Chattanooga Defenders Exemplify Civil Disobedience
By Jeff Knox
(August 4, 2015) When former congressman Allen West reported that the Navy planned to bring charges against Lieutenant Commander Timothy White for possessing and using his personal firearm against the terrorist who attacked his Chattanooga, Tennessee Naval Reserve Center last month, the story went viral. On Monday, the Navy denied the story, first insisting that no charges had been filed, then allowing “unnamed officials” to make statements that charges are unlikely in the case.
Whether the Navy ever planned to bring charges, or if their apparent decision not to do so was motivated by the public outrage to the idea, will probably never be known. In either case, West’s raising of the issue, and the public loudly weighing in on it, was useful and productive. It serves as a good reminder to the Washington elites that there are some lines that they had better not even think about crossing. Unfortunately, it will take years to know how Lt. Cmdr. White’s brave choice – to be armed in defiance of regulations – and bold action – exchanging gunfire with the terrorist – will affect his military career. Odds are that, even if the Navy doesn’t prosecute, or even issues some sort of commendation for his actions that day, there will also likely be some official reprimand that will derail his naval career.
Lt. Cmdr. White was apparently not the only military member present who chose to ignore orders to disarm. Reports say that one of the Marines killed by the terrorist was also armed with a Glock 9mm. Whether either White or the Marine actually hit the terrorist with their shots is unknown. It is likely that the local police, who were credited with finally killing the terrorist, were also using 9mm handguns, so positively identifying which guns fired the bullets that struck the terrorist could be impossible. But whether Lt. Cmdr. White or the Marine hit the terrorist or not, their actions almost certainly disrupted and slowed the terrorist, very probably saving lives. Had the terrorist not fired at the recruiting station before driving to the reserve center, initiating pursuit by the police, he would have had plenty of time to execute everyone at the center, with only White and the Marine, with their unauthorized weapons, to stand in his way.
What is really significant about this case is that at least two men, out of a group of less than 25, chose to be armed in spite of orders and regulations to the contrary. At risk of their careers and possible criminal prosecution these men chose to have the means available to fight back if needed. Had the terrorist attack not occurred, it is unlikely that anyone would have ever known about their decision.
It is apparent that Lt. Cmdr. White and that Marine subscribed to the adage that it is “better to be tried by twelve than carried by six,” and they are not alone in that. Exactly how many Americans routinely carry guns in places where they are prohibited is unknown, but all indications are that it’s a substantial number. In this group of 20-something, at least 2 were carrying. That’s almost 10%. While it is unlikely that number could be extrapolated to the general population, my personal experience and observations support the idea that a significant and growing number of Americans are not only carrying, but are also refusing to comply with signage – signage that often carries the force of law – that calls for their disarmament.
According to John Lott and the Crime Prevention Research Center, the verifiable number of people licensed by the states to carry concealed firearms was about 11.1 million last year, or just under 5% of the adult population, but, Lott says, that number is low because some states won’t share their licensing numbers. Then there are the 7 states where legal concealed carry does not require a license of any kind. Of course, not everyone who is licensed or legal to carry does so on a routine basis, but many do, and a growing number of them are refusing to disarm at the whim of Congress, the President, or a hoplophobic business owner.
As might be imagined, I travel in circles where a very high percentage of the people around me routinely carry a gun. Most of us make an effort to simply avoid doing business with establishments that are posted “No Guns.” We even offer a “Merchant Education Card” to leave with posted businesses to let them know why they lost our business. But more and more of the people I know are just saying No. They simply disregard signs, policies, and laws that demand that they disarm. They are harming no one, and would never use their guns except under the most extreme circumstances, but they are willfully breaking laws, and violating policies. They have decided that the risk of being caught and punished for having a gun does not outweigh the possible consequences of being unarmed when they need it. To them, laws against carrying a gun are as inane as would be a law prohibiting fire extinguishers in one’s car.
The actions of Lt. Cmdr. White, the unidentified Marine, and the millions of responsible, upstanding citizens who quietly ignore gun carry laws every day, are patriotic acts of civil disobedience. When government exceeds its authority, it is the right and responsibility of citizens to reject those excesses, and ignore those laws in acts of peaceful civil disobedience. And that’s what’s happening. In Washington, Oregon, Connecticut, Colorado, and New York, citizens are openly defying laws against private firearm transfers, gun registration, and limits on how many rounds can be loaded in a magazine, and in every state in the country, they are rejecting the false notion of “gun-free zones” on a daily basis.
So far the authorities have done little to try and prosecute these upstanding citizen scoff-laws, and Heaven help them – and us – if that changes, because the civil disobedience could rapidly become seriously uncivil if they did.