The Flathead Valley’s Leading Independent Journal of Observation, Analysis, & Opinion. © James R. Conner.


22 July 2012

Your hand isn’t steady, and your aim isn’t true, when you’re scared witless

Updated. Suppose you’re hiking in the Great Bear Wilderness, moving with a hitch in your gait because of that big iron on your hip. Suddenly, you’re face-to-face with a mamma grizzly, a big mamma grizzly, a big mamma grizzly and her cubs.

As you take notice, your adrenaline surges. Mamma griz takes notice, too, rising on her hind legs and issuing a snarl that would scare the bejesus out of a SEAL Team Six member smoothed out on Valium.

What do you do? Slowly back away, then bolt for that nearby pine tree? Or, are you one of those people who’s dead certain he would be cool and steady in that situation; unperturbed, deadly accurate while never breaking a sweat; someone immune to the adrenaline shakes; someone who would kneel, calmly draw his trusty sidearm, and start blasting away at Big Mamma?

If you think you’re one of those paragons of sangfroid, then you probably agree with Montana’s leading gun worshipper, Gary Marbut, or Rep. Louie Gohmert, the colorful East Texas Republican whose reading on the wingnut meter matches Michele Bachmann’s, or Arizona crackpot, teabagger, and recalled legislator, Russell Pearce. They think the mass murder in Aurora, Colorado, might have been stopped, or mitigated, had someone in the theatre started shooting back at the gunman, James Holmes.

Yeah, right.

Holmes wore body armor and was armed with an AR-15 military-style rifle, a 12-gauge shotgun loaded with buckshot, a 40-caliber Glock pistol, and according to reports, several gas grenades.

The crowd was armed with popcorn and soda pop.

Suppose you had a concealed carry permit, were armed with a small pistol, say a snub-nosed .38 revolver, and were seated near the front a dozen seats in with your wife and your teenaged son and daughter. Your handgun expertise notwithstanding, you’d have very little chance of hitting Holmes, let alone bringing him down. You’d also have a fair chance of hitting a moviegoer. How calm do you think you would be; how steady your aim; how measured your breathing? Would you start shooting, pinning a target on yourself and your family? Or would try to get your family out of the theatre without calling attention to yourself?

Only people who love guns too much assert that having more people packin’ is the way to stop massacres by crazy men. They make that assertion after every massacre. I think they actually believe what they say. But I know that if they were actually in the theatre, facing an imbalance of firepower equivalent to a BB gun versus a battleship, reality would triumph over fantasy: the adrenaline would rush, the shakes would start, and, their fear rising, most would try to escape rather than engage an enemy with vastly superior weaponry.

A reading suggestion. So far, the best commentary on gun control and Aurora is by University of Chicago law professor Geoffrey Stone.