Swatting Gun Owners: A Deadly New Tactic

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posted on September 18, 2015
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Anti-gunners like to wear a badge of peaceful benevolence in contrast to the “violent” mindset of gun owners—as if being prepared for violence were equivalent to wanting it. Generally their mindset can be chalked up to a naïve view of the world that would be harmless if it weren’t so widely held. But it’s important to remember that for some warped people out there, the thought of you walking around in public is so frightening that if they can’t have you disarmed, they don’t mind the thought of having you killed. 

On July 24, the Coalition to Stop Gun Violence (CSGV) posted the following admonition on its Facebook page:

If you see anyone carrying a firearm in public—openly or concealed—and have ANY doubts about their intent, call 911 immediately and ask police to come to the scene. Never put your safety, or the safety of your loved ones, at the mercy of weak gun laws that arm individuals in public with little or no criminal and/or mental health screening. 

This advice makes no sense, and even people sympathetic to the anti-gun group’s agenda seemed confused. “You will always question their intent if you don’t know them,” pointed out one user. “Then call,” responded the page administrator for CSGV. 

Other commenters pointed out that it was impossible to distinguish a real gun from a toy at a distance, going so far as to cite the cases of Tamir Rice and John Crawford III—both of whom were killed by police officers while holding toy guns. The admin(s) seemed unmoved, reiterating that police should be called in any case.

What CSGV was doing here was at best misguided, and at worst an example of the phenomenon most frequently referred to as “SWATting.” By asking police to confront law-abiding gun owners with the implication of suspicious circumstances, the anti-gun group was encouraging supporters to put the lives of those gun owners at risk. 

While they were careful to contradict commenters who said they would file exaggerated or false reports, it is hard to see how a blanket recommendation to bring down a police presence on all known gun owners could lead anywhere else. After all, why would police even bother showing up if what a caller saw appeared to be a law-abiding gun owner? Some commenters noted that they had been dismissed or even “laughed at” by police, especially in gun-friendly states like Arizona. In response, admins advised tying up emergency phone lines further, while another user recommended “the Highway Patrol, or FBI.” While they were careful to contradict commenters who said they would file exaggerated or false reports, it is hard to see how a blanket recommendation to bring down a police presence on all known gun owners could lead anywhere else.

CSGV is hardly alone in making these borderline calls for SWATting gun owners. An excellent National Review article by Charles C.W. Cooke documents the practice among members of Moms Demand Action and GunFreeZone.net. The comments for a recent video post on the Everytown Facebook page asking members to boycott Kroger for allowing guns in their stores had at least one notable example: “Whenever I see someone openly carrying a gun somewhere, I call the police immediately and let them know there is someone with a gun acting very threatening." Another responded on Twitter, “You see a GunFilth waving its penis substitute, exit, call police. Armed robbery in progress.”

This brings us back to the CSGV post, with comments that showcase just how little some anti-gunners care about the lives of people who choose to take responsibility for their own safety. “Good to know that 80 pct of gun owners use it on themselves,” says one. Another enthusiastically states, “My son says when, not if, he sees that in public in Texas, he’ll call sounding very frightened and mention that the person who has a gun ‘has an accent’ or ‘is dark skinned’ and you can be sure the PO-leece will be there PDQ.” This kind of reckless dishonesty is liable not just to get someone killed, but to endanger the life of a random bystander if the real gun owner doesn’t match the description given to police.

Again, the people in charge of these groups are careful not to sanction this type of awful, destructive behavior—but they also don’t seem to mind propagating it with irresponsible calls to tie up police every time they see a firearm in public. Even when confrontations between lawful gun owners and police are calm and pleasant, resources are being wasted that could have been spent combating actual crime. 

Most anti-gun activists are likely fundamentally good people with some very misguided opinions. But don’t forget that there exists a fringe of individuals with minds so twisted by fear that they’ll do anything to avoid the sight of a proud, legally armed American—even if that means getting someone hurt, or worse. They’re more than willing to use their cell phones as weapons. 

You know what, though? We’re still not going to promote a law banning phones.

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