(Bill Tallen, Executive Vice President Tactical Operations at Distributed Security, Inc. offers a response to recent terror and workplace violence tragedies.)
James Alan Fox at USA Today gave us on Tuesday (June 6, 2017) an opinion piece that is spiteful, petty, misleading, and politicized – just what we’d expect from a professor at Northeastern University in these debased times. See his column at https://www.usatoday.com/story/opinion/2017/06/06/imagine-if-london-terrorists-had-guns-james-alan-fox-column/102558812/
He asks rhetorically what would have happened, “if the London terrorists had guns and [the] Orlando shooter had only knives?” The line is catchy but the logic is tortuous. He wants us to believe that the Orlando workplace killing would not have happened if the disgruntled worker had shown up only with knives – despite the long deadly rampage of the London terrorists with their knives – as though stricter gun control might have prevented the man from using a handgun (although there are conservatively speaking, over 120 million of these already in private hands in the US). And he clearly admires the UK’s draconian gun control regime, which ensured that none of the terrorists’ victims had a chance to defend themselves against murderous fanatics with knives. Even to defend themselves with a knife, which will see you off to prison in the UK.
His column, which excoriates President Trump for being “unsympathetic” to the London victims, claims that “in all likelihood, the death toll in Orlando would have been much lower, perhaps even zero” if the attacker had only used his knives and not a handgun. Because you see, some volunteer among those five office workers would have tackled the knife wielder and disarmed him, just like teachers who defeat active shooters by throwing textbooks and staplers – in the fever dreams of the antigun crowd, anyway. But hey, these victims and their families don’t need sympathy from the Left, either, they’re just pawns in the anti-gun game.
Perhaps Mr. Fox is a Marvel Comics superhero in disguise, who could, empty-handed, take down an adrenalized murdering fanatic with a knife, as he says the Orlando workers would surely have done if only their killer hadn’t had that handgun. But it seldom works that way in real life. Ordinary Americans are far less likely to be trained and proficient in empty-handed combat against a knife than they are to carry a concealed firearm. The many killed and wounded by the terrorists’ knives in London do not support Mr. Fox’s flip (dare we say “unsympathetic”) assertion that it is “difficult to kill multiple victims with a knife.” Perhaps Mr. Fox believes Orlando citizens are made of sterner stuff than Brits? He’d be mistaken.
Of course we can’t forget that a majority of British police officers are not routinely armed, and that it took eight minutes for armed police to respond and take down the terrorists. No, that’s not a quick response to an ongoing mass murder in the heart of a major city. But thanks to the UK’s “enlightened” gun laws and quaint tradition of unarmed patrol officers, that’s how long the knife-armed terrorists had to kill and maim with impunity.
If you’re starting to feel like Alice in Wonderland caught in the maze of Fox’s tortured logic, take comfort; everyone but his fellow-travelling true-believers, who has the stomach to read his hit piece, is feeling the same.
Mr. Fox makes an issue of President Trump tweeting about the killings in London, compared to his silence about the workplace murders in Orlando. This is odd, given his obvious disdain for the president’s use of Twitter; you’d think he’d be glad (as many of us are) that the president shows some restraint and doesn’t feel obliged to tweet on . . . everything. At least that would be a reasonable assumption about Mr. Fox if he did not appear to obsessively follow the president’s every tweet as a primary news feed. Mr. Fox’s simpatico fellow columnist at USA Today, Winsor Mann, recently wrote a column that told the president, “Stop Tweeting,” but Mr. Fox at least seems to think that the president needs to be an equal-opportunity tweeter, tweeting about every tragic event in America, if not the world. I’m confused.
In the immediate aftermath of every high publicity shooting in America – “mass” or otherwise – anti-firearms pundits and politicians roll-out their faux-outrage and sanctimonious pleas for stricter gun control, before the scene is cleared or the facts known, heeding Rahm Emmanuel’s advice that “You never want a serious crisis to go to waste.” But when the president notes on Twitter that we “are not having a gun debate right now” following the murders-by-truck-and-knife in London, that is, according to Mr. Fox, both “unsympathetic and politically opportunistic.” Really. Good for the goose, good for the gander? Of course not. This is the Left speaking.
Mr. Fox, perhaps knowing how lopsided his echo-chamber readership is, says that “Of course, [President] Trump no doubt delighted his friends and supporters in the National Rifle Association who helped put him in the White House to safeguard the Second Amendment.” Well, yes; I could have written that line myself – although out of courtesy to sitting president, I’d have added his title. Indeed he did delight us with his tweet, which is spot on. Mr. Fox, I’m sorry you’re still pissed that he won the election – that we won the election. Feel free to emigrate to the UK, and sign up for your unarmed knife self-defense class first thing on arrival.
His anti-Trump spitefulness betrays him, and explains his illogic, when Mr. Fox goes on at length about how, while the president did not feel “compelled” to address the Orlando shootings, he has been tweeting about “some of his favorite issues, such as tax cuts, his trip to Saudi Arabia, and his desire for a travel ban.” Now I know that Mr. Fox’s ilk recoil in horror from each of those topics, like vampires from the light. I also am like many of the people who voted Donald Trump into the White House, and don’t agree with everything he does, or says (or how he says it), but – tax cuts? Yep. His comportment and reception in Saudi? Yep. His travel ban? Now more than ever. I can’t say I’m sorry you remain horrified by all these things, Mr. Fox; I’m only glad we won.
So much for spiteful, petty, vindictive, politically motivated, and illogical. But we might wish for a professor at once-respected Northeastern University to at least have some skills in, and respect for, research. When Mr. Fox ventures into “a debate about guns and mass casualty incidents,” however, he shows no such skill, and no such respect. He’s just a political hack. Perhaps he should stick to being a pundit on progressive talk radio (oh, wait, there isn’t any), or a columnist for leftwing pop tabloids like USA Today (oh, wait, he already is) and give up his professorship. Mr. Fox supports unnamed “politicians and pundits” (earning my trust and confidence right there) who “note” that mass shootings are more frequent in the US compared with other Western nations with tighter firearms restrictions.
One might start by deconstructing that claim. What is the definition of “mass shooting”? What shootings are counted, and which are filtered out to support the predetermined conclusions of such reports? Why are we comparing the US only to “Western” nations? That smacks of cultural elitism that is appalling – appalling I say! – coming from a sensitive, educated, progressive, and no doubt anointed multi-culti like Mr. Fox. If I wore a pussy hat, I’d probably be shouting “Racist!” on that evidence alone.
One might just as easily “note” (as documented carefully by the Crime Prevention Resource Center http://crimeresearch.org/2017/01/with-39-killed-in-tunisia-attack-the-top-three-mass-public-shootings-are-outside-the-united-states/) that large mass public shootings (15 or more killed) have caused far more deaths per million population in Africa, Australia, Europe, and the Philippines than in the US. With 4.4% of the world’s population, the US accounts for 4.1% of the deaths from these attacks. Causation is hard to prove, but perhaps this has something to do with the US having armed, trained, disciplined and brave police officers who respond in minutes; and with having armed citizens present most everywhere except in the ever-shrinking gun-free zones where mass murderers focus their efforts.
One might also note that those figures do not even include deaths by terrorist bombings, which are increasingly common outside the US. Or that France (and I’ll bet the farm that Mr. Fox is a Francophile) suffered 532 firearms killings and woundings (don’t you agree that being shot and surviving ought to be counted in this debate?) versus 396 in the US, from such mass public shootings from 2009 through 2015. Inconvenient truths, Mr. Fox.
Since 1970, all of the 20 worst mass public shootings occurred outside the US. Muslims committed 18 of them. Of the worst 44 such shootings, 40 of them occurred outside the US. And none of the incidents in this CPRC tabulation were part of a war over sovereignty, or done by the government in power.
The FBI definition of mass shooting is 4 or more people killed; there is a whole other body of research and analysis based on this definition, some rigorous and some blatantly political, but as CPRC points out, while US data is very reliable, many events of such “lesser” magnitude are poorly reported or unreported in many parts of the world, which makes comparisons like Mr. Fox’s very unreliable. One should be very attentive to such details when listening to rants like Mr. Fox’s, and back away quickly when these details and definitions, and the sources of the analysis, are not even named. Professors used to be trustworthy on such issues; “pundits and politicians” almost never.
Before Mr. Fox’s defenders jump on my references to a study which focuses on “large mass public shootings” (15 or more dead), I’ll point out that similar rigor has been applied by CPRC to comparative homicides and murders overall (http://crimeresearch.org/2014/03/comparing-murder-rates-across-countries/). As this study points out, much of the distorted research funded by the anti-gun movement again tries to limit the debate to “civilized” nations. Where else in modern public discourse would you be allowed to label some nations as “civilized” and others “uncivilized”? Why, you’d be beaten and driven off most college campuses for even suggesting such a thing, unless it’s convenient for your anti-Second Amendment argument.
Among several other cogent points that relate directly to Mr. Fox’s hit piece, this earlier CPRC study points out that one should be careful what one counts: “. . . homicides are not the same as murders. Homicides add together murders and justifiable homicides (when a police officer or civilian kills someone in self-defense).” Additionally there is this one crucial factor when looking at murder rates in the United States:
“Finally, murder isn’t a nationwide problem in the United States; it’s a problem in a very small set of urban areas. In 2014, the worst 2 percent of counties accounted for 51 percent of the murders. 5 percent of counties account for 68 percent of the murders. Yet, even within these counties with all these murders, there are large areas without any murders.”
All right, wake up. These debates over statistics are interminable, and often pointless, as we all know that statistics, while not necessarily “lies and damned lies,” do often mislead by the way the data is organized and presented. Everyone applauds and endlessly, uncritically cites research (whatever its flaws) that feeds our confirmation bias. Take heart. Heed no nightly noises, for thou art armed. Neither should you heed the erroneous, spiteful, and dishonest allegations of partisan elitists like Mr. Fox. The truth is out there.
Bill Tallen is Executive Vice President – Tactical Operations for Distributed Security, Inc. Prior to joining the enterprise he had a 20 year career with the Department of Energy, where he served as a Federal Agent, team leader, unit commander, training instructor, and manager in the agency which provides secure transportation of nuclear weapons and nuclear materials within CONUS. He helped to found DOE’s Special Response Force program, developing and teaching urban and close quarter battle techniques to Federal Agents charged with recovery of lost assets. He has designed and conducted a variety of wargaming efforts in support of vulnerability assessments, security system design, and leadership training, and has taught a variety of crisis decision making models. Bill holds the degree of Master of Arts in National Security and Strategic Studies from the U.S. Naval War College.