The mass shooting in California last week produced the usual outpouring of thoughts on gun violence and gun safety. Thanks to Facebook, I ran across relevant commentary from an Arkansas native with gun experience. He’s concluded the safest home is a home without a gun.
He is George Proctor, a Cotton Plant native, Marine veteran of Vietnam, former U.S. attorney for the Eastern District of Arkansas and former director of the Office of International Affairs of the U.S. Justice Department. He now lives in San Francisco. This is what he wrote on Facebook and, I share it here with his permission:
My take on the 10 MM Glock handgun used by the shooter at Thousand Oaks last night:
Growing up in rural Arkansas in the fifties, firearms were a means to bring down a duck or deer, not for self defense. Because hand guns were impractical for hunting, it was not until the Marine Corps taught me to fire a 45 caliber, the weapon issued to a platoon leader, that I was introduced to handguns. I was surprised how much training it took to hit a fairly large target. And because of the size of the handgun, I learned to appreciate the danger of the handgun vs a shoulder fired weapon. The weapon would easily discharge when accidentally dropped, and it’s comparative size made it more likely that an accidental discharge result in a self inflicted wound. The 45 caliber, as with the 10 MM Glock used in the Newtown massacre and in the more recent Thousand Oakes tragedy, has tremendous stopping power, so much so that Marine instructors claimed, with only slight exaggeration, that even if just struck in the toe the enemy would be stopped. A close friend, living in rural Arkansas, almost lost his leg when he accidentally dropped his Glock and the accidental discharge tore his leg open.
Many lack appreciation for the discipline required to be effective with a handgun. While in Vietnam, I learned of the risk presented by friendly fire when new troops disembarked from landing craft on the coast of Chu Lai in May of 1965. Firefights broke out the first evening ashore, but fewer with time. And when new troops would come ashore, the shooting would recur at the same pace as before, until those troops had spent some time ashore. The absence of spent cartridges, blood or other tell tale signs of a firefight, showed that these disciplined Marines’ natural fears and anxiety caused them to fire at the shadows. I am not aware of reports of friendly fire casualties from hallucinations, drunken firings or accidental discharges, but it is common knowledge that reports from VN often omitted such activities.
Fast forward some 22 years later, assigned to the Commonwealth of the Mariana Islands, at the urging of the FBI, I was deputized as a deputy US Marshal to enable me to carry a firearm. I had been threatened by persons affected by my prosecutions as a federal prosecutor. But after reflection on my experiences in the Marine Corps, I opted to go without a sidearm, and some ten years later, I even turned my 12 gauge shot gun into the DC Police Department rather than put my grandson at risk. I subscribe to KInky Friedman’s philosophy on guns for self defense: If someone wants to kill me or my family, they’ll have to bring their own gun, because I won’t have one.
For those of you on Facebook, the comment thread is interesting, too. For example, there was this comment from another Arkansas ex-pat who now lives in Thailand:
Pat Caviness I once took shooting lessons from John Shaw. John was from Memphis. He had a shooting school in Sardis Miss. Wrote a book called You Can’t Miss. John was a Bianca International Pistol shooting champion for 3 or 4 years. We shot with a specially adapted chromed and homed 45 caliber pistol with special sights that he had rebuilt. After 3 days of constant shooting running and standing he said my scores were up there with Federal agents (who he trained). Not great but not bad. I realized then how difficult it was to consistently hit what you were aiming at especially when running. My guess. The Thousand Oaks shooter a former Marine, knew what he was doing. Those first responders probably saved a lot of lives by arriving so quickly.
George W Proctor I was qualified as expert w/the 45. But at the FBI range in Quantico I learned how important it is that you make the right decision as to when you fire. Accuracy isn’t enough.
Several commenters said they had guns and were ready to use them if necessary.
One woman wrote:
I have one and know how to use it I have a carry permit and advanced permit. If trained u will not use it quickly only if necessary
Maybe smart to get the word out to the bad guys you have a handgun at home unless the bad guy waits till you’re out and steals it?. You are right to be trained.
We could use more calm, knowledgeable voices like George Proctor on the floor of the Arkansas legislature. (That’s another point on Proctor’s resume. He once served in the Arkansas House. Democrat.) He also is a retired immigration judge. Need to get him to talk about that sometime, too.