Minutes ago as I write this, justice has triumphed in a courtroom in Sanford, Florida. I wish to congratulate six brave, honest, intelligent jurors. And two fine defense lawyers. And the honest cops and witnesses who testified, and the many who contributed to the defense fund for a wrongfully accused armed citizen.
Several blog followers have asked me why I haven’t written here (or spoken anywhere) on this, the most important armed citizen case of our time. The answer is this:
I did write on it once, on Friday, March 23, 2012. The following day, I received a phone call from Craig Sonner, George Zimmerman’s original legal counsel, to retain me on the case as an expert witness for the defense.
The weeks wore on. Attorney and client parted ways. I was subsequently contacted by Mark O’Mara, the new defense lawyer. Late in May of 2012, I met with him in his office, along with his co-counsel Don West. I also attended the bail hearing in which Zimmerman’s bond was revoked. During the hearing, TV cameras swept the courtroom. Some folks saw that, recognized me, and apparently assumed I was involved with the case.
In fact, I don’t take expert witness cases until I’ve seen all the evidence, and the prosecution was extremely slow in providing that. I wound up not being involved. However, having been retained by one of the defendant’s lawyers and consulted with another, I felt bound by confidentiality and did not think it would be professional to comment directly on the matter from then on.
I’ve been biting my tongue ever since, because there was much that I wanted to say.
The verdict is now in, and I’m gonna smooth those teethmarks off my tongue, and in the next few entries here will discuss some elements of the Zimmerman case which have been widely and profoundly misunderstood.
In the meantime, to get the commentary and analysis of the case that most of the mainstream media denied you, go to the excellent day by day writing of Andrew Branca, an attorney who specializes in this sort of case, at www.legalinsurrection.com.
Back in the grim days following the Columbine High School atrocity, I pushed hard for the “Israeli model” of armed school personnel. After the Maalot massacre, an all-volunteer program was put together for school personnel and family members of students who were trained by Israel’s civil guard and reported to school with concealed handguns. It was fabulously successful in both stopping and deterring armed terrorist attacks on schools. The concept has much in common with the hugely successful FFDO (Federal Flight Deck Officer) program for armed airline pilots. (It matters not whether the “terrorist” in question is motivated by religious zealotry, politics, or madness. What matters is that a protector with a gun be in place to stop the evildoer with a gun.)
After the recent Sandy Hook atrocity, not only did the NRA come up with a plan for something similar here (while also pushing for more armed police assigned to educational institutions as SROs, or School Resource Officers), but we’ve seen similar plans actually implemented in places like Texas, Utah, and Arkansas. It is a solid, realistic approach to a genuine problem.
I call your attention to an excellent little book published in December of 2012, “School Administrators Guide To Practical Handgun Training.” The author is Richard Rosenthal, a retired lawman with an impressive 40-year career behind him. The first half of that was twenty years with the NYPD. There, he worked Homicide and Narcotics, served as a helicopter pilot, and spent many years teaching at the Firearms and Tactics Unit, which is where I first met him long ago. Retiring after putting in those twenty, he spent a like period as Chief of Police in Wellfleet, Massachusetts.
Having dealt with school administrators as a chief of police, Rich understands their thinking. His credentials make it clear to them that he’s not some sort of right-wing lunatic, and give him credibility in certain circles where gun enthusiasts simply will not be listened to by decision-makers. Rich is not only a master firearms instructor, but a shooting incident survivor himself. His advice on vetting and training armed volunteers and managing such a program is absolutely spot-on.
I highly recommend “School Administrators Guide to Practical Handgun Training.” It’s available for $19.33 plus shipping here.
Recently got home from the 2013 Polite Society event, a/k/a National Tactical Conference, in Memphis. A symposium like this allows you to recharge your batteries and remember what you fight for. There were roughly 150 attendees – 25 of them teaching – and damn near all of them were carrying loaded guns the whole time. The name of the conference comes from a Robert Heinlein quote popularized by armsmaster Jeff Cooper: “An armed society is a polite society.” One quick translation of that is, creatures with fangs and claws do not see other creatures with fangs and claws as prey…and unless it’s a mating issue or a turf issue, they generally leave them the hell alone.
There were too many fine presentations to relate here, though each is discussed on an upcoming ProArms podcast that four of our crew who attended were able to record in the car on the way home. Yes, the drive of eleven hours each way was more than worth it for what we got out of the conference. It is not “up” yet, but should be soon; patience appreciated.
Many of the presenters and attendees alike were cops or retired cops. Across the board, there was unanimous agreement that the current trend toward private citizen disarmament was deplorable and wrong-headed. Host Tom Givens, the founder of the program, made a telling point: real-world analysis of violent crime indicates about a one-in-thirty chance that any individual American will face it at some time in his or her life. (Virtually ALL of the presenters had come face to face with it already, one reason they were selected to teach.) Tom pointed out that over the years, sixty or more of his civilian graduates have been involved in lethal force encounters. All but two prevailed and survived. The two who didn’t prevail, died. Not coincidentally, those were the two who were unarmed when it happened. Tom reminded us all of the advice of Jeff Cooper’s acolyte Mark Moritz, a gun-wise attorney: “The first rule of gunfighting is, Have A Gun!”
The eclectic program encompassed emergency first responder trauma care for gunshot wounds, stabs and lacerations, and blunt trauma injury, taught by MDs. It included a veteran psychologist on one side and a homicide investigator on the other delineating how human predators think and act. There was hand-to-hand work, and knife awareness, and recognition of assaultive behavior cues. There was aftermath management: the blocs I taught revolved around lessons learned in some of the more recent homicide trials I’ve been involved in, including one a month ago, all of which were killings done in defense of self and/or others. (And yes, in each case the jury agreed.) The veteran cop who talked about “active shooter” scenarios deplored the fact that this has become the terminology, since human monsters such as those should be considered “active killers” or indeed, “active mass-murderers.” He had been involved in two such incidents himself, both of which ended in the quick death of the monsters as soon as they were confronted with lethal force resistance, and he quite pointedly noted that some of the cases under discussion were ended by armed citizens who saved countless lives.
Time with people who understand the ugly reality of having to stop murderers, is time well spent for those who may have to one day face such murderers.
And “those who may have to one day face such murderers” includes everyone reading this, and indeed, everyone, period.
Thanks to Tom Givens and his team for making this top-tier level of training available to law-abiding private citizens, as well as the many cops who were in attendance. Next year’s program will be held on February 21-23, 2014 in Memphis, and you can get more information from the Rangemaster Website.
The RangeMaster complex in Memphis had room to train 150 good people.
Jon Hodoway gave an excellent lecture on the survival capabilities that can be found in an ordinary smart phone.
Ever heard of SouthNarc? He’s retired from police work now, so I can finally publish his picture…and I’ve long recommended his street-wise training.
Here, I’m briefing the audience on lessons learned from recent homicide trials. On screen is the Ruger .45 used in a self-defense shooting.
If you’re reading this, you’ve probably had a conversation with someone in the last few days who asked, “Why do ordinary law-abiding people need those semiautomatic firearms with magazines that can hold more than ten cartridges?” There are lots of sound answers.
For one thing, defensive firearms are meant to be “equalizers,” force multipliers that can allow one good person to defend against multiple evil people. To allow one good person to defend against a single evil person so much stronger and/or bigger and/or more violent than he or she, that the attacker’s potentially lethal assault can be stopped. History shows that it often takes many gunshots to stop even a single determined aggressor. Most police officers have seen the famous autopsy photo in the cops-only text book “Street Survival” of the armed robber who soaked up 33 police 9mm bullets before he stopped trying to kill the officers. Consider Lance Thomas, the Los Angeles area watch shop owner who was in many shootouts with multiple gang bangers who tried to rob and murder him. He shot several of them, and discovered that it took so many hits to stop them that he placed multiple loaded handguns every few feet along his workbench. That’s not possible in a home, or when lawfully carrying concealed on the street: a semiautomatic pistol with a substantial cartridge capacity makes much more sense for that defensive application.
In the last twenty years, we have seen epic mob violence in American streets. During the Rodney King riots in Los Angeles, Korean storekeepers armed with AR15s kept their stores and livelihoods – and lives – from the torches of inflamed crowds because the mob feared their force multipliers. Read this, for a survivor’s account: http://www.seraphicpress.com/jew-without-a-gun/. There have been bands of roving, violent predators as lately as this year during the Sandy storm. And the “flash mob violence” phenomenon of recent years has left many urban dwellers picturing themselves as the lone victim of a feral human wolfpack.
And, if you will, one more stark and simple thing: Americans have historically modeled their choices of home protection and personal defense handguns on what the cops carried. When the police carried .38 revolvers as a rule, the .38 caliber revolver was the single most popular choice among armed citizens. In the 1980s and into the 1990s, cops switched en masse to semiautomatic pistols. So did the gun-buying public. Today, the most popular handgun among police seems to be the 16-shot, .40 caliber Glock semiautomatic. Not surprisingly, the general public has gone to pistols bracketing that caliber in power (9mm, .40, .45) with similar enthusiasm. The American police establishment has also largely switched from the 12 gauge shotgun which was also the traditional American home defense weapon, to the AR15 patrol rifle with 30-round magazine…and, not surprisingly, the law-abiding citizenry has followed suit there, too.
The reasoning is strikingly clear. The cops are the experts on the current criminal trends. If they have determined that a “high capacity” semiautomatic pistol and a .223 semiautomatic rifle with 30-round magazines are the best firearms for them to use to protect people like me and my family, they are obviously the best things for usto use to protect ourselves and our families .
For Heaven’s sake: They say they have armed security in their schools, and NRA is demanding armed security in ours. The difference there is exactly…what?
Dr. David Schiller’s interview with Jews for Preservation of Firearms Ownership, http://jpfo.org/filegen-n-z/school.htm , makes it clear that the armed schoolteachers in the Israeli program were trained by their civil guard, the mishmar esrachi. This is directly on point to what I’m recommending: no one is saying “give guns to untrained people and make them pretend they’re cops.” A proper armed teacher program as I see it would be analogous to our country’s fabulously successful FFDO program, the armed pilots who take their own time off to go through the training to become Federal Flight Deck Officers, equipped with loaded HK .40 caliber pistols.
Israel has armed security in their schools? Damn right. And if our schools train staff members who volunteer for such a program, they will be armed for security and will therefore BE – Duh! – “armed security.”