This article first appeared at The McAlvany Intelligence Advisor on Monday, August 18, 2014:
In his ground-breaking book, In the Gravest Extreme, author Massad Ayoob, wrote:
There’s only one way you can talk a violent criminal out of harming you once he has picked you for a victim. What you have to do is hit him with a deep, existential question, something that will have him reexamine and reevaluate his own personal values and life style, his own hopes and dreams, as related to the moment at hand. It can even be phrased without words.
That is precisely what Adam Weinstein did when he realized, following the shooting of Michael Brown by a police officer in Ferguson, Missouri, on Saturday, August 9, that he was on his own. Weinstein owns County Guns with a storefront in a strip mall not far from where Brown met his Maker and concluded, when he learned that rioters, both local and from out-of-town, were wreaking havoc and mayhem for other business owners nearby, that he had to defend himself and his store:
We didn’t want them coming in here and then running around with a bunch of free guns.
He enlisted the help of a friend next door, Mike Gutierrez, who owns Riverfront Tattoo, and some friends and employees who geared up for the coming confrontation. In a photo that has gone viral, seven men sporting various means of protection ranging from flak jackets to semi-automatic pistols and rifles were seen standing in front of their stores.
So far, they haven’t been threatened by looters, who, taking one look at them, have decided to go elsewhere. And go elsewhere they did, just across the mall. There, Silas Chung owns Up N UP Fashion, but he decided not to defend himself. All he could do, therefore, was watch in consternation and chagrin as looters broke down his door and front windows, tossed dummies out onto the street, and denuded racks of clothing. Said Chung later: “They never break in like this before, so big like this.”
Why Chung decided not to arm himself is unclear, especially in light of the fact that in the past nine years his store has been robbed twice.
The folks over at Mally’s Supermarket made a different decision. When they learned that the local Target, Dollar General, and Walmart stores had been attacked and looted, they took a tip from Weinstein, and armed themselves. Mally’s remains untouched at this writing.
Part of the problem is perception. Early on, the police were arresting looters, until things got out of hand. Then they just retired from the scene, letting looters be looters, and leaving the business owners to fend for themselves.
It became official when Missouri State Highway Patrol Captain Ron Johnson explained his decision to pull his officers back: “We had to evaluate the security of the officers here and also the looters. We just felt it was better to move back.”
Message to the business owners: you’re on your own. Have a nice day.
The decision to let the looters loot was confirmed a week later when Missouri Governor Jay Nixon and Ferguson Police Chief Tom Jackson held a press conference and were asked about what kind of protection they could provide for those business owners. They … wait for it … ignored the question.
All of which was awfully familiar to another business owner who witnessed firsthand what happens when police “move back” and allow – no, indirectly sanction – looters to loot without repercussions. Kee Whan Ha still owns the Hannam chain of stores and a supermarket in Koreatown in the heart of downtown Los Angeles. He remembers distinctly the day the Los Angeles riots began in 1992. In an interview with National Public Radio (NPR) twenty years later, he told his interviewer what happened:
Ha: April 29 was a Wednesday. All the riots are happening in the South Central area. On Thursday morning, I expect something [is] going to happen in Koreatown, so Koreatown is closed….
I assembled my people, all the store owners, people who ha[ve] a big rifle or the hunting rifle, everything. So we see that our – next door is [a company] that’s American-owned. The [owners] just go home. Then the riot people came inside, and they steal everything. They [pour on] gasoline, then they [set it on] fire, so whole building’s on fire.
NPR: Why did you feel you had to defend the store yourself? … why didn’t you feel the authorities would do their job?
Ha: From Wednesday [on], I don’t see any police patrol car whatsoever. That’s a wide-open area, so it is like the Wild West … We are the only one[s] left, so we have to do our own [defense].
NPR: Well, you just told us that the security guard at your store was killed. This must have been very traumatic for you. Do you mind telling [us] how this happened?
Ha: I was standing a few feet away, so I see that his body has fallen down on the ground, but I was so scared. I – we tried to call the fire department. Please help us. But nobody listen. Then maybe after five or six hours in the evening – [we started calling] around the afternoon, about 1:00 or 2:00 p.m. But actual – the fire truck coming about 7:00 o’clock, late evening. So five hours, of course, is sitting between us and them.
NPR: Did you have to fire your weapon?
Ha: Yes. Actually, we are not shooting people. We are shooting the – in the air, so [to] make afraid that these people coming to us. [We’re] not actually targeting people, so…
NPR: Sure. You were trying to create a – sort of a protective barrier, and you did succeed in saving your store?
What Ha did was successfully alter the potential looters’ “victim selection process” (another phrase offered by Ayoob) to save his business – and perhaps his life – from being sacked and incinerated. Thanks to the Second Amendment, both Ha and the present business owners in Ferguson, Missouri, have the means to protect themselves. All they are doing is asking looters to reconsider their current sense of priorities and consider the most basic of existential questions.
Daily Caller: Ferguson Declared A State Of Emergency
Political Outcast: St. Louis Riots are Another Reason to Be Armed
River Front Times: Ferguson Riots: North County Business Owners (Some Armed) Survey the Damage
National Public Radio interview: Korean Store Owner On Arming Himself For Riots
In the Gravest Extreme, by Massad Ayoob