Everyone has had an opinion on the Colorado shooting while we were dealing with real-world SOF stuff. (And, to be sure, visiting with old friends). At this point our opinion is belated and redundant, but we’ll throw it out there before (and after) discussing one of the equipment issues, and the (sigh) media.
We’ll get to the media in a minute, but that nylon piece of web gear on the right is what the shooter was actually wearing. Yeah, that’s the “bulletproof” vest. So here are the opinions:
- It was a horrible crime, perpetrated by an individual.
- The individual is apparently mentally ill. Severe mental illness often strikes bright people, usually in their twenties. It is an extremely intractable problem, a longstanding opinion here, and one reinforced by our recent reading of Clayton Cramer’s brilliant memoir/history My Brother Ron. You can buy it at Amazon here, the Kimdle version here ($1.50! and you can read it on phones, pads, Macs and PCs), or go to our friends at Forgotten Weapons or Instapundit and follow one of their Amazon links, then search for My Brother Ron. As we understand it, as long as you buy it within a half hour, they get a few cents without you paying a penny extra.
- You will notice we do not mention the shooter’s name. It wasn’t the President’s idea, but he jumped on the bandwagon, and — we wish we could write this more often — he is absolutely right. (We had been doing this with reference to fame-seeking shooters, such as the one that shot John Lennon, for many years, for just that reason, but we lack the President’s national voice and mass following).
- This is the second bizarre occurrence in Aurora, Colorado recently. The police recently used an aggressive and probably unconstitutional dragnet approach, arresting (for all practical purposes) dozens of people in order to sift them for a single bank robber. They got their man, but are very unlikely to make a conviction stick. That incident made them look like aggressive morons. This one makes them look considerably better: according to them (so take it with a grain of salt), they got to the theater in under 2 minutes, and caught the shooter by surprise. Then they took him into custody without further incident. It’s hard to reconcile what looks like steroid policing with what looks like extreme professionalism, but we are working off media reports here. Which brings us to:
- The general media’s performance was and remains abysmal. To this moment, we do not know what happened and we do “know” a lot of information that has turned out to be false.
The bulletproof vest that wasn’t — it’s actually a piece of tactical web gear made by Blackhawk — was sold to the shooter by an online equipment store, tacticalgear.com. They’ve been on the news a lot, explaining and defending their sale to a media that has the bit of a story in its teeth and doesn’t want to heed the reins of actual fact. In their attempt to defend their sale of this silly piece of cloth, from reporters urging a ban, they’ve suggested that no, it’s guns that should be banned. Way to go, guys. (They backpedaled from that position in a July 23 statement).
Notice we didn’t link their store. Not an oversight in this case. You can buy Blackhawk gear anywhere, you don’t need to buy it from someone that wants to ban your guns.
The false report of the shooter being armored up led to a lot of discussion. We personally concluded that even had we been in the theater, the outcome might not have been different — 30-odd years of training producing rapid, consistent controlled pairs to center of mass (thank you, MSG Paul Poole, Son Tay Raider. Rest in Peace). It may be too late to retrain to the Mozambique drill as the standard. But two solid hits on a chest plate would likely have left shaken but not stirred and fundamentally undeterred.
(Of course, body armor has its limits. The annual FBI report on victimization of police by violent criminals notes a high and steadily rising percentage of the decedents who were wearing armor when shot and killed).
Along with the bogus body armor report, news media falsely reported a middle-aged Aurora man as the shooter (he had the ill fortune to live in the city and have the same common name as the actual skell, which is enough for the products of Columbia School of Journalism evidently) and falsely reported that his mother confirmed him as the shooter to ABC producer Matthew Mosk, who has a record of fabrications going back to his tenure at the Washington Post, according to a right-wing news-analysis site. (Yes, it’s the same guy. Unlike Mosk and Brian Ross, we confirmed that the ABC guy has the Post on his resume).
Which brings us back to an important point: active shooters prepare for many things, but not armed civilian resistance. And odds are, they are right. Relatively few people go armed even though the number of permits issued nationwide (and the spread of permitless, Constitutional carry, now the norm in four states), and the shooters tend to select quite deliberately those targets that are most likely to be gun-free. The theater in Colorado forbade entry to armed would-be patrons, a deliberate calculation by Cinemark Holdings’ risk managers and/or insurers that the Net Present Value of probable payoffs to victims of some gun-bearer’s negligent discharge outweighed the NPV of payoffs to violent crime victims. They took that gamble on a hunch — there are no statistics available to properly model it — and they’ll be paying as a consequence. Colorado law reportedly makes such a suit an uphill climb, but they’ll be defending 70 cases and that alone will bleed them white.
So for the individual, the lessons are obvious. Go armed always… armed with a “minor” weapon, as the artists of stylized bowling-pin shoots sneer, beats armed with a hand cannon at home. Avoid patronizing firms like Cinemark Holdings that would disarm you and enable your murderer.
For firms, the answer is easy: take down “no guns” signs. Criminals and crazies pay no heed to them, and your first line of defense — the armed citizen — does. Consider giving your most trustworthy employees self-defense training, also.
For public policy, the answers are hard. What do we do about the mentally ill? In this case, the shooter hadn’t done anything for which he could realistically be stopped at questioned, let alone locked up, until he shot 70 people. It doesn’t seem like restricting the sane based on what the insane might do is exactly… sane. Banning weapons does not work in a world where criminals and insane people are likely to be intelligent, weapons technology is neither secret nor complicated, and manufacturing is devolving to the desktop daily.
It keeps coming back to that question: what do we do about the mentally ill? And that’s a question that even families with ill members, families like Clayton Cramer’s, have a hard time answering.
If Congress really wanted to do something and have it be a good something, they’d take a pile of money away from something a lobbyist is paying them off to support and dump it into cognition, brain chemistry, and other basic mental health research. That’s where the answer to the Colorado shooting and many others resides, inside the conundrum that is the shooter’s cranium.