What-if-memeI had a really weird conversation with an old friend from High School shortly after the Naval Yard facility shooting. It’s been festering in the back of my brain ever since. It went something like this.

Me: These gun free zones are dangerous. They’re encouraging exactly the sort of behavior that they claim to prevent.

Old Friend: I’m just thankful that other people didn’t have guns in there. Can you just imagine the carnage that could have resulted from a crossfire?

Me: What?

Old Friend: I haven’t been involved in this sort of thing, but people I know who have been in firefights have told me there’s nothing worse than being caught in a crossfire. It could have been a lot worse. Just imagine.

Me: No, there’s no way it could have been worse. There’s nothing worse than sitting there helplessly, while some psychopath walks around at his leisure and decides when and how to kill you. There is nothing worse than someone like that having absolute control over your life and you being powerless to help yourself. Do you really believe anything could be worse than helplessly sitting there waiting to be shot and killed?

To me, this difference in opinion, based on a completely imaginary scenario of some “crossfire”, was beyond stunning. Imaginary scenarios are a dangerous thing. Left to our own devices, we can imagine all sorts of incredible scenarios with no limit to imaginary disastrous consequences.

In my world view, given an absolute choice between sitting and waiting to be killed versus having the ability to fight back, even if I only had a one percent chance of success, I would like to think I would choose that one-percent chance every time. Maybe that’s because I’ve thought about such things, I don’t know.

While I still can’t say I understand the origins of my friend’s point of view, I have to guess that it stems from a lack of thought about the “what ifs” in life that actually seem to happen on occasion. If you’ve never allowed your brain to consider a “what if” scenario, like, for example, what it might be like to be involved in a mass shooting, I can see how you might arrive at the “crossfire would be way worse” point of view. Maybe your brain is so set on the idea that others will protect you, that at some unconscious level, you are counting on help to arrive before your appointment with the wandering psychopath.

Without looking at actual events, or thinking about such scenarios, I can see how it might be easy to assume that mass shooting events are like the police and military gun battles we see on prime time TV shows. You know, groups of highly trained people, who never miss, run around with infinite-capacity guns, causing devastation wherever they look. The best trained and most tactical group wins as the show breaks to commercial.

In reality, things are quite different. Virtually without exception, those who commit these heinous mass murders are cowards who seek absolute control of a situation. They seek targets where they can exercise complete control, without interruption, for their 10 minutes of infamous activity. Their temporary reign of terror always quickly ends when they are confronted with force.

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