Three source videos here. The first:
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.
- 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.
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:
- 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.
- 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 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.