Another heart-breaking atrocity, blamed falsely on law-abiding gun owners: the massacre at the country-themed bar in Thousand Oaks, California, which had recently been named one of the three safest cities in America. The perpetrator: an honorably discharged Marine combat veteran who had been taught how to shoot people by the government.
And – why should this incident be different? – perpetrated in a gun-free zone, a/k/a hunting preserve for psychopathic murderers.
We are told there were half a dozen off duty cops in the bar when the shooting went down, and that none were carrying guns. It would be unfair to blame them for that. Cops are universally told not to carry their off-duty guns when they might be under the influence of alcohol, and consuming alcohol is what most folks go to bars for.
The murderer shot down the unarmed security man first. He was easy to spot, and “unarmed security” is really an oxymoron in a case like this. The first armed good guy through the door, SWAT-trained hero Sergeant Ron Helus, was murdered before he could engage: the coward apparently anticipated where responding officers would enter and was probably waiting for him in ambush.
By contrast, one or more unidentifiable patrons in the crowd, had they been competently armed, would have had the advantage of surprise and would almost certainly been able to neutralize the gunman before he could rack up anything like the death toll he did.
What’s the solution? I’m told that in California it’s illegal to carry a gun in a bar, period. In the more enlightened jurisdictions, it is legal to do so if the licensed carrier is not consuming alcohol himself. Which would naturally lend itself to a life-saving adaptation of the Designated Driver concept.
When I was a young patrolman in the early 1970s, I quickly learned that if I wasn’t answering calls for service, it was no trick to arrest at least one drunk driver a night, sometimes more. A decade later, as a training sergeant for another police department, I found it harder to find drunk drivers on the road, even during “prime time” right after the bars had closed. Twenty years after that, as a captain with a third agency and recently divorced, I would take Thanksgiving and Christmas shifts so another cop could have the holiday off with his family. In the old days, festive holidays were the most likely times to find drunk drivers on the road, but by then I could look all day or evening for one and come up dry.
Why? Society had wisely condemned drunk driving. “Friends don’t let friends drive drunk” had become the mantra, and Designated Drivers had come into vogue. It has undoubtedly saved a great many lives.
I submit that the time has come for the Designated Driver to be supplemented with the Designated Defender in bars, very likely the same person. That is, one sober member of the happy group, legal to carry and alert, armed and ready to interdict a monster like the one who carried out the cowardly massacre in Thousand Oaks.
“Friends don’t let friends drive drunk.” Designated Driver!
“Friends don’t let friends die helpless.” Designated Defender!