Tuesday, December 12, 2017

Suspect Advice to Churches

In a Washington Post article entitled Training helps churches prepare for violent attacks Fear, headlines give rise to new training sessions, from December 1, 2017, we read:
At the recent two-hour training offered by the Carroll County Sheriff’s Office, officials gave tips to the audience, which included organ players, pastors, clergy, choir directors, ushers, church trustees and secretaries, along with Sunday school teachers.
If a gunman enters a church, they were told to throw hymnals at him or stab him in the shin with a letter opener. Those little pencils in the back of each pew? Use them to stab the gunman in the neck.
“I realize I’m asking people who preach compassion, love and peace to pick up a pen and try to stop a shooter if you have the opportunity,” said Sgt. Michael Zepp, who led the training and oversees the sheriff’s SWAT team.
But it’s the reality of the times. “You can be a saint, and you can be a sinner,” he said.
To be sure, Zepp said while some of the tips might sound trivial, they should be thought of as an interruption. Throwing a hymnal at a shooter, he said, “may not stop him but it may limit the casualties, and it’s better than sitting there waiting to get killed.”
I'm sure the good law enforcement officers of Carroll County Sherriff's Office mean well. They're helping some learn that "lockdown" is no longer a good option. And they're even conceding that fighting back might help deter, delay, or even stop an attacker.

But let's consider -- will someone who has a fear of firearms suddenly --in a moment of extreme stress -- be able to wield a letter opener or a pen with such violence that an armed assailant will cease his attack?

Which is more likely to end an attack -- two well-placed shots by an armed civilian or ten pokes with a letter opener?

Which is the better choice: Preparation, training, and effective firepower or a frenzy of tossed hymnals?

Of course, Maryland has no state constitutional provision granting a “right to bear arms.” Maryland is one of the few holdouts of "We'll let you know..." approach, as an application for a permit to carry a handgun is made to the Secretary of State Police with a notarized letter stating the reasons why the applicant is applying for a permit. The State Police will then decide if you can or can't exercise a basic Constitutional right.

The questions sound silly because the premise is silly, and I'm certain that members of the Carroll County Sherriff's Department who attend church services prefer to attend armed.

Wednesday, November 8, 2017

Some Initial Lessons Learned from the Texas Tragedy

There are several facts emerging from the ongoing investigation of the shooting at First Baptist Church, Sutherland, Texas:
"Long before he walked into the Sutherland Springs’ First Baptist Church, victims of Kelley's rage — and those who simply crossed his path — repeatedly told authorities that he was a dangerous man."Texas Gunman Left a Series of Red Flags. USA Today, November 7, 2017 
Some key points:

  • The killer had a previous relationship with church members
  • The killer was known to be "troubled"
  • The killer had previous legal problems: assault, animal cruelty, and stalking
"I hear firecrackers popping. Ta-ta-ta," Solis said. "Everybody started screaming, yelling. Everyone got down, crawling under wherever they could hide. It was so scary." The shooting was coming from outside the church. Solis said she was hit in the shoulder. She and her husband, Joaquin Ramirez, were bloodied and played dead, watching as fellow parishioners were felled in the hail of bullets. When the shooting stopped, she thought police might have arrived. It was actually the gunman, 26-year-old Devin Kelley, entering the church. Harrowing moments inside Texas church: Gunman shouted 'everybody die,' fired at crying childrenUSA Today, November 7, 2017
According to witnesses:

  • The killer's attention was diverted and he left the church and did not return
  • People hiding under pews were shot at close range
  • No one engaged the shooter inside the church
  • No one knew what was happening until it was "too late"
The attack ended when the killer was confronted by an armed, concerned neighbor. There was an exchange of gunfire and the killer was hit twice.
"I know I hit him," Willeford said. "He got into his vehicle, and he fired another couple rounds through his side window. When the window dropped, I fired another round at him again." The gunman then sped down the highway. Man who shot Texas church gunman shares his story. 40/29 News, November 7, 2017

Conclusions so far:

  • Churches must be aware of conflicts within the church and families in the church and continually assess the level of conflict and potential for harm. This will likely include confidential information. Identified security team members must be kept apprised by pastoral staff.
  • During Sunday School, Services, and other events most people's attention is appropriately on the speaker, singer, preacher. There must be some whose attention is focused on access ways (front and side doors, etc).
  • Doors must be closed and locked from the inside where access is not under continual surveillance.
  • Church ushers are the first line of defense -- while not expected to engage, they should be expected to report. Others trained and capable of dealing with disturbances and threats should be made aware of who, where, and what upon first "feeling" of concern (in other words, don't wait to analyze before reporting).
  • ENGAGE shooters immediately -- diversion, distraction, resistance-- up to immediate and violent reaction is the only way to end a mass killer's rampage.


  • https://www.usatoday.com/story/news/2017/11/07/how-he-missed-menacing-texas-church-gunman-left-series-red-flags/841693001/
  • https://www.usatoday.com/story/news/nation/2017/11/07/harrowing-moments-inside-texas-church-gunman-shouted-everybody-die-fired-crying-children/840109001/
  • http://www.4029tv.com/article/man-who-shot-texas-church-gunman-shares-his-story/13437943

Sunday, June 11, 2017

Useless: "Tracking" Islamic Assassins

So, what's the point of "knowing" and "tracking" these Islamo-fascist killers if we don't do anything with the information?
London Bridge Attacker Inspired by U.S. Based Islamist Hate Preacher
Brietbart, 8 Jun 2017
"A friend who had reported London attacker Khuram Butt to anti-terror police said the 27-year-old killer “used to listen to a lot of Musa Jibril.” He added: “I have heard some of this stuff and it’s very radical. I am surprised this stuff is still on YouTube and is easily accessible.”
"[A] study by the International Centre for the Study of Radicalisation (ICSR) found that 60 percent of surveyed foreign fighters in Iraq and Syria followed Jibril on Twitter."
And yet, in 2015:

 U.S. online ban of militant Muslim preacher ends
Reuters, Tue Apr 7, 2015
"A [Dearborn] Michigan-based Islamist preacher whose online sermons have been a leading source of inspiration for foreign fighters in Syria is free to return to social media after restrictions on his Internet use lapsed."

Friday, May 12, 2017

Mental Tactics

US Army publication ADP 3-90, Offense and Defense, defines tactics as “… the employment and ordered arrangement of forces in relation to each other.”

We can civilianize this definition to “A series of actions that result in imposing the desired end state."

The effective use of tactics requires:
  1. Creative and flexible use of all available means;
  2. Rapid decision-making despite incomplete information;
  3. A near-intuitive understanding of the physical, positional, psychological, physiological, and legal ramifications of any course of action.
Tactics are both art and part science. The tactical art is the ability to apply judgment and adapt principles to the specific situation. The tactical science is the collection of techniques that can be applied immediately.

Napoleon referred to the necessity of the coup d'oeil (a French term that literally means "stroke of the eye,” but is better translated “A quick glance”), which would enable a battlefield commander to take in terrain, positions, troop strengths and capabilities. This is also part art, part science and can be learned, but is best practiced.

The civilian equivalent would be “sizing up” the situation, and knowing intuitively:
  • The Objective: “Stop this person” or “End this threat” or “Deter these people.”
  • What Maneuver should be accomplished: “Where can I move to cover or increase distance between me and the threat?”
  • How to achieve Surprise: “What move or action is least expected? or “How can I mask my actual intentions?”
  • The Simplest sequence that will be effective (complex plans rarely work)
  • The course of action with the greatest moral and legal Legitimacy.
This takes practice, but not necessarily real-world fighting practice.

You can mentally practice anytime, anywhere. Next time you’re in a mall, train station, office building, or city street, look around and then imagine a situation where someone pulled out a gun and grabbed a person. Or maybe an active shooter emerges around the corner. Or a man comes from behind, pokes you in the back and tells you “Hand over your wallet.”

What will you do?

Next time you’re sitting in church, imagine you:
  • Hear gunfire in the lobby.
  • Hear a couple screaming at each other in a hallway by the nursery.
  • See a man run up the center aisle of the sanctuary. You don’t recognize him as he turns and faces the congregation, shouting, swearing and apparently distraught.
  • Imagine he has a shotgun. A Handgun. A Machete.

What do you do?

Some might read this and think, “This is sick – I can’t think like this in church!”

That’s fine – we should be glad not many think this way. It’s not pleasant and it will forever dampen your joy at every public gathering you ever attend. While others have given themselves wholly to the moment, your mind is calculating options. It truly is a blessing for others, but a curse for you.

If you cannot think this way then you will not be able to react quickly enough to thwart the attack if – Lord forbid – an attack come to you. This needs to be a real soul-searching exercise. If you cannot bring yourself to think this way, you may not be able to align a firearm on a human target and pull the trigger.

The 9/11 Commission reminded us that the shock and surprise we felt on that morning was due to a “failure of imagination.” We were unable to imagine such a thing, and so we were unprepared when it happened. We were certainly not prepared to thwart it.

Decent people find it difficult to envisage heinous actions by evil people.

Yet, those few people who can imagine horrible actions will be better able to react quickly. These are not frozen in disbelief, wondering “How can something like this be happening?”

Some know it can happen, and we are ready.

Monday, April 17, 2017

"Thank You For Your Service"

Anyone who has worn the uniform sooner or later is thanked for his/her service.

This is a welcome change from early in my career when wearing the uniform off base or post was not encouraged. Vietnam had made anti-war, anti-military sentiment main stream. Uniformed personnel were unwelcome in polite society, as the military served as society's de facto prison for guys who "couldn't make it" on the outside.

Popular entertainment reflected and then intensified the perception: Soldiers were goofs (F Troop, Gomer Pyle: USMC, Hogan's Heros), generals madmen (Doctor Strangelove, I Dream of Jeannie), and politicians crooks (Spiro Agnew, Richard Nixon).

Soon cliché became dogma: anyone in uniform was an unpaid extra on M*A*S*H.

The Army led all services in reviewing and then renewing its mission. In her 2010 article entitled An Army Transformed: The U.S. Army’s Post-Vietnam Recovery and the Dynamics of Change in Military Organizations, US Army Lieutenant Colonel Suzanne Nielsen wrote:
"During the 2 decades preceding the Persian Gulf War in 1991, the U.S. Army went through tremendous reform and rejuvenation. It recovered from the Vietnam War, transitioned to an all-volunteer personnel model, and refocused on a potential future war against a very capable adversary in Europe. The Army’s transformation was evident to external observers: from being seen as an organization in distress in the early 1970s, by 1991 the Army became an organization whose professionalism was the source of admiration."

The 1991 Gulf War re-established the military in the public opinion as an honorable profession. September 11th and the immediate success in Afghanistan helped intensify that perception.

The pendulum -- ever-swinging -- has been stuck on the "everyone's a hero" side of the clock for a while now.

Veterans are thanked, praised, and appreciated – but that’s as far as it goes. Veterans are not asked to describe that service, expected to have opinions, or express disappointments or regrets. Military service held only in honor is untouchable, and therefore inhuman.

Anyone who’s served in uniformed military service recalls the complex admixture of duty, sacrifice, selflessness, and courage ever wrangling with the human flaws of selfishness, pettiness, boredom, ennui, resentment, and disgust. We served with people and are people that are flawed, always disappointed that what we hoped to do was limited to what we were able to do.

My response has become: “Thanks, but it was my privilege to serve.”

I appreciate the effort and intent of those who express sincere thanks. But I also understand my time in uniform did as much (probably more) for me than I did in service to the Nation.

Not everyone has that view and –again – we’re facing the complexities of military service. Some soldiers with less than a hockey season's time in service lost limbs, eyesight, or their lives.

How can I stand and accept thanks when the ledger is so unbalanced?

I’m not suggesting people stop expressing appreciation.

Rather, I am suggesting we reconsider public displays of thanks and spend more time listening and then understanding so we can truly appreciate those whose sacrifices far outweigh any benefits.

Sunday, February 5, 2017

The Elements of Complete Defensive Firearm Training

There's been good news and bad news for self-defense advocates.

Of course the best news was the US Supreme Court's finding in DC v. Heller that:
"The Second Amendment protects an individual right to possess a firearm unconnected with service in a militia, and to use that arm for traditionally lawful purposes, such as self-defense within the home."  --DISTRICT OF COLUMBIA v. HELLER, No. 07-290
The election of Donald Trump ensures Supreme Court appointments will not void or otherwise change this ruling anytime soon.

The Bad

The bad news stories support the contention by anti-gun people that civilians are negligent, incompetent, and poorly trained and therefore cannot be entrusted with firearms:
DETROIT, October, 2015: A 47-year-old woman fired multiple shots at alleged shoplifters in a Detroit-area Home Depot parking lot. When she spotted a store security guard pursuing two men from the store, the woman drew her handgun and opened fire on the suspects as they fled in an SUV.
MIAMI, February 5, 2017: A man came to the assistance of a Walmart employee who had confronted several thieves loading stolen diapers into a car. The citizen shot and killed a suspected thief who later succumbed to his wounds.
In the first case, the woman was firing at fleeing (alleged-- not absolutely determined) perpetrators of a property crime.

In the second case, a petty larceny was escalated to a homicide.

Both cases (if the reports are accurate) suggest the civilian shooters were not trained in the legal and ethical aspects of self-defense.

Not Only Civilians

Yet police officers -- professionals with extensive training in legal implications of deadly force -- are charged and sometimes convicted of misuse of deadly force.

For many years law enforcement agencies trained officers by using marksmanship courses for firearms training. Officers would fire from various distances at paper targets. The environment was closed, low-key, and completely unrealistic.

On April 6, 1970, four California Highway Patrol (CHP) officers were killed in a 4½‑minute shootout in the Newhall region of Southern California.

The incident had a significant impact on procedural, doctrinal, and firearm training by CHP and many other police agencies across the country. Agencies began creating stress courses that incorporated stress, movement to cover, engagement from odd angles, rapid reload, time limits, and shoot/no-shoot scenarios.

Lots of Civilian Carriers

Estimates vary wildly, but most impartial observations conclude that up to 6% of the US Adult population has a concealed carry permit.

The Crime Prevention Research Center published a report in 2016 entitled "Concealed Carry Permit Holders Across the United States: 2016" (John R. Lott Jr., July 26, 2016) that stated:
During President Obama’s administration, the number of concealed handgun permits has soared to over 14.5 million – a 215% increase since 2007. Among the findings of our report:
  • The increase in the number of concealed handgun permits last year set another record, increasing by 1.73 million. That is slightly greater than previous record of 1.69 million set the last year.
  • 6.06% of the total adult population has a permit.
  • In ten states, more than 10% of adults have concealed handgun permits. Indiana has the highest rate — 15%. South Dakota is close behind with 14.7%.
  • Florida, Pennsylvania, and Texas each have over a million residents who are active permit holders.
  • In another 11 states, a permit is no longer required to carry in all or virtually all of the state. Thus the growth in permits does not provide a full picture of the overall increase in concealed carry.
  • Between 2012 and 2016, in states that provide data by gender, the number of women with permits has increased twice as quickly as the number of men with permits.
People can quibble over rates and percentages, but all evidence shows there has been a huge increase in the number of people purchasing handguns, rifles, and shotguns.

How are we Trained?

Unfortunately, the focus of most firearm training is practical: handling, maintaining, effectively shooting the firearm. Yet the use of deadly force has a host of other considerations.

Of course, the recent flood of enthusiasm for handguns carries in the tide lots of pure nonsense.

Most of the nonsense is harmless.

Consider all the "tactical" stuff that allows people to experience real-life video games in shoot houses, team assault courses, and long-range target sniping.

While some are threatened by the idea of civilians receiving military-style instruction, it's no different than the car enthusiast who buys a day in a race car -- it's fun, out of the ordinary, and satisfies the human need for excitement and stimulation.

.50 Caliber, Drum-Fed, Holographic Red Dot Sight, Muzzle-Suppressed, Chainsaw-equipped, Folding-Stock Battle Rifle

Every hobby has enthusiasts. Some are collectors, others appreciate the fine machining, design, and capabilities of quality firearms. Others enjoy perfecting a skill, such as target shooting.

But these pleasant diversions are not preparation for deadly force encounters. While some of the skills learned transfer, it's not equivalent.

Shooting at a paper target is poor preparation for shooting at a human -- no matter how heinous and threatening that human may be at the moment of attack

Defensive firearm carry is serious -- deadly serious. It has life-ending and life-changing implications and it seems that very few training classes stress these implications adequately.

The Other 99%

The more complex – yet rarely addressed – considerations for deadly force are physical, legal, social, emotional, and ethical (moral).

Each aspect is inextricably linked to the act of self-defense.

Only a careful and deliberate study and personal assessment of these aspects before the moment of need will enable you to react correctly in a deadly force situation (even if you don’t actually fire the weapon).

It's axiomatic that we revert to habits when under severe stress.

The life or death question each of us must consider is: Which habits will prevail?

Developing Right Habits

The point of training is inculcating right habits.

"Right" is best defined as "Efficient actions that result in the greatest benefit."

Efficient actions use the minimal amount of energy required to get the job done. An efficient golfer will drive a ball further even though the swing seems "effortless."

Good training steadily and deliberately pares away unnecessary actions and wasted efforts.

Few of us are willing to change unless there is a compelling reason. Therefore good training also includes an appeal to our reason before recommending changes to our actions.

Classroom time is spent providing justification for the changes in behavior which will be inculcated by training.

For example, in flight training, we spend time on the ground discussing Angle of Attack. This is a somewhat theoretical concept that describes the wing's motion through the air, and the forces of lift and drag working on that wing.

This is tedious for some less-analytically-focused pilots until they're shown the relationship between Angle of Attack and the airplane's ability to fly (Even the most theoretical student suddenly becomes very interested when the airplane stops flying and the aircraft gives in the gravity's relentless tug),

Thus, and effective instructional pattern in flight and many other forms of training is:

  1. Appeal to reason (Provide evidence and logic as to why the student should know and apply a specific bit of content)
  2. Demonstrate (Provide example of how the appeal to reason is supported in reality)
  1. Attempt (Student tries to replicate action and result demonstrated by the instructor)
  2. Correct (Instructor identifies wasted movements and less than ideal results)
  3. Practice (Student repeats attempts with corrections now internalized)
  4. Perfect (Student strives reduce mental and physical expenditures for greatest possible reward)

The Journey

Thomas Paine (of American Revolution fame) wrote: “The harder the conflict, the more glorious the triumph. What we obtain too cheap we esteem too lightly.”

All truly engaging pursuits demand full attention and commitment. 

The civilian bearing arms has assumed a role that demands full attention to the physical, legal, social, emotional, and ethical (moral) aspects of deadly force.

If you carry concealed, commit yourself to a disciplined study and practice in all aspects.

Tuesday, October 18, 2016

"When choosing between two evils, choose neither" An examination of the cliche

Recently this bit of wisdom has been circulating, especially among many thoughtful and considerate people I count as friends: "When faced with two evils, choose neither."

This cliche is used to demonstrate that the speaker/ writer has determined that both candidates represent "evil" choices, and therefore neither can be an option.

Some choose to support a third party candidate.

Others will not vote.

This is a significant problem as it ensures the person will have no influence on the final election tally, resulting in a de facto vote for whoever eventually wins.

Are we really faced with two "evils?"

Origins of a Cliche

The phrase, "When face with two evils, choose neither" has been attributed to Charles Spurgeon, but the concept (and likely the phrase) long preceded the great 19th century preacher.

"I am upon the horns of a dilemma!"
Homer wrote about Odysseus' choice to pass by Scylla and lose a few sailors, or risk the loss of his ship in the whirlpool. He was "caught between a rock and a hard place," or "on the horns of a dilemma."

The meaning is the same -- there is no "best" choice when both seem to result in harm.

Thus the sentiment" "Choose neither" seems reasonable, thoughtful, and even moral.

However -- as is the case with most cliches -- a second thought will reveal that in politics, in war, in business, and every other human endeavor, it's not how life works.

Cold Reality

General George S. Patton
First, we do not know all the consequences of any action, large or small. We can surmise, guess, intuit, reason, and hope, but as the ever-quotable General George Patton said, "No plan survives first contact."

Second, all choices mingle some degree of "evil" and "good." That's the nature of existence in a fallen world. We may choose to do good and great harm results.

Even the law recognizes this and has  provisions for unintended consequences. The typical philosophy 101 scenario places you by a pond in Linz, Austria in 1895. You see a boy wading, then disappear under the water, clearly in distress. Most moral people would rescue the 5 year old. 50 years later you learn the boy you saved is named Adolph Hitler. The professor asks, "Did you do the right thing?" and Freshman tortured logic ensues.

Both are flawed. Aren't you?
Third, neither candidate can be described as "pure evil." Each has different approaches to life, proscriptions for the future, and expectations about people, and government. I do not doubt the sincerity of either. I question the judgement of both Mr. Trump and Ms. Clinton on a number of topics. But each represents the population from which he and she are drawn, and we're not exactly blooming with purity.

Finally, the idea that a vote for a third party will "send a message" or "vote my conscience" sounds fine in theory, but is absolutely pointless in reality.

"Those Samaritans..."
A theoretical approach makes me feel bad about poverty, while not taking the time to actually spend money or time. That's fine for Stoics, but not appropriate for Christians. We are commanded to be salt and light and to participate in the muddy day to day.

No one takes a theoretical approach to work (or will admit it). There are always shady practices, people, methods, and assumptions swirling in any workplace. We Christians do the best we can within the system we have and either improve it by our very presence or leave it (We're very utilitarian when it comes to income because money is where reality trumps  baseless hope).

Part of that day-to-day "mud" is politics. Like it or not we have a representative republic that enables citizens to vote and thereby express our agreement or disagreement with a particular person or platform.

Face the Facts

We live in a two party system. If you think your protest vote will spawn some huge sea change, I suggest you consider the campaigns of Ralph Nader, Ross Perot, Eugene Debs, Bob Lafollet, or even Teddy Roosevelt of the famously unknown Bull Moose party.

It's a feel good vote that does nothing except marginalize your participation.

Therefore I conclude the most reasonable approach is to choose one of the two candidates, realize we live in a fallen world, and pray for the day when the Lord Himself will assume the throne and show us how polity should work.
Yeah, that didn't work so well...

The Assertion that Firearms are designed to kill

A common "talking point" circulating in the "gun control" debate is: "Firearms are designed to kill." I have s...