Wednesday, January 12, 2011

Regarding Joe Zamudio

So I've now seen a few clips of Joe Zamudio, interviewed in re his actions at the recent Tucson shooting.  (For those of you who may not be following along, the executive summary is:  Zamudio assisted in the restraint of Loughner after others initially accosted Loughner during a reload.  His celebrity status is heightened because he was carrying a concealed pistol at the time, and was prepared to use it, but did not because it was not necessary by the time he arrived on scene.)

Three source videos here.  The first:

The second:

The third:

Okay. So, thoughts:

Is Joe Zamudio what I would call a great spokesman for liberty?  No.  His two biggest misses are 1) that he suggests that he did not think at all, which is both demonstrably false and also very bad messaging;  and 2) that he says that in the US "we are allowed" to own weapons, which is also demonstrably false (note that this post is not about the fractal multiplicity of ways in which it is demonstrably false) and also devastatingly defeatist from a messaging point of view.

Now...that said, let's give the guy a break.  He's young (24) and probably inexperienced in the nuance of libertarian messaging.  (He may not know much about liberty at all, for all we know.  That was not a requirement for what he did.)  His performance, though, at the scene (presuming the veracity of his testimony) was exemplary, and very instructive on many levels.  His case is an excellent demonstration of the following:
  • Mundanes (that is, normal human beings unafflicted with the impunity of badge or title) can handle themselves under pressure, despite all the hysteria from the Brady Bunch that would insist that a young male, familiar with guns, without camera polish, unsupervised, ... (seriously, one could go on), walking around strapped,  can only result in carnage.  This is a useful observation, if academic.  (Rights are not revocable due to ungraceful exercise...only privileges.)
  • Official "protection" failed, both before the event (clearly did not prevent it), and during the event (the fight was stopped by Mundanes, not by official protectors).  
  • Individual, spontaneous response did stop the fight.  Zamudio's statement that he would have shot Loughner if he had to, while conjectural, certainly suggests that further capacity to bring the attack to a close was immediately available, and functionally equivalent to what any "official" response would have been.  That is:  no cop could have performed better than Joe Zamudio*.  He, there, at that time, performed the action that we all would expect a cop to perform, but without the badge and tax-funded salary.
Strictly from a tactics and technical point of view:
  • It sounds as though Zamudio had achieved a grip on his holstered pistol, but did not in fact draw it.  This, taken by itself, is excellent:  had he needed to present and shoot, he had already completed the most awkward and time-consuming part of the stroke, and further was in the best possible weapon retention position if someone had tried to disarm him.  Finally, he may not yet have assessed the situation visually (this is not clear from the statements I've read) and if that is true, he gets safety points for not drawing before he identifies his target.  (Cops, by contrast, seem to wave pistols all over the place before a threat is solidly identified.)
  • In contrast, it sounds (again, not entirely technically clear) as if he disengaged his pistol's safety while it remained in the holster.  This is bad form and unnecessarily dangerous, and I hope someone tells him that.  (From the "grip" step of the draw stroke, where he seemed to be as in the previous bullet point, you cannot present and fire your off-safe pistol any faster than you can present and fire your on-safe pistol.  Anyone who doesn't believe this is invited to demonstrate their wisdom to the satisfaction of professional instructors such as Massad Ayoob, Clint Smith, John Farnam, etc.)
  • The impression I get is that once Zamudio assessed the situation visually, he concluded that he did not need to fire his weapon, and it remained secure in his holster as he moved to assist the very first responders.  If that is true--and presuming he re-engaged the pistol's safety--excellent.  He did make a point in one of the video clips, of stating that the situation, as he found it, did not require the increased risk to bystanders of his pistol being out.  That's clear-headed problem solving there.
Again, emergent detail may change this assessment, but for now, he seems to have done very well.  (We'll see how effectively he can be either savaged or marginalized by the disarmament freaks' usual strategies.  That bunch must be simply aneurysmic at Zamudio's very existence, which they seem to believe to be physically impossible.)

With any luck, Joe Zamudio will remain reasonably humble about all this, and will eventually learn the two things that will make the biggest difference for all of us:
  1. You did think, Joe, and that is precisely why things turned out as well as they did.  You may not have waxed philosophical about the motivations of the attacker, or considered the political ramifications of your being an armed citizen on scene (which may well be what you meant when you said that), but you did think--and quite clearly.  There was threat identification, threat assessment, consideration of safety, and spontaneous adaptation to the event as it existed when you arrived. 
  2. Respectfully, Joe:  it is not true that in the US we are "allowed" to own or carry weapons.  Such language implies that this could somehow be disallowed, but that would imply a privilege, not a right.  You can own and carry weapons in defense of yourself and other non-aggressors not because the United States somehow "grants" you that privilege, but because it is your right as a living being.
And now, back to the blood-dancing, which continues with jaw-dropping impunity.  Normal people, on the other hand, will do as they ever do:  observe, analyze, learn, and adapt.

And maintain Condition Yellow.

UPDATE:  Saw this from Radley Balko, and it may be that Zamudio was carrying in a jacket pocket.   What does that change?  Not much, really.  Substitute "pocket" for "holster", above, and perhaps add that a holster would have been a better choice for several reasons.  By this account, it also appears that he accosted one of the initial responders, who had just taken Loughner's gun and who Joe may have initially thought might be the gunman.  This would put Zamudio's decision-making and actions in an even better light, since it is very easy to focus on the gun instead of the actual threat (and OMG but cops do that all the time, provable in innocent corpses), but (clearly) he took this new input, validated it, and acted accordingly and with restraint.

* Or, for that matter, no cop could have performed better than those who Zamudio assisted, either.  For all the talk about Zamudio, in a strict sense, he arrived after the fight was already over...and recognized that, and adjusted his own performance.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...


Great write up. I think what Joe meant by, "I didn't think", was that he was not debating in his mind what to do. We all do that while driving. When someone misjudges and pulls their car into the path of ours, we don't spend a lot of time thinking about what to do.

In combat circles this is called the OODA loop. Observe, Orientate, Decide, Act. This is done in split seconds. Training, and/or forethought speeds this process up. I have seen people freeze in an emergency situation, because they did not know what to do. They were not sure if the options they were thinking through would help or hurt the situation. A person with training isn't thinking that way. Their training has given them an instant process of thinking the situation through. Think of paramedics. They see something, they do something about it.

Joe had already thought through what he would do in this kind of situation. This explains the, "I didn't think." He already did. You can tell a hero from a coward by the direction he runs.

As far as Joe taking the safety off, I'm not sure that I agree with your assesment. If you have a good holster, that covers the entire trigger guard, you don't need a safety. With proper training, and enough practice, you should not engage the trigger while unholstering. Of course, if you have one of those Serpa holsters, you can get your finger in there quite easily. Serveral people have shot themselves as a result of using them. A Glock does not have a safety that you switch on and off. I have not had a problem with it. I am the Suarez International Staff Instructor for Illinois, and we do not recommend this kind of holster.

If Joe had his gun in his jacket pocket, that presents other issues all by itself. Since I don't have the particulars of the jacket or pocket, as well as the type of weapon, it would be impossible to address this. Safe, unsafe, perhaps managed risk comes to mind.

Regarding Joe saying that we are allowed to have guns, he is correct. What you are saying is that it is a God given right, guaranteed by the Constitution. You are correct. The right is not granted by goverenment, or anyone else. Having said that, there are over 20,000 laws infringing on that right. So, Joe is actually right. So long as you have to go through a background check, have a permission card, give it up to a LEO, or are subject to harrasement, it is indeed disallowed in some situations, and allowed in others. For some, it is disallowed for the rest of their lives. For the rest of us, it is only allowed until "they" say otherwise.

I see your writing from time to time, here and your comments on other blogs, so I know your heart. We need to understand where we are. If we don't, we wander off in the wrong direction. We have been taken captive. Since we have been placed into different camps, it is hard to organize. Even when we try, they have spies.

I must admit, I hate the "armed rallies" that insist that your weapon is not loaded, with a flag in the chamber. I suppose they do that because they are not allowed to load them. Hmmmm.

Just my .02