As I write this details are emerging about another spree-shooting, this time in Boulder Colorado, and I am again reminded of why I carry a concealed pistol every day. Not to be a hero, not to be the ‘Good Guy With a Gun’ that saves the day. I carry it to defend myself and other innocents if necessary and possible.
I’ve talked about this before. Self-defense does not mean hunting down the shooter; going after a madman with a rifle or shotgun while armed with a concealed handgun does not strike me as a recipe for a long life. I have a home and family, and as a civilian my first responsibility is to survive and return to them. Going after the shooter is the job for the people with training, long-guns, commo and armor that are paid for this sort of situation.
As an individual citizen it is just not my job. Sounds callous, but there it is. I am not going to try to hunt down an active shooter. I’m going to get out. If it is feasible I’m going take as many innocent people with me as possible. My concealed carry pistol is for defense, period, and that means covering a retreat. Period.
Another consideration is that the police, and even potentially other armed citizens, don’t know who the hell you are or what you are doing. They don’t know how many shooters there are. In they heat of the moment and operating with limited information if they see you ‘on the hunt’ with a gun they just might shoot you. So get out. If you can help others while doing so then by all means do, but get out.
Well, that’s the ideal. I am, unfortunately, what’s called a ‘high responder;’ last year when I observed a domestic issue I intervened despite knowing what I should have done instead. I knew better, but in the moment… OK, I can work with that. If I know I may not be able to do the sensible thing I need to take that into account and plan accordingly. So, look for a choke point and play rear-guard while others are escaping, then get the hell out myself. If engaged the idea is to disengage and retreat, which means I need to plan to do so as safely as possible. We need to learn our limitations and work around them as much as possible to achieve the desired result, which in this case is to preserve my own life for my sake and the sake of those that love me.
Arguably one of the most useful things you can do in a mass-casualty event is to be prepared for the aftermath. Carrying a tourniquet or a small emergency trauma kit might save a life you couldn’t have saved by trying to be a hero. Take a ‘stop the bleed’ class. Be prepared to useful in a way that makes sense, even if you are armed. Oh, and if the gun comes out it goes away again the instant you are reasonably safe; you really don’t want to escape a life or death situation only to be shot by a cop with incomplete information.
All that being said, I feel the need to comment more broadly on these mass killings. Gun Control laws have not stopped these events in other countries, and they won’t stop them here. Despite strict gun control there was a serious mass shooting in France, and there have been in other places too. That leaves aside bombings and other mass-casualty attacks, and we need to recognize that the dead really don’t give a single shit if the instrument of their demise was a bullet, a bomb or a delivery truck driven into a crowd. Mass killings are not the disease; they are a symptom. Sadly the United States has that disease worse than most and it’s not going to go away until we address that fact.
Unequal education, lack of economic opportunity, income inequality, sexism, racism, political extremism, the deliberate and systematic concentration of wealth to a small, exclusive minority… and maybe most importantly the sense of privilege that denies these are real. Want to stop the killing? Address these things. Yes, it’s harder. Yes, it’s expensive, and yes it’s easier to slap a band-aid on the sucking chest wound and pretend you’ve done something useful. But until we address these factors and the societal illness that currently prevails the killing isn’t going to stop. It’s like people are starving and we’re arguing about the menu instead of feeding them. Deal with the disease and the symptoms will go away.
Michael Tinker Pearce, 22 March 2021