The killing spree at Virginia Tech has prompted discussion about what the students might have done. Some of it is sensible, but some of it is second-guessing, chest-pounding na´vetÚ. Mark Steyn, a columnist I respect and frequently agree with, wrote an awful piece of agenda-injection decrying the VA Tech massacre as an example of what he calls a “culture of passivity.”
Some bloggers and others are describing what it was really like to find themselves being robbed at gunpoint. It’s probably a good idea to read those accounts before forming an opinion about how a person can be expected to react.
Rich Hailey was robbed when he worked as a convenience store night manager.
He waited until the only other customer in the store left, then he approached the counter and pulled a gun. It was a small revolver, and he pointed it at me and demanded that I give him the money in the register. As I started to pull out the money, he changed his mind and told me to hand over the drawer. I did, and as he went to pull the money out, he set his gun down on the counter between us.
Now the adolescent hero boy that lives in all of us immediately speaks up.
“Wow! If I were there, I would have grabbed the gun and got the drop on him. And if he even twitched wrong, BANG! I’d a dropped that sucker in his tracks. Yessirree bubba, that’s what I’da done.”
No you wouldn’t have.
I thought about it. The guy was high on something and moving slowly. I would have had a good chance of grabbing the gun and being a hero, and only a small chance of missing and winding up dead. Well, let me tell you folks something. When you’re looking at a gun, death is there in the room with you, and it’s close, and real, and you have a completely different perspective. I believed that if I went for his gun and missed, he would kill me. End of story. Whether that belief was accurate or not is irrelevant; it’s what I believed at the time. I figured that my best chance of avoiding that big ugly thing called Death was to cooperate and not give this guy any grief.
Nashville Knucklehead recalls being held up when he was bartending at a Nashville O’Charley’s.
I have read things from people questioning the bravery of the victims at VT. Things like, “If three of them had rushed the gunman, maybe they could have save dozens of lives.”
If you think that, you are a total fucking idiot.
I remember it like it was last week. I was laying on the floor in the dining room while the gunman was in the back. I could have gotten up and run out the door and gone next door and called the cops. But I didn’t. Why? Because the motherfucker HAD A GUN. He could have come out as I was leaving and shot me in the back. Or come out after I left and said, “Where’s the dude with all the hair?!?” and started shooting all my friends. What if I had saved my ass at the expense of my co-workers? Would that make me a hero? When someone has a gun, you don’t act like a hero, you do what he says. I’m a big motherfucker. I’m a brave motherfucker. You know what? Little dude HAD A FUCKING GUN!
Rich and Jim didn’t have guns, but Flatiron on the 1911 forums did. He was armed and mentally ready to use a gun, but got caught by surprise at a storage center.
I carry in a load and when I come out a young punk is standing there with a ski mask on, black baggy pants, black baggy coat and it actually takes me a few seconds to realize he has a 9mm black Glock pointed right at my chest.
I put my hands up and say “be cool bro” and at that he says “give it up” and I say “be cool” again at this point he starts getting all excited and cursing and saying stuff like “you think I’m playing %$#@&”
I pull out my wallet and say this is all I have. He snatches it with the gun pointing at my face now.
Now I would like to point out that I am never unarmed and because I was working in my backyard I had sweat pants on and sweatshirt and hooded zip up jacket and I had my Kel-Tec .380 in a pocket holster in my right front pocket.
He is about about 3 feet from me with the gun now pointed at my chest. For one second I contemplated knocking his arm away and rushing him but you know what… when the gun is aimed at you it’s a whole different story.
We can always learn lessons from people’s experiences. Once we know what could happen we can come up with new plans. After 9/11 passengers know better than to assume that a hijacking will end with a safe landing, and can adjust their mental posture. Likewise, we can admire the passengers of Flight 93 who learned what happened to theo ther planes and overpowered their attackers, or professor Liviu Librescu, the 76 year old Holocaust survivor who sacrifice his own his life at VA Tech to give his students time to escape.
At the same time, I think a wise person should be reluctant to second-guess the split-second decisions ordinary people make in life or death situations. That’s particularly true when those ordinary people are facing the long odds of being empty-handed on the wrong end of a gun.