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Nikhom Thephakaysone courtesy

“I’m not going to say we don’t appreciate the cell phone videos that we have gotten on so many occasions that have helped us solve crimes. But it makes people so incredibly vulnerable to crime. And the inattention, which creates this tremendous vulnerability to people, is just something that’s so easily corrected.” That’s San Francisco Police Chief Greg Suhr reminding San Franciscans that when they’re out in public, they’re, well, out in public. With all the attendant risks that entails. This, in the wake of a shooting last month. Nikhom Thephakaysone pulled a .45 on a crowded commuter train and pointed it across the aisle . . .

“These weren’t concealed movements – the gun is very clear,” said District Attorney George Gascón. “These people are in very close proximity with him, and nobody sees this. They’re just so engrossed, texting and reading and whatnot. They’re completely oblivious of their surroundings.”

Thephakaysone didn’t shoot on the train. He got off without disturbing anyone because all the other passengers were heads down, absorbed by their electronic devices. It was only later that investigators noticed him drawing the pistol when they reviewed the train’s security video. They were investigating the (apparently random) murder of Justin Valdez about an hour after Thephakaysone got off.

“When you used to go into a public place, you assumed everyone was in that place with you,” said Jack Nasar, an Ohio State University professor in city and regional planning who specializes in environmental psychology. “What happens to public places when everybody is talking on a cell phone? Everyone is somewhere else.

Yes, this is what happens to people who are bored and absorbed by their iPhones. It’s also a symptom of what happens to people who are unarmed, people who have given over the responsibility for their safety to someone else, either by choice or, in enlightened places like San Francisco, because their right to armed self defense has been legislated away.

Can a law abiding citizen who’s packing a gun lose himself updating his MyFace page or in a game of Angry Birds? Sure, they’re human, too. But as most people who carry concealed can tell you, when you pack heat, you tend to be more aware of your surroundings. Do the People of the Gun who carry tend to be the vigilant type, or does carrying a gun raise your Spidey senses? Does it really matter?

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    • It always was more than just the politicians. How do you think they got elected in the first place? Idiots who vote for disgusting people who make stupid laws.

  1. Yes it does matter. We are more aware of what is going on around us. We who carry have the responsibility to be aware. I think we all take it very seriously.

  2. Not applicable to the victim. He was shot in the back of the head as he exited. Personally, I don’t know anyone who has eyes in the back of his/her head (except of course my mother–but that’s a different story).

    • The point is that the man brandished a firearm repeatedly in front of numerous people, any of which could have (should have) been alert enough to notice.

  3. I ride the BART every day and for a while I got on and off at Fruitvale where muggings, some at gun point, occurred pretty frequently. I do make a habit of looking around me before diving in to my phone like everyone else especially because I can’t carry in CA. I agree that when I do carry (in TX), I pay more attention to what’s around me, but looking at the video, I would have totally missed him unless I happened to see him holding the gun. There wasn’t anything about him (at least in the video) that would have set me off.

  4. I’m always careful on muni. I have gotten onto a different bus when someone a little too crazy is on/gets on. I use my phone to make it look like I’m not paying attention.

    Imagine what would have happened if this guy saw you playing with a gun half way between stops. I bet it wouldn’t have ended well.

    Edit: Obviously, use situational awareness.

  5. see this what i was telling my inlaws today, They mentioned getting gate keys made for thier youngest daughter (in a gated community). I said buy the garage door kind; when asked why id pay more i told them “it’s dark, music cranked and she’s looking for her key card in a pocket book with the window down. i can be in that driver seat before she can scream.” they said i scared them, and i’m the only one who would think like that.

  6. Few things make me really angry, but somehow this story did the trick. It’s every bad progressive dystopic story, except instead of Republicans and corporations hypnotizing us, we’re doing it to ourselves. This reminds me of battered spouses and kids who wrap themselves in a fantasy of security and love because they are too afraid to take action. Anti-gun folks say we arm up to feel power? HECK YEAH. Is the power to protect ourselves and others, to fight against this insane sort of evil so awful? Look at the alternative.

    Someone needs to kick ass, because we’re all out of bubble gum.

  7. I don’t get what anyone was supposed to have done in California. The state has taken their right to carry and to defend themselves so they are just being the tame cattle that the state wants.

    • They did exactly what the state legislature wanted them to do – be quiet potential prey, and pay your taxes (or in this case, Muni fare). You see the exact same thing in DC, but the gun-wavers are commonplace on the busses at night so nobody pays any attention.

    • “…their right to armed self defense has been legislated away.”

      So let’s go over this – we have a natural, civil and Constitutionally protected right to keep and bear arms, the purpose of which is to protect ourselves and others from personal harm and/or government tyranny. The Second Amendment to The Constitution of the United Sates of America enshrines that right and ensures that the government cannot legitimately take it from us.

      Therefore…the right to self defense CANNOT be legislated away. The government, any government, has no authority to legislate away any part of that right, under any circumstances. What they HAVE done is write illegal laws and use the power of their own guns and personnel to enforce those illegal laws in order to intimidate the populace into not exercising their natural, civil and Constitutionally protected rights. THAT is the very definition of tyranny.

      “…their right to armed self defense has been legislated away.” should read, “…your right to armed self defense has been surrendered by you to armed authorities enforcing illegal legislation.”

      I do not know the solution, but I suspect it will not be pretty, unless you like red.

  8. Personally, I am thankful for the oblivious people on their cell phones who walk into fire hydrants, parking meters, air conditioners sticking out of buildings and fountains in shopping malls. They are the low-hanging fruit for predators. The slowest and weakest in the herd. They make me safer.

    I grew up in NYC and, even though I now live in a relatively safe suburban neighborhood, I’ve never lost my situational awareness. I’m still not allowed to be practically armed and I’m less likely now to prevail against a predatory puke than I was 30 or 40 years ago. So, avoidance is key. I am grateful for all the victims waiting to happen.

    • Ditto for me. Even to growing up in the City. A lot has to do with attitude – I never lost it. Stay cool and you blend into the background; you’re a lot less likely to be messed with. Let the predators cull the herd.

  9. I am waiting for a flash mob to really be a group of robbers/murderers. Everyone would be so engrossed with the dancing they would come to take a look.

  10. I live by the teachings of Jeff Cooper. These sheep were living in condition white: a big no-no.

    White = Oblivious – POTENTIAL VICTIM
    Yellow = Aware
    Orange = Potential threat recognized
    Red = Ready to fight
    Black = Fighting threat

    The more time you spend in white, the more likely you are let things slip. You don’t want to be the one to miss the guy following you in the dark just because you were replying to a text.

    • Jeff Cooper was adamantly against the concept of “condition black” and has stated that those espousing a condition black never understood his color code to begin with.

        • Might’ve been. I remember we had a class on the color code (again attributed to Jeff Cooper) in basic training and there was a page on the flipchart for Condition Black but the instructors skipped over it. Always wondered about that.

  11. I don’t know if it is my situational awareness, or my borderline history of operating like a high-functioning autistic individual, but I recall, see, and am aware of hundreds of things every day that my friends/family/neighbors are oblivious to unless I point it out to them. Even if it happened five minutes ago, most of the time, they didn’t even process whatever I was making note of. I haven’t gone through my CCW applications *YET* (can’t afford it at all on my grad-school income… aka ZERO), nor do I want to have to use my firearms, but with the meth epidemics in this area, I don’t want to be the low-picking fruit.

    Yes, I have a cell phone; yes, I text. Do I make it a habit, hobby, or lifestyle? No, and I am frustrated on how socially and culturally complacent smartphones make people. *GENERALIZATION*

    Culture is the wolf in sheep’s clothing.

    • Come up to PA and get one of ours. I think we still have reciprocity with WV. And the cost is very reasonable.

      Oh, never mind, PA won’t issue a non resident permit if your state issues permits and you don’t already have one from them. Thanks to our Philly legislators.

  12. Man, the thought that you could clear leather on a train PACKED with people and no one would notice, scares the hell out of me. Im a grad student about to graduate in Dec’ inTX and may (I sure as HELL hope not) have to move to the Peoples republik to get a job in the video game industry.

    I would really love to see an article along the lines of “Worst Case Scenario: So you have to move to Commiefornia(Insert Slave State Here)” or something like that.

  13. building on what Cameron S said with the color code. What law makers seem to believe in California that you should live in code White, we will take care of your security. How many of us have commented that we are never below Yellow when we are carrying. When using a skill saw, I’m in Orange. A gun is another tool that demands a color above white. A coupling of carrying and awareness would not allow (most likely) a CCW to not see whats going on.

  14. I am more vigilant of my surroundings now than before I carried every day. Is that because of the gun specifically, or just indicative of a mindset change that came about around when I started carrying? As the rhetorical question asked, does it matter?

    I’m guilty of having my head down in my phone, too. Hell, right now I’m standing in my apartment parking lot at 1 am, draining the dog and typing on my phone. But though my head is down, my ears are on, and turned up to 11. At the moment all I hear is bats.

  15. I’d say that I, also, am much more alert overall since carrying.

    However, I admit to dozing off a bit on a bench outside a fitting room waiting for someone to finish trying on clothes. Everyone makes mistakes (and I don’t mean choosing the wrong blouse).

  16. A coworker offered another, even more cynical interpretation — that the passengers did noticed the shooter but “played dead,” the idea being he please shoot someone else and just not them. In other words, diffusion of responsibility.


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