INTERPOL Chief Suggests Armed Citizens Needed to Thwart Terrorism

2013-10-23 Kenya Mall Attack

In an exclusive interview with ABC, the head of INTERPOL explicitly state that countries needed to consider armed civilians as a response to terrorism. Speaking of the attack on a Kenya mall that left nearly 70 people dead, he said:

Ask yourself: If that was Denver, Col., if that was Texas, would those guys have been able to spend hours, days, shooting people randomly? What I’m saying is it makes police around the world question their views on gun control. It makes citizens question their views on gun control. You have to ask yourself, ‘Is an armed citizenry more necessary now than it was in the past with an evolving threat of terrorism?’ This is something that has to be discussed.

This is something I’ve been interested in since early reports indicated that some of the first responders to the scene were armed civilians who assisted government forces in rescuing hostages and containing the attackers, and that’s in a country with extremely restrictive gun laws. Those who fear a firefight if ordinary citizens had weapons don’t seem to have a very strong point when the attackers are already intent on killing as many as possible, but I do think the best response is two pronged:

1. Bolster the requirements for concealed carry permits. We need more, better training. Right now, it’s a joke.

2. Lift restrictions on where civilians can carry their firearms. The basic rule ought to be this: if you’re entering a facility or area where there isn’t enough security to be confident that no one has weapons, then concealed carry ought to be permitted.

Conservative and libertarian outlets are already picking up on the story, like Townhall and Reason. One thing I’ve noticed, however, is that they tend not to mention that INTERPOL Secretary General Ronald Noble is an American. The impression that Europeans might be reconsidering their anti-gun stance appears to be premature. I’m not even sure it would do them any good without the kind of vibrant gun culture that still thrives in America.

13 thoughts on “INTERPOL Chief Suggests Armed Citizens Needed to Thwart Terrorism”

  1. On the notes of 1: Entirely agree. However, I fear that many that will view such a suggestion as “restrictions” and outright reject it. This should also be a requirement not just for carry permits, but for ownership in general. I know a guy who’s kept a piece on his nightstand for almost a decade. I went to the range with him once, it took him almost an entire box of 9 to figure out how to control the thing enough to hit the target even a few times. Such is a rather terrifying concept.

    On 2… well, depends on where. The obvious heated debate lately is schools…. which is an argument I have a difficult time even digging through in own head, let alone discussing outright. With government facilities such as courts – yeah, no. I agree with the restriction there. Public events where any such alcohol is likely involved – difficult, but it’s near impossible to rely on people to adhere to the responsible thing and not take part in the party happening around them. Obviously there are those with such self control, but I think that they’re a minority population.

  2. Chris-

    One of the reasons I put the two together–tighter regulations and wider access–is to try and appeal to both sides. I think either one by itself would face more opposition than the combination of the two. Most of the time gun-rights advocates reject otherwise common-sense regulations because of a lack of trust. For example, if you were to require that everyone get training before buying a gun (not just for concealed carry) the inevitable consequence would be the creation of a national database. This is a non-starter for gun-rights advocates who (rightly or wrongly) fear gun confiscation. What I’d like to see is some movement that attempts to address concerns of both sides simultaneously.

    Which brings me to #2: I really resent the restrictions against carrying on school property. As the law stands in VA now, I can carry onto school property to pick up my kid, but only if the gun stays in the car. This is dumb because when my kids are little (like they are now) I have to get out of the car to go get them. Removing and storing my gun is not only disarming me precisely where I’d really like to be armed, but also increases the chance of accidentally terrifying some non-gun owning parent who happens to see me moving my gun from my holster to the car. But I’m not necessarily saying we just totally remove the regulation at all. Something like “no concealed carry unless you’re a parent and authorized to be on school grounds” would seem reasonable, as it would ban random strangers from carrying and also over-eager parents who want to be unofficial (and unauthorized) guards or something.

    But the general principle–which I think is too far from reality to be reached in one jump–is that you should only ever be legally required to disarm where someone else has provided legitimate security on your behalf. You pass a metal detector and a secure perimeter when flying or entering a court room, so asking for people to disarm is valid. But asking people to disarm at an open campus is not, because there is absolutely no genuine provision for your safety. This is actually the reasoning that Colorado struck down laws against students owning guns, and I agree with it. You shouldn’t be allowed to legally require innocent civilians to disarm without providing genuine safety measures.

  3. The registration thing is always an interesting bit. Do you think people would be happier with it on a state level rather than federal? I suppose I’m just used to being in who knows how many databases at this point having been a subcontractor for Homeland Security stuff. If you’ve got a carry permit, you’re in a database. To branch out – if you own or rent property, you’re in a database, if you drive a car, your in a database, if… etc etc etc. Obviously, there’s different fears for different reasons on any of such points.

    The problem with 2 – is you’re again relying on people to adhere to a set of after the fact enforceable rules that are far too easy to ignore… not that the existing rules don’t fall under that category as well. So we try to enforce them, what do we end up with? The “metal detectors” we had a short stint with back at GSGIS? Or do we spend the money to do it properly… as of late my response to such an idea would be “ha, good luck.” Even if we created an agency to deal with such, or went with an existing – as a new one would likely end up anyway – we look at our smurf uniformed friends the TSA… I’m fairly sure that would get yet another form of outrage.

    So, that entire bit being unlikely – let’s run a scenario in favor of the other approach off a specific recent incident. What would happen if a teacher or parent was armed when a 12 year old pulls out a gun? Who’s to say the result would be any better or worse than what happened? It could be far worse. It could be better, but would a 12 year old with a gun stand down when faced with an armed opponent? I see no improvement adding the variable of an extra gun to the situation.

  4. Umm, I really don’t want to go too far down the rabbit hole on mass shootings, but using Colorado as your example of places where people can’t get away with mass shootings because of a well armed population seems to be fairly poor judgement as aurora and colombine were both mass public shootings that were not stopped by a well armed citizenry.

  5. Chris-

    The registration thing is always an interesting bit. Do you think people would be happier with it on a state level rather than federal?

    I think that might help, yeah, but I think the bigger issue is that it has to be seen not as a direction towards more or less gun control. If you make it part of a bigger package, then it doesn’t look like as much a threat to either side. Or, that’s my theory.

    The problem with 2 – is you’re again relying on people to adhere to a set of after the fact enforceable rules that are far too easy to ignore… not that the existing rules don’t fall under that category as well.

    Exactly. The thing you have to realize is that people who are a law-abiding follow laws. That seems like a tautology, but what I mean is that someone who goes to the trouble of getting a concealed carry permit has not only demonstrated that they have a desire to obey the law, but they also have a lot to lose. For them to risk getting caught with a gun where they are not supposed to have one is a big deal. As a result, if you say no concealed guns on school, concealed carry permit holders will (generally) not carry. Criminals? Murderers? Obviously they don’t have the same set of incentives.

    We already do not enforce the laws against concealed carry holders carrying on school grounds as a general rule, but I guarantee they are mostly obeyed by conceal carry holders. So modifying the law would have a real impact on how they behave. It would not, obviously matter much to criminals. This is why it’s a good idea: they already carry guns in gun-free zones whenever they want.

    So, that entire bit being unlikely – let’s run a scenario in favor of the other approach off a specific recent incident. What would happen if a teacher or parent was armed when a 12 year old pulls out a gun?

    Two things to consider. The first is that it’s not necessarily the actual intervention that matters so much as it is the threat of intervention. Al Qaeda is moving to soft targets because they are soft. Similarly, school shooters pick schools in large part because no one will fight back. The Sandyhook shooter had no real connection with the school where he massacred the little kids. But he did have a spreadsheet with the body count from prior school shootings. I think it’s reasonable to conclude that he chose that school because it was where he knew he could wrack up a very high score without being interrupted.

    Criminals response to incentives. This is just a subset of the fact that people respond to incentives. When guns are common, criminals choose non-confrontational crime. They sneak into your house when they think you are not home to steal your TV. When guns are not common, criminals choose confrontational crime. They kick down your front door, hold you at gunpoint, and then take your TV.

    Mass shootings are rare events, so it’s hard to get any statistically reliable results, but I do think that taking away the sense of security that murderers have when they pick gun-free zones to get their names in the record books would have a shot at reducing the trend.

    As for the second point: I just think it’s a little bit silly to think that having a good guy with a gun is really likely–all things considered–to ever be worse than only having a bad guy with a gun. There’s no evidence that this is the case, and plenty of evidence that it is not the case. Volokh put together a short list of cases where civilians stopped mass shootings, and there are others like the Arizona shooting of Gabby Giffords. One of the civilians who helped take down the gun man was a concealed carry holder who had a handgun. You’ll notice that he didn’t pull it out and start shooting back in the middle of the crowd. He, with others, physically tackled the shooter.

    I’m not saying it’s impossible that a scenario could every, theoretically be worse. But I just don’t think it’s a reasonable concern.

  6. Daniel-

    Umm, I really don’t want to go too far down the rabbit hole on mass shootings, but using Colorado as your example of places where people can’t get away with mass shootings because of a well armed population seems to be fairly poor judgement as aurora and colombine were both mass public shootings that were not stopped by a well armed citizenry.

    No, I think it’s best to treat that issue head on. Obviously having a ton of guns doesn’t nullify crime. It’s worth pointing out, however, that Columbine and the Aurora movie theater were both gun-free zones. I’m fairly certain that virtually every mass shooting in the past 40-50 years has been in a gun-free zone, in fact. Contrast that with examples (cited above) where civilians can and do stop active shooters. Often, however, these civilians are delayed by first needing to go to retrieve their guns from where they are legally allowed to be stored. At places like the middle school in Pear, Miss or the Appalachian School of Law folks had to run to their cars to retrieve weapons before confronting the shooter.

    You don’t see a lot of shoot-outs at gun stores. They do get robbed, occasionally, but that’s pretty rare. For obvious reasons.

  7. I was really going after the one this week in Nevada, not so much the others. I seriously doubt that 12 year old was operating in the same mental capacity or approach as the guy in CT. I’d venture a guess that if we had any in depth look at the success of the anti-bullying programs at the school in NV, or of the staff morale, or quality of said staff/school, and even the morale of the students, we may find them below average. Kids don’t start fights for no reason. In a sense, this was nothing more than an escalated fight. He was off-kilter, and took it to another level. So, lets put a gun in the hands of the teacher that put himself up as a human shield, which, many not be the best example considering he actually has training with such, so let’s swap him out for someone with no military training or combat experience. What then?

    If we’re going to look at use of guns as a deterrent, that’s fine, but there’s the same what-if factors that we deal with now. What would have happened in CT if one of the administration was carrying. A person who’s had no combat experience, just range time. Let’s venture to say that there’s a range qualification needed for such people to carry, in all seriousness, this is probably the maximum qualification that would ever happen if such were to fly. This person’s ability to react appropriately in a combat situation is unknown, how much more of a margin of error are in his shots in a combat situation. What if he hits another kid because of that increased margin of error? Do we absolve him/her of that accident if we forced him to carry? No, he’d be held accountable all the same. Or, he just enrages the guy going on a shooting spree, who then kills more people.

    Sure, there are incidents where people with guns stopped shooters, and there can only be speculation that said shooters were going to continue. You also have to take the bad with that. There are situations where more guns have caused more of an issue. Lets look at people that are supposedly trained to use their weapons. NYC: innocent bystanders shot by cops making really stupid decisions while in pursuit of armed suspects.

    What about escalation? This isn’t a piece I see talked about much. Criminals are still going to be criminals, so, let’s go way out into another theoretical scenario. Let’s say everyone has a sidearm and can carry everywhere. What then? Are criminals going to go away? Somehow, I doubt it. So, where do we go at the next level of this? The “unarmed weak” are the people carrying .32s, .25s, and .22s. Do the criminals just carry bigger guns? Bombs? Grenades? Regularly wearing body armor? Yes, I realize it’s an outlandish situation, but everything is relative. It’s relatively easy for one or a set of individuals to change their own stance in the grand scheme of things fairly easily, but what happens when the grand scheme adjusts its baseline?

    As far as alarming people by disarming before going into a building, what are the odds that you’re going to be seen doing such in a car in a parking lot? If doing so in a particular area is likely to be seen, just plan ahead. It’s just something I’m used to given I generally don’t carry on any client’s property, mostly because it’s rather difficult to keep an IWB concealed while climbing around in network closets, ceilings, under desks, etc. Besides, in a car situation, it’s easier to get to the glove box than a 3/4 o’clock positioned holster.

    On a side note, let’s not continue this at dinner… Not really Kim’s thing :P

  8. Chris-

    I really don’t understand your hypotheticals. What’s the chance that having an armed civilian makes things worse? I dunno, 5%? They’d have to be a pretty good shot to increase the death tool ’cause the killer is already going to be shooting everyone in sight. What are they going to do, make the killer shoot more? What are the chances that they make things better? I’d guess 90%. I mean look, in every single case the mass shooter retreats immediately at the first sign of armed resistance. Every. Single. Case. These mass shooters are not usually killed, they commit suicide. It doesn’t take Jack Bauer winning some sophisticated gun battle, here.

    Do we know all this for certain? No, of course not. But it seems weird to not make educated guesses on the facts that are available so far.

    I also don’t think escalation is a serious concern. Again, there’s actually plenty of research and data here. We don’t need to just speculate about “what if?” You can just go and look. There’s already been a massive revolution in gun control law in the US going back to the early 1990s and there are millions more concealed carry permit holders today than there were 20-30 years ago. Has crime gone up? Is it Mad Max time? Have grenades and body armor become common?

    The problem with the speculation, in addition to ignoring available data, is that it doesn’t consider criminal incentives. The difference between having a gun and having no gun is huge. The difference between having a .22 or a 9mm is, in comparison, minute. It makes sense to acquire a gun to use in crime when people are relatively unarmed. Guns are cheap, last forever, and present a huge advantage. It makes no sense to try and procure grenades and body armor. These items are much more expensive and a lot less useful.

    Criminals don’t get into an arms race because fighting doesn’t pay the bills. They have to be able to dominate. If they can’t do that, they switch to non-confrontational crime. This is a good thing. Burglaries are better for society than home invasions. Snatch-and-grab is better for society than mugging.

    As far as alarming people by disarming before going into a building, what are the odds that you’re going to be seen doing such in a car in a parking lot?

    Pretty good, actually. You have to keep in mind that I’m arriving when a lot of other parents are also arriving. There’s a constant flow of kids and parents getting in and out of cars and exchanging pleasentries. In addition, as a parent, carrying on my person is vastly preferable to in the car because I want to have 100% control over my firearm at all times. My gun is either on my person physically or in a locked safe. Keeping it in the glovebox is not a habit I want to get into when I’ve got curious kids in the car with me.

    On a side note, let’s not continue this at dinner… Not really Kim’s thing :P

    LOL, no worries. I can be very well-behaved in polite company. I wouldn’t have even considered bringing it up.

  9. I’m pretty sure there was a lone instance of an armed civilian responding to the Westgate attack, and said civilian was, in fact, a career soldier in the SAS (British special forces in charge of counter-terrorism).

    Perhaps a bunch of armed civilians rushing the mall would have made things better, or perhaps they would have made things much worse. But the mere *possibility* of the former, combined with the fact that mass shooters obviously want to kill people, doesn’t seem to weaken the point made by those concerned with the latter.

    First, it’s really unclear how many, if any, mass shootings have actually been stopped by armed civilians (vs. the shooter running out of ammo/finishing his rampage/being confronted by former or off-duty LEO):

    Second, Kenya has strict gun controls. One thing Kenya also has, however, is a practically non-existent mass-shooting problem as compared to the United States- a land of little meaningful gun control.

    Maybe the proper policy response to an elaborately planned mass shooting carried out by a terrorist network from neighboring Somalia is to lift the laws that necessitated the smuggling in of Al-Shabab’s weapons so as to arm Kenyan civilians. Conversely, maybe the proper policy response to mass shootings in the United States is to make it harder for bad actors to get their hands on guns. Kind of like in Kenya. Where they’ve had three mass shootings ever.

    Unlike in the Westgate or Lashkar-e-Taiba Mumbai sieges, Shabab or Qeda or Taiba wouldn’t need to sneak their guns into the US. They could just fly people with training and clean passports into the US, have them buy some military grade guns on the open market, mill/lathe/drill them for burst and auto fire, and then go into, say, the DC or NYC metro during rush hour and kill several hundred people.

    On balance, in comparison to Kenya, the US seems to be inviting the sort of slaughter that happened at Westgate in addition to the Virginia Techs and Sandy Hooks we already have. And this is, of course, all on top of the tens of thousands of everyday, ho-hum murders to which we’ve become so inured thanks to our vibrant gun culture.

  10. I find myself surprisingly in agreement with Nathaniel if for no other reason than it might be the only way to conceivably get any sort of registration and training requirement on guns, the left has very little to give on guns since they have almost nothing in the first place, if itwas even 1/4 as hard to own a gun and a concealed carry permit as it is to own a car id have a lot more confidence in the people who want to carry that gun into a theater. But ever since a rabbies outbreak up here made me a reluctant owner of a very puny rifle I’ve been becoming more and more aware of how useless a gun in untrained hands is AND how potentially dangerous it is. In the zombie apocalypse when the zombie is coming after my kid, I’m probably still using a baseball bat. But if we are willing to admit that people with concealed carry permits need to be able to hit a rather small target without fail and we make sure they are legally responsible for any damage caused to non combatants and property, then I have no problem with them carrying at work/school/mall

  11. I completely agree…in theory. In practice, however, there’s no way around slippery slopes ending in FEMA concentration camps.

  12. Hi Nathaniel, I’m puzzled by your recommendation #1. Sam Harris confused me by making the same recommendation.

    So, what’s the reasoning or evidence for stiffening training requirements? Is there currently a problem that we need to solve? In Arizona, no concealed carry permit holder has ever committed a crime with a gun, and I’ve never heard of any problem with wild shootings. We can’t justify a policy because it gives us warm feelings of intuitive satisfaction. Psychologically, people love to espouse all kinds of control over guns and the people have have them, fantasize about all kinds of proficiency standards and so on. But I’ve never seen any empirical support for such control-freak arguments — any evidence that some outcome of interest would actually be *different* if we demanded everyone be an expert shot or something.

    From the empirical data we do have, more pervasive gun ownership would make a huge dent in crime rates. There’s really no reason for any significant number of home invasions to be happening. Criminals need to expect to face a gun in that scenario, but I think the percentages are too low right now in many locales. One idea that intrigues me is to provide an incentive for people to carry, or just to keep a firearm in the home. There should be a way to get the number of concealed carriers that equals one police officer in terms of its effect on deterring or reducing crime. x number of carriers would be one police officer equivalent (POE). If that number is 10, and we paid such people a $2,000 bonus each year for their civic contribution, we could save massive amounts of money and/or reduce crime in some combination. (I assume a police officer costs $80,000 a year or more with all expenses and benefits accounted for.) This is not going to be a linear thing all the way — we’ll need some number of officers. Or pay people $1,000 a year to have a gun in the home, if the impact is worth more than $1,000 in criminal justice costs, property loss, etc. I’d like researchers dig into this.

  13. Joe-

    There are two reasons. The first is strategic. I believe in building common ground where possible, and bolstering the requirements would serve to as a bridge to those who are not as committed as yourself to gun rights as an ideal. I believe that nothing of principle is sacrificed in this regard because we’re talking about concealed carry permits rather than 2A rights themselves, so it seems like a simple matter of building consensus without compromising principle.

    The second is that I do not believe “We can’t justify a policy because it gives us warm feelings of intuitive satisfaction” should be used to override common sense. In Virginia–and many other states—you can get a concealed carry permit without ever having fired a gun in your life. That just seems silly. For me, this is the same issue as voter ID laws. Critics often ask: “Where’s the problem we’re trying to solve? What’s the proof of widespread voter fraud?” To which I respond that it makes sense to take sensible, pro-active steps to ensure the validity of our elections (in that case) and the quality of our concealed carry permit holders (in this case).

    As for your alternative suggestions: I wouldn’t oppose localities taking such initiatives and collecting the data to see if they have the intended effects, but–especially before those results are in–these are simply not feasible recommendations at the state level (let alone federal).

Comments are closed.