The cost of killing
‘too bad they didn’t kill him’
‘needs to get more practice at the range so they have better aim [to kill him]’
Often when a story surfaces in which an armed citizen wounds but doesn’t kill an attacking criminal, statements such as that will quickly show up in the comments section on the Internet. Persons who make such comments have no clue about the cost of killing someone. Even when there are no legal and financial costs, the emotional, psychological, and social costs will be considerable.
As in every class I attend or teach, I learn something from the students. Yesterday was no exception. I attended, as a student, the Proactive Mindset class taught by The Complete Combatant. The trainers graciously allowed me to give a short presentation at the end. One of the things I mentioned was the psychological cost of killing. The incident I cited was that of the citizen near Chattanooga who shot an old man with Alzheimer’s. The killing was ruled justifiable and he was not prosecuted. Coincidentally, someone who knows him was in the class. When the class was over, she came up and filled me in on how things developed after the incident. Suffice it to say that the emotional costs to him were enormous and continue to this day.
The cost is not only borne by the individual who does the shooting but also by their family. At some point their children are going to go to school and one of their classmates is going to taunt them with ‘my daddy says your daddy is a murderer!’ No matter how justifiable the shooting may be, someone in the community who feels that self-defense is an unacceptable concept will express their feelings to their children and the children will pass it on to your children.
Even one of the great police gunfighters of our time, the late great Jim Cirillo, bore the cost. Despite the fact that all his shootings were eminently justifiable and he didn’t suffer psychologically, he still had to pay the social cost. When his superiors recognized his bravery and devotion to duty, they recommended him for promotion. The promotion was turned down in the upper echelons of the NYPD because they said it would send the wrong message to the department and the public. ‘We don’t promote people for killing.’ This is one example of what Massad Ayoob calls the ‘Mark of Cain syndrome.’
Now imagine what it’s like for people who unintentionally kill a member of their own family. A parent who kills their child or someone who kills their spouse will probably never get another good night’s sleep as long as they live. The saddest part of these incidents is how avoidable they are. A flashlight and the ability to verbalize ‘who’s there?’ would have prevented almost all of them. A small flashlight was included in the goodie bag given out for Proactive Mindset. Great idea; everyone should have a couple of flashlights. Good ones are very inexpensive now.
That’s why our priorities should always be:
When we jump to Confront and Resist before we absolutely need to, we’re being emotionally hijacked by the situation, our pasts, our current influences, and our egos. Allowing an emotional hijacking is no more a recipe for success than going along with any other kidnapping attempt. There’s always going to be a very high cost.
Internet common-taters take note; you’re not the ones who will pay the cost.
RIP Jim Cirillo
Today is the anniversary of the 2007 death of Jim Cirillo. He was a wonderful guy and a good friend of mine. His wit, wisdom, and profanity will always be remembered by those of us who knew him.
Jim was a firearms trainer, par excellence. He was also one of the founding members of the NYPD Stakeout Squad. Jim’s book Guns, Bullets, and Gunfights is one that everyone who is serious about personal protection should read.
Jim wasn’t only a highly accomplished marksman; he was also a master tactician. My notes from the lecture where I met Jimmy are attached here. Jim Cirillo notes 05192001. Despite being from 2001, they’re still timely today.
Massad Ayoob wrote an eloquent eulogy about Jimmy, saying more than I can in his article Lessons of Jim Cirillo.
An excellent book about the exploits of the Stakeout Squad is Jim Cirillo’s Tales of the Stakeout Squad, written by Paul Kirchner.
I’ve previously written about one of the Stakeout Squad’s lessons.
An article about the Stakeout Squad appeared in New York magazine in 1972. The Deadly Score of the Stakeout Squad. The article probably led to the eventual disbanding of the Squad for ‘efficiency’ reasons. The Stakeout Squad was highly ‘efficient’ at permanently removing violent criminals from the streets, which was no more acceptable in 1972 than it is today.
After surviving 18 gunfights, Jimmy was killed in a motor vehicle crash. That’s ironic and another reason I recommend that everyone who is interested in personal protection should take a Defensive Driving Course. The course can pay for itself. Georgia law requires that insurance companies reduce your premium 10% if you take it voluntarily. Many insurance companies will give you a break even if they’re not required to. That’s a good Return On Investment for $30.
RIP Jimmy, we’ll always miss you.
I have seen too many people forget the basics and rely on finding the laser dot instead of looking down the sights on pistols. They became much slower with the laser.
So began a Facebook thread in a closed group of ‘operators.’ There’s an antinomy, a form of paradox, in this sort of discussions that I always find interesting.
The paradox arises from the often parroted statement that most armed encounters take place at night or in low light. This premise is less than provable, but let’s accept it at face value for purposes of discussion.
Now, let’s follow up that premise with dismissal of a sighting system because ‘it doesn’t work’ during periods when gunfights are LESS LIKELY to take place.
In this particular FB thread, I will put myself in the category of ‘highly trained,’ since that’s what their membership group supposedly consists of. Years ago, it didn’t take me long to figure out that there were things I could do with a laser on a pistol that I simply couldn’t do without them. That held true even during the day, unless I was on a brightly sunlit ‘square range,’ which is so often said to be a poor and ‘non-realistic’ training environment. In any indoor environment, there is no issue with ‘finding the laser dot,’ even in a well lit room in daylight.
Once we get into the realm of low light, where the popular mantra says the majority of gunfights occur, most of us will agree that iron sights are fairly useless. We’re largely reduced to point shooting because the sights can’t be seen.
I wondered about the difference between iron sights and lasers during low light. I think of the time frame between sundown and End of Civil Twilight (dusk) as low light. The US Naval Observatory provides specific definitions of these and states
Some outdoor activities may be conducted without artificial illumination during these intervals, and it is useful to have some means to set limits beyond which a certain activity should be assisted by artificial lighting.
Target Acquisition and, to a lesser extent, Target Identification, is still possible during that period. However, between sundown and dusk, night sights aren’t really visible (not bright enough) and neither are the irons (luminous efficacy of the eye’s cones is insufficient).
To establish a quantitative measure for that difference, I chose several parts of the Handgun Testing Program at the elite Rogers Shooting School. The targets were more visible than they show in the video but I couldn’t see the irons. I proceeded to shoot the tests with a laser equipped Beretta. Having taught at Rogers for five years, I’m fairly confident in saying that, without the laser, I would have made the all the body hits (7) and around half of the hits on the number 1 head plate (8) for a score of 15 out of 69 targets. My score with the laser was four missed targets for a score of 65 out of 69.
There’s a reason I have a laser on my house gun.
The issue of parroting something that was heard without questioning, analyzing, or testing is a separate topic that the training community has yet to address adequately. That’s for another time, though.
Competition, Practice, Training, and Testing
Driven by hunger, a fox tried to reach some grapes hanging high on the vine but was unable to, although he leaped with all his strength. As he went away, the fox remarked ‘Oh, you aren’t even ripe yet! I don’t need any sour grapes.’ People who speak disparagingly of things that they cannot attain would do well to apply this story to themselves.
–Aesop’s Fables, The Fox and the Grapes,
Periodically, I see comments in the tactical/concealed carry community downplaying the value of competition for someone interested in personal protection. The commentary usually revolves around “the stress isn’t the same as a two way range” or “competition isn’t realistic; the targets don’t move, you don’t move” or some other blah, blah, blah. Oftentimes, the person making the statement is from the ‘tactical training’ side of the house.
In my role as the Georgia/Alabama Area coordinator for IDPA, I was recently reviewing some tweaked stages for the upcoming 2014 GADPA Georgia State Match Championship. As I was doing so, I was struck by the complexity and marksmanship challenges presented in the match. Some of the aspects of the Championship include:
- Moving targets
- Shooting on the move
- Shooting Strong Hand Only with holding something with the Support Hand
- Shooting from inside and around vehicles
- Head shots at distance
- Steel targets with a concealed hit zone that have to be knocked down to count
- Engaging targets while moving through a structure
Those tasks have to be accomplished with a limited supply of ammunition, requiring a minimum hit rate of about 60%, just to finish. To be competitive at all, the hit rate on a torso sized target (-0/-1) better be 100% or you’re out of luck. Rapid reloading is an integral part of each stage, requiring a high degree of weapons manipulation skills.
In short, it’s a very demanding test of one’s ability to effectively manipulate a handgun. Hitting the target with a high degree of regularity, while being confronted by awkward shooting positions and scenarios is an integral part of it.
I think of Preparation for Personal Protection as having three components; Training, Practice, and Testing. Training is something you get from someone else. The other person or group structures your experience, almost always outside your comfort zone. Practice is something you do on your own, hopefully with some kind of structure, based on training or re-creation of actual incidents. Then there’s the nasty little question: “Where is my skill level at?” Testing is the only way that question can be answered. In his book POLICE PISTOLCRAFT, Mike Conti mentions Police Officers who are so intimidated by firearms qualification that they become physically ill, simply from the thought of having to do it. That’s a good example of how daunting the testing process can be. Those of us active in the competition world often look at police qualification courses in a bemused way because they are so simple compared to the tests we are used to.
Bill Rogers once said to me “You and I are from the last generation that is comfortable being tested.” I’m not sure if that’s true, but it is quite obvious to me that there is a great deal of cognitive dissonance and ego defense that goes on when discussions about competition v. ‘training’ start. The next time you hear someone disparaging competition, keep The Fox and The Grapes fable in mind. And for those who make negative statements about competition, I invite you to come out and test yourself and see what it’s like. Firearms competition has evolved a great deal since the original Columbia Conference. One of the most ridiculous statements I have ever heard is “I never saw a timer in a gunfight.” It was there every time; it’s called your lifeclock and it’s running all the time, at least until someone stops it.
A lesson from Jimmy Cirillo and the Stakeout Squad
I don’t want to burst any bubbles among the broad public but I have a different take on a very unfortunate incident than the family and the news reporter do.
A little background is in order. The NYPD Stakeout Unit, unofficially called the Stakeout Squad, was formed in 1968 and existed until 1973. Its formation was due to the large number of retail robberies occurring in New York City at the time, many of which resulted in the brutalization or murder of shopkeepers. The Squad was disbanded in 1973, allegedly for ‘efficiency’ reasons but the members generally conceded that it was because the Squad shot so many robbers, whom they caught red-handed and who decided to shoot it out rather than surrender. Jimmy Cirillo was one of the founding members and a good friend of mine. Jimmy died in a motor vehicle accident in 2007. His wit and wisdom will always be remembered by those of us who knew him.
Here is an incident synopsis from the full article:
Hero mom dies protecting her baby daughter
She was young, beautiful and tragically killed by her daughter’s father early Sunday morning. Now, Jessica Arrendale, 33, is being hailed by her family as a hero for saving her six-month old daughter’s life, even as she died from a bullet to the head.
It began Saturday night when Jessica and Cobie’s father, 30-year old Antoine Davis, went out for the evening. At some point, Ionniello said, Davis, a former Marine who served in Iraq, became belligerently drunk and abusive. It had happened many times, Ionniello said, but her daughter did not seem able to turn Davis away no matter how often he abused her.
Davis chased Arrendale up the stairs of her three-story townhome in the Oakdale Bluffs subdivision sometime around midnight, she said….
Arrendale locked herself in a bathroom. Davis got his gun, an assault rifle outfitted with a suppressor. He burst into the bathroom and, while Arrendale was still holding Cobie in her arms, shot the young mother in the head, Ionniello said…..
“He shot her and they (police) don’t know how she was able to twist her body and fall literally in the opposite direction,” Ionniello said. Instead of falling onto the floor, Ionniello said her daughter fell over the toilet, dropping little Cobie into the water-filled bowl….
The baby remained in the toilet, covered by her mother’s body, for 13-hours before officers finally stormed the townhouse and rescued her. She was cradled in the arms of an officer who rushed her outside to a waiting ambulance.
No one ‘makes decisions’ when they’ve been shot in the head, probably brain, with a 5.56mm bullet at point blank range. That’s an instant shutoff. In a macabre way, I would like to see the coroner’s report as to the extent of the damage to her brain. However, this immediately brought to mind something Jimmy Cirillo told me about his experiences in the Stakeout Squad shootings.
He observed that every time a perpetrator was instantly killed by Stakeout Squad gunfire, they fell where they stood and their legs were crossed as they fell. Usually, they were facing the opposite direction from the way they had been standing. Jimmy’s hypothesis was that one side of the brain shut off before the other causing one side of the body to collapse before the other, resulting in the turning of the body and the crossing of the legs.
He didn’t indicate he had any medical basis for his opinion. Therefore, I regard it as a hypothesis based on his observations of the numerous men he and the other members of the Stakeout Squad had killed.
My opinion is that the same thing happened to this poor young woman; her brain shut off sequentially, which caused her body to twist as it fell. It was random chance that protected her infant son from the crazed father. While I would like to accord her ‘hero’ status, I don’t see it that way. No offense to her is intended, I am sure she would have protected her child any way she could, had she been capable.
The lesson is this: be cautious about approaching predators after they’ve been shot; they might not be completely disabled. With handguns, the mechanism causing the opponent to stop is largely exsanguination, meaning blood loss. When someone falls after being shot and bleeding profusely, they may regain consciousness when the brain comes level with the heart. Central Nervous System (CNS) stops, such as this unfortunate young lady experienced, are the only really sure anchors.
For those interested in reading more about the Stakeout Squad, I recommend Paul Kirchner’s excellent book, Jim Cirillo’s Tales of the Stakeout Squad.
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