Self-Interested Heroes and Bureaucratic Screw-Ups

There was yet another American mass shooting on Sunday, this time at a Waffle House restaurant in Nashville where a green-jacketed but otherwise naked man randomly fired shots from a semiautomatic rifle at the staff and customers. Four people were killed and two others were critically injured, but it could have been worse. This mass shooting featured a bona fide hero who limited the carnage, and the flaw in the system that allowed it to happen in the first place was quickly identified and might yet be corrected.
One of the customers was 29-year-old James Shaw Jr., who had passed up a more a crowded Waffle House to get a late-night meal with an old friend after a night of revelry. He instinctively dove for cover at the sound of the first shot fired. but when the shots briefly ceased for what he figured was either a gun jam or reloading some higher instinct caused the unarmed Shaw to leap at the gunman and wrestled the weapon from his hands. The gunman fled as soon as Shaw tossed the weapon behind the restaurant’s counter, with Shaw choosing not to give chase, and although a suspect has been identified he’s still on loose, but there’s no telling how many lives Shaw saved.
As is usually the case with bona fide heroes, Shaw insisted he wasn’t one. Although he was clearly relieved that lives had been spared by his action, he told bluntly told reporters that “I want everybody to know that I did that completely out of a selfish act. I was completely doing it just to save myself. I’m not a hero. I’m just a regular person, and I think anybody could have done what I did if they are pushed into that kind of cage. You have to either react of you’re going to fold, and I chose to react because I didn’t see any other way of living, and that’s all I wanted to do. I just wanted to live.”
Shaw further explained that “I kind of made up my mind, because there was no way to lock that door, that if it was going to come down to it, he was going to have to work to kill me.” Although he disavowed any heroic intent, he did describe himself as a college-educated AT&T employee and proud father of a four-year-old daughter, and said he considered himself “a pretty cool guy to be around.” He said he had no military or police training, other than his fights to get his daughter to bed on time, and attributed his actions to human nature.
Shaw’s disarming modesty — no pun intended — only enhances his heroism, as far as we’re concerned. The surviving Waffle House patrons have all expressed their heartfelt gratitude, including that longtime friend that Shaw freely admits he checked on only after the naked and unarmed gunman had run into into nearby woods, and the poor fellow will surely be overwhelmed today by the media’s interview requests and the nation’s admiration.
At least he won’t be made a political cause celebre, though, as he doesn’t fit the profile. The right’s argument about a good guy with a gun being the solution to a bad guy with a gun doesn’t apply here, as Shaw didn’t have a gun, yet Shaw’s admittedly self-interested heroism doesn’t fit well with the left’s arguments about anything. President Donald Trump recently boasted that even if unarmed he would have rushed into that mass shooting at a Florida high school that has reignited the gun debate, but it would be awkward for him to share a photo-op with a black man who’s obviously a pretty cool guy to be around and has more modestly demonstrated actual unarmed heroics, and if the left the tries to exploit that we expect this Shaw fellow will continue to insist he was just trying to his save his own black skin and try to get on with the rest of the life he so he richly deserves.
The suspected gunman has been identified as the same nutcase who had been arrested for an attempt last year to climb the White House gates in an attempt to meet with Trump to discuss something or other. The early news reports don’t make clear how those charges turned out, except that they did result in the confiscation of all the suspect’s guns and the revocation of his Illinois firearms license. Somehow or other the guns were eventually returned to the suspect’s father, who apparently returned them to his unlicensed son, and if not for a self-interested hero’s unlikely appearance it would have gone far worse. Another recent mass shooter had convictions for domestic abuse in military that would have prohibited him from owning a weapon if they had been reported to the civilian courts’ registers, and the kid who shot up that high school in Florida had promised to do so on Facebook and pretty much everyone who knew him didn’t doubt he’d actually do it, and that’s an all-too-common occurrence in these mass shootings.
We’re still steadfast defenders of the natural and constitutional right to keep and bear arms, but by now it’s clear that a few of our fellow citizens should be denied that right, just as a few of our fellow citizens are routinely and rightly denied other rights, and by now we’re getting better at identifying them, and we might yet start act accordingly and according to sensible laws.
In the meantime, we doff our caps to the self-interested but undeniably heroic Shaw, and wish the best for him and his four-year-old daughter.

— Bud Norman

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