The shooting at the Capital Gazette newspaper in Annapolis last week hit home for those of us in the newspaper business.
We are accustomed to covering and writing about shootings in other places, but the fact that a lone gunman walked into a newspaper office and killed five people makes you stop and think about your own safety.
Any good newspaper deals with threats. People don’t like what was written about them or about an issue they care deeply about, some sue, some yell and scream, some write nasty posts on social media. Some threaten violence. Some get signs and march up and down the sidewalk in front of the newspaper office.
But it is rare for threats to reach the level of violent deaths.
In this case the shooter was a man that was upset about something written about him in 2011. He sued and lost his court case in 2013.
I can’t even remember what I was writing about in 2011 or whom I might have offended. It’s an even scarier thought that someone would kill five people, most of whom had nothing to do with what was written about him seven years earlier.
We have had our share of threats. When Jerry Bledsoe was writing the long series about the Greensboro Police Department, Cops in Black and White for The Rhinoceros Times, the FBI picked up a death threat against Bledsoe from an informant that the FBI considered credible. Bledsoe was told not to sleep in his own home or go anywhere alone or unarmed. The FBI didn’t offer protection but did send someone to update Bledsoe’s Army firearms training and to tell him what to be on the lookout for. Calling 911 was not considered an option because if the killers came they were not going to wait around for the police to arrive.
People can take away from the Capital Gazette shooting what they want, but to me it is more evidence that responsible citizens arming themselves is one way to stop mass shootings.
The police in this case responded in 60 seconds, and when they responded they ran into the building. The police officers in Annapolis didn’t cower outside or stand around developing a tactical plan on how they were going to apprehend the shooter; they ran into the building and subdued him.
You can’t get any better police response than that, and still five people were killed. The shooter, according to one reporter who survived, had time to reload. He could reload because he faced no threat.
The police can’t be everywhere and can’t respond any quicker than they did in Annapolis. In fact, there is no telling how many lives the police saved by running toward the gunfire. However, if one of the journalists in the office had been armed, it is likely even more lives could have been saved.
When I began attending Greensboro City Council meetings, the security consisted of one plainclothes police officer sitting in the back of the room. After a threat from a man upset about a rezoning and some particularly unruly meetings, security guards were added. Now people are searched before they are allowed to enter the Council Chambers. There are armed security guards present as well as armed police officers.
The City Council now meets in closed session behind two locked doors with a security guard standing at the outer door. Twenty years ago they simply went in the conference room and closed the door.
If a meeting has the potential to get ugly there is also a tactical team of police officers out of sight, but seconds away from the Council Chambers.
So when the City Council legitimately felt threatened it surrounded itself with armed security guards and police officers. Most of us don’t have a police force at our disposal, nor could we afford the considerable expense involved in that level of protection. So what options do private citizens who are threatened have to protect themselves?
I, by the way, do not have a concealed carry permit, but I may get one.