We were in the production phase of a shotgun video intended to take the viewer from firearm selection to the penetrating power of various rounds (slug vs. birdshot vs. buckshot) to bare-bones shooting tactics. Across the board, it was a great instructional video, and arguably the best of its kind.
There are two elements to the White House intruder story that have recently come to light, and each of them bears some examination.
First, we now know that the deranged individual who had broken into the White House had gotten farther into the actual residence than we’d originally learned. The reason why is very simple:
[Rep. Jason Chaffetz (R-Utah)] said two people inside the agency told him that [alarm] boxes were silenced because the White House usher staff, whose office is near the front door, complained that they were noisy. A Secret Service official told The Post that the usher’s office was concerned the boxes were frequently malfunctioning and unnecessarily sounding off.
Let’s unpack that: the Secret Service is blaming the security breach on the White House staff, claiming that vital alarm boxes had been silenced because of complaints.
The White House staff complained about a security measure, and rather than saying “tough titty,” the Secret Service moved to address the complaints in a way that compromised security. That’s inexcusable. That’s ludicrous. Remember, the nature of personal security is that it’s inconvenient. That these so-called security professionals forgot or ignored that is unconscionable.
On his Facebook page, former Secret Service agent Daniel Bongino said:
“The jurisdictional mess around the White House has to be cleaned up. Between the Secret Service, the US Park Police, DC Metro PD, the National Park Service, and others such as the White House staff and the White House Historical Association, too many cooks have their hands in the security-soup. Also, the Secret Service role in the decision-making chain at the White House has to be at least co-equal with the White House staff. Any manager within the Secret Service who insists on kneeling at the feet of an 18-year-old White House staff member, while throwing his agents under the bus, in order to maintain his ‘network’, needs to move on ASAP. This is too important of a mission for sycophants.”
I couldn’t agree more, though I think he doesn’t go far enough. There needs to be massive housecleaning at the Secret Service. Many, many people need to be fired.
The other element to this story is how it was portrayed in the Washington Post. In the article I linked at the top of the page, the Post says:
After barreling past the guard immediately inside the door, Gonzalez, who was carrying a knife, dashed past the stairway leading a half-flight up to the first family’s living quarters.
The knife Gonzalez was “carrying” was a folding knife (also called a folder). What we don’t know is if Gonzalez had actually opened the knife and had it in his hand when he “barreled” past the guard. The term “carried” here suggests that he did indeed have it in his hand. And if he had it in his hand, he meant to use it, right?
Well, we don’t know. We know he was nuts.
From the way the White House situation has been presented, it can be safely said that I entered my son’s preschool today, carrying a knife. It was folded and clipped to the inside of my pocket, under my shirt, but I did indeed carry it. Horror of horrors, I was carrying a knife. With children right there!
The rhetoric our sloppy, biased news media has used is imprecise at best, and inaccurate at worst. To be fair, the Post isn’t the only news outlet to use this sort of language; check everyone from the AP to the New York Times and you’ll see the same thing.
Whenever you read a news story, you always have to ask yourself two questions: what are they trying to make me feel? And what aren’t they telling me?
Much is being made of the fact that the deranged person who unfortunately succeeded in breaking into the White House was carrying a knife. Without context, this becomes a frightening notion: if he was carrying a knife, it means he intended to stab somebody, likely the President of the United States.
I’m not going to try to unpack Gonzalez’s insanity; that’s for his doctors to sort out. But, we should talk about knives a little bit. People carry knives all the time and they’re not insane. It’s a legal tool of personal defense where I live, and if you believe, as I do, that you have a moral duty to protect yourself, then it’s actually foolish to not carry a knife. Especially if you can’t or won’t carry a firearm.
- Building on the concept that personal security is by its very nature inconvenient, you also have to consider that when you’re attacked, it will happen when conditions most favor your attacker and least favor you. A criminal isn’t interested in a fight: he wants an ambush. So you’re already going to be at a disadvantage. With that in mind, you’re legally and morally correct in using a force multiplier to defend yourself. A knife, properly placed, can end a physical threat more effectively than a fist.
- Just because you carry a knife, it doesn’t mean you intend violence. Again, it’s clear that Gonzalez was crazy. The vast majority of the knife-carrying public isn’t. It’s a tool, nothing more.
- Before Muslim extremists flew American airplanes into American buildings, it was perfectly legal to carry a knife with a blade length of under 3.5″ onto a plane. That was a factor in the carry knife choice I made fifteen years ago.
- It takes a great deal of practice and frequent maintenance training to access, open, and deploy a folding knife under the circumstances laid out in Point 1. You’re not going to be able to do it if you’ve already been hit in the back of the head with a chunk of pavement.
- As in all self-defense situations, you have to be aware of potential threats, avoid them when possible, and de-escalate (or run) if you can. If you find yourself opening your knife for any other reason than to cut an inanimate object, everything else has gone wrong for you that day.
- There are plenty of people who geek out over knives. They own many, they carry multiple knives, they talk about them ad nauseam, they lionize knife makers. Barring some notable psychopaths, they’re no different from Apple fans, Tim Burton fans, or fanatics of Game of Thrones. Don’t let someone else’s embarrassing gushing get in the way of your legal choice to carry a knife.
Like firearms, knives don’t act on their own, and ownership of one doesn’t imply eagerness to use it on another human being. As in all things, media representation of knives and knife owners reflects a distorted mirror of reality. Learn about these things for yourself, rather than unquestioningly consuming the pap from the news media.