Having taken graduate-level courses in emergency management and homeland security, watching people argue online about the Hamas attack on Israel and the Israeli response can be maddening.

Instead of embracing the complexity and trying to pick out what useful lessons they can, the talking heads and their flying monkeys seem to be looking for ways to use the conflict to grind one ideological axe or another. As usual, the largest competing narratives get a lot of people in an emotionally compromised state, and they tend to suck most of the oxygen out of the room. This leaves most people unable to actually think before they fire off an all-caps comment defending their preferred narrative.

Another term for this phenomenon is “the emotional basement.” When something really bad happens, it’s perfectly natural for the human brain to go into fight or flight mode. This ability to suspend careful thinking and leap to action served our ancestors well on an almost daily basis, and (assuming you’re trained properly) can serve people well in life-and-death situations today. But when a really bad situation lasts for more than a few minutes, the emotional fog can be more of a liability than an asset.

So before I share what I’m going to share today, I’d like to invite readers to stop, take a few deep breaths, and get in the most calm and objective state possible. If you’re religious, maybe even pray to your preferred deity for mental clarity, because you’re going to need it.

The UK’s Channel 4 News put together a video that details some of the Hamas attacks on Israel. Normally, I’d embed the video in the article, but it’s age-restricted, so you have to go to YouTube and watch it there. You may need to log in with a Google account to view it. Be aware that it’s difficult to watch.

In short, the video shows how Hamas broke into Israel from Hamas, and then shows how they repeatedly attacked an unprepared civilian population. Civilian vehicles, civilian neighborhoods, and even a music festival were targeted for killing. Some Israelis just got killed. Others ran and escaped. Some ran and were tracked down and killed. A good number of people were held hostage for hours, and some were taken back to Gaza as hostages.

It took hours for any armed opposition to show up. The police and Israeli military were nowhere to be found.

What We Can Learn

One of the first things that struck me was how similar each incident was to the mass shooting videos I’ve covered here. There’s not much difference between these Hamas attacks and the shooting at a Buffalo, New York grocery store I analyzed last year. A few guys with rifles attack unsuspecting innocent people in pretty much the same way.

The bigger picture isn’t very different. The obvious difference between this Hamas attacks is that they were part of a broader campaign and not the actions of a lone shooter, but at the same time, lone shooters are sometimes part of a broader fringe social group. In some cases, the group has engaged in shootings before. In others, the shooter is hoping others will emulate them.

It’s now trendy for these shooters to decorate their weapons with slogans and the names of other terrorists who’ve conducted attacks, which is a pretty good signal that they’re not really lone wolves.

Because domestic spree shootings and the Hamas attacks had some fundamental similarities the response should be similar, too: Stop counting on the government to protect you.

Internet mythology among American gun owners was that there are guns all over Israel, and that every Israeli is a Krav Maga guru who’s ready to pull a Desert Eagle and get the job done like Adam Sandler in You Don’t Mess With The Zohan.

The reality of the Hamas attack showed that this is simply isn’t the case. Like many other civilized countries, Israel leaves the general population vulnerable to mass shootings, but will gladly show up in minutes — or hours — when seconds are precious.

Likewise, global political mythology about us is that the United States is the Wild West with six-guns in every holster and rifles slung. The reality of the shootings that have happened here is that we often fail to protect the innocent just the same as Israel did when terrorism comes calling.

There have been some notable exceptions. Take, for instance, last year’s mall shooting in Indiana, where a very competent gun owner took the shooter down from a distance with a pistol. It might seem impossible for a few armed people to protect their neighborhood — or a music festival crowd — from men armed with rifles, but it’s clearly something that can be done.

At the end of the day, it’s all about keeping danger away from vulnerabilities. We have to work on minimizing threats, covering vulnerabilities, and having a Plan B when something slips through. And something always slips through.

Business owners, event organizers, and anyone else making plans for a crowd have a duty of care that they’re neglecting when they fail to provide adequate security.

For the average gun owner, we need to resist the temptation to fall into the trap of preparing only for inept muggers and the threats we expect. While it’s better than nothing, days when you can protect you and yours with a tiny .380 pocket pistol are mostly over. The sooner we get more well-trained and well-equipped good guys out there on a regular basis, the better off we will all be.

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