Willing to Die or Willing to Kill

Much has already been written and said about the Parkland school shooting in Florida, and much more will come in the future. Part of this will center on the questions of armed guards and of arming some teachers. There is great validity to the slogan, “The only way to stop a bad guy with a gun is to have a good guy with a gun.”. At the same time, I partly demur. Let me point out two vignettes which illustrate my point.

My beloved spouse, Elaine Marie Alphin, had asked me for pistol shooting lessons. Her intent was for self defense. Her preferred firearm was a Ruger Blackhawk single action revolver in .41 Magnum with a 4 5/8” barrel. Despite the roar and the recoil, she could keep all shots on an 8×10 inch target at 50 feet. She was deadly. She kept that revolver, loaded and ready, in her car, and she had all the licensing. One day, I was reviewing an autopsy and the accompanying photographs. Elaine looked over my shoulder and asked a few questions. A couple days later, she brought the revolver and gave it to me. She said that she would not surrender in a life threatening situation, but that she could not bring herself to do to another human being what she had seen in the photographs. Hats off to Elaine for her intellectual honesty.

When I taught self defense courses, I first asked the students to ask themselves the questions; 1) Have you made the moral decision, 2) Have you made the ethical decision, and 3) Have you made the religious decision that you are prepared and willing to extinguish another human life. And if the answer to any one of those is “No” then that student has no business carrying a firearm. That reluctance to terminate another human being is not at all uncommon.

Various studies of the performance of US infantry soldiers in World War II showed that as many as 1 in 4 soldiers (and Marines) did not fire their weapons. These men were not cowards, they kept pace with their fellows, carried ammunition, encouraged others, but they could not shoot at another human being. These studies resulted in a new marksmanship training methodology called Trainfire (FM 27-11, dated. 1957).

Gen. George S. Patton, Jr. (the World War II general) is famous for his saying “No son of a bitch ever won a war by dying for his country. He won it by making the other poor, dumb, son of a bitch die for his country.”. How absolutely correct he was. When the feces hit the oscillator, I want the guy beside me not to be willing to die, but to be willing to kill. Let us bring this thought to the present day, with a second vignette.

At the school in Parkland, FL on 14 February, 2018, a dung beetle opened fire on innocent high schoolers. (Note, I will never refer to a mass shooter by name, they are all dung beetles who deserve to never have their name spoken again.) As the shots rang out, Coach Aaron Feis, sprinted towards the sound of the gun. This fearless man, with utter disregard for his own life, shielded others so that they would live. He is a hero.

But flip the switch the other way. If his sprint had reached 20 miles per hour (2/3 rds that of a track racer) and Coach Feis had hit dung beetle with a flying shoulder tackle; Coach would have had 4,007 foot pounds of kinetic energy. That is more than 3 times the kinetic energy of the bullets exiting dung beetle’s rifle. Coach would have turned dung beetle’s rib cage into a flattened, splintered parallelogram. Coach Feis’ brain switched to the protect and save mode, as opposed to the kill mode. Nothing can be said to gainsay the courage of Coach Feis. But it is legitimate to wonder if the outcome might have been different. Compare and contrast the conduct of Coach Feis with that of the “Coward of Broward”, Deputy Scot Peterson. This bum, armed and trained to intervene, sat outside the school buildings and did nothing. And now he will collect full retirement. His boss, the syphilis addlepated fool, Sheriff Scott Israel claims that he (Israel) did a good job. Tell me, Israel, what is the prerequisite for working in your department, a 2 inch wide yellow stripe centered on the spine or is it a shoulder wide yellow stripe ?? You two are beneath the contempt of cockroaches.

No, when the world is going to hell, lead is in the air, and people are dying; the guy you need is like the Eastwood character in the movie, The Unforgiven. A guy who can unlimber his weapons, identify his target, terminate that target, and move to the next. At the same time, being utterly devoid of passion for his mission, and utterly devoid of compassion for those he is about to kill. I fear that teachers, by their very nature, are in the business of teaching and protecting their students; and many would be incapable of flipping the switch from the protect mode to the kill mode.

There is a big difference between being willing to die and being willing to kill. The trick to the whole deal is to find those of us who have no reluctance to kill those human monsters who really need killing.

I wish nothing but good luck to the school boards across this country. May they make the right choice.