Criticizing someone for their actions in a self-defense situation is a dangerous business. Not as dangerous as being in a self-defense situation, obviously. But it’s hard to justify being harsh to a shooter who creates a “positive outcome” for nine innocent bystanders—after the military awards him the Navy and Marine Corps Medal for his actions. So go on, say it: you weren’t there. The chances of YOU doing as well, or well enough, or even anything useful at all, are unknown. Don’t diss a hero until you walk a mile in his or her shoes. In other words, I’d like to see YOU do better you bastard. OK, so, let’s start with the facts of the story, as told by military.com:
The incident took place in College Park, Ga., while Barner attended a party with five men and four women. Two masked and armed men entered the apartment while Barner and a friend were outside getting some fresh air. Upon returning to the apartment, Barner was met by the two armed robbers who had rounded-up the men and women in the living room.
After being robbed of their personal belongings, the six men were ordered to a back bedroom while two women were taken to a second bedroom with one assailant while the other two women were taken to the living room with the other assailant.
In the back bedroom, Barner and the other five men overheard the perpetrator’s plan to rape the women and shoot all the victims.
“Knowing that this was not a nice area of town, I brought along a firearm which I left in my book bag,” said Barner, who is licensed under the Georgia Weapons Carry laws. “I was lucky that the room I was locked in had my book bag and had not been searched.”
Barner escaped the bedroom with his firearm and went to the living room where he fired several shots at one of the armed assailants causing him to flee.
Barner then went to the bedroom where two females were being held with by the other assailant. He kicked down the door and entered the room, shooting the assailant and causing him to flee out the window.
That assailant was later found dead near the apartment from gunshot wounds. One of the females was also caught in the ensuing crossfire and received gunshot wounds.
Again, well done. But IMHO Ensign Sean Barner made some critical mistakes . . .
1. He left his gun in his bag
I’m going to set aside the question of what Ensign Barner was doing in a “not nice part of town.” I believe a responsible gun owner avoids situations where there’s a high probability of armed self-defense: biker bars, bad parts of town, autobody shops at 3am in the morning, parties where people are smoking crack, etc. But let’s move on . . .
There are only two places for your gun: on your hip or locked in a safe. Barner’s decision to keep his gun in his bag was wrong on at least two levels.
First, he could have easily lost his weapon to a thief, who could have used it in the commission of a crime. Maybe even the crime in which Barner became involved. A child may have found the gun, who could have used it to blow their brains out. Or someone else’s. A party-goer might have discovered the gatt. Yo! Check THIS out!
Second, Barner didn’t have immediate access to his weapon. IF you’re going to carry a firearm, you need to be able to use that weapon quickly, efficiently and safely. Grabbing a gun out of a bag when you’re surrounded by bad guys it’s not a recipe for accuracy. And inaccurate shots are hugely dangerous for innocent bystanders.
Even if it wasn’t Ensign Barner’s’ bullets that caused the innocent woman’s gunshot wounds (not wound) in “the ensuing crossfire,” shooting from an unfamiliar position greatly increases the odds of missing your target. Needs must, but Barner’s decision not to carry increased the dangers for all concerned.
2. Barner played SWAT
It must be said: kicking in a door all-by-your-lonesome and taking on an armed bad guy does not offer a high probability of success (not is it a classic example of self-defense). Ballsy yes. Irresponsible . . . maybe.
The difference between a hero and a fool is often the end result. Was the bystander shot in that part of the incident? That’s a critical consideration. Getting shot is no picnic, it can lead to life-long suffering and/or death. The less people shot, the better. The more you can do to avoid getting shot, shooting someone or causing someone to be shot the better.
The plan that Barner overheard—rape the women and then kill everyone—was clearly interrupted. Are we sure that the perp’s next move would have been to murder the women?
You could say it was a risk not worth taking; Barner did what he thought he had to do. I could say that unless the perps had demonstrated a willingness to commit violence, given the whole fleeing deal, the one-man SWAT raid may have been unnecessary.
For a responsible gun owner, NOT shooting should always be the default option. Equally important, you are legally and morally obliged to stop shooting once a lethal threat has ceased. Keep your wits and your gun about you, and don’t try to be hero. Be one. But, as Yoda said, no trying.