Depending On the Government for Your Protection

Reader Doug Sundseth sent the links this charming gun control success story:

Police accused of waiting too long over barbecue shootings

A police force was accused yesterday of waiting too long to act after a shooting at a family barbecue left two sisters dead. One witness claimed that their lives could have been saved.

Roy Gibson, 70, said he spent an hour waiting for help to arrive as he tried to save one of the women. Paramedics were prevented from entering until Thames Valley Police had completed a one-hour assessment of any further risk to life.

By the time police decided it was safe for armed officers and ambulance crews to go in, Vicky Horgan, 27, a mother-of-two, had died. Her sister, Emma Walton, 25, died a short while later from her wounds. Their mother, Jacqueline Bailey, 55, who was also shot, was in a serious condition in hospital last night.

The incident was witnessed by Mrs Horgan’s daughters Bobbie Jayne, five, and seven-year-old Jade.

Mr Gibson, a neighbour who, with his wife Georgina, 58, tried to treat the wounded, said there was a chance both women could have been saved had they received medical attention earlier.

It’s called the “golden hour” – the hour immediately after a serious injury, when caring for the injury is critical to the victim’s survival.

Is the English government so terrified of armed assailants that it can no longer determine when a risk of life and limb is justified? Here’s the BBC’s version of the story. Money quote:

South Oxfordshire Area Commander Superintendent Jill Simpson said that police had to hold back ambulance crews for one hour in order to assess the “level of danger”.

She said: “Firearms operations demand a calculated response in order to safeguard any members of the public who could be at risk as well as the officers and other emergency service personnel who could be at the scene.”

Apparently the answer is “yes.”

What the hell happened to the dry, understated “spot of bother,” the “stiff upper lip?” “Mad dogs and Englishmen?” They appear more and more to be whipped curs with cold sweat-beaded lips aquiver.

Would FDNY paramedics hold back for an hour? Would NYPD officers hold them back? Or would they sweep in and guard the paramedics?

What happened to the country that produced Churchill? Are the only “civil servants” with a spine in that country in the military? Or is it just the policy makers who can’t bear a risk anymore, and the subjects – indoctrinated for decades – blindly follow?

Sweet weeping jebus.

Update, 6/9: Doug Sundseth emailed me his comments on this piece because they’re too long for Haloscan:

The one quote that I found most striking was:

[Mr. Gibson] said: “Vicky took her last breath as we tried to comfort her. There was no ambulance and no police officer with us, despite my repeated reassurances to officers that the gunman had long since fled. I think there is a very real chance that Vicky and Emma could have been saved if the paramedics had been allowed to the scene.”

The concern of the police seems to have been that Mr. Gibson might have been forced to lie. So how many times has that happened?

Rescue personnel commonly assume risk in saving people from sinking ships, floods, burning buildings, whatever. They work to reduce that risk through training, but the risk never disappears entirely. Clearly, there are some situations so dangerous as to not warrant the risk of yet more lives, but that decision is made based on the individual circumstances of a rescue.

The police on this scene (by inclination or policy) so overestimated the risk of an idiot with a gun that the mere possibility of his continued presence prevented them from saving lives. I see this as yet another complete misunderstanding of the actual danger of firearms.

Let’s look at the risks and take some WAGs at their probabilities:

1) Trained rescue people on scene reported that there was no gunman present. There is a very small possibility that they could have been coerced or mistaken. P(risk) ~ .05

2) Most shots in these sorts of emotional situations miss. P(risk) ~ .25

3) Most dangerous shots hit the body armor of armored responders. P(risk) ~ .25

4) Most shots that don’t hit the body armor are entirely survivable. P(risk) ~ .1

If we use my (WAG) risk numbers, P(death) is somewhere near .03125%, or 1 in 3200. Can you imagine a fireman or Coast Guardsman (unofficial motto: “You have to go out; you don’t have to come back) refusing to take such a risk?

Jasen is right that the same calculus applies to Columbine. I’d put the risk higher there, but the risk to innocents was higher too.

I don’t know whether the cowardice was institutional or personal (I suspect the former), but that is only of relevance when deciding who needs to be fired.

Good points, Doug. And I concur.

I also predict that no one will be fired, or even reprimanded.

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