Lethality & The Purpose of a Silencer or Suppressor in the Virginia Beach Mass Murder

In a recent online article about the lethality of silencers or suppressors David Chipman, a retired agent with the federal Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives, commented, “This is the concern we were talking about when Republicans were trying to deregulate silencers as ‘ear protection.” The article noted that Chipman now works as the senior policy adviser for Giffords, a gun-control lobbying group. He elaborated on his views stating, “Especially on a handgun, a suppressor will distort the sound in such a way that it would not immediately be recognizable as gunfire to people who sort of know what that sound is.”

The viewpoint on the other side of the question, expressed the argument that the suspect’s familiarity with the layout of the location and his military background gave him a greater tactical advantage in his attack than his decision to use a silencer. Another retired FBI agent formerly with the FBI’s Hostage Response Team, Gregory Shaffer, opined that, “A suppressor does not alter the lethality of the weapon at all. All it does is just limit the noise it makes. It doesn’t increase the rate of fire. It doesn’t do anything other than make it more comfortable to shoot because it’s not so loud.”

Former FBI agent Shaffer’s last comment is ignorant and self-serving to his preferred and NRA-endorsed opinion, at best, and absurdly ridiculous and dishonest at worst. It ignores and is designed to conceal and deceive people about the fundamental and very important fact about why silencers or suppressors for handguns or rifles were designed to begin with; how and why they were initially adopted for use, and used by the military and intelligence/assassination services throughout the world. It also flies in the face of the reasons that silencers were initially illegal to possess by average citizens, and still are prohibited in many countries. There is only one combination of legitimate purposes for the silencer’s existence — killing people with a degree of stealth, suppressing detection by others, maximizing the body count before being engaged by law enforcement or other armed individuals, and/or allowing more time for the shooter to escape before they are detected as the perpetrator and their crime detected.

More importantly, perhaps, is it fails to acknowledge or address why this shooter, or any mass murderer, would choose to use a silencer in carrying out the slaughter of innocent souls. Was this suspect so concerned about the “assault” on his hearing from the loud report of his weapon as he gunned down each of his victims? Or perhaps he didn’t want to damage the hearing of his intended targets, and those he only wounded or missed. Shaffer is absolutely correct when he says a suppressor does not enhance the performance of lethality of the weapon, itself, nor does it increase the rate of fire, and it does “just limit the noise it makes.” And the fact that it alters and suppresses the noise of the gun’s report absolutely increases the lethality of the attacker and his tactical advantage by masking the sound many people immediately recognize as gunfire. Many people often report dismissing unsuppressed gunfire as just firecrackers or a backfire, until they see bloodied people running toward them. A natural initial human reaction to unexpected events is disbelief and rationalization of what they are seeing or hearing as not possible. Every potential victim, unaccustomed to the sound of silenced or suppressed gunfire, who does not react by fleeing becomes easy prey for a systematic murderer intent on killing as many people until he is inevitably stopped by police or another armed individual, or until he makes his getaway.

I certainly mean no disrespect to the innocent victims, nor do I intend any diminishment of empathy for them or their loved ones through my use of sarcasm – I feel deep and intense sympathy and pain for everyone who was harmed by this man’s horrific act. My sarcasm is intended only to point out and focus attention on the absurdity and disingenuousness of the easy dismissal of a silencer as only “making it more comfortable” for this mass murderer in snuffing out the lives of 12 innocent people. As if it’s even conceivable that this murderer really had the slightest thought about his own “comfort” when he most certainly entertained, if not fervently desired, his own ultimate demise at the hands of responding police officers. Whatever this murderer’s motivation for killing these innocent co-workers, he certainly did not intend on being captured, or getting away with his horrendous crime.

In one case of an attempted murder committed during a drug ripoff I handled, when I was a fairly new patrol deputy in West Hollywood, California, the Suspect used a pillow over the head of the drug dealer when he shot him. The bullet did not penetrate the victim’s skull, but travelled around his scalp, lodging below the skin, fortunately for him. The pillow was intended to muffle the report of the gun, not as any comfort to the Suspect, and certainly not the victim. It was an improvised silencer, which suppressed the noise so neighbors in adjoining apartments would not call the police.

The reasons any mass murderer, or murderer of a single person who uses a silencer is the important point here, and it’s absolutely NOT for the perpetrator’s comfort, or because he or she doesn’t like loud noises, or is concerned about protecting their hearing. But it does makes a “nice” story for the NRA to use as commercial propaganda, appealing to the consumer who wants to look macho, and like James Bond 007.

An Internalization of Violence

I like much of what you have to say, but I share a number of different views about some of the issues. I retired from law enforcement in L.A. County Sheriff’s Dept after 36+ years, 30 of them spent mostly in a patrol car, as a deputy for 10 years, and a Sergeant for 26 years; I worked at 6 different stations in L.A. County, each with unique demographics. My Dad was a deputy for 29 years. I’ve read Grossman and I like much of what he has to say and his perspective on many issues. I want to think about and re-read what you’ve written, and perhaps share some of my thoughts at a future time, as well. I commend you for your service to our country, and I have always had high regard for our military, in general, although I never served in the military. I also want to commend you for your very thoughtful, rational thinking and honest open writing in your blog, and your article. It is rare in much of the writing I see elsewhere. May I suggest you look up an author who is a Vietnam Vet, and is also very thoughtful, honest , open, and rational in his writing and thinking. He has some similar and different ideas about these issues. You may have already read or heard of him: Karl Marlantes, his book “What It’s Like To Go To War.” If not, I think you’ll find him at least interesting.

Sticks and Stones, Guns and Knives, and Even Bombs

On January 10, 2011, BOB HERBERT who writes for the New York Times posted an article online entitled “A Flood Tide of Murder.” (http://www.nytimes.com/2011/01/11/opinion/11herbert.html?_r=0 ) In the introductory paragraph of the article he talked about the poisonous political rhetoric of politicians and some of the “news” commentators designed to appeal to the popular fears, desires, conventional “wisdom,” and prejudices, rather than employing rational argument and critical thinking skills to seek meaningful solutions to difficult, complex problems like gun violence. This is an endemic problem which significantly impedes finding meaningful, effective solutions to many other problems in this country and American culture, including the homeless problems, the healthcare situation, and the the unrealistic, biased perceptions of what it means to be poor in America.

As Mr. Herbert points out in his article, “crazies” (which includes, in my opinion, the mentally ill and imbalanced, but also the religious and political fanatics) do not come to the decision to kill in a vacuum. Their ideas, frustrations, prejudices, biases, fears and feelings of desperation are gradually, often unconsciously assimilated or absorbed from the opinions, ideas, and the conventional “wisdom” or “facts” expressed by members of their own family, their friends, neighbors, classmates, co-workers, and from the movies, books, television and other forms of media they attend to. When children and young people are developing their minds and discovering who they are as human beings in our society and the world they are like sponges, soaking up the information, attitudes and relationships they observe around them. They see, hear and emotionally feel the complex, subtle nuances of the ways in which people relate, or fail to relate to one another.

These impressionable young humans are keenly aware of a multitude of verbal and non-verbal social cues for behavior: the way people talk to one another, or don’t; the emotional expressions or repressions of feelings directed toward others and themselves; the manner in which some people shun or avoid certain groups or types of people; their facial expressions while regarding individuals, or groups of individuals; the names they call others and the jokes they tell about them; the way some people characterize or denigrate the inherent value of other people; the way people dismiss or write-off certain groups of people, characterizing them as lazy, “takers”, poor, irresponsible, or the 47%, as a whole, without knowledge or regard for the unique stories of the individuals, which might temper their prejudice with compassion and empathy.

All of these, and the almost infinite, subtle nuances of human communication transmit a large quantity of erroneous, distorted and emotionally-charged perceptions of other people in our own society, as well as those in other countries. Some of this subtle and nuanced information is transmitted without the conscious awareness of the individual. It is similar to the process of dehumanization in the case of nations, where the people are perceived as the “enemy,” and therefore sub-human, and unworthy of the same basic respect, value and dignity every human being deserves – suddenly, its extremely easy and expedient to make exceptions to the American value that “All men are created equal.” Wars with some countries seems to be an inevitable possibility, at least in the short term, but mankind has made some amazing strides in knowledge, philosophy, and scientific, technological achievements. Perhaps it’s time to allow ourselves to evolve to a point where we don’t default too easily to dehumanizing people who are different from ourselves, simply because of cultural, religious or political views.

Today, within our society, we are faced with polarized political and cultural factions, with many Americans on the continuum in between. American citizens holding positions of power, authority, and celebrity, who possess the public trust, use vile, morally bereft, and vacuous rhetoric to create fear, anxiety, and deeply rooted distrust of our government. They demonize, accuse and blame the other side of evil, un-American agendas, and subversive, destructive intent to destroy everything from religion to the American military, and the Second Amendment. They create fear among good people who don’t know who to believe, and think about the issues and the “enemy” other side from an emotional, fear-based perspective. They even create distrust of the major news organizations so many people do not trust any “news” program except Fox “News” and Rush Limbaugh.

This type of “common wisdom” about other people, and classes of people is, unfortunately, ALL too common, and it can spread like a virus through human minds, facilitated by ignorance, fear, lack of critical thinking, and a failure to question the perceived authority of leaders and their “conventional” or “common wisdom.” And by leaders, I mean parents, older family members, neighbors, teachers, religious leaders, politicians, law enforcement, military, and other citizens who are influential in our communities and society. Each of us has a serious and sacred responsibility to carefully measure our words and our values, and endeavor to keep our biases, prejudices, and conventional “wisdom” to ourselves, if we unable to overcome them.

Continue reading Sticks and Stones, Guns and Knives, and Even Bombs

What Happens When The Macho Movies Actually Meet the Reality of An Active Shooter?

Actor Steven Seagal trains Arizona volunteer posse on school security techniques

Arpaio said volunteers would receive 100 hours of training, drive marked vehicles and, in some cases, be armed with automatic weapons. They would not enter the school unless they observed an immediate threat.

About a dozen people protested the anti-school gun violence training. “No gun should ever be in a school,” said Fountain Hills resident Cynthia Wharton.

“We are paying him to have certified deputies here, not to bring a circus and not to use our town as a political platform,” Guadalupe town councilmember Andrew Sanchez said to the Associated Press.

The Maricopa County’s volunteer posse is one of the largest in the nation and boasts nearly 3,500 members. Arpaio announced this week he wants to add 1,000 more people to his posse. In the past, they have been asked to patrol shopping malls, scope out illegal immigrants and track down dead-beat dads behind on alimony, according to ABC News.

Seagal was already a posse member prior to Saturday’s simulation and his A&E TV reality show “Steven Seagal: Lawman” followed his adventures as a deputy sheriff for Jefferson Parish, Louisiana. The action film actor has also been deputized with the sheriff’s offices in New Mexico and Texas.

Other famous Maricopa County volunteer posse members include television actors Lou Ferrigno (“The Incredible Hulk”) and Peter Lupus (“Mission: Impossible”).

From an online article on NYDailyNews.com / U.S

I enjoy the thrills and cathartic release, and the fantasy sense-of-vindication most anyone derives from watching violent action movies, involving fantastic car chases; spectacular feats of physical agility; punishing, prolonged fight scenes of superhuman endurance and resilience; and equally fantastic shoot-outs between the GOOD Guys and Girls and those on the Dark Side But I am a stark realist when it comes to the actual practices and establishment of policies relating to the defense and protection of REAL PEOPLE and REAL CHILDREN, at school or anywhere else

While I have enjoyed watching the movies of Steven Segal, and other actors who portray heroes from law enforcement and the military, in the plentiful number of American-made action films, I believe too many Americans have become deluded about what is real, and what is fantasy. Delusion does not only inhabit the purview of the mentally ill. There is no dearth of delusion among the sane members of society who choose to believe things based solely on their emotions and beliefs, not on facts or empirical knowledge. Many people base their beliefs on what they have heard or accepted as common knowledge from other people who have repeated things they believe to be factual or empirical truths, couched in authoritative tones of credibility. Many people in positions of authority and public trust are assumed to possess the expertise and credibility of their position and background. Yet how many of them have actual training, empirical knowledge or first-hand experience with what they talk about with authority? How many have sought the counsel of multiple actual experts? How many have seriously considered even a few of the blind spots of their individual perceptions, or engaged in critical analysis of the strengths, risks, pitfalls and actual effectiveness of what they support, or propose, as a course of action? Continue reading What Happens When The Macho Movies Actually Meet the Reality of An Active Shooter?