Blog: On Killing

It is time for local leaders to deal with the cold, hard realities of an armed society before the pundits' window-dressing solutions set us up for greater disaster.

The title of this post comes from a series of the same name by US Army Lieutenant Colonel Dave Grossman.  Its focus (and that of its sequel, "The Bullet Proof Mind") is cold, hard truths about battle, and how those of us in the profession of arms must adapt to them.

This is something with which civilians should never have to be burdened. 

Sadly, "killing" is extremely relevant in light of the horror of last Friday morning. As the father of a toddler son, I am wracked by the idea that children barely older than him spent their final few moments in the terror I knew in an ambush on a narrow mountain-top road across from the Pakistan border. I know what it is to assume you are about to die, and cannot fathom what that must have been like for those so little.

But almost as bothersome been the endless bluster of "solutions" and "action" from people who plainly know nothing about the use of force.  These ivory-tower pundits are setting us up for disasters that will only be known when the 911 calls come in from malls, schools or theaters.   The grandstanding of Senator Dianne Feinstein and our own local congressional delegation will us with window dressing protection, devoid of any practical, tactical value. Feinstein knows nothing of the cold, hard facts of battle.

Here’s a fact:  Europe, with gun bans Feinstein envies, has had more school shootings resulting in 10 or more fatalities in the last decade (five) than has the US (two).

Here’s a another cold, hard fact: only effective method of eliminating a threat of force is rapid application of superior force. The yapping about "assault weapons" and "high capacity magazines" is trivial.

Let's start with "assault weapons."  The media tells us the Bushmaster .223 is a "high-powered assault weapon.” It is not.  The .223 (or 5.56mm NATO equivalent) class of weapons is quite low on the nastiness scale.  In fact, it is well documented that the .223 system was adopted during Vietnam because it caused less damage than higher caliber weapons.

These weapons burden the enemy with caring for casualties who survive. Weapons like the AK-47 are far more lethal, and hunting rifles are a class above that -- they take out 400-pound Elk.

But, put against tiny children, and .223s might as well be grenades. A hunting rifle in the Sandyhook classrooms would have required far fewer rounds to do much worse damage.

More bothersome, much smaller weapons have been put to more evil purpose.

Virginia Tech remains the most lethal mass murder in American history (not counting acts of war). The killer used two mid-caliber pistols, a 9mm and a .22. There are few weapons smaller than these, yet he was able to kill more people than any murderer in American history.

An assault rifle ban would have done nothing to prevent that horror.  Moreover, those (and much larger calibers) are precisely the weapons that people use for home defense and which politicians make a point of protecting.

All home defense and hunting weapons are designed to destroy.  It’s that simple.  If people are going to be allowed to protect themselves, there will always be a risk.

The blabbering crowd also spews about "high capacity magazines.”  Having to make fewer magazine changes is a convenience, I'll admit.  But I've changed magazines under fire and had little impact on my ability to engage targets.  And, anyone with an hour's practice can be fairly good at it.  

The fact is, the shock of being under an unexpected assault (especially if from a hunting rifle) will negate any value from a pause for a few extra magazine changes.  And, that value would depend on a crazed, determined killer not being able to obtain such magazines outside the law.

Again, Virgina Tech is the tragic illustration. The killer used two pistols with 19 magazines to shoot 50 people in nine minutes.  A few extra magazines changes would have barely broken his stride.   

But what did concern the VT killer was intervention – i.e. superior force.  He chained the doors of the target building, thus holding his victims in range and keeping responders at bay.  With no threat from within, he was free to continue his massacre at will.

This is the cold, hard reality.  Once killings like those in Aurora, Sandyhook or Virginia Tech start, the victims’ fate rests on the killers’ insane whim and the driving skills of the local police officers.

It is this equation which our local leaders must address.  Issues like assault weapon definitions and magazine limits are beyond the influence of the Monrovia School Board and Monrovia City Council. Questions of hardening facilities to prevent unauthorized access are logical prophylactic measures. But the issue our local officials really need to address is a brutal discussion of what will happen once a shooter gets inside a school or public building.  In a city that often only has five or six patrol cops on the street at a given time (assuming they are not tied up on the other side of town), there are few good options.

Having real, deliberate plans based on real scenarios (like Aurora and Sandyhook) with no-holds barred analysis of what really might happen is the only true way this community will protect itself from the cold, hard facts.

There is another way, of course.  Last week, before Sandyhook, there was a shooting at an Oregon mall that was interrupted by a person with a concealed carry permit. Though he did not fire, the presence of a capable opponent seems to have brought the assault to a quicker end.

I do not advocate for a careless distribution of concealed weapons permits.  Many of the most vocal advocates of them should be last to get one. Allowing educators to have guns on campus is an idea which requires very careful, deliberate consideration.

But the cold, hard tactical reality is that the only way to end an assault once it begins is the rapid application of superior force.  You can wish away and demonize whatever objects and groups you want. You can assume it will never happen here.  I pray it does not.

But, the laws of ballistics and tactics are all that matter, once someone starts killing.  There are no ifs.  Only when.

This post is contributed by a community member. The views expressed in this blog are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect those of Patch Media Corporation. Everyone is welcome to submit a post to Patch. If you'd like to post a blog, go here to get started.

Hugo Torres December 18, 2012 at 11:27 PM
The cold hard fact is that American's thrive in debate and revision of policies. This is the fuel that fires the engine pushing us towards a more perfect union. I concede that Mr. Parry has somewhat more education on the efficiency of weapons and tactics. My challenge to the post is that it doesn't really ask any questions or provides any answers other than turning our citizenry into individuals who are constantly looking for how to apply a "superior force." We need to have a dialogue in American about guns, mental illness and how they relate to one another. Those are subjects that we can do something about. Because I agree, the laws of ballistics are hard set and very difficult to argue against.
Dan Crandell December 19, 2012 at 04:39 AM
@Robert ... Your polished military bearing shines clear and load . I salute and thank You Sir. I can't wait to read comments on this blog.
Robert Parry December 19, 2012 at 06:42 AM
Hugo: You note that I neither ask questions nor provide answers. On the contrary I do both. Unfortunately, both are odious and unpleasant, and perhaps unrecognizeable as such. Here's the basic question: At the local level, there is little that can be done to prevent these incidents and most of what's proposed at the national level is fatally flawed. What are our community leaders prepared to do to address the "after the first shot" questions? Rapid application of superior force is the only real answer to such situations. Most methods for this are reliant on first-responders (police) who are rarely immediately (rapidly) available. Citizens may well offer more rapid response, but are not without risk. I do not, by any measure, want a citizenry "constantly looking" to apply force. Preparation is different than desire. But the cost of not being prepared has been paid too many times.
Robert Parry December 19, 2012 at 06:43 AM
Thank you, sir.
Chris Ziegler December 19, 2012 at 05:50 PM
Robert, When you chase these types of ideas out you’d find that we simply can't afford to have armed experts on-site at every "soft target" and the resulting accidental deaths are certain to outnumber the senseless killings on a long enough timeline. - And it's not as though the "experts" never snap. If you were thinking that we'd arm the facility, I'd respond, go meet the faculty: They're great people and wonderfully dedicated educators but most (99%) aren't warriors, good warriors have warrior genes and these deeds are accomplished in seconds. Keep in mind this is not Pakistan where you can "spray and pray" and/or call in the CAPs (Combat Air Patrols) to lay waste to just about everything and everyone in the vicinity of the bad people. It's a lot easier to get away with collateral damage (by some counts, over a million dead civilians from the oil wars) when its 13,000 miles away and they are of lesser human stature. The other options I'd rather see employed are: Get treatment for the disturbed, make sure the disturbed aren't trained in fire arms!!, teach kids how to evade "bad people" (allegedly, the kids that fled the scene survived), I hope the current protocol, "take cover on the floor and wait for rescue" is promptly reviewed and amended appropriately. I've taught my daughter to shield herself with books and beat feet if a bad person arrives at her class. I bet you can testify to how profoundly more difficult to hit a moving target.
Dan Crandell December 20, 2012 at 01:56 AM
@Robert Turn on ABC World News starting right now. A report on ARMED guards on school yards.
Dan Crandell December 20, 2012 at 02:53 AM
@Robert If you missed it no problem. Nothing of value. Only a bunch of people with opinions and we know what those are like.
Robert Parry December 20, 2012 at 05:27 AM
Chris: I'm fairly well aware that the Afghanistan Rules of Engagement don't apply in the US. I'm all for greatly enhanced mental health care. I've worked on skid row and seen the bottom layer of a tragically dysfunctional system. I'm in favor of laws requiring safes/lock boxes (but not trigger locks) for weapons. Either of those alone might have prevented Sandyhook. But all prevention measures can fail and (in this matter) ultimately will. Again, the only way to bring an assault to an end once it is underway is immediate superior force. I never used the word "expert." Most police officers will tell you most cops aren't weapons experts. They train with weapons on a very infrequent basis -- some only quarterly. What they have is the character, trustworthiness and (generally) fortitude to maintain their bearing under great stress and... wait for it... immediately apply superior force when attacked. Unfortunately, if one is not around at the right time, the tragedy is a fait accompli. A moving target is hard to hit. But not hard enough. Someone with two pistols with 10-round magazines in a classroom or public gathering will do horrific damage unless presented a compelling threat. Again, I don;t advocate everyone having guns. It is indeed a good thing that most teachers are not cut out for gun fights. But some are. There are wolves, sheep and sheep dogs. Society needs more sheep dogs. And they don't all have to be in uniform.
Robert Parry December 20, 2012 at 05:33 AM
Thanks. I'll look for it online. Unfortunately, I know ABC News' bent on these thigns. After Aurora they did an experiment showing how hard it is for a person to overcome an armed assault. They put "armed" citizens with airsoft gun in classrooms full of people, then had an assailant come in shooting. Every time the armed citizen was eventually put down by the assailant. But they never looked at the critical metric: How many more innocents escaped unharmed because the killer was momentarily distracted?
Dan Crandell December 24, 2012 at 06:29 AM
Robert Please tell me your thoughts on the NRA's proposals for a School Shield Security Program? Did you see the press conference? Your thoughts are important to me.
Chris Ziegler December 24, 2012 at 05:46 PM
Dan and all: Regarding this idea of 'we need superior firepower': Please, use your critical thinking and just do the math, how many seconds does it take to shoot unsuspecting victims? Answer: about 1.5 seconds on average, when you have high target density and you are using a semi-automatic weapon. Arming teachers or posting a guard is merely an added higher priority target, (in plain English, you shoot high priority targets first or otherwise incapacitate them such as splash them with acid or an incendiary). So let's take this one step farther, let's spend billions and turn schools in to maximum security prisons. What will happen then? I'm going to guess that those bent on destruction will just find the next best soft target; the library? Chuck E. Cheese? The Little Gym? Our street fair? Who knows where? What should we do? Like I said before; teach citizens to react more effectively i.e. run, throw books at the assailant. If we are going to buy anything, buy ballistic shields and Tasers or other non-lethal directed energy weapons. Even if we had a teacher that was a former combat experienced special forces operator (the common soldier or gun enthusiast, is not qualified to respond in a school shooting situation); Statistics indicate it is more likely that his weapon is more likely to be misused than used properly.
Robert Parry December 27, 2012 at 02:50 AM
Dan: I thought it was ridiculous and amazingly tone-deaf. Armed, uniformed security in schools are the kinds of things middle America associates with bad, dangerous schools. As shocking as Sandyhook was, the horrible aura will eventually wear off. Do we want armed guards reminding us of that day the way TSA agents do 9/11 everytime we go to the airport? Of course not. An extremely low-key and subtle but serious counter-threat would be more than enough. Uniformed guards are easily monitored and targeted. And, they are a waste of money, as 99.999% of schools are NEVER attacked. It would be more than enough to issue CCWs to school staff who want to and volunteer to have them. They should qualify quarterly, like most police officers do, but then all CCW holders should. It would also be wise to have any CCW holder with frequent presence at a school (to include parents) undergo some additional training, though probably not mandatorily so. You don't need teachers to perform enter-and-clear battle drills. They don't need much in the way of tactics at all. They just a bit of simulated exposure to the possibility, something most of them will have mentally processed just by signing up. Plus some rules for safe handling of weapons (ie. in a concealed safe, and never ever pull that weapon out when anyone can see, unless it is a true emergency).
Robert Parry December 27, 2012 at 02:58 AM
Gee, Chris. Thanks for the suggestion that I use critical thinking. Hadn't considered that idea. Guns are a threat that will not go away. The gun for the next massacre is most likely ALREADY in the killer's hands, tonight and even if you banned guns tomorrow, he's the last guy that will turn his in. You don't need to be a Green Beret to effectively use a weapon to end a threat. This guy saved a stack of lives without firing a shot -- oh, and he was well aware of the his target background. Imagine that. http://www.kgw.com/news/Clackamas-man-armed-confronts-mall-shooter-183593571.html Last thought: We've known for decades that you'll never get guns out of America. Wouldn't it have been better if someone at Sandyhook's front office had gone to that door with a pistol, instead of bare hands?
Dan Crandell December 27, 2012 at 06:16 AM
@Robert Thank you for responding to my request. With respect and I say that not to set you up for a display of disrespect. Your statements are not in keeping with the NRA news conference proposals to address school safety. If you have viewed the ENTIRE news conference I find it unbelievable that you have reached conclusions such as these. If you choose not to respond I will accept that.
R. Ray Morford January 03, 2013 at 08:52 PM
Robert....thank you for your educated comments. I'm sure you would not have started this blog if they were not heart felt. After 36+ years in Law Enforcement, I fully understand the proper use of force. I also fully understand the need for our mental health programs to be repaired and updated. Not later, but now. These programs should go hand in hand. This should never be a political issue from the right or left. Just clear heads doing the right thing.
Robert Parry January 03, 2013 at 10:43 PM
Thank, you, sir. I completely agree that mental health care is the key piece.
Dan Crandell January 04, 2013 at 07:01 AM
@R.Ray Do you support a proactive boots on the ground approach to secure the safety of OUR children in OUR schools? You are no doubt retired and possibly a grandfather. Do you support the NRA's proposal for a School Shield Program. This program seems "clear headed" and "the right thing to do". Most people are quick to reject it based on a bias against the NRA. What say you Officer Morford?
Cathy McCallum March 15, 2013 at 12:05 AM
Gosh, Robert. You win. Your remarks regarding the dangers posed by guns not classified as assault weapons have convinced me that the assault weapons ban should be expanded to include all guns except hunting rifles; and further, that hunting rifles and their ammunition should be strictly controlled. Thanks for clarifying my thinking on this issue.
Gayle M. Montgomery March 15, 2013 at 06:59 AM
Gee, following tonight's Town Hall, isn't it interesting that Cathy, who keeps thinking folks are picking on her candidate, would sound in on a several months' old blog to assail Mr. Parry. I am so loving these small town politics with their obvious motives.


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