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Massad Ayoob on Guns

Want to Comment on a blog post? Look for and click on the blue No Comments or # Comments at the end of each post.


Saturday, September 23rd, 2017 by Mas | 37 Comments »

In recent discussions here on police use of force, it has been suggested that since cops know they’re doing a risky job, they should wait longer than a civilian might before using force to defend themselves or effect an arrest.  After all, don’t they have more equipment and training? And didn’t they “assume the risk”?

Um…no.  Here’s why.

First, we all remember Spiderman’s Uncle Ben wisely advising him, “With great power comes great responsibility.” That’s true as far as it goes, but it only goes halfway. As I’ve taught my students for decades, police and civilian alike, power and responsibility must always be kept in a dead-equal balance.

Power without responsibility tends to lead to tyranny.  But responsibility without the power to fulfill it is the very definition of futility.

One commentator here longed for the days when police were “peace officers” instead of “law enforcement officers.”  News flash: Police have always been both. The purpose of law enforcement is keeping the peace, and the peace cannot be kept against violent criminals without the power to enforce the law.

Historically, society has given the cop and the private citizen different standards of justifiable use of force:  “Equal Force” for the so-called “civilian,” and “Necessary Force” for the cop.  Picture Lady Justice holding her scales, with power on one side and responsibility on the other.

It’s “equal force” for the private citizen because their responsibility is only to stop the attack and prevent harm: if, for instance, the suspect flees, they have no duty to capture him and their right to harm him ended when he broke off his assault.  But it’s “necessary force” for the police officer, because his or her duty is not merely to make the “bad guy” stop threatening them anymore: their sworn duty is to pursue, overpower, capture and disarm and restrain him, and transport him to jail.

All of which, the first time you try to do it to a criminal who doesn’t want it done, turns out to be a helluva lot more difficult than simply dissuading him from screwing with you anymore. It is why, for example, in a fistfight with a man his own size the cop is allowed to strike him with a baton and a citizen who did the same would likely be charged with aggravated assault.

We all wince when the cop has to injure or kill a drunk, a mental patient, or someone drugged out of their mind. How the Hell do you think the cop himself feels about that?

But the cop has no way of knowing what has motivated his opponent’s violent behavior, and if he did, it wouldn’t matter. It can’t matter. His duty is to restrain the violent person to protect the public, no matter what triggered that behavior.

Cops should take more risk? They did that already when they became the person others would call to stop violent criminals. Their exposure rate is already vastly higher.

Every cop understands that risk is part of “The Job.”  The public they serve needs to recognize that sacrificing life and limb on the altar of Utopian political correctness is not in the contract.


Tuesday, September 19th, 2017 by Mas | 34 Comments »

Oh, Jesus – here come Mary and Joseph.

Hurricane Jose, with Hurricane Maria coming close behind at an estimated Category Five, are in progress.  What hurricanes do is rather fresh in my mind.

I just got back Saturday evening from Houston, where the recovery from Hurricane Harvey is still going on, to my place in Florida immediately post-Hurricane Irma, where the Internet only came back the night of my arrival and the power, a day or two before that.  There are still lots of Floridians without power, the Keys having taken the worst of the devastation.

Deductibles and hurricane insurance itself are extremely costly in Florida. A good friend of mine suffered about $10,000 worth of roof damage alone; his deductible is $15,000.  He hasn’t figured out the cost of his downed trees yet, noting that among real estate agents in the Sunshine State, trees on the property are known as “vertical gold.”

Huge kudos to those who have been able to restore as much as they have as quickly as they have in the wakes of Harvey and Irma.  It speaks well of our country.  In Houston last Saturday I was chatting with a gentleman who immigrated here from Ethiopia ten years ago. He was grateful that no weather emergencies of this magnitude ever hit his country…and he noted that if something like that had happened, he didn’t think his country had the wherewithal to ever recover from it.  American spirit – and, yes, American wealth and emergency services – have seldom shown more brightly.  I have always been proud to be an American. I’m even prouder now.

Preparation is critical.  Thoughts and prayers for the dead and their survivors, and for those who suffered through these last two disasters, and for those who are facing more now.  Let me share some snapshots from around me now, and bear in mind that Irma was down around Category One when it hit here.

Gonna have to clear out the pathway between ranges.

Some of the trees that were snapped in two by the wind on my next-door neighbor’s property.

One of the trees down on my property.

There were lots of empty shelves in the grocery stores. The wise were already stocked up.

We escaped flooding at my place, but others were not so lucky.

These folks in my town had way more downed tree problems from Irma than we did…

…like, when the tree comes down on your house.

Lots of debris yet to be hauled away.

And some businesses out of action.



Saturday, September 16th, 2017 by Mas | 40 Comments »

Here we go again. A judge who has thoroughly reviewed the evidence concludes that the prosecution charging premeditated murder will see an acquittal instead, because they have not proven beyond a reasonable doubt that a shooting was not self-defense.


The result: more urban violence. Organized protesters swarming onto highways near a critically located hospital, endangering the lives of patients who because of their blockade may not be able to get there by ambulance on time.  Great potential to become uglier still.


And, I’m sure, critics of the verdict not having bothered to look at the judge’s carefully explained opinion, HERE.


Wednesday, September 13th, 2017 by Mas | 20 Comments »

When my county announced the evacuation order with Hurricane Irma coming on fast, I had the good fortune to be in Illinois teaching a class:  had “pre-evacuated,” as it were, and personally escaped the worst of it.

The house got some external damage, but nothing breached walls or roof with wind and rain. On our end, it could have been a whole lot worse.

Being prepared is A Good Thing even when you yourself aren’t there.  Power is still out, and will be for a while. (Last one was eight days or more; I experienced it as more of an adventure than a disaster.)  That time and this, I was one of the lucky ones.

But with some help from good friends we were able to get the contents of the freezer to a church that has been feeding people a whole lot less lucky than we, a great many of whom are sheltered in our community.  When another friend with seven young kids was desperate for a generator, we had one to lend him.  When yet another friend’s SUV picked the worst possible time – the middle of a monumental Florida hurricane – to go belly up, my personal SUV (with full tank ‘cause I knew Irma had us in the crosshairs before I left for Illinois) was waiting for him at my place to use for the duration.

Me? I’m flying tomorrow to Houston, where the devastation of Hurricane Harvey remains very fresh.  (Yeah, I know.  Why Houston now? Because…reasons. Will get back to you on that.)

Condolences to those less fortunate than we, and best wishes to all who had to go through it.

And for those who didn’t have to go through it, learn and reinforce the lessons of those who did.

Preparation ain’t paranoia.

The recent monster hurricanes have done much to reinforce the wisdom of self-reliance that the Duffy family so long ago, and since, instilled into the Backwoods Home values.


Saturday, September 9th, 2017 by Mas | 50 Comments »

In the last blog entry below this one, discussion of the Philando Castile incident led to some interesting dialog between two regular correspondents here: retired cop Dennis, and retired attorney Liberal Dave.

Liberal Dave writes, “…your replies imply that nothing can be done about this and since it comes down to officer safety versus safety of innocent impaired persons that the lives of officers have more value than the lives of the innocent.”

I teach armed citizens and cops alike that when they have a reasonable, prudent belief they are dealing with a violent criminal, they should indeed prioritize their life, and other lives present and at stake, over that of the person generating the unlawful deadly threat. That priority is driven, not by self-importance, but by pragmatism and logic.  If you are the one taking the offender at gunpoint, you are probably the only one present who is both trained and equipped to stop him from doing lethal harm.  If you allow him to kill or overpower you, he now has your weapon as well as his own, and no one left to stop him from killing or terrorizing every other innocent person present.

As you sit reading this now, do you have a key to your home on your physical person? And perhaps some government-mandated ID card which lists your street address?  Then think about this, if you haven’t already: the dangerous person you’re facing will have that key to your home and the wherewithal to find it, if you allow him to overpower or murder you.  Do you not owe your family a duty to keep that from happening?

The key to Liberal Dave’s argument seems to be found in the term “innocent impaired persons.”  That covers a lot of ground. Let’s see if we can narrow it down.

Liberal Dave, meet Robert Louis Stevenson. In his famous Victorian novel, kindly Dr. Jekyll commits suicide to save the innocent from the murderous alter ego he has created within himself, Mr. Hyde. In the classic 1931 movie of the same name, Mr. Hyde as played by Fredric March forces the police to shoot him dead to keep him from murdering an innocent person.

And of course, in death, the evil Mr. Hyde transforms back into kindly Dr. Jekyll. Just as happens today when an “impaired” person takes actions that convince reasonable and prudent people that only shooting him will stop his life-threatening acts.

If the impairment of the person in question is due to alcohol or drugs, he becomes, like Dr. Jekyll, responsible for turning himself into Mr. Hyde, and bears responsibility for whatever the impaired Hyde does that causes an innocent, reasonable person to fear him enough to shoot him.  If the impairment was not his fault – organic or traumatic brain damage, for example, or underdeveloped cognitive capabilities, for example – it is certainly tragic, but it is the responsibility of his caregivers to keep him under sufficient supervision that he does not carry out activities reasonable, prudent people will construe as being so lethally dangerous he must be shot to be stopped.

In neither case, in my opinion, does blame fall on the reasonable person forced by the impaired one’s actions to pull the trigger.

But, as noted, that’s just my opinion.

What’s yours?

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