Wednesday, February 06, 2013

Chris Kyle's murder and the practical limits of self-defense

Chauncey DeVega has a post about Chris Kyle, the famous sniper who was shot and killed by a friend he brought to a shooting range, Uncomfortable Worshipfulness Towards a Killer (Concluded): Chris Kyle, Former Navy Seal Sniper, Killed at Texas Gun Range WARN 02/03/2013:

Kyle's murder at a Texas gun range has invited some obvious--and well-deserved--snark from those who oppose the Gun Right's fetish for firearms as a cure all for society's ills.

If guns lead to a polite society why was Kyle killed at a gun range--surrounded by all of those guns? If guns make us safe, why couldn't an expert shooter, surrounded by others who are ostensibly very skilled with their guns, fight off his attacker? If teachers can be expected to fight off armed shooters, why couldn't one of the most lethal men on the planet use his gun to stop his murderer?

While those questions score cheap political points, we cannot forget that anyone can get got, as the saying goes, if they let their guard down. Omar from The Wire was killed by a kid at the corner spot. If it can happen to Omar (or Chris Kyle) it too can happen to me, you, or other folks far more dangerous.
Ron "Papa Doc" Paul got some flak from his far-right fans for making a less than reverential comment about Kyle after his death, which in turn drew a disavowal from Baby Doc (Rand). Charlie Pierce gives an account of the Intrigue in the Palace of Liberty Esquire Politics Blog 02/05/2013.

For anyone who's not a dedicated adherent of the "Gun Right" - a phrase that Chaucey DeVega uses that I am hereby stealing - stories like that of Kyle's hold some important practical lessons about reliance of armed self-defense. The Gun Right really talks about guns as though they are magical fetishes that ward off evil just by being there for their owners to fondle. Apart from any consideration of legal restrictions, it's a reckless and unrealistic attitude for people to promote.

If people have a need to use a gun for self-defense, by all means get the proper training and learn what you actually will need to do and prepare for in situations where you might need it. For most people in most situations, some training in karate or some similar form of physical self-defense is probably a more useful thing in their lives than planning for a Rambo moment.

Guns aren't magic charms. They are weapons that kill people. Which means they are a serious responsibility. People who shoot off their mouths carelessly or unrealistically about using guns for self-defense are not being responsible and they are encouraging irresponsibility in others.

Cenk Uygur on Current TV's The Young Turks interviewed Dan McKown, a man who was permanently paralyzed by a mall shooter in 2005. Portions of the interview are available at the website for the episode of 02/05/2013, although not the portion where he describes the incident. He had a handgun on him during the attack and, from his telling, had some training in how to use it during a dangerous situation. He sought out the shooter while most people in the mall were hiding or running away. But when he was taking a shot at the kid with the semiautomatic gunning people down, the kid shot him instead.

This doesn't detract from his undoubted bravery in the situation. And he says he doesn't regret making the attempt.

But it's also a reminder that guns are anything but magic charms.

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