Thursday, May 17

A little cold water on your macho parade.

In the wake of the mass shooting at Virginia Tech last month, two common refrains were that 1) the VT students' failure to fight back against the shooter proves that our kids' generation has been pussified, and 2) if they'd just allowed guns on campus, somebody could've capped the shooter and prevented the massacre from being as bad as it was.

Now, I doubt very few people outside the Birmingham area paid much attention to this, but a series of events occurred Monday that kind of stuck a pin in both of those balloons, particularly the second one. That morning, an armed robber walked into a Wachovia branch in Bessemer, a suburb directly west of Birmingham, and killed two tellers and wounded a third before trying to walk out of the bank with cash and a hostage. The thing is, there was a customer in the bank with a handgun, and yesterday the Birmingham News wrote a whole big long story about him. Here's what the "good Samaritan" did when the bullets started flying:

Amid the rampage, Chappell and at least one other customer fled the bank.

Chappell was carrying his own gun, for which he has a concealed weapon permit. He took cover by his sport utility vehicle just outside the front doors, drew his weapon and waited.

Now, it probably sounds like I'm trying to call this guy out for being a coward, which is not my intent at all. This guy reacted in a way that isn't any different from the way you or I might, and that's the whole point. He may have had any number of reasons for not shooting the robber when he had the chance -- maybe he was worried that if he didn't kill the robber with the first shot, he'd only have drawn attention to himself and put himself in the line of fire. Maybe he simply came to the realization that putting a bullet in a human being, even a despicable one, is a lot harder than putting one in a target. But for whatever reason, the presence of a legal firearm in the bank didn't end up changing very much about the incident.

I'm not using this as an opportunity to call for more gun control; in the case of the Virginia Tech rampage, for instance, I can't think of any additional gun restrictions that might've prevented it. But the near-immediate response from the right after that incident was that more guns on campus or in the classroom building might've stopped the shooter, and stuff like this Bessemer robbery proves that that ain't automatically so.

Not to mention it makes the macho muscle-flexin' hordes of right-wingers, those who were falling all over each other last month to be the first to condemn the Virginia Tech student body for being soft, look even dumber than they already did. Remember National Review's John Derbyshire and his laughable claim that he'd "at least take a run at the guy"? Just to recap, in Derbyshire's hypothetical, Derb himself is unarmed and the shooter has two guns. But in the Bessemer robbery, the customer had a gun, the robber had just one gun, and the pistol-packing customer still didn't fire off a single shot when he had the chance.

I think the pro-gun folks out there need to take a closer look at a critical part of their "Guns don't kill people, people kill people" slogan -- the "people kill people" part. Yes, guns don't pull triggers themselves, people do -- flawed, human people, people who may not be inclined to take a life, or even injure somebody, even when they have every justification for doing so. A lot of gun proponents out there seem to have this idea that gun ownership makes you this special breed of human being, someone with a higher level of steely-eyed courage who is undaunted from taking out anyone who threatens his life or the life of someone he loves. But it doesn't: All it does is make you a flawed human being who just happens to have a gun. As someone who's fired numerous types of guns, I can tell you that just popping off a round at a target is a lot harder than it looks, to say nothing of a human being, and if you're not the type of person who can potentially take another person's life without a gun, merely having a gun isn't going to suddenly make you one. Just something to remember the next time someone suggests that more average Joes and Josephines walking around with firearms is the solution to all our crime problems.

ADDED: Fixed link to the Birmingham News story.


SSB Charley said...

Thanks for an interesting point on the story. I'm one of the people who generally subscribes to the theory that an armed populace is a safer one, but it's important to know that merely carrying a gun is not a surefire solution to stopping some whacko with a gun.

As a sidenote, I wouldn't mind seeing an unarmed John Derbyshire take a run at an armed psychopath with two semiautomatic pistols. In fact, I might pay money to see it and would probably even renew my subscription to National Review if he did.

As Richard Kiel's shirt in Happy Gilmore said: "Guns don't kill people. I kill people."

Anonymous said...

Nice strawman ass hole, but there was no 'refrain' calling for more guns anywahere.

Susan of Local Tint said...

Yeah, this is really more of a chorus than a refrain. You’re such an asshole, Gillett.

“Whenever I've seen one of those ‘Gun-free Zone’ signs, especially outside of a school filled with our youngest and most vulnerable citizens, I've always wondered exactly who these signs are directed at. Obviously, they don't mean much to the sort of man who murdered 32 people just a few days ago.”
Signs of Intelligence,” Fred Thompson, NRO, 04/20/07

“Thirty-two people dead on a U.S. college campus pursuing their American Dream, mowed-down over an extended period of time by a lone, non-American gunman in possession of a firearm on campus in defiance of a zero-tolerance gun ban. Feel better yet? Didn't think so. Who doesn't get this? Who has the audacity to demand unarmed helplessness? Who likes dead good guys?”
Gun Free Zones are Recipe for Disaster,” Ted Nugent, CNN, 04/20/07

“If someone had a weapon, this wackjob Cho could have been stopped a lot sooner.”
Virginia Tech and Gun Control,” Caos Blog, 04/20/07

“Gun control is unConstitutional [sic] and statistics, studies, comparisons to other nations and isolated high profile crimes don't make gun regulations any more legal. I'm of course speaking about the Virginia Tech shootings and the reaction to it.”
Gun Control and Virginia Tech,” Jeremy Meister, The Conservative Voice, 04/21/07

“It is not in the interest of the public to disarm the honest, to interfere wholesale with personal safety of the student body, to interfere with a civil right on top of that, and to talk people out of their authority to act when facing grave danger alone. Zero-tolerance: brilliant, huh?”
"Gun Control, Virginia Tech, and Answering Brady Campaign's Helmke," John Longenecker, Buckeye Firearms Association, 05/07/07

Anonymous said...


Since you didn't link to the article at the Bham News, I can't tell if you're just a liar, or if the article in question didn't tell the whole story.

This article from the Decatur Times Daily makes your "good Samaritan" look a bit more heroic than how you attempted to portray him to us:

Doug said...

Dangit. Consider the problem corrected. FYI, the Times Daily story doesn't appear to be all that different from what the Birmingham News story said -- the gun owner did help "buy time" for the police, but he left the bank in the middle of the robbery without having fired any shots at the robber.

Anonymous said...

The article doesn't support your argument, Doug. The man sought cover and held the killer at bay until he could be subdued and arrested. How did he do that? By using his gun. Second amendmend advocates support responsible gun ownership. I don't believe I've ever seen anybody advocate a gangland or old west shootout like you are implying. I was going to list incidents that show how guns can be used to protect people, but this blog beat me to it. = Classically Liberal: When mass killers meet armed resistance It details a couple school shootings and a mall shooting that were stopped by responsible gun owners.

Doug said...

When did I say anyone "advocated a gangland or old west shootout"? It seems like you're the one pulling out the straw men here. I said one of the common refrains was that "if they'd just allowed guns on campus, somebody could've capped the shooter and prevented the massacre from being as bad as it was" -- which, ironically, seems to be precisely the argument being made by the article that you yourself linked.

You are right that "armed resistance" can help to save lives in situations like these, but as the Bessemer robbery demonstrates, that's certainly not automatically the case, and that's the only point I'm trying to make here -- that knee-jerk efforts to allow more guns in the wake of incidents like Virginia Tech are every bit as short-sighted and counterproductive as knee-jerk efforts to add more gun restrictions just for the sake of adding them.