Last week, Jon Meis, an engineering student at Seattle Pacific University made headlines after he ended what could have been a deadlier shooting spree at the Christian school. After waiting for a reload-induced lull in the shooter’s activity, Meis pepper sprayed the assailant and proceeded to tackle him while other students disarmed the criminal. Rightfully so, Meis has been hailed as a hero as there can be no doubt that his coolness under unimaginable pressure was impressive. After a few days have passed and more details have emerged, we can now start to reflect on what happened at the school.
Perhaps the most loudly reported aspect of the event is that the shooter was subdued while reloading. From what has been reported, Meis tackled him as he attempted to load more shells into the shotgun being used in the attack. Gun prohibitionists have emphatically declared the need for magazine capacity limits and are currently using this episode as rationale for such cries. While such claims may seem reasonable on the surface, history has shown that situations where shooters are actually subdued while reloading are very rare. We need only look back to last year when the Naval Yard shooting in Washington D.C. left 12 dead. In that case, the shooter also used a shotgun with low capacity. At Columbine in 1999, the shooters reloaded a total of 13 times, only to be outdone by the Virginia Tech shooter in 2007 at 17 reloads. In both of these cases, the shooters made use of low capacity magazines to carry out their crimes. Similarly, according to the investigation following the Newtown incident in 2012, Adam Lanza reloaded frequently, leaving some magazines over half full. In California a few weeks ago, the angry “beta-male” carried as many as 40 low capacity magazines and managed to reload while driving.
To look at this history and say that banning magazines of certain arbitrary capacities will make any difference is downright ridiculous. Each year we see hard-left states attempting to push their capacity limits lower and lower because the previous restrictions simply do not work. At the same time, they put peaceable gun-owners at more and more of a disadvantage as they undermine the effectiveness of the firearm as a defensive tool against those who have no respect for the law. Whether the shooter was reloading the magazine or attempting to pump another round into the chamber is only one minor detail in what was a complete lapse of situational awareness. Had he maintained awareness of his surroundings, he could have gone on with his crime unimpeded. Fortunately, Meis was familiar enough with firearms and self defense tactics that he was able to subdue the assailant.
Secondly, anti-gun groups have pointed out that pepper spray was as effective as a firearm in this instance and have lambasted the NRA for Wayne LaPierre’s 2012 claim that, “the only thing that stops a bad guy with a gun is a good guy with a gun”. While technically true, these groups rely too heavily on this single instance to make their case. Many gun owners will agree that the NRA went a bit far to say that the “only” way to stop a bad guy with a gun is to match his level of force. However, most of the time a firearm is most certainly the best way to eliminate such a threat. Once again, Meis’ situational awareness allowed him to use the only tool at his disposal to end the attack.
Lastly, both Colion Noir and the NRA have reported that Meis follows several firearms companies and pages on his social media accounts. He has since locked down most of his Facebook profile, but it is fairly clear that Jon is a gun enthusiast. While getting in a tizzy about what he does and does not like would be counterproductive, there is a lesson here. Despite what prohibitionists might say about gun owners, there is a certain mindset that many of us hold. We tend to maintain a higher level of awareness when it comes to our surroundings and we understand that the firearm is simply one of the tools we might have at our disposal should the need arise. While a firearm may help to mask certain physical disadvantages, there is no substitute for good planning and sound tactics. This is why many enthusiasts take varied training courses in addition to simple plinking on the range. Mr. Meis clearly understands various facets of self-defense and used the only tool he could reasonably carry at the time to help offset the shooter’s physical advantage. However, it was his knowledge of the shooter’s firearm and his ability to quickly assess the situation that saved lives.
There can be no doubt; the incident last week at Seattle Pacific University was tragic. However, it should serve as an eye opener for all of us. No, we do not need to ban certain magazines or make it illegal to carry a firearm on college campuses. Numerous incidents have already supplied noteworthy counterarguments to such proposals. Instead, we should take a moment to ponder how we would act in such a scenario. What tools would we have at our disposal? Have we properly trained ourselves to assess potentially violent situations? How can we catch a potential attacker while his/her awareness is down? Take a moment to ponder these issues. It may well be the difference between life and death.