This past week, what could have been a horrifying terrorist act was thwarted by the immediate response of three young Americans who just happened to be in the right place at the right time. Of course I’m talking about the incident on a high-speed train that was an hour out of Paris coming from Amsterdam in which a 26-year old Moroccan, already known to authorities as a possible terrorist threat, began shooting an AK-47 but was taken down and subdued by the quick actions of Alek Skarlatos, Spencer Stone and Anthony Sadler, who just happened to be vacationing together and had made a last-minute decision to board the train.
The three first met in a California middle school and have remained close friends ever since. Sadler was getting ready to return for his senior year at California State University; Skarlatos and Stone are military personnel, Skarlatos having just finished a nine-month Afghanistan deployment, Stone was on leave from Lajes Air Base in the Azores where he serves as a medical tech. The trip to Europe had been planned since May – eating, drinking, tourism was on the agenda, stopping a heavily-armed terrorist was not.
The train was carrying 500 passengers and the gunman had 300 rounds for his AK. He also was carrying a Lugar pistol and a razor-knife cutter, although it is reported that he denied he was planning any kind of terrorist attack. Maybe he was just hoping to sell the AK-47 to someone else on the train, but the bottom line is that he shot and wounded one passenger, shot out a window with another round, and had enough ammunition to kill several hundred people if three young Americans, along with a Brit and a Frenchman, hadn’t gotten in his way.
Everyone, from President Obama on down, is celebrating the bravery and pluck of these three young men. In a ceremony at the Elysee Palace, they were awarded the Legion of Honor by French President Francois Hollande, who said, “Your heroism must be an example for many and a source of inspiration,” thoughts that have been echoed everywhere else. Except in one place. And the one place that has been conspicuously silent since the events on the train occurred is the building at 11250 Waples Mill Road, Fairfax, VA, which just happens to be the headquarters of the NRA.
The NRA usually goes out of its way to posture itself as the organization which celebrates American courage, heroism and resolve. They drape themselves in patriotism every chance they get; the organization’s website has endless references to the military as well as their new tactical line of clothing and other crap. And let’s not forget the monthly recitation of all those events when armed citizens stopped someone from committing a crime.
Whoa. What did I just say? Armed citizens? Is that what I said? There’s not a peep out of the NRA or any of their dopey armed-citizen promoters who are always ready at a moment’s notice to remind us about the virtues and values of walking around with a gun. Know why? Because Skarlatos, Stone and Sadler didn’t have a gun.
Last year the FBI released a detailed analysis of 160 shootings between 2000 and 2013 in which the gunman killed or wounded multiple victims. The definition of these events, known as ‘active shootings,’ was that the shooter “actively engaged in killing or attempting to kill people in a confined and populated area.” The FBI found that exactly one of these active shootings ended when an armed civilian opened fire with a gun. But 21 of these shootings came to an end because unarmed civilians intervened.
Want to show me any place that is more confined and populated than a high-speed train? If that gunman had been able to shoot up the train we’d be hearing nothing but endless “I told you so’s” from the NRA. But not a word out of them when three young Americans, two of them active military, got the job done without using a gun. Frankly, the silence is refreshing.