Wednesday, September 24, 2014

White House Intruder's Got a Knife: Six Things to Think About

Much is being made of the fact that the deranged person who unfortunately succeeded in breaking into the White House was carrying a knife. Without context, this becomes a frightening notion: if he was carrying a knife, it means he intended to stab somebody, likely the President of the United States.

I'm not going to try to unpack Gonzalez's insanity; that's for his doctors to sort out.  But, we should talk about knives a little bit.  People carry knives all the time and they're not insane.  It's a legal tool of personal defense where I live, and if you believe, as I do, that you have a moral duty to protect yourself, then it's actually foolish to not carry a knife.  Especially if you can't or won't carry a firearm.
  1. Building on the concept that personal security is by its very nature inconvenient, you also have to consider that when you're attacked, it will happen when conditions most favor your attacker and least favor you.  A criminal isn't interested in a fight: he wants an ambush.  So you're already going to be at a disadvantage.  With that in mind, you're legally and morally correct in using a force multiplier to defend yourself.  A knife, properly placed, can end a physical threat more effectively than a fist.
  2. Just because you carry a knife, it doesn't mean you intend violence.  Again, it's clear that Gonzalez was crazy.  The vast majority of the knife-carrying public isn't.  It's a tool, nothing more.  
  3. Before Muslim extremists flew American airplanes into American buildings, it was perfectly legal to carry a knife with a blade length of under 3.5" onto a plane.  That was a factor in the carry knife choice I made fifteen years ago.
  4. It takes a great deal of practice and frequent maintenance training to access, open, and deploy a folding knife under the circumstances laid out in Point 1.  You're not going to be able to do it if you've already been hit in the back of the head with a chunk of pavement.  
  5. As in all self-defense situations, you have to be aware of potential threats, avoid them when possible, and de-escalate (or run) if you can.  If you find yourself opening your knife for any other reason than to cut an inanimate object, everything else has gone wrong for you that day.
  6. There are plenty of people who geek out over knives.  They own many, they carry multiple knives, they talk about them ad nauseam, they lionize knife makers.  Barring some notable psychopaths, they're no different from Apple fans, Tim Burton fans, or fanatics of Game of Thrones.  Don't let someone else's embarrassing gushing get in the way of your legal choice to carry a knife.  
Like firearms, knives don't act on their own, and ownership of one doesn't imply eagerness to use it on another human being.  As in all things, media representation of knives and knife owners reflects a distorted mirror of reality.  Learn about these things for yourself, rather than unquestioningly consuming the pap from the news media.


Sean Eaton said...

I am pretty much in agreement, and deplore the media's use of these disturbing events to advance a political agenda that almost always involves taking away individual rights. The lack of security at the White House is dismaying in this day and age! (Gonzalez carried a knife into the White House--was this some kind of crazy statement about cutting government spending?)

Unknown said...

My contempt for our agenda-driven news media is limitless. I am likewise dismayed at the incompetence at White House security; they had one job, and failed at it.

Your bon mot RE: government spending is well-taken, and I cannot add to it without drawing from the same rhetorical well (sharp wit, cutting commentary, etc).