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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.

Archive for the ‘Current Events’ Category

Massad Ayoob


Monday, August 21st, 2017

The recent violence in Charlottesville, culminating in the death of a young woman and the injuring of several more people at the hands of an apparent racist has triggered grief, outrage, tribalism and…hypocrisy.

I’ve written about American tribalism before, here.  The recent Charlottesville experience splashed a huge bucket of kerosene onto that particular fire.  And with it, came vast quantities of self-contradiction on both sides, enough to trigger the bullshit alert built into anyone who practices critical thinking.

Here’s the deal:

If you’re a self-styled Antifa (anti-fascist) and you advocate violence with slogans like “Put your fist in a fascist’s face,” and you use physical force and intimidation to shut down voices you don’t want to hear, you’re practicing fascism yourself and you’re a damned hypocrite.

If you’re a Southerner and ready to fight to keep people from pulling down statues memorializing Confederate soldiers like your great-great-grandfather who perceived themselves to be fighting for state’s rights, you have a point and I’ll listen to you.  But if you do it while wearing a swastika or any other Nazi regalia and are chanting anti-Semitic Nazi-born rhetoric while doing so, given that your father and grandfather fought and bled to defeat the Nazis in World War II, you’re a God-damned hypocrite.

If you excoriate President Trump for saying there was fault on both sides, your black and white view of things constitutes at least partial blindness.  Just as many of the good people marching in protest against racial supremacy were not there to harm others, even though they marched alongside ready-to-fight provocateurs, it’s hard to believe there weren’t also a few well-intentioned townsfolk who were there to preserve their memories and memorials of Charlottesville past. If there hadn’t been earlier violence and civil disruption on the part of Antifas, I suspect a whole lot of people would not have been motivated to march with the supremacists. Until lately, the American neo-Nazis and the KKK had been underground, festering like anaerobic bacteria but not manifesting themselves as a serious social illness; I don’t think there’s any question that high-profile Antifa violence provided them at least one step in the stepladder they used in Charlottesville to pull themselves up out of their well-deserved place in the dustbin of history and into the media spotlight they sought.  Hypocrisy in there? Oh, yeah.

Some of us who’ve dedicated our lives to teaching judicious use of force have advised that if your car is surrounded by a crowd of vicious, violent, out-of-control humans who are dragging innocent people out of the vehicles and savagely stomping them, you are justified in shooting them to save your life and the lives of your passengers, and equally justified in putting your car in low gear, laying on the horn, and driving slowly but steadily away.  If those intent on harming you and your passengers are willing to die by deliberately blocking your escape from their unwarranted violence, if they go under your wheels the history of the law says that their death or injury is on them, not you.  But if you try to twist that into saying that it’s justifiable for someone not under physical attack to drive their car full speed into a group of protesters who have offered you no harm save inconvenience, you’re not only a hypocrite, you’re a vicious lying SOB who has just sacrificed his credibility.

Yes, it’s complicated.  A spirited discussion on the matter is going on in the comments page here.  However, I think the blog entry you’re reading now is the best place to carry on the discussion, and as always, your comments are welcome.

Massad Ayoob


Wednesday, July 5th, 2017

In comments on the last blog entry here (on the Philando Castile shooting), more than one commenter suggested public service announcements on how to handle traffic stops…particularly if one is legally carrying a gun.

Closest I have to that is one I did about a decade ago on Tom Gresham’s show, Personal Defense TV.  Hope you find it useful.

View video here.

Massad Ayoob


Friday, June 30th, 2017

There has been much discussion and outrage over the shooting of Philando Castile by police officer Jeronimo Yanez, particularly since the officer’s acquittal on all charges several days ago.

We humans are a tribal species.  The Black community seems to have closed ranks reflexively in favor of the African-American man who was killed; the blue community largely (but not entirely) has taken the side of the Hispanic officer who fired the fatal shots; and much of the concealed carry tribe seems to have automatically taken the side of the deceased, who had a carry permit.

Let’s set all that aside for a moment and look at the facts.

First, when you’re pulled over, it’s always possible that it’s happening because you and/or your vehicle fit the description of someone who has done A Very Bad Thing.  In this case, before the pullover Yanez broadcast over the radio that Castile and his car fit the description of a man and a vehicle wanted for armed robbery with a gun. He called for backup, which is why a second officer is present in the dashcam recording of the shooting.

If the officer has reason to consider you, the driver, impaired, you can expect him or her to be all the more cautious in dealing with you. Toxicology screen after death showed Castile to have THC in his bloodstream, and Yanez reported smelling a strong odor of marijuana when he reached the driver’s door.

Castile’s girlfriend did not turn on her famous smartphone livestream until moments after the shooting, and the patrol car camera could not “see” what Castile was doing. A bodycam might well have shown that and solved the question conclusively, but the officer wasn’t wearing one. This leaves us only the perceptions of those who survived to testify. The girlfriend said Castile wasn’t pulling a gun, and Castile was recorded saying the same with his dying breath, but the officer perceived that Castile was drawing a gun, and stated that was why he drew and fired his service pistol.

Here is the dashcam video, from CNN.  Subtitles seen on some versions don’t show it, but at approximately the 43 second point, when Officer Yanez cries “Don’t pull it out!”  Castile sounds as if he replies “I have to pull it out.” Interestingly, the subtitle on CNN, and even an official transcript, have him saying that he’s not pulling it out.  YOU listen, and YOU tell me what YOU’RE hearing.

Some skeptics have said that if Yanez thought the driver of this car might be armed and dangerous, he was negligent in not making a felony stop. He did not yet have probable cause to do so; all he had was a person and vehicle who, among many, matched the description of the robbery suspect.  What he did have was probable cause for a traffic stop, with two brake lights out, and he was proceeding from there.

People are dogging the NRA for not joining other groups who’ve made this shooting a cause célèbre. I think NRA made the right call in not doing so.  So does concealed carry and gun owners’ civil rights activist Miguel Gonzales, on his blog.

The naïve say, “If the cop wasn’t wrong, why did the city just give Castile’s mother an almost three million dollar settlement?” The cynic will answer, “Because, with a racially charged hot button issue, that’s cheaper than a major civil disturbance.”

There were two sides to this case. Having been both the citizen with a legal gun who was pulled over, and the cop doing the pullover, I’m a card carrying member of both tribes. I cannot find fault with this officer’s actions, within the totality of the circumstances.  I can and do find fault with those who ignore the totality of those circumstances.

Massad Ayoob


Tuesday, June 27th, 2017

Well, damn.

We’d all had hopes that the current Supreme Court of the United States would review and overturn the Peruta decision, in which the Ninth Circuit had upheld the right of California authorities to issue concealed carry permits at will, rather than the growing modern norm of “shall issue.”  I for one was surprised when SCOTUS denied cert.  The brilliant dissent of Justice Clarence Thomas is here:  A tip of the hat to TN_Man, a regular commenter on this blog, who was the first to post it here.

Dave Workman is an old friend and a keen observer and analyst of 2A issues.  His take on the matter is here:

Another long-time fighter for gun owners’ civil rights, David Hardy, weighs in here:

There is no more outspoken advocate for 2A rights than David Codrea, who comments here:

My own take?  In too many jurisdictions, “may issue” – still the California standard – has become a synonym for “We’ll grant you the permit if you’re white, male, rich and politically connected.”  In Northern California, several elected sheriffs have gone with a de facto Shall Issue policy, and as has happened everywhere else, predictions of blood running in the streets have been proven wrong.

Under “may issue,” there are generally two standards commonly cited for granting the permit.  One is “the applicant carries large amounts of money or other valuables and is at higher risk for armed robbery.”  That’s certainly a good reason, but a tenet of American law is that life is of much greater value than “mere property” including cash.  The reason we are allowed to use deadly force against armed robbers is the accompanying threat to the victim’s life, not the cash in their pocket or bank deposit bag.  We live in a world where people are robbed and murdered for their running shoes, for God’s sake.

The other most commonly cited reason for granting the permit in May Issue states is credible death threats to the applicant.  Waiting for the death threat misses entirely the point of carrying a defensive firearm.  You don’t wait to buy a fire extinguisher for your car until the first wisps of smoke drift up from under the dashboard; it’s too late.  In the same vein, waiting to apply for a permit to carry a gun to protect yourself and your loved one is likely to leave you unarmed and helpless when the danger first strikes.

Shall Issue, now the prevailing norm, should be the universal norm, and there are good reasons why more than a dozen states now have gone a step farther and dispensed with the permit, allowing permitless carry (a/k/a Constitutional Carry) for all law-abiding citizens.

It is sad that SCOTUS turned down this opportunity to rectify this very real public safety concern.

Massad Ayoob


Friday, May 19th, 2017

I’m sure a lot of the public who saw the acquittal this week of Betty Jo Shelby, the Tulsa police officer charged with Manslaughter in the shooting death of Terence Crutcher, said to themselves “Gosh, Toto, I don’t think we’re in Kansas anymore.”

Well, at the moment, I am in Kansas, teaching a MAG-40 armed citizens rules of engagement class at the superb Thunderbird Firearms Academy in Wichita.  One of the students came in this morning and said, “It looks as if the defense lawyers in that Tulsa case did exactly what you told us our lawyers should do if we were ever charged after a self-defense shooting.”

No kiddin’.  I can’t blame those folks who were puzzled by the acquittal in “the shooting of an unarmed black man.” They live in a world where the media doesn’t bother to tell anyone the difference between murder, manslaughter, and justifiable homicide.

Officer Shelby had observed erratic behavior from a large man who appeared to her to the under the influence of PCP.  This would later be supported by evidence: Crutcher had PCP within his body, and a quantity of it in his car.  After repeatedly ignoring lawful commands, he suddenly reached to the open window of his car, as if for a weapon.  It was enough to cause the male officer present to fire his TASER at Crutcher, and enough to cause Shelby to fire the single pistol shot that killed him.

The public was told that, in this video-taped encounter, Crutcher had his hands up.  At one point he did, but when he was shot, he was reaching as if for a weapon inside the car, with no earthly reason to do so unless he was trying to access a weapon to kill a cop.  The public was told that the window was closed, but by the opening of trial, even the prosecution had to admit that no, it was open.

Talking heads who followed the trial wailed that the defense was foolish to put the defendant on the witness stand, because that just isn’t done.  BS.  In a defensive shooting, what it comes down to is why did she shoot him?  There was only one person who could answer that – and she did.

The defense called material witnesses who confirmed that in police training, Officer Shelby had learned how quickly someone could snatch up a gun and kill a cop with it.  It is supposed to be a jury of one’s peers.  A peer would know what the defendant knew.  Now the jury knew it, too.

The public was told that corrupt investigators had whitewashed Shelby.  That allegation is very decisively refuted, here:

There turned out to be no gun in Crutcher’s car, but in such cases, the law has never demanded that there be one.  All the law demands is that, within the totality of the circumstances, the defendant reasonably perceived that she and her brother officer were in danger of death or great bodily harm (i.e., crippling injury).  In shorthand, “You don’t have to be right, you have to be reasonable.” The defense team got that across to the jury.

Congratulations to Attorney Shannon MacMurray and the rest of Betty Shelby’s defense team. From everything I’ve seen about the case, they did Justice.

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