Opinion

Don't blame the victims | Firearms Lawyer

A letter to The Mirror demanded that the editor publish a response from another point of view before publishing the inevitable Firearms Lawyer column regarding the recent mass murder in Aurora, Colorado.

Apparently this column could be expected to “blame the victims for not being armed.”

One example the letter writer provided of such a “blame the victims first” article was one I wrote that praised “situational awareness” of the officer that shot Maurice Clemmons, the man who killed four Lakewood police officers while they were in a coffee shop using their laptops.

I also suggested in another recent article that, despite the national media’s kudos for the Café Racer patron who threw a bar stool in a futile effort to stop another mass shooting in Seattle, a gun would have been much more effective.

I had not intended on writing about the shootings in Aurora.  It seemed unseemly, and no one really knows what would have happened if an armed citizen had engaged the Colorado shooter by shooting back from behind a theater seat. Aurora should make us sad, but also angry. The police chief that almost lost some of his officers in the booby-trapped apartment is irate. All of us should be.

I was mistaken in my belief that any of the Lakewood officers could have done anything differently when Clemmons attacked them. Only Clemmons should be blamed.

Most of the facts related to shooting incidents are obtained from newspapers and rarely contain everything that the police know. That is why I don’t comment on many of the high-profile stories involving gun violence.

Thanks to the letter writer, this columnist will be more careful about implying blame for unarmed victims of gun violence. Regardless of which side of the debate any of us may fall, the subject requires that we discuss solutions to predatory violence with a great deal of humility.

Gun violence is a reality and many Americans are legally armed. We should all take an interest in how folks that go about armed in public are trained. After the Columbine tragedy, law enforcement began training officers in Active Shooter Protocol. The idea is to immediately engage an active shooter and not wait for the SWAT team while precious seconds pass and lives are cut short.

The Mirror might want to encourage a public discussion regarding whether there is any legitimate rationale not to encourage armed citizens — and especially school staff — to get specialized training that is similar to what police officers learn.

Each second that goes by could mean that the active shooter kills another person. One objection is that when the police come, they will not know who the armed citizen is because he will look just like an active shooter inside a church, school, mall or movie theater.

Incidentally, “active shooter" is the generic term that police and other professionals now use for people who start shooting other people in public places for no apparent reason.

The fact that an officer might shoot an armed citizen accidentally could be a good reason for the armed citizen not to rush into an active shooter situation, especially when there may already be law enforcement on the scene.

I don’t have answers for most of the questions raised in this column. But what if you are already in the building or a public place? Police train with simulated live-fire ammunition in realistic scenarios. Local firms now offer such training for police, military and armed citizens.

This raises the issue of whether simulated gun training — like paintball — and familiarity with real firearms might be as important as having fire extinguishers available in our homes and businesses.

I can already hear someone gasping. Some readers will propose to change the law to prohibit paintball and other simulated shooting scenarios. Others will take personal responsibility for protecting their families. Many will bemoan the brutal reality that we live in a violent world.

The Federal Way Mirror deserves kudos for encouraging honest discussion instead of political correctness that often passes for editorial policy.

 

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