When I arrived home Sunday afternoon, I had a good idea what I would write about this week. Then, I turned on the television, and was informed of the 26 innocent souls who perished, plus 20 wounded, as a result of the shooting at the First Baptist Church in Southerland Springs, Texas. At the end of this horrific crime, an armed community member, who witnessed the shooting, engaged the shooter, Devin Patrick Kelley, in a gunfight. As a result, Kelley dropped his weapon and fled the scene. The community member pursued Kelley, ending with Kelley’s car crashing off the road. Kelley was found dead when law enforcement arrived.
Everything predictable then transpired. As they should, politicians offered their condolences and spoke of their promise to help the victims and consoled the public by assuring us; terror will not break our resolve to live in a free and open society. Then came the gun rights advocates, calling for additional gun control including enhanced background checks, even before we know where the guns and ammunition were acquired, and if the additional controls would have prevented the tragedy. Yet the surprise came from local Clergy, who rightfully blamed the evil in a person’s heart, as opposed to the gun in their hand, for the tragedy. But lastly, came the news personalities trying to determine the underlying psychological reasons for a person to do such a thing and asking; how can we prevent a similar situation from occurring in the future? I don’t know about you, but I am dismayed when I have to listen to this same old babble.
Every month at the Canyon Country Advisory Committee, I kick off the meeting with an example of a regular citizen who unexpectedly becomes involved in an unusually dangerous situation, and rises to the occasion by performing an extraordinary act of courage. I end the narrative by saying “It shows, there are heroes all around us” and how important it is for us to always be aware of our surroundings. In this case, the unnamed armed community member most certainly fits the category of hero.
When I start to compare terrorist incidents in the recent past, there are similarities which should not be ignored. First, terrorists have an arsenal of weapons to use. These individuals of evil have used guns, knives, cars, trucks, planes, and bombs. A rush to change laws has not, and will not, prevent these tragedies, because laws do not keep crimes from occurring. If laws would prevent crime, there would be no murder, burglary, or assault, because there are already laws which prohibit an individual from committing those acts. What prevents individuals from perpetrating crimes, is the consequence of being caught. So, if our citizens are not afforded the ability to protect themselves, if the consequence is minimized by law enforcement not being able to incarcerate criminals, or the courts hand out “hand slaps” rather than realistic sentences, individuals who would be criminals, have no incentive to behave. Too often, we read about an individual who murdered an innocent person and had a long list of arrests, plus possibly being convicted of violent crimes in the past. Maybe, they are out on bail or released on a technicality. Our justice system does not seem to be getting the job done, and putting more restrictions on law abiding citizens does not fix any part of the problem.
Second, terrorists always choose to attack “soft targets”. Why, because there is nothing to physically stop them from committing a crime. Unfortunately, as a society we tend to provide criminals easy access to those most vulnerable. I find it unbelievable, when one of our brainless elected officials push for “gun free zones”. Do these lawmakers really think criminals will stop in their tracks, and not attack an area because it is a “gun free zone”, or do you think it might make it easy pickings? I find it even more absurd, when a company employee stops a crime from occurring or protects themselves and gets fired for their effort, proving no good deed goes unpunished. As a country we need to find ways to eliminate soft targets. Since statistically, we are not likely to be caught in a terrorist situation, most of us do not consider what it would be like to be confronted by the reality we are in danger and have no way to defend ourselves. As a Department Manager, I was in an active shooter situation years ago. We were on the second floor in the rear of the building. I was told there was a shooting in the front lobby. Of course, we had no way of knowing where the shooter was, or what he intended to do. I gathered my group together and since there was no place to hide, I ushered them down the back stairs, out of the building and off the plant grounds. Fortunately, everything turned out OK, but I remember the stress of making a decision which potentially could have been disastrous if we had run into the shooter.
I see nothing wrong with issuing Concealed Carry Permits, because applicants are finger printed, subjected to a comprehensive background check, receive instruction on the law regarding when the use of deadly force is warranted, have to show proficiency with their firearm, and the permit requires periodic recertification. You may not want to assume the responsibility to carry a weapon, and I can respect your opinion, but it should not prohibit others from making the choice to be prepared to protect their family should the need arise.
Lastly, there are those who believe the police will protect us. Unfortunately, it is not a realistic expectation. The police cannot be everywhere 24/7. Our legal system tasks law enforcement with arresting those who commit crimes. Every citizen needs to understand “When Seconds Count the Police are Minutes Away” and when they arrive they will be there to write the report.
On this Sunday evening, we know Devin Kelley, was 26 years old, was in the Air Force, was convicted of assaulting his wife and small child, spent 12 months in the “Brig” and received a Bad Conduct Discharge. By the time you read this at the end of the week we will know a lot more. Yet, there is one thing that will not change. Each of us needs to constantly be aware of what is going on around us, and be ready to do what is necessary when danger crosses our path.