The NRA Says A Gun Protects You From Harm. The FBI And The Police Disagree.

This week an official report commissioned by the Aurora City Government about the July 20, 2012 theater shooting was released.  The report was the work of the System Planning Corporation, whose TriData Division conducts detailed reviews of responses to emergency situations, including the mass shootings at Columbine, Virginia Tech and the University of Illinois.  So they know what they’re doing and the 188-page report is a serious and sober assessment of what was done right at Aurora and what was done wrong.

What was done right, first and foremost, was the immediate, quick and effective response of cops and firefighters to an emergency situation that can only be described as utter chaos. The first police unit arrived at the scene within two minutes after the first 911 call, by which time hundreds of theater-goers were milling around, many bloodied and in shock, others wounded, others worried about friends whom they couldn’t find and, worst of all, nobody knowing whether the shooter or shooters were still inside the building or were moving from one theater to another.

aurora                The good news is that multiple police units arrived quickly at the scene, began looking for the gunman and assisting or controlling the panic-stricken crowd.  Police units also made what was termed an “unprecedented” decision to transport shooting victims to hospitals in their own cars, rather than waiting for ambulances or other medical units to take charge.  According to the report, had police cars “not been used for rapid transport of seriously wounded victims, more likely would have died.”

The bad news was that there was no unified command or communication system linking the police to fire/EMS personnel.  As a result, there was confusion in moving ambulances closer to victims, as well as assessing the risk to EMS personnel who needed to get into the theater in order to deal with victims who were still inside.  The coordination between agencies was not resolved until nearly an hour passed after the shooting began, and numerous communications between first-responders were either lost or misunderstood.  What probably saved additional lives was the fact that one of the first police officers to gain entrance to the theater was trained as a paramedic and thus able to make triage decisions until the situation was brought under control.

The report also contains suggestions for managers of theaters and other places where large groups are gathered and shootings might occur.  Chief among these recommendations is what the report calls public education, “inform the public of appropriate measures if caught in a shooting situation.”  And the appropriate responses to a shooter are to flee, hide, and if neither is possible, to attack. Physical resistance to shooters, according to the Police Executive Research Forum, reflects a recognition that shooters now use high-capacity, semi-automatic weapons that may inflict severe tolls even if police respond, as in Aurora, in under minutes from the first shots being fired.

The flee, hide, fight strategy, which is best described in a video produced by the Houston PD, doesn’t take into account the ability of armed citizens to resist an active shooter by pulling out and using their own guns. And we all know what Wayne LaPierre says, “only thing that stops a bad guy with a gun is a good guy with a gun.”  Except there’s only one little problem.  It’s not true.  The recent FBI report on active shootings disclosed that in 160 incidents between 2000 and 2013, only one shooting was stopped by a civilian armed with a gun.

Don’t get me wrong.  I’m not in any way opposed to using a gun or anything else for genuine, self-defense.  But I am opposed to the shameless pandering of the NRA and other gun promoters to the childish fantasy that if you walk around with a gun, that you’re protecting yourself or others from harm.  SWAT teams and other special response units train constantly – hundreds of hours – making themselves ready to use guns.  Do you really think that sitting on your duff watching a video amounts to the same thing?

 

 

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Why Shouldn’t I Drive Around In An Armored Car?

I was a college student in New York City during the halcyon days of the anti-War movement, when there must have been a demonstration against the Viet Nam war every week in Central Park.  And while on occasion the demonstrations turned a little nasty, meaning a few “f— you’s” exchanged between the kids and the cops, I don’t recall that anything much happening as we tramped around the Sheep Meadow or listened to Dave Dellinger make a speech at the 68th Street Mall.

It therefore came as a big surprise when, many years later, I was given a tour of the warehouse that was part of the Central Park Police Precinct of the NYPD.  Because sitting in the warehouse was a phantasmagoria of dusty and rusted military equipment – flak jackets, gas-masks, helmets – that could have outfitted the entire 102nd Airborne, never mind a bunch of cops who spent most of their time running over to Lexington Avenue to get doughnuts and coffee for “the guys.” My tour guide, who was a former Commander of the Precinct, told me with a chuckle that the equipment had been stockpiled during the 1960’s just in case any of the anti-War protests got “out of hand.”

mrap               That was then, this is now.  A report  in The New York Times, based on documents from the Department of Defense, indicates that police departments around the country,  are once again building up caches of equipment that was purchased by our military for use in places like Afghanistan and Iraq, but is now considered “excess” and if not purchased or given away to domestic customers would likely be thrown out or destroyed.  You would think that police departments, all of whom always operate on shoestring budgets, would jump at the opportunity to grab free equipment that they really need, even though  there will still be costs for maintenance  and repairs. But some of the items that are ending up in the motor pools and storage rooms of the cops can’t possibly have anything to do with carrying out traditional ‘serve and protect’ functions of the local police.

Among other items, the DoD has given out more than 430 MRAPs to police departments in more than 40 states.  What’s an MRAP?  It’s an armored vehicle designed to be resistant to land mines and other anti-personnel weapons or IEDs that played such havoc with our troops when we first invaded Iraq.  Now I can understand that police in southern border states like New Mexico might feel more secure patrolling territory frequented by Mexican drug gangs, but could someone please explain to me why the cops need to ride around in an armored-plated vehicle in a town like Neenah, Wisconsin, whose 25,000 inhabitants located on Lake Winnebago haven’t seen a homicide in five years? And don’t tell me that the Neenah Police Department considers itself on the front lines of defense against terrorism because that statement was actually made in public by the sheriff of Oxford County, Maine, who justified the acquisition of a MRAP because of the possibility of “unimaginable terrorist threats.”

Let me tell you a little bit about Oxford County, Maine.  It’s a hilly and largely forest-covered area which contains about 8 families per square mile.  Any terrorist who wants to sneak into the United States by crossing the border from Canada into Oxford County will find that they will face a much bigger problem from the moose and the bears than from the sheriff’s deputies riding around in their MRAP.

Peter Kraska, who has been studying police and, in particular the development of SWAT teams for more than twenty years, notes that while these para-military units first started out by adopting and popularizing military jargon, are now increasingly adopting military equipment, weapons and tactics and have seen their largest growth in small and medium-size departments, many of which are actually dealing with less crime and violence than before their SWAT team was even deployed.

All of this, it seems to me, comes back to the degree to which some Americans seem prone to accept the notion that more armed force on our streets and in our homes can make us safer from terrorism and crime. And if the cops feel more comfortable tooling around in a MRAP whether they need one or not, who’s to say that some enterprising entrepreneur won’t soon deliver one customized for civilians as well? I can already see the discount coupon for such a vehicle tied to the next email from the NRA.