Monday, June 13, 2016

Sniper Searches Misguided in Wake of Scattergun Terror

The body count at the worst mass shooting in American history that happened in Orlando last weekend has given rise to the usual, knee-jerk speculation about the extent to which the shooter was (a) a lone wolf vs. a terrorist trained and directed by the likes of ISIS, (b) a demon bent on carrying out a hate crime made possible by inadequate restrictions on the weapons he used. Both musings miss the point from a defender's perspective.

To begin with the point about weapons, Omar Mateen was a licensed security guard who had already come under FBI scrutiny in the past. Such scrutiny surely went beyond the standard background check that presently constitutes a precondition for the legitimate purchase of firearms. Absent anything but routine attention to the results of his background investigation, Mateen or anyone else in his position typically encounters no substantive barriers to gearing up for a terrorist attack. Why? He has no prior convictions or run-ins with the law, hence enjoying the freedom of maneuver and civil rights of any citizen in good standing.

Thus far, no one has produced evidence that Mateen used automatic weapons to inflict his carnage on the defenseless victims he murdered in Orlando. He didn't have to. They were sitting ducks. As a security guard, he no doubt worked among people who either had guns themselves or who knew other counterparts who worked as armed guards. Thus, if he had been too cheap to buy his own firearms, he probably would have known where to go to steal them. It is doubtful to the point of implausibility that imposing a new layer of gun controls into Mateen's world would have presented any more than a minor hurdle for him to clear on the path to carrying out the Orlando slaughter.

The Lone Wolf Canard

As for the Monday morning quarterbacking rush to categorize the shooter as a self-motivated hater rather than some agent of ISIS who plotted this attack in some terror cell, it offers no comfort to the bereaved to opine that their loss was not a matter of specific targeting. Whether a defenseless victim falls to the sniper fire of an assassin who planned specifically to take him down or whether that same individual dies as a result of having been mowed down by the indiscriminate, scatter shot of a bullet addressed "To Whom It May Concern" rather than one with his name on it, the shooter remains the enemy. And so does the ideology that led him to think it acceptable or, in his culture, commendable to slaughter people who are in no position to shoot back.

Two Enemies

The enemies here are not gun laws which, in a free society, tend to restrict the law-abiding citizen while offering little more than a nuisance to the assassin. After all, a murderer bent on slaughtering innocents and indifferent to surviving his own attack is hardly going to balk at the prospect of risking a lesser felony by buying, possessing, carrying, or stealing whatever weapon suits his purpose, whether that is a gun, a truckload of fertilizer, or a weaponized pressure cooker. Nor is the enemy some sort of hate speech or intolerance that blames the victims.

The enemies are the murderers and their enabling ideology. Someone has to pull the trigger and someone, some system of inculcation, ideology, and belief, has to legitimize barbaric slaughter of innocents by condoning and even encouraging such action. Whether that ideology expresses the worst of its barbaric maleficence through an ISIS terrorist cell that acts as a sniper assassinating carefully selected victims or whether that ideology infects willing adherents with the kind of programming that convinces them it is okay to kill indiscriminately as long as one is slaughtering the infidel, it behooves defenders to keep their focus on defeating the two enemies.

Waste no time splitting hairs over the relative dangers of terror cells vs. lone wolves. When the house is on fire, we don't put down the extinguisher to launch into a debate over whether the cause of the fire was a wayward cigarette ash or an unattended frying pan on the stove. First put out the fire. Leave the armchair debate about causes for a time when it won't interfere with defensive action.

- Nick Catrantzos

Wednesday, March 23, 2016

You've Been Shot

You were going about your normal business when suddenly you got shot. Here's what you find at hand as you hit the ground and take cover: a gun, a bullhorn, a radio, a first-aid kit, and a bottle of whiskey. What do you do?

If a Politically Correct Progressive or Millennial

... you use the bullhorn to communicate to your attackers that you pose them no threat and are on their side. You throw out the gun to show you mean it. You fumble with the first-aid kit but, not having used one before and not being responsible for this anyway, you forget that and try to radio for help. Since you haven't used a radio before either, can't figure it out, and aren't responsible for this anyway, you give up on this, too. So, you crack open the bottle of whiskey, content that you have done your best and sure that everyone will see this was a mistake and take care of you before you finish the bottle.

If a Member of the News Media

... you use the bullhorn to announce that you are a member of the free press and, as such, have a right to be there and should not have been shot in the first place. Then you offer to trade the remaining items for better treatment and access to the attackers' side of the story, throwing out the gun first to demonstrate your good faith, with the radio coming right after. You think about the first-aid kit but reason that you may need it for trading value, too. Besides, either attackers or defenders will surely have a medic, and your superior interpersonal skills will win them over. And you sneak a shot of whiskey before adding that to your stock of items to trade for preferred treatment by your attackers. You're special. Once they realize that, it will all work out. What a story this will make!

If an Old School, Self-Reliant American

... you patch yourself up with the first-aid kit, saving the whiskey to disinfect any wound you can't easily reach with a bandage. You radio for help and then turn down the volume to avoid giving away your position. You leave the bullhorn alone. You figure you're on your own, at least for awhile. And you do one more thing. You pick up that gun and shoot back.

Nick Catrantzos

Erstwhile security director, intelligence officer, and homeland security instructor. Author of No Dark Corners approach to insider threat defense.