal basis.  And so you might have two people walking down the street, both with a concealed weapon, one a resident of the state who had to attend an eight hour class and then pass a range test for safety and accuracy in shooting, and who has to renew his license every five or fewer years, and the other, a visitor from another state who has a seven year permit which he got simply by paying a fee and filling out a form back home.  That feels a bit wrong, somehow.  At least there are some elements of standardization on driving license testing across the country.

But we’d much prefer ‘a bit wrong somehow’ to the situation instead where the out of state visitor can’t carry at all.  Furthermore, there is no evidence to suggest that people who have attended mandatory classes are any more (or less) likely to pose a risk to public safety when carrying their weapon than is the case with people who have not attended any mandatory classes.

What You Can Do

Please phone or email or fax or write to your two Senators, asking them to support HR822, the National Right-to-Carry Reciprocity Act of 2011, and to ensure its speedy passage through the Senate.  You can get contact details for your senators here.

If you are writing a letter, you could adapt one of these two letters and personalize it a bit before sending it.

To a Republican senator

Dear Senator (name)

HR822, the National Right-to-Carry Reciprocity Act of 2011, passed the House last week by a strong majority of 272 to 154, including almost every Republican Congressman.  It now needs to be passed in the Senate, too.

I know we have to carefully consider the implications of all legislation that may potentially either expand or diminish current gun rights in this country, and I know we must be respectful of state rights.  But with now 49 of the 50 states recognizing, in some form or another, the right to carry a concealed firearm, this legislation is not an end-run around the states.  It is merely a necessary national codification of the currently very confusing patchwork quilt of state/state reciprocity agreements in terms of which states will accept carry permits from other states.

We can do it for driving licenses (and I’m sure I don’t need to quote the appalling levels of deaths and injuries suffered as a result of vehicle accidents, massively in excess of those resulting from firearms).  We need to do it for concealed carry licenses too.

I’ve been licensed to carry a concealed pistol for many years, and have never created any problems.  But as soon as I cross the state line, I either lose that right entirely, or risk ending up in a twilight zone of uncertainty – an uncertainty shared by each other state’s law enforcement agencies, too.  Who knows what the most current and correct situation is in each state for each of the other states’ licenses?  Probably no-one!

This necessary legislation makes it easy, simple and straightforward for everyone.  It doesn’t trample over state rights, because out of staters still must follow all the applicable rules of the state they are visiting (the same as with driving).  It merely allows a person duly approved and licensed to carry a handgun in one state the certainty of knowing they can safely do so in other states without risking becoming an accidental felon.

Please may I ask for your support of this sensible measure and to help its speedy passage through the Senate.


(your name)

To a Democrat senator

Dear Senator (name

HR822, the National Right-to-Carry Reciprocity Act of 2011, passed the House last week by a strong bi-partisan majority of 272 to 154, including 43 of the Democrats.

I know we have to carefully consider the implications of all legislation that may potentially either expand or diminish current gun rights in this country, and I know we must be respectful of state rights.  But with now 49 of the 50 states recognizing, in some form or another, the right to carry a concealed firearm, this legislation is not an end-run around the states.  It is merely a necessary national codification of the currently very confusing patchwork quilt of state/state reciprocity agreements in terms of which states will accept carry permits from other states.

We can do it for driving licenses (and I’m sure I don’t need to quote the appalling levels of deaths and injuries suffered as a result of vehicle accidents, massively in excess of those resulting from firearms).  We need to do it for concealed carry licenses too.

I’ve been licensed to carry a concealed pistol for many years, and have never created any problems.  But as soon as I cross the state line, I either lose that right entirely, or risk ending up in a twilight zone of uncertainty – an uncertainty shared by each other state’s law enforcement agencies, too.  Who knows what the most current and correct situation is in each state for each of the other states’ licenses?  Probably no-one!

This necessary legislation makes it easy, simple and straightforward for everyone.  It doesn’t trample over state rights, because out of staters still must follow all the applicable rules of the state they are visiting (the same as with driving).  It merely allows a person duly approved and licensed to carry a handgun in one state the certainty of knowing they can safely do so in other states without risking becoming an accidental felon.

Please may I ask for your support of this sensible measure and to help its speedy passage through the Senate.


(your name)

Nov 082011

Very bad things can happen, even in very nice places

A sleepy quiet little town of 220 people in rural Washington state with the unusual name of Humptulips, described by writer Terry Pratchett as his favorite place on earth (although it is far from clear if he has ever visited).  A law-abiding couple in their 80s, well known locally for how fastidiously they cared for their house and garden, who have been living there peacefully for many decades.

Evil seems a long way away from such an idyllic scene.

Maybe you are fortunate enough to live in a similar environment – your own house and land, a nice quiet crime-free town where the most exciting action is the neighbor’s cat getting stuck up a tree.  Or, if not you, maybe your parents, or your brother/sister – anyone you know – lives that type of lifestyle.

If so, you probably feel there’s little need for any degree of alertness or preparedness.  And if you see a stranger coming towards you, you approach him as a friend and ask how you can help.

Besides which, you have a local police force who everyone knows has almost nothing to do apart from operate a couple of speed traps and occasionally give warnings to local teenagers for under age drinking.  If anything ever did go down, they’d be on top of it faster than you could dial 911.

If you find yourself nodding in agreement, prepare for a surprise.  Read this horrific story of the elderly couple described above, and read what happened when a deranged 31 year old man unexpectedly entered their lives.  The husband was killed by this madman, and the wife hacked up with an axe (at the time of writing it is uncertain if she will survive or not).

Read one more thing too – even after the killer told a friend what he had done, even after he told the police the same thing, it took the police 18 hours to get to the house and discover the critically wounded 83 yr old lady lying and dying on the floor.

Lessons to be Learned

Most of us consider our home to be our ultimate ‘safe’ place – but not so much from a security point of view, instead from a state of mind point of view.  And so we let our guard down, and our level of mental alertness slips to the lowest ‘white’ level, which (perhaps paradoxically) makes our home a risky place to be.

Additionally, our instinctive reaction to be friendly and helpful when a stranger approaches blinds us to the unknown risk factors and the potential threat that any stranger poses.

The report doesn’t go into the specifics of how the madman shot the 88 yr old gentleman with a crossbow, but it does indicate that there was at least some period of time when each was visible to the other, and a crossbow is a hard sort of weapon to conceal and also a hard one to instantly deploy.  If the victim had been more alert, if he had more of a defensive mindset, and if he was armed, even while ‘safely’ pottering around in his own beautiful flower garden, it could have been the madman who died, not him, and his wife would still be in perfect health, too.

Instead – and excuse us for being brutally blunt – this man’s complacency not only cost him his own life, but also may lead to the death of his wife, too; while the state and legal system now has a lengthy, complicated, and expensive case to prosecute and a criminal to hopefully incarcerate for many decades to come.

It is probably too much to expect a couple living in a ‘safe’ township to lock their doors and secure their windows, even in the middle of the day while one is in the garden and the other in the kitchen, but it is an unavoidable thought that if the house had been secure, the woman would have been saved.

Lastly, you have probably heard the expression ‘when seconds count, the police are only minutes away‘.  In this case, it should read ‘when seconds count, the police are only 18 hours away’.

It is impossible to understand how it took the police 18 hours to discover the wounded woman inside her house.  The offender had said he had killed two demons.  The husband was dead in the garden.  The wife was nowhere to be found.  Hello?

A Better Approach

If the elderly gentleman had responded cautiously to discovering a stranger walking up his driveway, he could have taken control of the situation.  An assertive authoritative demeanor might have discouraged the madman.

Alternatively, by ‘drawing a line in the sand’ – ie, by telling the stranger ‘STOP’ and, if he didn’t stop, presenting his weapon and saying ‘STOP or I shoot’, and if he still didn’t stop, shooting the attacker, he would have been in control of the situation – he would have been managing the OODA loop – and he would have merely been protecting himself and his wife and their lives.

The reason we present these types of real life examples (there are others in our archives) to you is because they vividly indicate how sudden, deceptive and deadly danger can be, especially in places where we mistakenly perceive ourselves to be relatively safe.  The things unaware people take for granted can get them brutally killed and injured.

Don’t be a victim.  Don’t be unaware.  Embrace the concept of situational awareness and the multi-level series of awareness levels, and never be surprised when things go bad.


Oct 112011

Are New York's women shoppers now expected to wear burqa like clothing to reduce their chance of being raped?

So what is the best way to protect yourself against rape?  Some people might suggest learning a form of self defense.  Others may advocate pepper spray, or a shock/stun gun device.  Still other people suggest carrying a pistol and learning how to use it.  Then of course there are the delicate souls who advocate a whistle or some other nonviolent means of simply calling attention to your plight.

New York’s finest has a new suggestion to women in an area currently suffering from a spate of rape attacks.  Their advice is not to wear skirts or shorts, because those sorts of clothing are the types of clothing other rape victims had been wearing when they were attacked (see this article).

Applying the same logic, perhaps the police should also suggest the women go panty-less and bra-less too, because presumably other rape victims also had panties and bras on.  🙂

The police stopped short of recommending a full Muslim style burqa, but that was probably what they would most advocate.

Now what’s wrong with this?

Is our land of the free now reduced to a state where women are told not to ‘dress provocatively’ but rather to drape themselves in formless garb to minimize their risk of rape?

Isn’t this one step from the rapist defense of ‘Well, she was asking for it by wearing clothes like that’?

Are our police admitting they can not protect citizens from one of the most unpleasant forms of violent assault possible?

Oh – let’s not forget one more thing.  In New York, carrying a concealed handgun is almost completely impossible.  The city takes away the ability of weaker women to defend themselves against stronger men, and at the same time attempts to shift the blame/burden onto women if/when they are raped.

Handguns truly are the great equalizer, and the most democratic of devices.  They make all people equal – big or small, male or female, strong or weak, and no matter what their racial origin may be.

Democracies allow handguns.  Tyrannies seek to control and restrict them.  Which do you think New York is?

Aug 312011

The scene of the fatal shooting in CO, from gazette.com

We can learn from other people’s experiences.  Hopefully if we take such lessons to heart, we won’t be as unfortunate as to repeat their mistakes.

So whenever you come across an account of any situation where deadly force was used, don’t merely skim through it, but read it carefully and ask yourself “What is the ‘takeaway’ item I can learn from this”.

Sometimes the takeaway item – the bullet point or elevator summary – of what occurred is subtle and hard to find.  And then, sometimes, it hits you between the eyes, and there’s not just one or two but plenty of learning experiences to embrace.

Here’s a useful example from Colorado.  This story tells how the daughter of a shot (and killed) burglar was awarded $300,000 in a civil suit against the business owner who shot him.  An earlier story provides more background into the incident.

Civil lawsuits are sometimes the second part of the many downsides you should be aware of which follow from the use of deadly force.  And whereas a criminal prosecution requires proof ‘beyond a reasonable doubt’ for the prosecution to succeed, a civil suit only needs ‘a preponderance of evidence’ to prevail.  In other words, think of a 99% or higher requirement for criminal convictions, but merely a 51% requirement for a civil suit to succeed.

And just because either the police decline to prosecute, or even if they do and you’re found not guilty, that doesn’t mean you’re safe from a civil lawsuit – think back to the OJ Simpson case where he was found not guilty in the criminal court but guilty in a civil trial that followed.

In the Colorado example above, and to my amazement when looking at the apparent facts as reported in the two articles, it seems the local district attorney declined to prosecute, and a Grand Jury also declined to return an indictment.  I’ll guess their thinking was along the lines of ‘It wasn’t really a 100% justifiable shooting, but the guy who was shot was definitely a low-life bad guy, and on balance we don’t think we should send the shooter to prison for killing a low-life, and we can understand how he felt, even if it was probably not the best decision he made’.

But in the civil trial, the jury there probably thought in different terms, perhaps more like ‘Okay, so the dead man was a criminal, but he didn’t really deserve to be shot and killed while hiding in a shed, and for sure, his 3 year old daughter now needs some help’, and because it was a civil trial, the jury could find for the dead man’s daughter and the ‘worst’ that happened to the shooters was that they had to pay damages to the daughter, with the jury probably reasoning ‘They can better afford to give some money to the girl, who needs it more than they do; it is the least they can do after killing her father unnecessarily’.

You can’t always rely on prosecutors and grand juries being so lenient, but you can pretty much always anticipate reasoning such as guessed at above in a civil case, any time that the shooting circumstances are less than very clearly 100% justifiable and unavoidable.

Now for the takeaway items in this case.  Here are four obvious ones.  First, Colorado doesn’t have a ‘castle doctrine’ type law that applies to people protecting their businesses, only to people protecting their homes.  The shooter and his two associates/relatives did not have the force of the law backing up their actions.  Second, the facts of the encounter were such to make it very difficult for the shooters to claim they were in imminent and certain fear of their lives, and were shooting in self defense.  Third, they had told various people they would shoot trespassers in the future.  Fourth, the shooter hid the gun he had used to shoot the burglar.

The moral of the story, quite apart from the obvious one of only using deadly force when you’re in deadly danger yourself, is not to go around boasting about your intention to kill burglars in the future, whether they pose deadly threats to you or not.  Clearly, those stories will come back to haunt you if you subsequently use deadly force, no matter whether it was or was not justified at the time – in this case, even an employee of the shooter voluntarily approached the police to report the shooter’s earlier claims about shooting trespassers.  This person probably risked his future employment with the shooter by doing this, but did so anyway.  Your own friends and associates might do the same.

The other moral is not to lie to the police and act in a guilty manner.  Hiding the gun that was used to fire the fatal shot was not the act of an innocent person.  It shows the shooter to have been feeling guilty about his actions, and if you’re feeling guilty about your actions, it is difficult to simultaneously take the moral high ground, as you must, and say ‘I’m very sorry, I didn’t want to shoot him or anyone else, but I had no choice but to do so because I was in fear of my life’.  How can you simultaneously be saying you reluctantly but properly had to use deadly force to protect yourself, but at the same time, you are hiding the gun you used in self defense?

If you have more time, you might want to read through the pages and pages of police reports on the incident (linked from the original article).  If you do, you’ll get more of a feeling for police procedures, and you’ll also realize one more important thing.  Everything you say or do, and how you act and behave, is going into the police reports, and will subsequently be read by prosecutors, grand juries, and possibly regular juries too, and when these other people are reading these reports, they will be reading them out of context.

You want the reports to say that you were cooperative and helpful.  They can certainly say that you seemed distressed and upset – because you will be, indeed it is probably better to be recorded as being distressed/upset rather than jubilant, relaxed and happy!  But you don’t want them to say you were uncooperative, cagey, changing your story, argumentative, belligerent, and so on.

That is not to say you need to ‘cooperate’ with the police beyond a point of prudence, and it is also not to say you need to volunteer additional testimony at the scene beyond the obvious essentials, particularly if it might be rushed out before you’ve had a chance to calm down and understand, yourself, as best you can what happened.  Remember – when the police attend a shooting, they are looking to charge someone with a serious felony offense – you need to make sure that they don’t mistakenly fixate on you as the person to be charging.

Aug 112011

A clip from the video linked below showing a mugger at work. He surprises an unaware woman and steals her phone.

We regularly come back to the need for situational awareness.  You want to live most of your life in ‘Condition Yellow’ and try not to be caught out in ‘Condition White’.

Which brings us to the video you can see in this article, showing a woman walking down a surprisingly empty street in San Francisco, talking on her phone.  As she walks into the camera’s field of view, we then see that she is oblivious about being stalked by a ne’er-do-well behind her – we can only guess as to how long he has been back there, checking out the area and getting a feeling for how vulnerable she is.

Even though there are only the two of them on an otherwise empty street, she is completely unaware of his presence and so gets a nasty surprise when he suddenly leaps at her and wrestles her phone away, then runs off with it.

Fortunately, all the woman lost was her cell phone, and she even ended up getting that back, thanks to the volunteered help of the taxi driver who was filming the incident from his dash cam.  But it could have been worse, and – most of all – it could have been prevented, if she’d turned around and briefly looked directly at the bad guy, then put her cell phone away, crossed the road, and continued where she was going.

Learn from this incident, and make sure it isn’t you being featured next time.  You want to live most of your life in ‘Condition Yellow’ and try never to be caught out in ‘Condition White’.

May 292011
Guns for sale in a US gun shop

15 million guns will be purchased in 2011

The entire logic of people who oppose free ownership of guns is that gun ownership causes crime.  They seek to restrict and control who can own guns and what sort of guns people can own, on the basis that the fewer the people who own guns, and the fewer the guns that are owned, the safer that society will become.

But there is no evidence to support their contention.  Quite the opposite – there is irrefutable evidence to completely contradict their claims.  The number of guns sold each year continues to steadily increase, while crime rates are equally steadily dropping rather than rising.

The FBI is the agency charged with collecting, collating and publishing uniform crime reports in an attempt to get a consistent national picture of crime in the US, and it has been doing this since 1930.  It draws data from nearly 17,000 different law enforcement agencies across the country, and their reporting is considered the ‘gold standard’ on which to measure crime rates.

They have just released a preliminary report for 2010.  And it is full of good news for us as citizens.  Robbery is down 9.5%, murder and manslaughter down 4.4%, forcible rape is down 4.2% and aggravated assault down 3.6%.  Overall, violent crime is down an average of 5.5%, and all four regions of the country showed decreases.

This decrease in violent crime isn’t a one time aberration, either.  Their report includes a table showing that in addition to the 5.5% decline in 2010, there was a 5.3% decline in 2009, and lesser declines of 1.9% in 2008 and 0.7% in 2007.

Prior to 2007, an earlier FBI report shows that for the ten years 1997 – 2006, violent crime dropped in total by 13.3%.  Reaching back even further, for the four years 1993 – 1997, violent crime dropped by 6.9%.  (I stopped looking further back when reaching 1993 due to laziness and the fact that surely 17 years of data is enough to accurately establish a clear trend.)

These statistics are all the more remarkable when you consider that at the same time the number of crimes are dropping, the number of people living in the US is increasing – for example, the 6.9% decrease in the four years 1993 – 1997 would be a 10.2% if expressed in terms of crimes per (eg) 100,000 people.

So, the good news that everyone can welcome is that violent crime is down, down, down.  In total, for every 100 violent crimes reported in 1993, it seems that today there are only 70 crimes reported.  At the same time, the US population has increased from 258 million in 1993 to 309 million in 2010.  So, if we adjust for the population increase, the actual reduction in crime per constant number of people is from a base count of 100 in 1993 to 59 in 2010.  Violent crime rates have almost halved.

Now what about gun ownership?  The same period of time has seen a resurgence of gun ownership in the US.  More and more states have allowed concealed and/or open carry of weapons, and gun sales have steadily increased.

It is hard to know both how many guns there are in private ownership, and how many people or households actually own guns.  But since late 1998, it has been possible to at least get an approximate understanding of how many new guns are being sold.

Almost without exception, all new firearms sold in the US now require the purchaser to get an authorization from the National Instant Criminal Background Check System (NICS), a system instituted in late 1998 and operated by the FBI.  This provides a convenient measure for gun sales activity.

However, one check can sometimes result in the purchase of two or more guns, but offsetting this, some second hand gun sales are also processed through the NICS system.  A second hand gun sale does not represent a new gun added into the population, but instead is simply a transfer of a gun from someone presumably no longer needing/using it to someone who is likely to value, need, and use it more than the seller.

For the sake of estimating, it perhaps is acceptable to say that the number of second hand gun transfers is balanced by the number of multiple gun transactions authorized by a single NICS check, so let’s approximately equate NICS checks with actual new guns sold.

Rates of gun sales, as empirically measured by NICS checks, have been increasing steadily every year without exception since 2002 (when 8.45 million checks were conducted).  2006 was the first year in which more than 10 million checks were carried out, and by 2008 checks were being carried out at a rate 50% greater than in 2002 (12.71 million).

In 2010, a new high of 14.41 million checks were carried out, and for the first five months of 2011, checks have been running at a rate about 10% higher than 2010, suggesting a total for 2011 in the order of nearly 16 million checks – nearly twice the rate of nine years earlier.  You can see the NICS statistics here.

In total, from the start of the NICS system in November 1998 through the end of April 2011, there have been 130 million checks conducted; which can be considered to imply about that many new guns purchased in the US.  Let’s say sales were occurring at a lower rate of 7.5 million a year prior to that.  So, during the same time frame 1993 – 2010 that violent crime rates have dropped 41%, there have been 170 million new guns sold.

It is not known how many of these purchases are replacement guns, to replace guns that have been lost or destroyed or rendered unusable by accident or design.  But most firearms have a very long life – it is not uncommon to see 30 or 40 year old guns, and because they don’t drop in value greatly as they age, few people simply throw away an ‘old’ gun, but instead will either keep it or give it away or sell it.  So most of the new guns being purchased are additional guns rather than replacement guns.

It is also not known how many of these purchases are to existing gun owners simply choosing to buy another gun to add to their existing gun or guns (although in this latter case, sometimes a current gun owner buying an additional gun will then sell one of his previously owned guns via a private sale to someone else, without the transaction needing to be processed through NICS).  It is probably fair to say that half the guns sold each year are to existing gun owners – in other words, while the number of guns in the country may be increasing, the number of gun owners is increasing more slowly.

However – and here is the point – whatever the numbers are, gun ownership is steadily growing in the US.  And, at the same time, crime is steadily dropping.

I don’t necessarily claim there to be a direct or close link between the two statistics.  But what I do very strongly point out is that the main reason gun control advocates use to justify their claim that guns should be restricted and controlled – a claim that guns ’cause’ crime – is utterly wrong.  Notwithstanding a surge in gun ownership, and many more states allowing concealed carry of weapons, murder rates are down, rape rates are down; indeed, all violent crime rates are significantly down and have been consistently reducing year after year after year.

To summarize this morass of statistics, and for the period 1993 – 2010 :

  • Violent crime rates reduced by 41%
  • 170 million guns sold
  • With less than 130 million households in the US, this is an average of 1.3 guns sold per household
  • Rates of gun sales are increasing and rates of violent crime reduction are similarly accelerating

So where is the harm in gun ownership?

As far as the numbers tell the story, and accepting the anti-gunners own claim that there is a linkage between the prevalence of guns and crime in society, more guns clearly reduce crime, not increase it.

So, my question to the would-be gun-grabbers :  With 170 million new guns in circulation in the US, and a 41% reduction in violent crime rates over the same period, where is the harm you allege guns are causing to society?  Shouldn’t you be advocating for more gun sales?

May 242011
A target that has had the center of it well shot out

There's no need to riddle a bad guy with as many holes as this target

If you ever find yourself deciding to use deadly force to protect yourself or your loved ones, you have a second decision to make immediately subsequently.  How many times should you shoot the bad guy?  Once?  Twice?  Five times?  Ten times?

(Note – this is assuming you are using a handgun.  If you’re using a rifle or shotgun, one shot may be enough.)

The sad part of this question is that the right answer is not just determined by ending the deadly threat you are confronted with, but also by concerns about subsequent legal action – either brought by the police, or – and perhaps more alarmingly – by the offender or his estate.

As soon as you fire a second round, no matter what happened to the first round – whether it missed the bad guy entirely, or just caused a light graze on his arm, or if it incapacitated him instantly and completely – you open yourself up to accusations of excessive use of force.  Imagine yourself in court, with a prosecutor talking to the jury ‘Ladies and gentlemen of the jury, whether right or wrong, maybe the defendant believed he needed to shoot at the deceased, but did the defendant need to shoot at him multiple times, and change what might have been a survivable wound into a lethal hail of bullets?  This was a …..’ – insert your term of choice here :

  • Cold blooded murder, not an act of self defense
  • Crazed shooting spree beyond what any reasonable man would do
  • Rambo rage rather than rational response
  • Gangland style murder
  • Military type assassination
  • Extreme and uncalled for use of excessive force
  • Massive overreaction that resulted in the victim dying rather than just being wounded

or any other phrase that might be called upon.

The truth of the matter – a truth which may be overlooked by a district attorney trying to score political points, and/or a truth that will definitely be completely ignored by an attorney seeking civil damages on behalf of the bad guy or his estate (if you killed him) is that a single bullet from a pistol is extremely unlikely to immediately take the bad guy out of the fight.  Even if you succeed in hitting the bad guy with your shot, who knows where on his body the round will land, and who knows what the effect will be.

Well, actually, we can be pretty sure what the effect will be.  Unlike the movies, the bad guy won’t be thrown violently backward.  Neither will he sag and collapse where he stands.  In general terms, he’ll feel no more force than you felt from the gun’s recoil.  If he is all hyped up on adrenalin – or, worse, on drugs – even a hit that may kill him over time might have no immediate effect on him.

Add to this ugly equation the fact that he was, say, only 15 ft away from you when you opened fire, and is rapidly closing the distance, and so what are you going to do?  Stop and observe prior to shooting a second and subsequent time?  Of course not!

Front Sight teach their students to fire two rapid aimed shots to the center of the thoracic cavity (something very similar to the concept of ‘center of mass’ – ie, the middle of the target), then to pause and see what effect they cause.  If the bad guy doesn’t stop, they teach to fire one more carefully aimed shot to the cranial ocular cavity (a 3″ x 5″ card sized space more or less from the eyebrows to the bridge of the nose).

That makes sense on the range, when neither you nor the target is moving.  But in a dynamic fire fight inside your house, you’ve not got the time for any of this.  You need to neutralize the threat before the threat neutralizes you, and once you’re in physical contact, you risk losing control of your weapon and having it turned on you, even if the guy is gushing blood (which could well be AIDS positive) all over you as he does so.

If you’ve a modern semi-auto with a 15+ round magazine in it, should you empty the entire magazine at the guy as quickly as you can?

Tactically, yes, that makes a great deal of sense in this type of scenario, and unofficially many police may confide in you that is exactly what they would do themselves.  But in terms of your subsequent civil and criminal liability, each extra shot shifts the balance away from ‘righteous shooting’ and towards a much more ugly situation.

In terms of ‘the perfect world’ (or what passes for a perfect world when you need to start shooting at anyone) the concept is to keep firing until the attacker ceases to be a threat.  What does that mean?  It might mean that he stops advancing on you and says ‘Stop, I surrender’ – even if you haven’t hit him at all.  As soon as he says those words, he has ceased to be a lethal threat and you can no longer justify shooting him.  Let’s just hope you hear him say that clearly over the sound of the gunfire!

It might mean that he turns and runs away.  Bullets in the back look really bad in the subsequent enquiry and take a lot of explaining.  If the bad guy turns around and starts running away, then as long as that direction isn’t taking him, say, to your spouse or children, the gunfight is over.

It might mean that he collapses in a heap and stops advancing on you.  Bullets shot down into a body while standing over it on the floor also look bad in the subsequent enquiry (and, yes, the police absolutely can work out that this is what happened), so as soon as the guy is down and incapacitated, and not reaching for a hidden weapon or doing anything still threatening, again stop shooting.

In the real world, you’re going to be squeezing off rounds fairly fast.  You’ll have shot five or more times before you even notice any impact on the bad guy – assuming you’re hitting the guy most of the time, and that’s a dubious assumption to make.

In the real world, don’t count your shots, and don’t look for where they are going.  Just get some lead downrange and observe the bad guy and the effect your rounds are having on him.  If at some stage, you’re fairly sure you’re getting good hits and nothing much is happening, then you have to wonder if he has body armor on, and change strategies to either ‘run away’ or start shooting at his head.

Head shots, while harder to make, are more likely to have immediate effect if you manage to get some rounds on target.  The only exception to this would be if you truly do have a zombie coming towards you.

One more thing about head shots – they are less politically correct.  Yes, there are good and bad ways to shoot someone, alas.  Don’t start shooting for the head until after you’ve sent some into the center of mass.

There is another source of valuable information about the ‘ideal’ – no, make that ‘acceptable’ – number of times to shoot an attacker.  And that is looking at what the police do when they engage someone and shoot him.

Start clipping newspaper reports of how many rounds your local police shoot at people, and see if the police officer(s) suffer any consequences or accusations of having shot too many times.  Generally you might find they sometimes have questions raised about the need to shoot at all, but seldom are questions raised about the number of rounds they shoot – assuming the number to be not outlandish.

The average police officer doesn’t actually get to shoot at people very much, and so they are almost as likely to panic as you are.  They probably get an hour or two of range time a couple of times a year, and maybe shot 500 rounds as part of their basic training, perhaps decades ago.

But SWAT officers – well, they are the creme de la creme, aren’t they.  They are the very best officers, and get massive amounts of training, and have greater experience at armed confrontations.  You’d expect them to set a ‘high water mark’ for what is acceptable, because when they are shooting, they can be much more certain they are hitting their target, they are not nearly as panicked, and they are doing something they have trained repeatedly to do.

In other words, if a SWAT officer fires four times, he will probably hit his target at least three of those times, and will do so in a calm calculated manner, knowing exactly when to stop.  On the other hand, a regular police officer may panic some, and fire more rounds in a less well controlled manner.  Let’s say a two to one discrepancy – if a SWAT officer shoots five rounds in a confrontation, we’d probably allow a regular police officer to fire ten, right?

You might want to next say ‘if a regular police officer fires ten rounds, I should be allowed to shoot twenty rounds’ but you’d be wrong for two reasons.  The first reason is that almost certainly, somewhere in those 20 rounds there’s going to be a ‘time out’ during which you have to change over magazines, giving you also a forced break from shooting and a chance to see what is happening around you.  You may be able to come up with an explanation for why/how you emptied all 17 rounds from your magazine into the bad guy, but it will be much harder to then go on and explain how you swapped over magazines and emptied a second magazine as well.

The second reason is that life isn’t fair.  To play it safe, if a regular police officer typically fires, say, six shots, you’d better stop at five unless there’s a hugely compelling reason to keep your gun running further.

Okay, now with all that as background, here’s an interesting story for you to keep in your file.  In a recent case in Pima County, AZ (a little north of Tucson) a team of five SWAT officers ended up choosing to shoot a person in a house they were raiding, in circumstances that have yet to be fully explained.

Now remember these are highly trained SWAT officers, not ordinary beat officers.

So how many times did they shoot the suspect?

Between the five of them, they shot at the man 71 times, hitting him 60 times.  That is 14 shots – and 12 hits – per officer; but most of all, it is 71 shots in total and 60 hits.

Print out this article and keep it somewhere safe and discreet.  If anyone should ever accuse you of using excessive force, show them this article.  71 shots and 60 hits?  Sheesh.

My guess is that every one of those five officers emptied his entire magazine into the victim.  Fourteen shots at – and twelve hits – would normally be getting close to the high end of what you could readily explain away, but 71 and 60???  From a SWAT team!!!

Don’t even get me started on the tactics that have all five officers fixated on one single target, and all emptying their magazines into one guy, in a scenario where, as they subsequently said when explaining why they let the guy bleed to death on the floor and didn’t allow paramedics into the house for an entire hour, they didn’t know who else was in the house or with what weapons (answer – apart from the guy’s wife and children hiding in the closet, in fear of their lives, no-one else at all).

If the SWAT team aren’t arrested, locked up, charged and convicted of excessive force and a whole bunch of other crimes, then any time you’re in Pima County with four of your friends, I guess you know that – at least there – it is acceptable to shoot at a guy with an unloaded gun 71 times.  Don’t forget, subsequently – like the SWAT team did – to claim that he shot at you first; and be no more embarrassed than the SWAT team was when it was subsequently discovered the weapon was unloaded, unfired, and with the safety on.

But don’t count on a similar standard applying in the rest of the United States.  And thank goodness for that.

So, how many rounds should you shoot at the bad guy when he is coming at you?  As many as it takes.  Better to be tried by twelve than carried by six.

Lastly, this is an interesting and unexpected reason to be sure you have the most powerful/lethal gun and ammo combination you can handle.  Assuming it isn’t something ridiculous, if you can use a commonly accepted but heavier caliber pistol, and with a more powerful ammo, you will probably end up needing to fire less rounds.

In other words, if you use a 38 special revolver, consider upgrading to a 357 magnum.  If you use a 9mm semi-auto, consider a .40 S&W instead.

And for your ammo, make sure you’re firing a +P grade (and make sure your pistol is rated for +P, too!) and that it is some sort of effective hollow point round.

But don’t end up with something too powerful for you to comfortably control.  Better to be landing rounds on target with a less powerful weapon than to be missing consistently with a heavier pistol.

May 062011

Obama, Biden, Clinton, etc, all pretend to be watching the bin Laden raid

You probably read one of a dozen different accounts of the Osama take-down, many of them including this picture, showing our illustrious President, together with Biden, Clinton, and various others all intently watching something out of the picture.

We were told this picture was taken as they were watching the realtime events unfolding at Osama’s compound.  Here’s a video clip of John Brennan (White House Counter-Terrorism advisor) talking about the group, depicted allegedly ‘monitoring the situation realtime’ and with full visuals.  And here’s one of dozens of articles including the picture.

But it now turns out that for the early 24 minutes of the 40 minute raid there was no video feed at all, and that the picture was a subsequently staged picture for the press rather than a true picture of what happened.

Apart from the assassination in cold blood of bin Laden, it seems everything else that was volunteered and proudly proclaimed about this mission were lies.  And let’s understand this clearly – it is one thing, in the heat of battle, to confuse some of the facts.  But is an entirely different thing for people to invent total lies (and to stage fake pictures) and pass them off as truth to us.

A 40 minute fire-fight?  Ummm, no.  Only one bad guy had a gun, and he was shot almost immediately.  Our guys did kill another person or two or three, but the only bullets heading downrange were from our guys, not the other side.

The helicopter loss was first described as a mechanical failure, then being shot down by ‘heavy enemy fire’ (which was non-existent) and then finally described as having collided with a side of the building.

Osama was first described as initially shooting at the good guys through a window as they stormed the compound, then of course, shooting at them in his bedroom with an AK-47 and hiding behind one of his wives; whereas now it turns out he never touched a weapon, wasn’t hiding behind a wife (who was first described as shot and killed and now the woman in question is described as having been injured) and was unarmed.  But he was ‘resisting’ (by turning and running away).

As for Obama himself, he was described as shot twice, three times, and now possibly only once.  But we don’t know, because the pictures we were promised, we will not know get to see, for fear of upsetting our enemies.

Talking about our enemies, initial reports cited the raid as being done in conjunction with the Pakistanis, and even said there was doubt who it was who shot Osama – maybe our guys or maybe the Pakistanis.  Now we learn that the only role the Pakistanis had in the raid is taking the remains of the destroyed helicopter and threatening to sell them to China or Russia or anyone else who would be interested in seeing the previously undisclosed new stealth technology that was on the helicopter.

The million dollar compound in which Osama was described as living luxurously in?  As any of the pictures of it made immediately obvious, it was a squalid ramshackle building, apparently already decaying in places although barely five years old, and the one million dollar cost estimate has been downgraded to a quarter million or less.

And the ‘incredibly gutsy’ decision made by Obama (quoted here)?  What exactly was gutsy about sending other people to take out Osama?  If Obama had decided to lead the mission himself, then that would be gutsy (and foolish).  But the only sacrifice he made was missing half of a golf game (apparently his 66th golf game since taking office – he is able to golf about once a week on average).

Please tell me what is gutsy about sending in a couple of dozen troops to take out Osama bin Laden.  After the months of monitoring, we probably knew exactly the extent and nature of the people in Osama’s compound (ie very few soldiers and very little resistance, resulting in zero casualties on our side) and was the issue of ‘Do we/don’t we take out Osama?’ even a question that needed to be asked or answered?

Obama risked nothing personally, nor even anything politically.  If the mission failed, it would have been kept secret, or else publicized so that he got points for trying.  And if it succeeded, as we are told it did, then of course, Obama would seek to cover himself in glory, as he double definitely has indeed attempted to do.

In an attempt to play up the element of ‘gutsy’ involvement, Obama then turned around and awarded a Presidential Unit Citation to the SEAL team involved in the action.  A PUC is the highest honor that can be awarded to a unit, sort of the collective equivalent of a Congressional Medal of Honor.

But, let’s think about this.  This group of SEALS were helicoptered in and out, fought against one armed man and another three or four unarmed men, in a friendly country, and took no casualties of their own, with a very mono-dimensional mission that had been as close to completely scoped out in advance as anything ever can be.

Yes, they were successful, and yes, it was a high value target.  But in a world where SEAL teams are tasked with truly risky missions, involving extraordinary feats of strength and endurance, lasting days or weeks at a time, in massively unfriendly places – both in terms of weather and the local people, and against much larger forces, often taking casualties in the course of the action, does this 40 minute ‘stroll in the park’ really qualify for the highest award possible?

I’m sorry, Mr President, but giving out a Presidential Unit Citation doesn’t make your own actions any more courageous or ‘gutsy’ and in doing so, you debase the actions these brave men and their fellow soldiers undergo most of the rest of their lives.

Don’t get me wrong.  I’m glad we found bin Laden some time last year, and pleased to see bin Laden now dead.  I’m glad we killed him.  But doing so has changed nothing for the better in our ongoing battle against Islamic extremists.  They still hate us – possibly now more than ever.  Al Qaeda is not going to unravel or give up, just because of the death of bin Laden.  And all the dozens (possibly hundreds) of other Islamic terrorist groups are still there, too.

Now is not the time to celebrate another false feeling of a mission accomplished.  Now is the time to double down and to press the battle harder, because for sure, that is what the other guys will be doing to us.