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The Continued Action Hero Fantasy

Representative Roger Williams (R-TX25) as quoted in the DMN (Ballfield ambush ‘might’ve been a little different’ had congressmen been armed, Texan says):

“He had rifles, he had guns, pistols. All we had were bats and balls,” Williams said. “Frankly, if we would have been able to carry arms, it might’ve been a little different.”

First, is he really suggesting that people practicing baseball should be armed?  Setting aside any issues of policy, that seems like a practical impossibility.  Who wants to slide into third base or dive for a fly ball wearing a gun?

Second, even if they were armed whilst practicing, their attention would have been on practice, not preparing for an attack.  So, an approaching lunatic with a gun would likely have had roughly the same affect on armed persons engaged in practice versus unarmed ones (i.e., using the element of surprise to shoot several of them).  Even if the players had been armed, it seems likely that law enforcement role would have been roughly the same, and the outcome not that much different.

Without getting into any discussion of gun policy, this notion that armed civilians are all going to be sureshots who can go from normal activity to action hero level gun play in these situations is a total fantasy–especially if their attention is wholly engaged in another activity out in the open.

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About Steven L. Taylor
Steven L. Taylor is Professor of Political Science and Dean of the College of Arts and Sciences at Troy University. His main areas of expertise include parties, elections, and the institutional design of democracies. His most recent book is the co-authored A Different Democracy: American Government in a 31-Country Perspective. He earned his Ph.D. from the University of Texas and his BA from the University of California, Irvine. He has been blogging since 2003 (originally at the now defunct Poliblog). Follow Steven on Twitter

Comments

  1. Jay L. Gischer says:

    I really appreciate your voice on this. This seems so much like posturing, and so little like being practical.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 12 Thumb down 1

  2. CSK says:

    This reminds me of the fools who whined that if just one person in the audience at the Aurora theater in Colorado had been armed, he or she could have taken out James Holmes with one good headshot.

    Ask any combat veteran how ridiculous that fantasy is. A darkened theater, roiling with the fumes from the tear gas canisters Holmes tossed, a few hundred terrified people stampeding for the exits…yeah, some hero is gonna take out Holmes with a single nice clean shot to the head.

    Highly-rated. Helpful or Unhelpful: Thumb up 18 Thumb down 0

  3. gVOR08 says:

    You’re talking sense, Steven. What good do you think that’ll do when it comes to guns? (That aside, I admire your patience and devotion to pedagogy.)

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 9 Thumb down 1

  4. CSK says:

    And in any case, there were armed people at the ball field: Crystal Griner and David Bailey, who prevented a bloodbath. Could any of the congressmen have done better?

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 14 Thumb down 0

  5. Gustopher says:

    Was there some rule that they weren’t allowed to be armed?

    Were any of the congresscritters told to not bring their guns? Was anyone turned away for bringing his rifle to batting practice? Were the people there just willing to sacrifice their second amendment rights so they could play a stupid game?

    Also, am I the only one who thinks that putting all the players in body armor and riot gear, and giving them massive amounts of weapons and ammo to lug from base to base would make the game more interesting?

    Highly-rated. Helpful or Unhelpful: Thumb up 16 Thumb down 0

  6. michael reynolds says:

    Yes, people don’t seem to get the difference between fantasy and reality. I should start adding “do not try this at home” to any action scenes I write.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 5 Thumb down 0

  7. CSK says:

    @michael reynolds:

    Well, you have to account for the people who, if you tell them “do not try this at home” will immediately try it at home. Like Donald Trump.

    Apparently he’s gearing up to can Mueller, solely because so many people have told him that this would be a really stupid thing to do.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 6 Thumb down 0

  8. MarkedMan says:

    Wasn’t there a situation in (Texas? Florida?) a couple of years ago where there were hundreds of armed people, bikers, in some kind of a meetup at a Denny’s and law enforcement also showed up and someone got panicked and it ended up with a crazy firefight and a bunch of people shot? That’s pretty much how I picture a “well armed” citizenry behaving. It’s not for nothing that in the old west the first lawman in any given town started out by banning guns in bars and progressed to banning guns in town. They weren’t nanny state idiots, they were very practical people.

    Despite that, I think trying to put the genie back in the bottle wrt gun ownership is a waste of time. If we progressives were more interested in reducing gun deaths than posturing we would be focused on gun safety and changing the crazy para-military attitude of the NRA and the gun industry.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 10 Thumb down 0

  9. CSK says:

    I’ve never seen quite what the problem is with a requirement that people be trained in the proper use of firearms and then licensed to use them after they’ve passed a state-administered test indicating that, at the very least, they know which end of a gun is which.

    We require people to get a license to drive cars, which entails passing a state-administered exam. We require people to be licensed to practice law and medicine, both of which require passing state-administered exams. FFS, we require people to have a license to own a dog in most jurisdictions.

    So what’s different about a gun? Rhetorical question.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 10 Thumb down 1

  10. MBunge says:

    Did anyone actually read the linked article? His comment is clearly framed as a response to people using the incident to call for greater gun control. Considering the shooter broke Virginia gun laws AND that the only thing that prevented it from being a massacre were guys with guns AND that it was basically pure luck that Scalise didn’t skip the practice so those guys with guns were there AND that the guy making the comment just survived a mass shooting…you think this is the appropriate moment for self-righteous lecturing.

    When someone attempts mass murder, we should all fervently hope the intended victims are unarmed?

    I should really bookmark this so the next time I wonder how the NRA and the gun manufacturers managed to turn the tradition of American firearm ownership into this sick and twisted gun fetish, I can come back here and remind myself of one big reason.

    The guy survived a mass murder attempt and you bleeps want to look down your noses at him for having the audacity to wish he could have shot back?

    The mystery of how Donald Trump became President continues to deepen.

    Mike

    Poorly-rated. Helpful or Unhelpful: Thumb up 4 Thumb down 25

  11. Janis Gore says:

    @MBunge: If you looked at Instapundit twitter the day of the shooting, people were on about “if they’d only been armed.”

    As Steven said, they were concentrating on playing baseball. Even if they were trained to respond to a shooter, they would have been taken unawares. And not many people are well-trained to respond to an active shooter.

    You’re just being cantankerous.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 13 Thumb down 3

  12. Janis Gore says:

    @Janis Gore: It would be a reasonable request that Congressmen have some protection in those situations, and I was surprised that they wouldn’t have if Scalise hadn’t been there.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 0 Thumb down 0

  13. Argon says:

    Who needs ‘The Onion’?

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 2 Thumb down 0

  14. Janis Gore says:

    Dave Schuler, an occasional contributor here, is extensively trained in martial arts and has taught self-defense classes. He recommends that your first line of self-defense in any situation, if it’s at all possible, is to run.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 8 Thumb down 0

  15. Just 'nutha ig'nint cracker says:

    @MarkedMan: I remember a section of a history book that I was teaching from about the reason that when a gun fight broke out, almost everyone sought whatever shelter they could find. It seems that populations were fearful of dying from having been hit my misses, stray shots, and ricochets. The author asserted that the two people most likely to survive were the participants in the gun fight.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 3 Thumb down 0

  16. Just 'nutha ig'nint cracker says:

    @Janis Gore: Well, duh! (Still in all, good point–just because of how warped we really are.)

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 1 Thumb down 0

  17. gVOR08 says:

    @Janis Gore:

    It would be a reasonable request that Congressmen have some protection in those situations

    Remember when the ACA was being considered the GOPs pulled what they thought was a clever move by insisting that it would have to apply to congress critters. The Dems, of course, replied, ‘OK, good with that.’ Scalise will be getting excellent care under his insurance. Meanwhile, the GOPs are trying to exempt themselves from the AHCA.

    I agree with you, it’s a little surprising they didn’t have more security at the ball park, and they should in future. On the other hand, I’d have a lot of sympathy for a move that they get the same protection I get from all the guns they’ve loosed on the country, which is to say none.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 2 Thumb down 1

  18. gVOR08 says:

    @Janis Gore:

    Dave Schuler, an occasional contributor here, is extensively trained in martial arts and has taught self-defense classes. He recommends that your first line of self-defense in any situation, if it’s at all possible, is to run.

    Many years ago I heard a little talk by an Army hand-to-hand combat instructor. He said he was clear on what he would do if confronted by a guy with a gun. He planned to do whatever the guy with the gun said.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 9 Thumb down 0

  19. Gustopher says:

    @MBunge: If only the congresscritters has laser beams coming from their eyes, and maybe wings, then they could have stopped that bad-guy-with-a-gun. And it’s only slightly less plausible than than a bunch of amateurs turning into crack shots under fire.

    Do you know what an amateur with a gun does? He fires fifty rounds at some congresscritters, and doesn’t kill any of them.

    The amateur isn’t very effective. That’s good if the amateur is trying to shoot you across a field, but it is bad if you’re relying upon barely trained people fighting back.

    If people are going to be carrying guns in public, I want them to be well trained and responsible. (Unless they are trying to kill me, in which case I want them poorly trained and to drop the gun and shoot themselves in the head…)

    If we outlaw untrained gun ownership, only outlaws will be untrained.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 9 Thumb down 1

  20. Matt says:

    @MarkedMan: The event happened at twin peaks and the story is WAAAAy deeper than that. There was a biker gang having a meetup when some rival gangs pulled up and started the usual stupid. These gangs have a very long history including much blood over who gets to wear the Texas patch. A bike got knocked over and the fighting began evolving into some gunfire but most of the weapons were melee style (knife/club type). Then the police showed up…

    It happened in Waco which isn’t terribly far from here.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 3 Thumb down 0

  21. Matt says:

    @Matt: The word of the locals who were there was that the police were doing almost all the shooting. There’s actually quite a bit of anger over the perceived spray and pray response of the police force there.

    https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/2015_Waco_shootout

    Regardless even the professionals rarely live up to the action hero fantasy.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 3 Thumb down 0

  22. TM01 says:
  23. Bob The Arqubusier says:
  24. KM says:

    @gVOR08 @Janis Gore :
    People highly overestimate their skills when it comes to fighting so when a professional (or even an amateur with some experience) tries to tell them *how freaking hard it is* to hit your moving target and *only your target*, they get pissy. “Well, that can’t be right. Why are they telling me to run when they’re teaching how to fight and protect myself?”

    Running is protecting yourself. It’s not cowardice, it’s self-preservation.

    My hand-to-hand is so-so since my focus is bladework. Fencing for passion, knives for protection. Even being a foot away from someone is no guarantee of a hit, let alone a crippling one. The whole damn point of what I do is to get free so I can run or disable you long enough for others to run if I must. Still, the old adage is true – never bring a knife to a gun fight. We teach that what’s in your hand is there so the rest of you has a fighting chance to get out of Dodge. Engage only when you must and even then, only until the opportunity comes to safety escape.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 3 Thumb down 0

  25. @TM01: @Bob The Arqubusier: I don’t think either of these examples are armed persons practicing baseball.

    I never claimed that it is impossible for an armed civilian to successfully use a weapon to stop a crime. I am claiming, however, that most people who talk about such things do so as if they would have action hero level marksman skills.

    I also am skeptical that if more people were armed it would have positive results, since bullets don’t just wound/kill the bad guys. My skepticism is enhanced since many advocates of such scenarios also reject the notion that persons who carry ought to licensed and trained.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 6 Thumb down 1

  26. MarkedMan says:

    S was many years ago, but there was a study done on NYC police officers who shot their firearm at “point blank range”. In order to judge the effect of adrenaline nd so forth, they compared cases where the officer shot a dog vs. ones where the target was a person. If I remember correctly, they hit the dog only 70% of the time, and the person about 30%.

    I certainly would not argue that in certain situations having a gun can be a lifesaver or a useful deterrent. But your typical blog-warrior seems to think guns are magic. And they totally discount the downsides to bringing a gun. In a situation where two or more people are armed there is so much advantage in being the first one to shoot that it can easily escalate an argument into a killing. Radiolab recently did two episodes on cops killing civilians. They told the story of a (white) woman whose husband (fire chief) had drunkenly called a friend/coworker for help as he was messed up, stuck in the mud in the middle of nowhere, and contemplating suicide. His friend, worried about suicide, asked whether he had his gun with him. He did, and other guns, but he happened to mention that his wife had the shotgun at the house. But the time this got relayed to the police, the story had gotten garbled and they thought there was an armed standoff. Long story short, they pulled up to the pitch dark yard miles away from the main road and started walking around, peeking through windows. She woke up to see a strange man at her window and went outside in her underwear with a shotgun. A bunch of the cops opened fire and killed her. This type of thing is a lot more common than the gun crowd wants to think about.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 6 Thumb down 1

  27. MarkedMan says:

    BTW, a bit off topic. My son and I were just discussing the TV/Movie Situation where two people point a gun at each other and consider it a standoff. But shouldn’t the war-gaming thing to do be to pull the trigger as fast as you can?

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 2 Thumb down 0

  28. Facebones says:

    @MarkedMan: There was an incident in NYC a couple of years ago, where there was a mass shooting near the Empire State Building. Once the usual hysterical reporting died down, it turned out that the police had tried to apprehend a man who had shot his co-worker. However, they missed (a lot) and ended up wounding 9 people.

    These are trained professionals who have to recertify in shooting skills every so often. They were all aiming at the same guy. And they wounded 9 civilians.

    I doubt that your average Breitbart commenter is going to do better.

    http://www.cnn.com/2012/08/25/justice/new-york-empire-state-shooting/index.html

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 5 Thumb down 0

  29. Jen says:

    Not too long ago, there was an incident at a college somewhere in the northwest. If I’m remembering things correctly, one of the students was a former military member, had a concealed weapons permit, and DID NOT pull or use his weapon. His concern–and I think it is a very valid one–was that he knew the police and/or campus security were on their way and he didn’t want to make himself a target by confusing the already chaotic situation.

    That’s what I think of whenever I hear a “well, if someone had just been carrying…” type of argument–when the first responders get to the scene, how do they know the good guy with the gun from the bad guy with a gun in that situation?

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 9 Thumb down 0

  30. al-Alameda says:

    @MBunge:

    The guy survived a mass murder attempt and you bleeps want to look down your noses at him for having the audacity to wish he could have shot back?

    The mystery of how Donald Trump became President continues to deepen.

    Two points:
    (1) To be fair, Trump did lose the popular vote by 3 million.
    (2) It most certainly is not a mystery as to how Trump became president – America is a fearful and dumbed down nation.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 5 Thumb down 1

  31. Daryl's other brother Darryl says:

    SLT – thanks for this post.
    Scalise had an armed, trained, security detail with him.
    This hero fantasy thing is so fwcking stupid…part and parcel with Republican thought these days.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 2 Thumb down 0

  32. OzarkHillbilly says:

    Did you know most cops are shot by other cops?

    OK, that was snark, but the truth is it happens way too often. And they have on going training and literally do NOT want to shoot their partner.

    And yet, it happens.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 0 Thumb down 1

  33. Liberal Capitalist says:

    @Steven:

    First, is he really suggesting that people practicing baseball should be armed?

    Yes. Yes he is. That is EXACTLY what he is suggesting.

    For some folks, two pistols and a long rifle per person is what daily attire should be.

    (I would acknowledge my straw man there, but it likely would be used for target practice)

    Second… there is no second. (unless it’s the second amendment, of course).

    Ultimately all people, armed, all the time, in every situation, without any restrictions.

    —————————————————-

    As far as armed fantasies… POTUS Reagan was surrounded by armed Secret Service.

    That didn’t seem to work either.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 1 Thumb down 0

  34. Matt says:

    @Facebones: Yup that’s basically what happened at twin peaks.

    @OzarkHillbilly: Reminds me of a while back in Chicago when police started shooting hardcore because they thought they were being shot at by the suspect when in reality it was their fellow officers. The bodycam footage in particular was terrible because you can clearly see officers shooting that car while other officers are directly in the line of fire. IT’s like amateur hour and they were trained…
    http://www.chicagotribune.com/news/ct-chicago-police-shooting-paul-oneal-met-20160805-story.html

    I have a concealed carry and permit. I guarantee you the first thing I’m doing in such a scenario is GTFO with as many people as possible. Excluding anything occurring like the gunman blocking the exit or having a clear shot of the gun man’s back from 10 feet away.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 1 Thumb down 0

  35. Just 'nutha ig'nint cracker says:

    @OzarkHillbilly: Ok; it may have been snark, but it does have truthiness, so…

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 1 Thumb down 0

  36. Bob The Arqubusier says:

    @Steven L. Taylor: I don’t feel the need to impose my judgment for others’ about when and where they choose to exercise their rights, generally. And I think that those who declare “gun-free zones” should be held legally liable for anyone shot in such places — by denying people their right to defend themselves, they have taken on the responsibility for their safety.

    If the mere presence of guns was such a risk of getting shot, there would be graveyards full of people killed at gun shows, shooting ranges, gun stores, shooting competitions, military bases, police stations, and so on. Instead, those tend to be the safest of places. It’s the “gun-free zones” that rack up the body count.

    Finally, considering the ever-increasing violence and threats against Republicans and Trump supporters, then perhaps they should consider that they have no “safe spaces” and be prepared to be attacked anywhere, at any time, by enraged leftists.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 1 Thumb down 8

  37. Jen says:

    @Bob The Arqubusier:

    And I think that those who declare “gun-free zones” should be held legally liable for anyone shot in such places — by denying people their right to defend themselves, they have taken on the responsibility for their safety.

    Great! And we’ll make all gun owners legally liable for any and all accidents with their guns, including any stress or PTSD caused by weapons discharging or being drawn in a public place where an individual should otherwise expect a normal, non-combative environment. We should make the manufacturers liable too…oh, wait, NRA fights liability laws, doesn’t it? Can’t have one without the other.

    Look, I have the RIGHT to go into a restaurant, or a post office, or a school, or a church, and expect it to not turn into a shooting range because someone’s had a bad day. I’ve read of far too many road rage incidents where a gun has been flashed because an inconsiderate driver cut someone off. We don’t need those situations to escalate further, *which they will* if more people are armed.

    I have no problem with gun ownership, and I am strongly supportive of hunting (it maintains the ecosystem since we’ve eliminated most apex predators). I don’t even have a problem with weapons to protect ones’ home or property–I have friends who applied for and received gun permits in instances where they’ve had protective orders in place for spouses or significant others.

    But *I* don’t want to carry. The teachers I know don’t want to carry. There are too many people already who don’t have proper training, or they have hot tempers, etc. The licensing just is too lax.

    As long as the licensing and registration remains lax, I don’t want more people with weapons. Tighten up those laws, take them out of the hands of people who can’t handle them.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 12 Thumb down 1

  38. @Bob The Arqubusier:

    considering the ever-increasing violence and threats against Republicans and Trump supporters, then perhaps they should consider that they have no “safe spaces” and be prepared to be attacked anywhere, at any time, by enraged leftists.

    You come across as having a persecution complex.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 10 Thumb down 1

  39. Bob The Arqubusier says:

    @Jen:

    Great! And we’ll make all gun owners legally liable for any and all accidents with their guns, including any stress or PTSD caused by weapons discharging or being drawn in a public place where an individual should otherwise expect a normal, non-combative environment. We should make the manufacturers liable too…oh, wait, NRA fights liability laws, doesn’t it? Can’t have one without the other.

    Oh, Jen. You started off so sensibly, and then went off the rails.

    Gun owners are legally liable for their actions with their guns. What you want to do is expand that in so many absurd ways that you have a de facto gun ban by making them liable for absurd claims. And gun makers are liable for their products the same way any other manufacturer is — for defects in design or manufacture. What the NRA opposes (rightfully) is making them liable for the misuse of their products. Should Boeing have been held liable for 9/11, when their planes were used in the attacks?

    If a gun manufacturer produces a defective gun, they’re liable. If they sell a gun to an ineligible buyer, they’re liable. Beyond that, it’s just another de facto attempt to ban guns.

    @Steven L. Taylor:

    You come across as having a persecution complex.

    Is it really paranoia when there really are people out to get you?

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 1 Thumb down 3

  40. @Bob The Arqubusier: I am not going to defend such actions–indeed, I condemn them, although for such a list to have context it would be necessary to do a similar one for actions taken against HRC supporters.

    It is also difficult to take seriously the notion that this is some sort of anti-right campaign, when the President was a promoter of violent rhetoric during his campaign for office. For example: Trump’s Offensive Defense.

    It is problematic when the leader of a party is making such statements (and when people are punched at his rallies).

    So, instead of making this is into some kind of tit-for-tat, “the left started it” kind of argument, you might want to look to your candidate. You might also want to condemn violence in general instead of playing a petty game of sides.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 5 Thumb down 1

  41. Daryl's other brother Darryl says:

    @Steven L. Taylor:
    Are you sure you want to engage Janos?

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 1 Thumb down 0

  42. Daryl's other brother Darryl says:

    @Steven L. Taylor:
    @Bob The Arqubusier:

    You come across as having a persecution complex.

    Janos has always seen himself as the victim…even when he was free-loading on the health care system.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 3 Thumb down 1

  43. @Daryl’s other brother Darryl: I have considered that this might be Jenos, but if it is he has gotten a bit angrier. Certainly Bob and Jenos share a heavy reliance on conservative entertainment complex consumption as the basis for their talking points.

    I try to give people the benefit of the doubt, but I will confess Bob is already falling into the category of skipping his comments when I see his name, given that they tend to be re-runs.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 6 Thumb down 0

  44. al-Alameda says:

    @Bob The Arqubusier:

    Finally, considering the ever-increasing violence and threats against Republicans and Trump supporters, then perhaps they should consider that they have no “safe spaces” and be prepared to be attacked anywhere, at any time, by enraged leftists.

    Yes, it’s a one way street, the Right has been so courteous and mindful of civility over the years (Donald Trump’s entire 2016 campaign notwithstanding). Do you remember when conservative intellectual and Republican luminary Ted Nugent said of Obama and Hillary Clinton: “Obama, he’s a piece of shit. I told him to suck on my machine gun. Hey Hillary you might want to ride one of these into the sunset, you worthless bitch.”

    What is very interesting to me is that … after 8 years of and unrelenting obstruction of Obama, and supporting and countenancing a Birther movement (arguably led by Donald Trump) that questioned the very legitimacy of President Barack Obama … is that, Republicans are bemoaning a lack of civility and cooperation on the part of Democrats. It’s hard to understand, I’ll grant you that, but, you’ll eventually figure it out.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 12 Thumb down 1

  45. gVOR08 says:

    @al-Alameda: IOKIYAR.

    They’re falling over themselves in joy that they finally have what looks like a clear case of lefty violence.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 4 Thumb down 1

  46. al-Ameda says:

    @gVOR08:

    They’re falling over themselves in joy that they finally have what looks like a clear case of lefty violence.

    I know. They’ve been soiling their suits, slacks and jeans continuously since the shooting incident.
    Thank god I invested in Dry Cleaning Futures.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 2 Thumb down 1

  47. Daryl's other brother Darryl says:

    @Daryl’s other brother Darryl:

    Scalise had an armed, trained, security detail with him.

    So Scalise who has an A+ from the NRA ended up with a slug in him and was then saved by a gay black woman.
    You cannot make up the irony in this incident.
    I’m sure it’s lost on the Trumpists.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 5 Thumb down 1