Dumb Things I Have Done Lately

Monday, December 10, 2007

Girls With Guns in Churches

The tactical ninjas and pro-gunners* are going to be all over this (as will the anti-gunners), and details are still emerging, but here's what USA Today is reporting about the Colorado Springs church shooting (Sunday's second Colorado shooting):
"...pastor Brady Boyd of the New Life Church said the security guard who shot the gunman was purposely stationed in the lobby of the church after hearing about the earlier shooting.

When the shots were fired "she rushed toward the attacker and took him down in the hallway," he said.

The attacker never got more than 50 feet inside the building.

"She probably saved over 100 lives," Boyd said.

He described her as a highly trained volunteer member of the church with a law enforcement background whose role was to provide security. He said she was not wearing a uniform and is licensed to carry a gun."
CNN's report adds more details, saying that the shooter is known, did both incidents, and had a prior relationship with the first church (which is no doubt be a disappointment to all the red-blooded, footstomping, Bible-banging tactical ninjas and keyboard commandos who saw "churches" and "skullcap" and were praying for this to be Islamic terrorism, instead of yet another maladjusted loner with a rifle.)

It's instructive to look at this shooting because:

* The guards (only one was armed) were posted by the second church specifically and deliberately in response to the earlier church shooting incident. They recognized they were a target (even a likely target), and developed a proactive response (with an evacuation plan and an armed guard), exercised self-defense, and stopped the threat. So kudos to them, even if it is the conservative evangelical megachurch that spawned the meth-sniffing, rentboy-using Ted Haggard.

* Even when the police are caring, competent, and close, they're still a reactive force. In nearly all of the recent mass shooting events, the police response didn't get there until well after the shooter had stopped. (In the Salt Lake City mall shooting, an off-duty cop returned fire until other police arrived.)

* Unless you want to live in a police state where there's a cop in every building and a metal detector on every door, you're either going to have to live with "acceptable losses" until the cops arrive, or do something to address your own safety. It doesn't necessarily have to involve a gun, but like it or not, the only person ultimately responsible for ensuring your personal safety is you, which is always something to keep in mind.

* Whether you feel armed guards in malls, schools, churches, etc. are appropriate or not (despite the blood-soaked coverage, these events are still rare -- I hate to talk like an economist, but there has to be a cold-blooded cost-benefit analysis somewhere), there just aren't many ways to stop an armed shooter. If you don't feel like waiting until he runs out of ammo or commits suicide, there's has to be another guy with a gun somewhere to stop him.

* Strike that -- the security guard who stopped the shooter was a woman -- not a guy with a gun, but a girl with a gun. The USA today article says she has a law enforcement background, though the CNN article says she's not an officer. Presumably she's a CCW -- a regular person licensed to carry a concealed weapon. She evidently used her handgun to take down a guy with a rifle; normally, you would expect the person with the long gun to have the advantage, so good job.

Evidently, she shot him, told him to drop his weapon, and shot him again when he appeared to reach for another weapon. Although she wasn't able to prevent the first people from getting shot, once the threat emerged, it's pretty much the best-case scenario for armed intervention, instead of the bloodlust-infused, redneck Rambo rampage picture with innocent bystanders falling in the crossfire that many anti-gunners always conjure up as the inevitable outcome.

* Pro-gun folks always think the answer is more guns; anti-gun folks always think the answer is fewer guns. I'm somewhere in the mushy middle -- I don't think having more CCW-holders will lead to a utopian polite society, though I also don't think the streets will run red with blood if more non-nutcase, non-felons are licensed to carry concealed handguns.

* I guess there is at least one example now where not banning handguns from church property turned out to be a good idea (with the general idea being, the crazed shooter wouldn't heed a gun proscription, anyway, so you're just disarming honest folk).

Like I said, I don't think the knee jerk reaction should be that more guns are better or fewer guns are better. I do tend toward the idea that since guns are here and in such large numbers, and since I don't want to live in more of a police state than we already do, and since guns are a great equalizer for the small, weak, or traditionally disempowered, that it's better to have more of them in reliable hands than to have them in none.

Like it or not, though there is a social cost to having guns in society, there's also a social benefit. I can't say to what end the scale tips, and every person is going to have his or her own personal calculus for it. But just as pro-gunners incur some social costs (assuming, say, states that don't enforce one-gun per month limits contribute to more straw purchases that lead to more illegal shootings), so do anti-gunners reap some social benefits (because some homes have guns in them, a burglar should be less likely to break into an occupied home since he wouldn't know if the homeowner was armed or not -- though there are plenty of heavy-handed "Gun-Free Home: This Home Is Unarmed" stickers if your conscience tells you not to avail yourself of that benefit.)

*I'm not nearly enough of a high-speed, low-drag wannabe to be a tactical ninja, and I'm just moderately pro-gun, which would makes me a useful idiot/appeaser to the hardcore gun nuts, and a gun-crazed lunatic to the anti-gunners. Who says being in the middle is easy?

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  • I'm just fascinated that these megachurches have armed security guards.

    By Blogger Dan, At 12/10/2007 6:12 PM  

  • Well, given the fact that there really can't ever be a "positive" when it comes to guns, we sort of have to strive to find a happy medium. Guns won't go away, nor will people who use them to do things like mass-shootings.
    And since episodes like these recent attacks can never have a happy ending, we have to accept that guns will have the dual personalities of offensive and defensive weapons. But they'll always be weapons.
    It's tough to find a stance that I'm comfortable with. Moderately pro-gun works.

    By Blogger Jimmy, At 12/11/2007 1:18 PM  

  • Widespread gun ownership has costs far in excess of the benefits. I will vote against your position as actually persuading people on the issue so far has been futile.

    @jimmy. Fatalism isn't a convincing arguement for not trying to improve things.

    @dan. Blessed are the heavily armed for they will blast their enemies to smitherines. 2nd amendment trumps 6th commandment.

    By Blogger Matthew, At 12/11/2007 8:35 PM  

  • Matthew -- if you have a solution that doesn't involve the wholly unworkable mass confiscation/kicking in doors/police state, I'm willing to listen.

    By Blogger Joelogon, At 12/11/2007 10:50 PM  

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