Tuesday, March 11, 2014


Lieutenant Colonel Dave Grossman, U.S. Army (Ret), is best known for his combat mindset survey, On Killing.  Published in 1996, it remains on military and other professional reading lists for its historical perspective and insight.

A former paratrooper and ranger, Grossman continues sharing his knowledge and views with the military, police, and emergency services communities as well as armed citizens. Traveling 300 days a year for 16 years, he sees a wide variety of groups and individuals who have been or might be exposed to violence.  Many of his appearances are sold out, and in December he spoke to a near-capacity audience in Mesa, Arizona. 

Grossman gave a six-hour presentation covering numerous aspects of what he calls the “sheepdog” philosophy.  He opines that 98% of humans are sheep waiting to be sheared or worse; 1% are wolves and 1% are protective sheepdogs. He covers a wide range of topics including heavy Second Amendment emphasis, insisting, “Only predators can hunt down other predators,” hence the armed good guys (sheepdogs) are needed to deter the human wolves.

Rather than crazed individuals or theological zealots, Grossman insists, “Our enemy is denial.”  Part of the problem he sees is individual and institutional inability to conceive that something atrocious could happen to them.  From local non-responders at Columbine High School and other U.S. mass murders to nation-state atrocities such as the Holocaust, humans have proven supreme deniers of what history proves not only possible, but inevitable.

Typically history oriented, Grossman notes that civilian mass killings with firearms are new in the 500-year history of gunpowder.  Offenders come from across the spectrum: rich, poor, smart, dumb, white, others, etc.  The worst cases have been in Europe (notably Finland) and there are many edged weapon killings in China.  Grossman states the reason for high body counts in the U.S. appears to be the recent juncture of (usually) legally acquired guns and extremely violent video games.  He described how to "win" some of the most appalling games but First Amendment considerations usually triumph in court.

Meanwhile, Grossman notes that Islamists believe the best way to advance their violent cause is to kill infidel children.  The best (worst) example occurred when Chechen zealots took over a Russian school in 2004.  Grossman says the opposition sees that incident as a model for Over Here.  He recounted some horrific (an understatement) details of what the terrorists inflicted on 1,000 captives, mostly kids and mothers.  More than 300 hostages died in the three-day horror.  Nearly 50 perpetrators were killed or caught but about 12 escaped and are considered potential leaders for the next round.  Al Qaeda reputedly says that the U.S. and West owe “The Base” about 2,000,000 deaths.

In a startling contrast, Grossman explains that we spend billions on fire protection (often half the cost of a new building) but almost zip in hardening entrances (at the cost of less than $25 per window!)  There have been zero school fatalities to fire in 50-plus years.  Yet only now are more schools deploying armed guards, which has been SOP in Israel for decades.  Guess what: no terrorist shootings occurred in Israeli schools in decades.  

Elsewhere, mass murderers pick on schools because they're usually undefended and the kids offer easy targets.  But Grossman believes that any action can be helpful, as many killers stop at the first sign of resistance.  In practice he taught his grandchildren to throw books at his head, then run.  "Throw harder, Billy."  "Gosh Grampa, this is fun!"

Using one example from his native Arkansas, Grossman cited a massacre in 1998.  Two juveniles stole guns from a relative (a game warden) and murdered five people at a school near Jonesboro.  Because of lenient sentencing laws, they were released at age 21 and one of them resumed a life of crime.

Investigators noted that the Aurora, Colorado, killer passed up two theaters that did not prohibit weapons.  That's what detectives call A Clue.

"Newtown was just the start," Grossman asserts.  He considers Virginia Tech’s 32 dead as “inevitable” given the university’s no-defense policy.  

Schools definitely can be made into harder targets, especially with armed personnel, secure doors and windows.  But Grossman contends that shall-issue CCW is "the greatest grass-roots movement in US history."  Nearly every state now has shall-issue requirements, excepting criminals and the mentally incompetent.  (Criminals will violate the law anyway—that’s why they’re called criminals.) 

The national homicide rate has remained flat line for decades but aggravated assault has spiked alongside releases from prison.  Conclusion: we'll never build enough prisons or have enough mental-health people and medications to handle all the potential perps, so expect things to get worse.  But keep in mind: only an armed sheepdog can protect the flock’s lambs from the wolves circling out beyond the perimeter.

Meanwhile, what can individuals do in an increasingly violent world?  For starters, they can recognize that The State has zero obligation to protect them individually.  Twice the U.S. Supreme Court has ruled that police are not required to respond to cries for help from you, Mr. Tommy Timid or Ms Mary Meek.  You can read Warren v. District of Columbia (1981) and Bowers v. DeVito (1982).

Secondly, individuals have not only the responsibility to defend themselves, but the right (often miscast as permission in some jurisdictions).  When crime victims are denied the means to defend their lives where The State fails—whether on 9-11 or in an urban jungle—the options are clear.  Either avoid the problem by voting with one’s feet, or as Grossman insists, get involved in the political process.  After all, Sheepdogs are not limited to where they may roam. 

For more information, visit Dave Grossman’s web site: