Phillip Carter: Armed Bystanders Cannot Stop A Truck

BY Herschel Smith
3 years, 11 months ago

Phillip Carter writing for Slate:

Before the bodies cooled Tuesday after a deadly terror attack in Manhattan, conservative commentators raced to proclaim that a good guy with a gun might have stopped the speeding truck that killed eight on a bike path along the Hudson River. This is absurd.

As in Las Vegas one month ago, no good guy carrying a gun would have made a difference in New York on Tuesday. A casual bystander with a pistol would face near-impossible odds in trying to stop a speeding truck. The basic physics of stopping a moving truck with a pistol—or even a rifle or a machine gun—work against even the best-trained and -positioned shooter. Cities can do things to protect themselves against this new and increasingly frequent form of attack. But arming the masses and hoping for a good outcome is madness. Armed amateurs in the middle of terrorist incidents can only increase the carnage.

The basic tactical problem in the Manhattan attack is a variant of one that militaries and police agencies have considered for decades: How to stop a vehicle, such as one carrying a bomb, from getting close to a valuable target and killing people. This is the terror tactic that has blown apart Marine barracks, embassies, and federal buildings. The new variant—prompted in part by anti-terrorism efforts limiting the availability of explosives, and in part by the amateurism of today’s “lone wolf” terrorists—is to use the truck itself as a weapon, driving it through crowds in places like LondonBerlin; BarcelonaNice, France; and of course New York City.

To stop speeding vehicles and prevent attacks like these, security forces use a mixture of physical barriers and weaponry. Look at any major military base or U.S. federal building and you will see these measures: concrete barriers to block all direct access; serpentine pathways into parking areas that make speeding through impossible; heavily armed guards operating from armored booths, with radios to call for help. In the event of an attack, armed police or troops at a checkpoint would fire on a speeding vehicle to stop it.

But this is not an easy shot for even a seasoned marksman. It’s difficult to hit a moving target in a stressful situation like this, even if a shooter has the right weaponry and is firing from a stable, secure position on familiar terrain.

Also, it’s one thing to hit a truck—it’s another matter to hit the parts of a truck that matter. To stop a truck, you have to hit the driver (who sits behind an engine block that can be penetrated only by heavy machine-gun fire or shot through a small windshield aperture); or hit the engine (which can only be disabled by heavy weaponry); or hit the wheels (which are small targets that even when damaged may not stop the vehicle from moving). The battlefields of Iraq and Afghanistan are littered with cases in which U.S., Iraqi, and Afghan forces failed to stop approaching vehicles carrying explosive devices because this is simply very hard to do.

Of course, it would be impractical to place military-style checkpoints at every intersection or vulnerable area of Manhattan. So in any response, armed first responders like the NYPD’s elite counterterrorism squad start from a position of disadvantage because they must respond while moving themselves, instead of from an established checkpoint with concrete barriers to block or slow approaching vehicles.

Now assume you’re talking about a casual bystander walking along the Hudson River who happens to be carrying a pistol. The physics of pistolry make this shot even tougher …

[ … ]

Marksmanship and physics aside, there’s another huge risk to shooting in a crowded urban area like New York: collateral damage. Tuesday’s truck attack occurred along the bike path of the West Side Highway—a long stretch packed with walkers, joggers, and cyclists on a sunny afternoon. The truck ended its rampage near Stuyvesant High School, which was just letting out, and there were scores of pedestrians including many leaving their offices early to start Halloween. Shooting at the truck would have meant shooting in close proximity to all these people. Many would have likely died from bullets that missed the truck or ricocheted off the truck or the ground in unpredictable ways.

[ … ]

More police activity—in the form of surveillance, foot patrols, counterterrorism investigations, and information sharing—can help reduce the risk of attacks.

[ … ]

As in Las Vegas four weeks ago, there is little that armed bystanders (or even well-armed police) could have done to stop a speeding truck intent on killing people. The right response came in the arrival of New York police officer Ryan Nash, who fired nine shots at Saipov and disabled him after Saipov’s speeding truck crashed into a bus. Arming bystanders in Manhattan—and hoping they could stop the attack with a lucky shot—could have only killed more people in the crossfire.

So Phillip has spoken in the superlative, stated absolutes, and committed formal logical fallacies in this awful commentary.  Let’s dissect it for a while, shall we?

First of all, everyone understands the difficulty of stopping a moving vehicle.  But at some point in the commentary one gets the feeling it must take superman to perform this feat – or Delta Force.  Or Ryan Nash or any other cop in New York (his expansion of the discussion to solutions involving beat cops and the actions by Ryan Nash shows that he doesn’t really believe what he’s saying, but we’ll get to that more in a moment).  My son did this in Iraq (dealt with moving vehicles).  True enough, he didn’t use a pistol to do it, but it doesn’t take superman.

Furthermore, shooting the tires out of moving vehicles does actually happen to bring an end to carnage.  But notice that after Carter paints the most impossible picture imaginable to bring and end to carnage – with physical barriers in place in Iraq, heavily armed Marines ensconced or on patrol, good intelligence as a foundation for their actions, but still all leading to and endless stream of busted and entangled cars and vehicles and bombs – his solution is more police.

Yes, more police.  It takes either Delta Force, or NYPD officer Ryan Nash, because why?  Well, because ordinary citizens cannot be entrusted with firearms.  Why, it would lead to a hail of bullets fired at the wrong thing and mass casualties, no doubt.  Let’s forget about the fact that the NYPD is famous for shooting wildly at targets and then missing.  NYPD fired 84 rounds at the Empire State Building shooter, missing with 70, and injuring numerous other people in the process.  Let’s also not forget that the Stockton Police engaged in an hour-long rolling gun battle involving 32 officers discharging more than 600 rounds, at speeds of at least 120 MPH over 63 miles, with the result that at least one innocent hostage was killed.

Our catalog of negligent discharges by cops, dogs shot by cops, and wrong home SWAT raids makes Phillip’s trust in the police appear juvenile.  But I’ll virtually guarantee that Phillip cannot point to a similar set of incidents where civilian carriers (concealed or open) were responsible for rolling gun battles or the legendary “hail of bullets” we all hear about from “moms against whatever.”  His objection is the chicken little “The sky is falling” warning.  The sky isn’t really falling, no matter what Phillip says.

But there is a larger problem here than this exaggeration by Phillip.  Regardless of what one might think of claims that a concealed carrier might have stopped the carnage (and an open carrier did do just that), Phillip expands his injunction against carriers by stating “Arming bystanders in Manhattan—and hoping they could stop the attack with a lucky shot—could have only killed more people in the crossfire.”

He doesn’t really know any such thing, he just made that up.  But notice how he puts this: “Arming bystanders.”  People don’t voluntarily purchase expensive guns, nor do they go to the range and spend lots of money on ammunition learning to shoot well.  No, by allowing people to carry, we’re “arming bystanders.”  Who’s doing the arming is left a mystery.  Notice the word gaming he’s doing?

Getting past his stilted prose, he argues against carrying firearms generally.  Since someone may not have been able to stop the carnage from a vehicle, no one should be allowed to carry except cops.  This is like saying that since a sharpshooter shovel (forestry spade) is required to trench water mains to the required 16″ freeze line without tearing up too much lawn, construction workers should just throw away all of their other tools regardless of the fact that not all jobs are trenching water mains for homes.  Let’s put this in more formal language.

His syllogism goes like this: (1) Pistols are ineffective against vehicular attacks, (2) Vehicular attacks is terrorism, therefore, (3) Pistols are ineffective against terrorism.  It is the fallacy of the undistributed middle, and either Phillip knows better, or he should.  This is the second commentary in two days from folks at CNAS (Center for a New American Security), Michele Flournoy’s organization and Obama’s favorite think tank, arguing for some form of gun control (the first being written by Adam Routh at CNAS).  So regardless of Phillip’s juvenile trust in the police or his logically fallacious thinking, there may be little more that I can do than recommend the same thing for Phillip that I did for Adam.  These folks are pathologically problematic to themselves and others because of their controller nature.  For Phillip I am recommending a good therapy and support group.  Same as for Adam, you must begin this way.

“I am a controller.  I think I’m smarter than everyone else.  I want to control everything people do.  I want to control what they think, how they behave, how they talk and what they say, what they have, what they do with it, how they spend their money, and what they believe.  I am admitting my problem to you in open honesty.  The only thing I don’t want to control is myself.  People hate me for it.  No one loves me.  I’ve been a controller for ___ years.  Please help me.”

Trackbacks & Pingbacks


  1. On November 3, 2017 at 5:56 am, Frank said:

    Phillip Carter writing for Slate has No Clue.
    Phillip Carter writing for Slate does have a Agenda.
    Phillip Carter writing for Slate should No More write about this Topic than he should about Rocket Engine Design.
    Philip Carter writing for Slate…..
    Is a Idiot

  2. On November 3, 2017 at 8:55 am, Reltney McFee said:

    You dare castigate That Noted Vehicular Attack Ex-Spurt, Philip Carter? (May A***h bless his name) Why, it is almost as if you fail to credit him as veritable King of the Cocktail Party!

  3. On November 3, 2017 at 8:56 am, Reltney McFee said:

    Uh, just in case: \sarc.

  4. On November 3, 2017 at 10:40 am, NOG said:

    How would he explain the Israeli man that stopped the Arab knife attack with a pistol? Or Charles Whitman’s attempt of Las Vegas? Locals kept him pinned down until two hero’s ended his sorry ass. No mention of how many times a pistol is used to stop violence per year? Not exactly un biased is he. Perhaps Mr. Carter is unable to use critical thinking skills? Just another limited idiot craving attention. His thoughts are not worth anyone’s time.

  5. On November 3, 2017 at 10:52 am, I R A Darth Aggie said:

    Why not some common sense truck laws?

    Wut? oh, right, don’t give them idea.

  6. On November 4, 2017 at 7:10 am, joe said:

    ban all libtards…world would be safer and lot more sane…

  7. On November 4, 2017 at 8:55 am, Big Dog said:

    The term “gun control” is classic Orwellian Newspeak, serving as a euphemism for denying individuals the human right of self defense. Any meaningful definition of gun control involves the control of the gun, such as the grip or smooth trigger control. I respectfully request that you consider never using this term, “gun control,” to refer to denying basic human rights, or if you do — as it widely understood to refer to just such a thing and thus serves as an easy way to refer to this evil — then use it with only with quotation marks around it.

    Corruption of language leads to corruption of thought, to paraphrase Orwell.

    Thank you for your blog — I really enjoy reading it regularly.

  8. On November 4, 2017 at 1:04 pm, Bill Robbins said:

    To follow-up Big Dog, I agree. “Gun control” should always be written in quotation marks, because “gun control” is just a stand-in for the control of people.

  9. On November 4, 2017 at 6:16 pm, Ned said:

    I appreciate tactical advice from a Slate hack as much as I appreciate theological advice from an atheist, or advice on immigration from a DACA recipient.

  10. On November 5, 2017 at 8:32 am, Talktome said:

    So, is this clown saying cops can’t stop a truck attack too? So he’s advocating disarmament of the cops just because they are powerless against one threat due to one of their tools being inappropriate for the task? Yeah, I’m sure his twisted little noggin meant that. -controllers gotta control, their cheerleaders gotta cheer.

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You are currently reading "Phillip Carter: Armed Bystanders Cannot Stop A Truck", entry #17997 on The Captain's Journal.

This article is filed under the category(s) Gun Control,Police and was published November 2nd, 2017 by Herschel Smith.

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