So it turns out that the cop who shot and killed Philando Castle during a traffic stop in a Minneapolis suburb not only received 23 hours of training on active shooters, use of force and de-escalation methods, but also recently completed a private course called ‘Bulletproof Warrior,’ run by a for-profit outfit called Calibre Press. So if nothing else, we can say that Officer Yanez, now in the middle of the shooting controversy following an on-scene video that went viral, has spent some time learning what to do with his gun.
Unfortunately, the average cop probably doesn’t receive sufficient training in how to determine whether an incident in which he or she is involved may require the use of lethal force. And police often encounter individuals whose behavior doesn’t necessarily indicate that the officer is placing himself in harm’s way until it’s too late. So in every, single case where a cop might need to use lethal force, there’s always an element of personal judgement and on-the-job experience that comes into play.
Which is why I found the news of Officer Yanez’s attendance at a ‘Bulletproof Warrior’ seminar both interesting and disturbing; interesting because there has been a growth in companies that promote all kinds of lethal-force training, officially sanctioned or not, and disturbing because this type of training goes hand-in-hand with the extent to which Americans are fed a daily diet about the alleged increase in lawlessness and violence against which they need to be more vigilant and more prepared, meaning – walk around with a gun.
The idea that the world is a dangerous, threatening place didn’t first crop up after the Twin Towers were attacked. In fact, it was the theme song of one of Gun-nut Nation’s most venerable icons, a World War II veteran and former Marine named Jeff Cooper, who opened a commercial shooting range where he taught close-combat and self-defense methods called the Gunsite Academy in 1976. Cooper also wrote prodigiously for gun publications and published a whole pile of books, including his most famous tome, Principles of Personal Defense, which became something of a mini-best seller in Gun-nut Land, and is still quoted today, even if the folks who quote the book don’t realize that what they are saying is what Cooper said decades ago.
Cooper’s success was a perfect example of being in the right place at the right time, because it was in the late 1970s that the NRA adopted a much more combative stance, began promoting concealed-carry as an expression of 2nd-Amendment rights, and wrapped the whole argument around the notion that without an armed citizenry, violent crime would spiral out of control. To further the idea that a personally-carried weapon was the only true defense against a world filled with predators and thugs, Cooper developed a color code ranging from “condition white” to “condition red,” the former being a state in which an individual is totally unprepared for an attack, the latter being the point at which a lethal response is in the process of being made.
This may sound like nothing more than fantasies now scripted into video games, but there appear to be lots of folks walking around who are willing to engage in lethal-force combat games at Thunder Ranch, or join a clever web marketing promotion like United States Concealed Carry Association, or take a course in lethal defense from companies like Calibre Press. And what all three have in common is the idea that we are always on the verge of being victims of violent crime, and that the only valid response is to protect ourselves and others with a gun.
Let’s forget that violent crime continues to decline. Let’s forget that the number of times that guns are used to prevent crimes is too small to be found. Let’s remember how we felt when we were given our first toy gun. And let’s remember how we feel now that the toys are real.