Sunday, January 09, 2005

Civilians Protecting Themselves; Government Protecting Civilians. In the introduction to the Fourth Edition of The Concealed Handgun Manual, the author, Chris Bird, writes this about Charles Whitman's massacre of innocents in 1966 from his perch in the tower at the University of Texas:

Recently, I had the privilege of listening to retired Texas Ranger Ray Martinez describe that day in August 1966 when he went up the tower at The University of Texas at Austin where Charles Whitman was killing people with a rifle. Alan Crum, a civilan armed with a borrowed hunting rifle, accompanied Martinez up to the observation deck. At the time, Martinez was a uniformed officer in the Austin Police Department. He described how civilians armed with their hunting rifles were shooting up at Whitman. Their barrage of bullets forced the gunman to shoot through rain spouts which gave him cover but also severly restricted his field of fire.

"I'm sure glad for those citizens," Martinez said. He credited them with saving many lives.

Eventually, Martinez and another officer, Houston McCoy, shot Whitman on the observation deck. The deranged gunman killed thirteen and wounded thirty-one others at the university before he was killed. Earlier he had killed his wife and mother.

The incident was successfully resolved by two uniformed policemen armed with revolvers and a shotgun and a civilian with a rifle. I could not help thinking how different it would have been handled today. All civilians would have been removed from the area, then the tower would been assualted by SWAT team members wearing their ninja suits and body armor and armed with MP-5 submachine guns. It is doubtful they would have done a better job.

For the past several decades, ordinary citizens have been actively discouraged from becoming involved in anything that might be dangerous. "Leave it to the professionals," we have been told. We learned on Septemer 11, 2001, that the government and the professionals could not protect us . . .

No comments: