Now Paul Helmke is getting in on it too, speaking about a force-on-force training exercise Phil Van Cleave went through in West Virginia. The kind of training Van Cleave was describing is more appropriate for law enforcement officers, who have to confront armed criminals and take them into custody, rather than citizens trying to defend themselves. The main lesson Van Cleave is stressing here is that it’s a bad idea to go on the offense with an opponent who is or could be armed, because we have police, who can arrive with overwhelming force, and who also have the advantage of body armor. I think most sensible people understand this. Paul Helmke, however, draws inappropriate conclusions from Van Cleave’s wisdom:
I know Phillip Van Cleave is still a strong believer in gun rights.Â But his story should be a cautionary lesson. After tragedies like the recent one in Manchester, Connecticut, when aÂ disgruntled employee shot and killed eight coworkers, there are usually comments from the gun love community about how the tragedy could have been avoided if only someone else there had been armed.
The problem, Paul, is the defender would have been in the opposite position Van Cleave was in with his training. The active shooter would be the one in Van Cleave’s position. In this kind of scenario it’s the aggressor who has the disadvantage. No one believes no-win scenarios don’t exist. If someone rounds the corner of my office door with a drawn gun, and with intent to kill, I could have a flame thrower right next to me and it’s not going to do much good. But that doesn’t mean there’s no situation where having a gun isn’t helpful.
If there’s a raging fire upstairs blocking my exit, using one of my fire extinguishers is going to be about as effective as pissing on it, but just because a fire extinguisher can’t put out all fires, isn’t a reason not to have them around. People can still be killed in automobile accidents despite the presence of seat belts and air bags too, yet we mandate both be in automobiles. Helmke is obviously worried about people carrying guns for the wrong reasons, as is evidenced by his description of “many” who carry guns who “think they are ready for a showdown, and ready to be a hero.” It’s a legitimate concern. But is that a many? Is it most? Is it even few? No doubt there are some, but I would think most people carry because a) they are comfortable with firearms, and b) want to be able to protect themselves.
Again, it boils down to “Do you trust your fellow citizens to do the right thing most of the time.” We say, “yes.” They say, “no.”