Over a year ago, we had our first documented incident of an open carrier potentially being targeted for a robbery due to his openly carrying a firearm.
Last week provided us the first example of an open carrier probably being killed by his own firearm:
Tyler, a customer at the BP station, was killed about 8:15 p.m. Friday, Nov. 25, inside the store. According to court papers, Smith and Hamiel arrived at the BP together on a single scooter and followed Tyler into the store.
Tyler, 48, had a concealed-carry permit, but his handgun was plainly visible that night in his holster, Johnson said.
"The suspects walk in and one immediately reached for Mr. Tyler’s gun," Johnson said. Tyler did not draw his weapon.
According to court papers, Smith took Tyler’s gun during a struggle and shot Tyler in the chest after the victim chased Smith inside the store. Authorities said they could not confirm that Tyler was killed with his own gun until they get the results of forensics testing.
I am not going to discuss the merits of open carry vs. concealed carry or whatever else immediately springs to mind in this particular post, but, suffice to say, if you see this unfortunate incident as a reason to outlaw open carry, or even attempt to socially stigmatize it, you are an idiot.
Instead, I am going to do something that will probably piss off those kind-hearted folks who believe that no ill should ever be spoken of the dead, so if you are one of those people, you should probably skip this post in its entirety. You see, in the course of this disastrous chain of events, Mr. Blaine Tyler made two mistakes, which, when combined together, proved to be fatal.
First, Mr. Tyler failed to maintain situational awareness. From the news report, all indications are that Smith followed Mr. Tyler into the gas station, and thus was behind the open carrier and out of his direct field of vision. However, being the eyes-forward predators we are, nature has gifted us with a remarkably flexible neck, providing us the opportunity to keep an eye on situations to either side of and behind us. Maybe Mr. Tyler was in a hurry. Maybe Mr. Tyler had other things on his mind. But if there is one thing steaming around for a couple of years on the ocean has taught me, it is that a single mistake can kill, and will do so if you give it half a chance.
As people who carry firearms, and especially as people who openly carry firearms, it is incumbent upon us to be mindful of our surroundings and know what is going on around us – the best fights are those you simply avoid, and if you are forced into defending yourself, you want to know what are safe(r) directions to shoot. Typically, if I am openly carrying in public, my head is on a swivel and my arm, or at least my elbow, is resting on the firearm at my hip. Will that be enough to save me? Hard to say. Was Mr. Tyler doing something similar when he was attacked? Again, hard to say. But it is fairly likely he did not see the attack coming, and that is one of the first tenets of self-defense – you actually have to know about the attack in order to successfully defend yourself from it.
Secondly, Mr. Tyler made the inarguably poor decision to pursue the thug who just divested him of his firearm. He knew the criminal was violent, he knew the criminal was armed, and he knew that he was now disarmed, but rather than call the police – people who are paid, sworn, and trained to pursue violent, armed criminals – he decided to take that burden upon himself. Unfortunately for him, this worked out about as well as you might expect. It is entirely likely, and even understandable, that Mr. Tyler felt responsible for the criminal making off with his firearm, or indignant, or angry, or it was simply the reflexive reaction to a person taking something away from another person. However, chasing after an armed-and-dangerous thug while being relatively unarmed yourself, and immediately after an altercation with the thug in question, is pretty much a Very Bad Idea (TM) no matter how you cut it.
Hell, chasing after armed criminals even while being armed is not something we, as private citizens, should be doing (and, no, that is not my way of saying There Ought To Be A Law against such things, just me acknowledging that most non-police individuals lack the training, skillsets, and backup necessary to effectively and safely accomplish that risky task).
Mr. Tyler’s death is unquestionably unfortunate, and the responsibility for that murder rests exclusively and totally with his murderer (in this case, that person is likely to be Toby Smith, but he has not yet been convicted); however, his death provides datapoints we would be fools not to learn from.