07 September 2011

Ralph Swagler: A real American

In the ideal world of America's gun culture, Ralph Swagler would have been the hero of yesterday's amoklauf in Carson City, Nevada. Swagler runs a restaurant near the International House of Pancakes where a gunman opened fire, apparently targeting uniformed National Guard members for reasons as yet unknown. Swagler also owns a pistol -- but the shooter had an AK-47. From the Reno Gazette-Journal:

Ralph Swagler stayed down in his restaurant until the shots stopped."I had my pistol; I wasn't going up against an automatic rifle," Ralph Swagler said. "I'm sorry. I wish I would have shot him in the back now as he was going toward IHOP, but I wasn't clear on the situation."

From the Associated Press:

"I wish I had shot at him when he was going in the IHOP," said Swagler, who owns Locals BBQ & Grill. "But when he came at me, when somebody is pointing an automatic weapon at you _ you can't believe the firepower, the kind of rounds coming out of that weapon."

I don't reprint these quotes to mock Swagler, who took prompt action to alert authorities about the shooting, nor do I mean my headline as mockery of him or Americans in general. Swagler tells a truth he's probably not proud of, and for his trouble people will probably call him a coward -- especially the people who still assume that they'd do differently in his position, and have never had an automatic weapon pointed at them. His story, which isn't the first such incident in the sad history of the American amoklauf, should remind us that while it may be true that eliminating guns won't eliminate violent impulses, it is also true that widespread gun ownership is no sure cure for those impulses. If someone kills with a gun simply because he's more violent than the rest of us, it follows that the less violent civilian majority won't easily stop him, even if we're armed. Swagler has no more to be ashamed of than the rest of us, for making a culture where amoklaufs happen.


Anonymous said...

Swagler IS a coward. Nothing more. Why? Because he carries a gun. Which means, he is one of those loud mouths going on about how an armed America is a safer America and when it came right down to it, he refused to act the way he and his ilk always insist they would act - in defense of others. He is a coward and nothing more and he should now have the decency to give up his weapon.

Samuel Wilson said...

Since you don't want Swagler or anyone else to use or carry a gun, does it follow that you want all civlians to be cowards? Since you reject the scenario of the "cowboy" saving the day by shooting the shooter, what is the permissible opposite of cowardice during an amoklauf?

Anonymous said...

I'm saying he's a coward because he carried a gun and didn't use it. These right-wing gun nuts want to fancy themselves as John Wayne in a John Ford western. Well, John Wayne would've drawn his gun and shot the "bad guy" dead in the street.

They claim they need a gun for self-defense. Well, there was a perfect opportunity for him to prove their point. Instead, he proved ours. The truth is, these gun nuts carry guns BECAUSE they are cowards. They need a weapon to make them feel brave, to make them look tough. Well, the truth is out now - at least in Swagler's case.