Lessons from a train attack and a jammed AK-47

The recent attack on a train traveling between Amsterdam and Paris raises a number of points for those of us concerned about defending lives and liberties.

From the accounts given by the passengers who brought the attack to an end, the gunman’s AK-47 jammed, and he was struggling to bring it back into action.  Yes, an AK-47 jammed.  One of the best stories about this weapon’s reliability is the account of Col. Hackworth and his men digging one up in Vietnam and firing it.  But there is no such thing as a perfect machine.  Or, perhaps in this example, the person handling it didn’t know how to run it—and we’re fortunate for that.  It would be well if all evildoers were unprepared while good people maintain their guns and know how to keep them going.

Of course, we can’t trust to luck.  When the Cold War came to an end, a lot of us felt relief that decades of the looming threat of the end of the world were finally over, but in the years since, we’ve found out that things are much more complex now than two simple sides with clear motives and goals.  The attacker in this case is a Moroccan national who appears to be a vagrant who claims to have found the weapons he was using in an attempt to rob the passengers, though security officials in Spain have flagged him as someone with connections to radical groups.  However things turn out in this incident, attacks in Texas and Paris against cartoonists or customers of a coffee shop in Sydney and the destruction of a temple in Palmyra, Syria show that barbarians are still with us, seeking to take or destroy the blessings of civilization.

The passengers who stopped this attack—whether terrorism or robbery—demonstrate what we all have to do when confronted by someone seeking to do us harm.  We’ve seen examples of this before.  One such case is Charl van Wyk, a South African man who fought back against an assault on his church in 1993.  Another well-known defender is Jeanne Assam who brought down a gunman in a Colorado church in 2007.  And then there are the passengers of United Airlines Flight 93 who prevented a fourth airplane being used as a missile.

That last example is necessary to dispel the idea that doing the right thing means you’ll always win.  At times, the question is how many good people will be injured or killed before the attack ends.  We do ourselves a disservice if we think that all bad guys miss and all good guys win, suffering only a few scratches that will be treated by the obliging female lead—in other words, life isn’t a movie.  On the French train, Spencer Stone got multiple cuts to his hand and arm before the attacker was subdued.  But injuries or even death to a few are better than trusting to the mercies of those who seek to do violence to us.

One point made by gun control advocates in response to the train attack is that the three Americans and one Briton didn’t use firearms to stop the gunman.  This is yet another variation on the old question, why do you need a gun.  This is a frivolous point, a case of the strawman fallacy, since thoughtful people on the side of gun rights have never said that possessing a gun was a guarantee of success or even the only way to achieve that.  What we can say is that the odds are better when intended victims have effective tools for fighting back.

And that leads to the conclusion of all of this.  We who own guns and care about gun rights have chosen to pull chance more in our favor, but the proper mentality for all good people is a refusal to give in to evil, regardless of circumstances.  As Winston Churchill told us, never give in.

 The views and opinions expressed in this post are those of the author’s and do not necessarily reflect the position of Guns.com.