He may like it, he may do it, but the congressman’s plan makes no sense.
Before I explain why, allow me to establish my bona fides. As a sometime Army infantryman, I have a lot of experience with rifles, pistols and machine guns. I’ll bet I have fired many more .45 caliber rounds than Rep. Carl Wimmer, R-Herriman, the guns-for-everyone lawmaker who proposed Utah adopt the Browning .45 as the official state gun.
I am also sympathetic to Chaffetz’s unease. I once lived in a place dangerous enough that my employer paid a guy with a streetsweeper shotgun to guard my house around the clock. At the time, I would have been comforted to have had a loaded Browning in the nightstand.
I think it is fine if Chaffetz wants to keep a Glock in his house to fend off intruders. Carrying it in public is another matter. In so doing, he tacitly agrees to an exchange of bullets with a gun-wielding bad guy. In such an exchange, the risk of errant rounds is high. So, too, is the vulnerability of bystanders.
Before considering a worst-case scenario, think of the pivotal scene in Pulp Fiction, when a guy bursts through a door and fires six shots at Jules and Vincent at point-blank range. All six miss. It happens in real life. Then, consider the words of John Taylor, interviewed by a Tribune reporter at a recent Crossroads of the West Gun Show in Sandy. Of the Tucson shooting, Taylor said, “You hate to hear of anything like that. But you can’t help but think what might have happened if there were a few people around who were carrying.”
Here’s what I think might happen in a worst-case scenario. An elected official is the speaker at an informal outdoor event. He is carrying a concealed pistol. A rope line shapes the audience into a horseshoe with a podium placed at the open end. As he speaks, a bad guy ducks under the rope, raises a pistol and begins to walk and shoot. Pandemonium! The official ducks behind the podium, draws his Glock and fires. Two guys in the crowd are carrying guns. One is on the east side of the crowd; the other on the west. Both draw a semi-automatic pistol and engage the bad guy. As the four agitated shooters fire, bullets tear into the crowd from all directions.
I can also envisage a scenario in which the three shooters hit the bad guy with their first shots. This one is predicated on the acquired skill of drawing a pistol and hitting a target under highly stressful conditions. I have trained on shoot/don’t shoot simulators, and I would be lying to claim I can always make a first-round hit when the adrenaline is surging. It takes a lot of practice to be proficient with a handgun. My friend, a former Secret Service agent, had to qualify with his sidearm each month. I think it is safe to say that neither Chaffetz nor most other licensed carriers go to a range each month to hone their skills. It is also worth noting that a 9mm bullet can slice through one body and penetrate another.
The truth of the matter is that in most scenarios, the good guy’s concealed weapon is irrelevant. Experience shows that the bad guy empties his gun in a matter of seconds. Think of the assassination attempts on Ronald Reagan and George Wallace. Both shooters had fired all their rounds before they were wrestled to the ground. Common sense dictates that Chaffetz’s holstered gun is useless—and surely dangerous. A better personal-security measure for him would be a bulletproof Kevlar undershirt. He can buy one on Amazon.com for about the same price as a Glock at Cabela’s.
A clear-eyed risk assessment is important when the subject is deadly force. To avoid the potential horror of accidentally shooting a bystander, I would think a prudent man would leave the gun at home. There just aren’t many scenarios in which a handgun is useful. A holstered Glock is useless in a drive-by shooting or when the bad guy has a rifle and scope, like Lee Harvey Oswald. That is not to say there aren’t instances in which a concealed weapon would be good to have. One or two come to mind. Nothing like a gun when confronting an unarmed mugger or rampaging Rottweiler.
In the clamor of rhetoric that followed the Tucson horror, Sarah Palin offended Jews with her “blood-libel” remark. Reformers lamented the 2004 lapse of the assault-weapons ban that made it possible for Jared Loughner to buy a 30-round magazine for his Glock. Sen. Mike Lee, R-Utah, cited “abundant research suggesting in cities where more people own guns, the crime rate, especially the murder rate, goes down.” Chaffetz’s response was reflexive, not reasoned. It is certainly specious. My concern is that there aren’t enough tough reporters around anymore to call him on it.