MISIDENTIFICATION

Posted in Rants on November 30th, 2015 by Ed

Imagine you're in a theater seeing a concert when gunshots start ringing out from the balcony. You see people all around you being struck by bullets. You begin running in panic like anyone would in such a situation. But you've also prepared for moments like this, which is why you have a concealed handgun that you're licensed to carry.

Instead of heading for the exits you head for a staircase up to the balcony, gun drawn and prepared to intervene. In the meantime, three other responsible concealed carriers who were already in the balcony have drawn their weapons and shot the terrorist attackers down where they stood. You emerge from the stairwell, gun pointed and ready, to see three people brandishing recently fired guns. From the opposite stairwell another concealed carrier emerges and sees the same three armed people plus a fourth one – you – rapidly advancing and pointing his weapon. Meanwhile, more people on the floor of the theater have drawn their legally carried firearms and have begun, with little disciple but understandable motivation, firing toward the balcony. The terrorists are dead. But nobody knows that. All anybody sees and knows is a bunch of people are running around with guns, some of whom are firing. Then the police enter, fully expecting to confront armed terrorists. There are even more terrorists than expected, they think. Look at all these people running around shooting…

This scenario, which gives more than the benefit of doubt to arguments made by concealed carry advocates in terms of their accuracy and ability to accurately shoot armed attackers in a panic situation, demonstrates the biggest flaw in the logic of ordinary people as armed vigilantes: the inability to accurately identify the target. Unless they actually see the people who initiated the shooting with their own eyes, nobody has any idea who or what their target is. Do you think that will stop anyone from shooting? Full of panic, adrenaline, and Rambo fantasies, is anyone really going to stop and say, "Hmm. I don't have a full and accurate description of the assailant, so I better not shoot"? Of course not. They'll do what any ordinary person would do in that situation, which is attack whoever looks like what he or she thinks A Terrorist should look like. Hell, if I were holding a gun and I saw another stranger running at me, gun extended, in the dark in a room full of screaming people, I'd shoot him. You would too. Because you have no idea who he is or what his intentions are, nor he about you.

That's why these programs intended to teach children to attack school shooters are so fundamentally flawed. They suffer from the same fallacy that if we teach kids to be vigilantes (Because that's easier than passing reasonable restrictions on firearms, obviously) we assume that they can identify who is and is not a Threat. I mean, if we teach a bunch of middle school kids to attack people who make them feel threatened or afraid…what could go wrong? It's not like we already have a massive problem in our society with people considering remote proximity to a black male or a Mooslem-lookin' fella a legitimate Threat.

In theory the idea makes sense. If one knows with total certainty who the school shooter is, then attacking makes at least as much sense as waiting for him to run out of ammunition. Like all theoretical exercises, though, it falls well short of reality. In a perfect world we would all have a movie-viewer's or video game player's certainty about who the Bad Guy is. In a perfect world we'd also have a pony and a million dollars in the bank. To make as intensely disturbing a policy decision as teaching small children to attack whomever they perceive to be a threat based on a hope that they'll make judicious and accurate decisions…well, as the titular character says in the holiday classic Bad Santa, hope in one hand and crap in the other. See which hand fills up first.