The Hero Project

12.18.12

Don’t Arm America: A Soldier’s Reply to Connecticut Shooting

A retired special-forces officer reflects on the Connecticut school shooting, arming citizens at home—and what a first-grade teacher shows us about courage.

U.S. society feels like a war zone to me. I want to carry a weapon, but I don't want the burden of walking around armed. I can imagine walking into a mall and feeling the weight of a revolver in an ankle holster. I sit down to watch my 8-year-old pick out a dress in a kids’ store and wonder who will notice the older gentleman with a strap hanging below his pant cuff.

I just came back from Afghanistan, where I didn't carry a pistol, but a rifle. Pistols are worthless when facing a rifle, and all the Taliban carry AK-47s. Also, by carrying an M-4 carbine, everybody knew I was carrying something that could stitch even U.S. body armor. My rifle was inconvenient to carry, but pistols were common to almost every dead U.S. service member who died in a green-on-blue attack. I have no idea if my rifle deterred an Afghan from shooting me in the back. But everyone knew I was armed and presumably dangerous.

I'm going to live in such a manner in my own country, the land of the free, the home of the brave? We’re all going to carry so we can be the armed sheep dogs waiting for the next attack? We’re going to turn the malls into OK Corrals waiting to happen? Maybe we should all carry and use what we have learned from weaponized robots, like drones with Hellfires.

We have the technology to arm surveillance cameras. We could put an aim dot on the lens, just like the .50-caliber-machine-gun mounts on the armored trucks driven around Afghanistan, and mount rifles on the side of the cameras. Somebody could monitor from a secure room and pan over the crowd looking for the wolf. Are we really going to turn our public spaces into shooting galleries?

As an individual, I say no.

I'm taking a cue from one of my guys in 3rd Special Forces Group. In 1995 a sergeant from my unit was one of three SF soldiers running on Fort Bragg in North Carolina when they heard shots being fired from a brigade headquarters area. They realized something was wrong and started running through the woods toward the sound of the shooting. Please note: they heard shooting and ran toward it, though they were unarmed. They came up behind a soldier with an AK-47 and a pistol who was shooting members of his unit as they formed for a morning run. They charged him. The shooter shot one of the SF guys (not the one I knew) in the foot as they closed on him, but they tackled him and proceeded to beat him with great enthusiasm. The following month, each SF guy received the highest valor award available for peacetime actions.

I’ve decided I don’t want to spend another cent on guns, but rather intend to prepare myself mentally and physically for the unlikely scenario of having to act like a responsible citizen in a crisis.

When I got back from Afghanistan last month, I was going to buy a weapon specifically for concealed carry. I had gotten used to being armed. I’ve decided I don’t want to spend another cent on guns, but rather intend to prepare myself mentally and physically for the unlikely scenario of having to act like a responsible citizen in a crisis. I don’t want to explain to a child that the Glock in my sock is there because I have self-selected to safeguard everyone around me. I don’t want a policeman to draw down on me in a parking lot because he sees my weapon in a pancake holster on my belt as I’m loading Christmas presents. I also know I have a ferocious temper, and I could be tempted to use my sheepdog weapon on somebody who is playing music too loud at a gas station. Additionally, I don’t want to be surrounded by people who think they know who the wolves are.

I have many guns and love shooting them. If you come into my house without an invitation (or a warrant), I’ll show you one. If I have to go to a war zone, again, I’ll carry one or two.

But in this country, my USA, I'm not going to carry a weapon. I don’t want to live in or add to a war-zone mentality. If I find myself in a crisis, I hope I have the courage of a first-grade teacher who gave her life defending her kids.

I wished our politicians did.