Get Your Blood Dancing Shoes On …

… it’s another Tragedy Hoedown! Our opponents have been busy since yesterday using the latest mass shooting in Carson City to promote their political agenda. CSGV wants to know how the mentally ill individual got an AK-47. If I had to wager, the guy has a history of mental illness that has gone unreported by his family and by the authorities, if he’s had run-ins. But rather than our opponents focusing on what’s wrong with our mental health system, that so many people who need help are not getting it, they’ll push the gun control agenda, because that’s what they are about. The gun violence thing is just a nice candy coating to help the policy prescriptions go down, and make everyone else thing they are just such nice and caring people. I believe they are caring people. They care a lot about getting those icky guns out of our society.

But there is, so far, some lessons for the gun community in this. We know that there was an armed person at the scene:

“I wish I had shot at him when he was going in the IHOP,” said Swagler, who owns Locals BBQ & Grill. “But when he came at me, when somebody is pointing an automatic weapon at you — you can’t believe the firepower, the kind of rounds coming out of that weapon.”

I don’t blame the guy for not running in and being a hero, but this is a pretty typical fear reaction. The solution to this is training, and lots of it. I will admit this is a case where I should follow my own prescription more than I do, because I don’t feel I’ve been training enough these days. I haven’t been to a practical shooting competition in quite a while. Competition is the best way I’ve found of learning to shoot under pressure. Most importantly, it lets you know what you can and can’t do under stress, and conditions your reactions. A lot of people who carry a gun regularly are honestly just pretending. They aren’t really serious about being prepared to use it. It’s not a talisman, it’s a tool, and if you’re not confident in using it, this is probably how you’re going to react.

UPDATE: Another report has him taking cover in his restaurant. If that’s the case, he did not have a shot he failed to take. The report I linked made it sound like the shooter was coming toward him, and he did not take the shot out of fear. Like I said, I don’t blame the guy for not charging in to be the hero; that’s what SWAT teams with rifles and body armor are for.

12 thoughts on “Get Your Blood Dancing Shoes On …”

  1. If you think practical shooting competition puts you under pressure, try some force-on-force training. Lots different when the targets are shooting back.

  2. Isn’t one of the best known trainers, Clint Smith, who says to do exactly as Swagler did? He has his gun for his defense. But he’s not the police, and its not his job to rush into a building, training or not.

    But if there is something to be changed, it should be the rules around uniformed military personnel not being allowed to defend themselves with personal firearms.

  3. hecate:

    I think the conditioning is more important than the stress factor…. more the matter of doing some action repetitively enough that you can do it through instinct, without having to think much about your actions, once you make the decision it’s time to shoot.


    I don’t blame the guy for not storming in, but the way he described it, it sounds like he guy was coming toward him, and he froze. If there’s a shooter approaching you with a weapon, that would be a defensive action, not necessarily being a hero.

    I don’t completely agree with Clint Smith. If you have a shot, and you have a gun, you owe it to the people who could potentially be victims to take it. I’d be willing to examine evidence that this guy didn’t have a shot, but from his description it sounds like he did.

  4. How much of Swagler’s lack of action was fear of making himself a physical target of the shooter and suffering the potentially lethal consequences, and how much was fear of becoming a legal and social target because he took action?

    Had Swagler stopped the attack in its initial stages how much vilification would he have suffered from both the media who think only government agents have the right to possess and use firearms, and government itself which would resent being portrayed as irrelevant to the situation? And, how many lawyers would be anxious to take the side of the attacker’s family and sue Swagler for wounding/killing a person who could be portrayed as a merely misguided choirboy?

    I don’t think Swagler’s response was wrong: given the Hell that could have befallen him it was not at all unreasonable to stand down and leave the victims to fend for themselves. There are no penalties for doing nothing.

  5. How much of Swagler’s lack of action was fear of making himself a physical target of the shooter and suffering the potentially lethal consequences, and how much was fear of becoming a legal and social target because he took action?

    Good question, and it’s certainly a legitimate topic to debate. I would suggest in Carson City, Nevada, the reaction would have tended more toward high-five than condemning the guy as a murderer.

    Plus, the media would have instantly made him an armed security guard, or something like that.

  6. @Larry,

    There are moral penalties for doing nothing for some folks.

    And in Carson City, particularly if it came out the gunman was after Guardsmen, I doubt there’s be any real legal or social repercussions.

    He did nothing wrong in my book, the proper response to receiving rifle fire is to a) take cover and b) maneuver for advantage, not shoot it out with a handgun, but it sounds like it will take him a while to internalize that. In the meantime he has regret and a not illogical (if undeserved) sense of coulda/shoulda/woulda.

    As far as Clint Smith goes, I’m nowhere near his level on anything, but I’m pretty sure if I felt I could have intervened and didn’t, even at risk to myself, and an innocent was harmed I couldn’t live with myself and I don’t think I’d want to.

    That’s not macho posturing or hero BS, it’s who I am, or want to be anyway.

  7. I tend to think the threshold for social obligations forcing you to intervene are rather low. If it were me, I’d have a hard time living with myself if I knew people died because I was too petrified to take a shot if I had it.

    But I wouldn’t expect anyone to run charging toward a guy with a rifle when he or she had a pistol. I definitely wouldn’t expect anything that didn’t have a badge and body armor to charge into a building with an active shooter. I’d even cut a lone cop a break for not wanting to do that, considering the typical soft body armor police wear on patrol won’t do much against a bullet fired from a rifle.

  8. If it wasn’t for this blog, I would not have been aware of any blood-dancing.

  9. Some more on what I wrote above, in an attempt to clarify my opinion on Swagler’s actions; there’s an incredibly brief moment in events like these during which it may be possible to gain the upper hand. Once that moment passes it ceases to be a simple defensive opportunity, for bystander or intended victim, and becomes a desperate “fight for your life/storming the barricades” issue, best left to those equipped and trained for it. Extra points are not awarded for becoming an additional casualty, and the reason one carries a personal defensive firearm is neither to demonstrate one’s prowess with it nor to foolishly undertake acts of heroism.

    The mnemonic I use is APE – Aware, Perceive, Evacuate – which may not always be possible. I’ve been in a number of iHops and have never seen one with an additional exit in the customer area. Given that, finding oneself inside the kill zone, whether immediately targeted or not, would necessitate fighting back as violently as possible with whatever tools are at hand. From outside, rushing to the rescue is beyond foolhardy; there are some events for which no immediate external solution is possible. Swagler acted correctly and his judgment was sound.

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