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"walls of the city" logo conceptualized by Oleg Volk and executed by Linoge. Logo is © "walls of the city".

no longer sanctuaries

First, the good (albeit greedy) news – Better Half and I were not at the Tennessee Valley Unitarian Universalist Church this Sunday, and thus were not part of the shooting that took place there. Honestly, I had no idea what a “Unitarian Universalist” church was before checking out their “we believe” page, and suffice to say that its beliefs are not exactly in concert with ours. That is neiither here nor there, just rambling.
Now for the bad news – seven people were wounded (two still in critical condition), and both Greg McKendry and Linda Kraeger died. The latter died of her wounds at the hospital, and Greg McKendry died a hero, giving all by shielding others in the church with his body. Additional heroes, including Dr. John Bohstedt, were able to tackle the shooter to the ground after he was only able to fire three rounds.
This is a tragedy no matter how you cut it, and my prayers are with all of the people and families affected by this senseless attack. The news is reporting that the frakking moron who perpetrated this attack (and who will remain nameless on this weblog – murderers should not be remembered, only reviled) wrote some letter explaining his reasons for the attack (some idiotic dren about his unemployment and the evil of the liberal movement and more stupid-assed crap like that), but, honestly, none of that matters whatsoever.
This is the simple fact of the matter: There is no excuse, whatsoever, for walking into a church and attempting to senselessly murder tens, if not hundreds, of people. None at all. Period. It does not matter that he was frustrated over being unemployed, it does not matter that he does not like liberals… nothing he has to say matters in the slightest, smallest, tiniest bit. What he did was unconscionable, and without excuse. The shooter should be prosecuted to the fullest extent of the law (which, given the plethora of witnesses and video camera, should not be difficult), and granted the highest punishment available.
One thing is for certain – it is this kind of thing that only serves to solidify my desire to carry a firearm… if nothing else, it goes to prove that nowhere is safe from deranged and unhinged criminals – not “gun free zones”, and not even holy places like churches. I am not naive enough to believe that simply carrying a firearm would ensure that I might come out of a similar situation alive, or that I could necessarily influence it at all. But I would rather have the opportunity available to me, the capabilities inherent in the firearm, the ability to do something to possibly level the playing field… than not. I congratulate and deeply thank Mr. Greg McKendry, Dr. John Bohstedt, and all the other people involved in bringing the shooter down, but I see no reason to not augment my own natural, limited strength with the tools that are available to us now.

8 comments to no longer sanctuaries

  • John Bohstedt

    Dear Friend,
    Could I ask you to reconsider?
    Suppose you had a firearm at the above moment. Suppose you fired it at the gunman.
    Would more people be hurt or fewer?
    ( I do not suppose that you or anyone else is a perfect shot with a handgun, nor that a handgun bullet knows it must stop after passing through one body.)
    Now suppose ten people of your feelings had guns and fired them at the gunman. Would more people be hurt or fewer than what *really* happened?
    – I’m sorry, but being a historian (and an Iowan), I’m a results kinda guy, so logic- debates don’t mean as much to me as what really happens to real people at 10:18 am on Sunday July 27 at my Church.
    – You say a firearm would help you emerge alive, and no doubt it might make you feel safer.
    But wouldn’t it be safer not to go to church, and why go to church anyway, if *you* want to emerge alive no matter what happens to others?
    We stopped this guy, but not with guns.
    Sincerely yours,
    John Bohstedt
    Professor of History
    University of Tennessee, Knoxville

  • Dr. Bohstedt,
    First, let me thank you for what you did at your church that morning. You problably have had enough thanks to last you a lifetime, but what you did is worthy of it.
    Second, thank you for taking the time to comment here – certainly was not expecting it.
    Third, I am not trying to trivialize what happened to you or your congregation by postulating hypothetical situations, and I am sorry if I came across that way… It was never my intention.
    And, fourth, I can only speak for myself in the following paragraphs – others of my mindset may agree, or disagree, with me.
    Suppose I was in church with you, and did have a firearm that morning. From what I have read (admittedly, through second-, third-, and fourth-hand accounts), the gunman was brought down extraordinarily quickly. I am not Superman. My reaction time is no faster than anyone else’s, and is arguably slower than some. I honestly doubt I would have been able to draw a firearm before you and the others had the shooter to the ground.
    Furthermore, I have been repeatedly trained in situational awareness, as well as planning for a “backstop” for whatever bullets I send downrange. What that means is that I have to understand a situation before I start applying force to it, and the amount of time necessary for me to observe, comprehend, and react would still probably be slower than yours. Furthermore, if I do not have a clear field of fire between, around, and behind my target, I do not fire. I hold myself accountable for every bullet that leaves my firearm, and, if nothing else, so does the state of Tennessee.
    Would a firearm have made a whit of difference in this situation? No. And by saying that, I agree with a very large number of gunbloggers I interact with and read on a daily basis. In fact, I said that earlier in my post:

    I am not naive enough to believe that simply carrying a firearm would ensure that I might come out of a similar situation alive, or that I could necessarily influence it at all.

    However, neither am I naive enough to believe that there will never be a situation that could/would not require the threat or use of deadly force to stop… the news is full of them all the time, even though they possibly do not get the airtime they deserve. Yes, this time, you stopped this murderer without guns… but surely you, especially as a historian, can understand there may/will be situations where it would be impossible to do so without further, possibly unnecessary, loss of life? There certainly have been in the past, and the trends only seem to be increasing.
    Regarding your second-to-last comment, I think you are misunderstanding my position – my life is no more important than yours, or anyone else’s in that congregation. Like I said before, I cannot speak for anyone else, but I would not have done anything with my firearm that would risk any other person besides the potential target. It is not in my character, and it is not in my training. Simply having a gun does not mean a person will be flagrant and wanton in its application. That said, my life is, however, more important than the murderer’s, or anyone else intent on dealing me or mine grievous bodily harm or death. I know some Christians and religious types would take offense at that, but I have come to terms with it on my own. And why should I permit a crazed lunatic to prevent me from doing something I want to do? Especially when I have the means available to defend myself from the same? At any rate, some people actually believe to the point that citizens carrying firearms is almost a societal boon, much like carrying jumper cables in your car, or rendering first aid to those who need it. As always, someone always said my thoughts before me, and better than as well:

    Wear a gun to someone else’s house, you’re saying, ‘I’ll defend this home as if it were my own.’ When your guests see you carry a weapon, you’re telling them, ‘I’ll defend you as if you were my own family.’ And anyone who objects levels the deadliest insult possible: ‘I don’t trust you unless you’re rendered harmless’!
    L. Neil Smith

    I hope you understand my rationale a little better now, and possibly understand why I have chosen to take control of my life and equip myself to adequately defend me and mine. The best analogy I have found thus far to carrying a gun is having a fire extinguisher in my home. I hope to never have to need it. I dislike the thought of using it. I know that some fires will not be stopped by it, and I know that some fires would not need it, and could just be made worse by it (grease fires, for example). But I will absolutely ensure that my kitchen, at the bare minimum, always has a charged and operational fire extinguisher in it.
    Again, thanks for stopping by, and I apologize for any confusion and misunderstandings my poorly-phrased and -thought-out words above may have caused.

  • John Bohstedt

    Dear Linoge,
    Thanks a lot for your thoughtful response.
    Though we may agree to disagree, I’ve learned something important about your feelings and ideas.
    One of the injured parties, Professor Joe Barnhart, said from his hospital bed:
    “The liberals I know are like the conservatives I know, they don’t go around shooting each other. They may criticize each other but also have the common sense to learn from each other.”
    His whole interview is here:
    http://www.wbir.com/news/local/story.aspx?storyid=61484&catid=2
    I really affirm what he has said, and said it better than I could.
    Thanks for the exchange.
    Best wishes,
    John B.

  • John Bohstedt

    P.S.
    I am well-aware that if he had an automatic pistol or an assault rifle, it would have been an entirely different ball-game.
    That’s why I would favor a ban on assault rifles (the name says it all),
    but have no problem with handguns or hunting rifles and shotguns.
    The fact that he was firing a three- shot pump-action shotgun was in our favor. (Of course, knowing nothing about shotguns I did not know it was a three-shot shotgun, I only heard TWO shots, and he was not “pausing to reload,” as the media said.)
    Nobody was pausing about anything at that moment!
    I was tunnel-visioned on getting to the gun and controlling it to point up, first.
    My old buddies tell me my years of soccer playing experience as a defense regular came into play (ended 10 years ago, but I still work out), and I believe they were right.
    Best,
    John B

  • Dr. Bohstedt,
    Thanks for coming back!
    And I am ok with agreeing to disagree… I think I understand your position, and how you arrived at it. If I failed to ellucidate anything in particular on my side, though, just let me know.
    And both you and Dr. Barnhart are correct – your average, every-day person, no matter what side of whatever fence he or she is on, is normally willing to have a rational, reasonable conversation about our differences. Sure, they might occasionally get a little heated, but that is what sometimes makes them fun :). The shooter, on the other hand, is a person of an entirely different sort, and it is because of people like him that people like me choose to carry firearms. Unfortunately, it does not seem as though people like him will be disappearing from the species any time soon, though…
    One thing I do need to clarify, though, is the topic of automatic weapons. The first thing you have to understand about them is that they are very hard to legally come by – you have to go through an extensive background check with not only local authorities, but also the ATF and FBI, you have to pay multiple, high-value taxes on the item, and the firearm itself is normally quite expensive… prices over $10,000 is about normal, from what I have seen, and over $50,000 is not unheard of. For those reasons, you will find almost no crimes committed with automatic weapons.
    Now, there is a difference between automatic weapons, and assault weapons/rifles. I, personally, own an assault rifle – it is, however, semi-automatic. The term “assault rifle” is something of a misnomer that has been propagated to describe firearms that resemble military and police weapons in almost every way except one – the military/police rifles are automatic, while commonly-owned “assault rifles” are not. In fact, my particular “assault rifle” (an M1A, loosely based off the military’s M-14) bears a lot in common with most semi-automatic hunting rifles, and there is a whole culture dedicated to hunting with the most popular “assault rifle”, the AR-15. From what I understand (I am not a hunter myself), they work fairly well.
    Additionally, given how expensive most “assault rifles” (we pro-Second-Amendment types refer to them as “EBRs” – Evil Black Rifles – as something of an ironic, inside joke) are (ranging from between about $1000 at the very low end (I believe) to $5000 and beyond), the number of crimes with those as the weapon remain quite low.
    Indeed, the murderer’s choice of weaponry was significantly to your advantage, especially given the prevalence of shotguns with larger magazines. I do find it interesting that the media seems to have the details wrong, but I guess that is nothing new or surprising for events like these.
    It is interesting, though, how people react when the chips are down… “As you train, so you perform,” is the saying, and while soccer is not exactly the same as facing down an armed madman, the concept of a goal and the determination to get there probably served you well. Training or no, though, what you did was inordinately brave, especially if he had only fired twice. Thank you again.

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