The chief of the Metropolitan Police Department of the District of Columbia (MPD), Cathy Lanier, has given some interesting advice to citizens recently during an interview with CBS News. During that interview, she said, “If you’re in a position to try and take the gunman down, to take the gunman out, it’s the best option for saving lives before police can get there.”
“That’s kind of counterintuitive to what cops always tell people, right? We always tell people, ‘Don’t…don’t take action. Call 911. Don’t intervene in the robbery’…we’ve never told people, ‘Take action.’ It’s a different…scenario,” she added in the interview.
All well and good, Chief Lanier. Against a jihadist who is carrying out an attack, waiting at least ten minutes for the first cops to get there is a good way to get killed. That said, and with all due respect, what are people supposed to do, just run at the attacker? Throw spitballs? D.C.’s gun laws, arguably the most restrictive in the country, are quite restrictive. Cary permits are available theoretically, but according to a NRA-ILA summary are only granted on “a very restricted basis.”
Rushing at an attacker is an iffy proposition. Spencer Stone, Alek Skarlatos, and the others who rushed the gunman on the Thalys train this past August got very lucky: The would-be killer’s Kalashnikov assault rifle jammed. That meant that they were able to take the gunman down and live to tell about it. All too often, confronting an armed gunman with your bare hands is a good way to get killed.
What can give people a better chance? Shall-issue carry laws, and reducing gun-free zones. Concealed-carry permit holders have stopped or mitigated the death toll in mass shootings in the past, often because they are responding within seconds of the attack. When an attacker has minutes, as has been the case in shootings like Virginia Tech, Newtown, Aurora, or Umpqua Community College, the casualty count will climb.
Now, I’m sure that we’ve already heard some gun-grabbers, like California Lieutenant Governor Gavin Newsom, claim that armed citizens will only make matters worse. Newsom’s argument was rightly ridiculed by Bill Maher, of all people, who asked, “But hasn’t the worst thing already happened? A crazed madman who’s bent on killing everyone? How could it get worse?” Maher, though, pulled his punches. He could have also pointed out that France, despite gun laws that are stricter than those in California, has seen at least three attacks this year in which the terrorists used fully-automatic assault rifles and suicide vests despite those tough gun control laws.
The real question for Lanier is if she will take the next logical step, having told people to resist those who are carrying out a Paris/Mumbai-style attack: Telling her political masters, the mayor of Washington, D.C., and the D.C. City Council, that they need to join the 42 states that have at least a “shall-issue” concealed carry law. It would be a very gutsy call, and could end a 25-year career with the MPD, but if she’s serious about having D.C.’s citizens resist a Paris or Mumbai-style attack, telling the city’s politicians the hard truth would be a good first step.