November 01, 2006
carrying a gun is abnormal and misguided
Via Clayton Cramer, I read this account of the self defense shooting of a mentally ill arsonist who had previously served time for dousing his mother's day care center with gasoline and setting it on fire:
A 25-year-old man who was fatally shot while attacking a stranger Saturday at Westlake Plaza had previously served time in prison for setting fire to a day-care center his mother operated out of her Phinney Ridge home.For that, the man served nine months and was placed on probation. And he's been arrested three times since then for "violating the conditions of his release."
On the last day in the life of this obviously dangerous man, he was randomly assaulting passers-by until he picked the wrong victim -- an older man who was legally carrying a gun:
According to Seattle police, a woman called 911 at 11:08 a.m. Saturday to report that a man was acting erratically, yelling at passers-by and randomly assaulting strangers near Boren Avenue and Pine Street. Officers sent to the scene couldn't find the caller, the man or any victims, police spokeswoman Debra Brown said.Cramer argues that what the armed man did was quite rational:
Once you are on the ground, it is hard to run, and hard to protect yourself. The victim did what I think any rational person would have done: he drew his handgun and fired, killing Culotti.Not only do I agree, this case is one of the best arguments I have seen for concealed carry. The legal system and the police simply cannot keep society safe from dangerous psychotics. If a conviction for arson only gets them off the street for nine months, then I think it's reasonable to conclude that law abiding citizens are the only force that can possibly stop them.
The dead arsonist's uncle has a very different point of view, however. In an op ed, he calls the armed citizen "not normal" and "misguided," and argues that his nephew was in no way at fault:
Put aside the fact that Danny was a beautiful, intelligent child who became schizophrenic at age 18 through no fault of his own; then ask how you would respond to someone attacking you with his fists.Danny "acted erratically" but the citizen acted abnormally? How might he describe dousing day care centers with gasoline and setting them on fire? Uncalled for behavior?
But for a moment let's look at Mr. Culotti's argument. Carrying a gun is not normal. What makes it abnormal? I don't know what the percentages are, but let's assume that there are about as many armed, concealed-carry permit holders as there are Jewish citizens, or even gay citizens. Say, somewhere between one and ten percent of the American population. 39% of the population owns a gun, and I'm sure a much smaller percentage carry concealed. (I'm guessing here, but anyone who knows, feel free to jump in and comment.)
Is normality based on percentages? Mr. Culotti says that "most of us do not carry lethal weapons," and he is doubtless correct. But I want to know what normal means.
Here's Merriam Webster:
2 a : according with, constituting, or not deviating from a norm, rule, or principle b : conforming to a type, standard, or regular patternNone of these really state whether behavior that occurs regularly in a minority of cases is normal.
Police officers carry guns, yet there are fewer of them than there are concealed carry permit holders. Using the numerical calculation offered by Mr. Culotti, police officers are even less "normal" than the man who fired a shot in self defense. (Whether a police officer -- especially an older or smaller police officer -- would tolerate being knocked to the ground and kicked repeatedly is a good question.)
I suspect, though, that the word "normal" is intended in the moralistic sense, because it is coupled with "misguided." So, while the dead man is blameless, his shooter is bad. Simply for having a gun.
But had he not been carrying a gun, he'd have been beaten to a pulp or even killed. By a convicted arsonist who attacks total strangers at random.
Nothing bad about that?
I think that what the dead man's uncle misses is the overwhelmingly, horrendously awful nature of what his nephew did. Setting fire to day care centers and attacking total strangers are atrocious acts by any standard. Whether they can be called "evil" depends on whether he had the capacity to form an evil mind, but that does not alter the horrible nature of his deeds. From the standpoint of any victim, whether his mental illness (or his documented crack addiction) caused him to behave that way is no more relevant than whether a vicious dog that attacked in an unprovoked manner suffered from rabies or was just plain vicious.
Anyone crazy enough to attack total strangers at random can reasonably be expected to also be crazy enough to kill them. This was no ordinary ("normal") attack with fists. Thus the question is really not "How you would respond to someone attacking you with his fists?" but "How you would respond to a total stranger attacking you at random with his fists, then kicking you when you're down?"
Without a gun, I suppose one "normal" response would be to lie there and die.
Unarmed security guard sounds a little like a contradiction ... at best a deterrence to the more stupid or minor criminals (don't steal that bike -- there's a guy in uniform), at worst, a man put in an impossible situation, charged with protecting others, but having nothing but a radio to call for help, and maybe his fists.Not long ago, a maniac grabbed an electric saw and cut open a subway passenger's chest in New York. Far from protecting the passenger, the subway employees were said to be traumatized as they watched the attack:
One MTA worker says the attack was a frightening scene for his colleagues.MTA employees called for help, and the passenger barely lived. Had he defended his life with a gun, he'd have faced serious charges.
(After all, it wasn't as if the saw-wielding
posted by Eric on 11.01.06 at 05:06 PM
Search the Site
Classics To Go
See more archives here
Old (Blogspot) archives
A knee sock jihad might be premature at this time
People Are Not Rational
No Biorobots For Japan
The Thorium Solution
Radiation Detector From A Digital Camera
This war of attrition is driving me bananas!
Attacking Christianity is one thing, but must they butcher geometry?
Are there trashy distinctions in freedom of expression?
Please Don't Let Me Be Misunderstood