Sunday, February 3, 2013

If Only He'd Had A Gun To Defend Himself. Oh, Wait…. (famed sniper at gun range)

Chief Chris Kyle, decorated sniper and SEAL veteran,
killed with guns in reach at shooting range
(UPDATED -- See below)

The gun crowd is always saying, “If only the victim had had a gun, they could have defended themselves.”  After all, according to the NRA's Wayne LaPierre in his unhinged call to arm all schools, "The only thing that stops a bad guy with a gun is a good guy with a gun."

But here we are again (just as with the recent case of firearms customizer and famed YouTube video star, Keith Ratliff) with yet another famed gun guy getting shot in cold blood while armed and ready.

Saturday, the U.S. military's most deadly sniper, Chief Chris Kyle, was fatally shot, along with another man, by another veteran who was suffering from PTSD, at a gun range in Texas (wait, aren't gun ranges supposed to be havens of safe and responsible gun handling?).

From an article:
Chris Kyle, a retired Navy SEAL and the U.S. military's most lethal sniper, was fatally shot Saturday along with another man on the gun range of Rough Creek Lodge, a posh resort just west of Glen Rose, Erath County Sheriff Tommy Bryant said. 
A suspect was arrested about five hours later in Lancaster, southeast of Dallas, more than 70 miles from the scene, Bryant said. 
The suspect, identified as Eddie Ray Routh, 25, was pursued to a house in Lancaster by officers, including a local SWAT team. Routh tried to flee in a vehicle but was stopped about 9 p.m. after spikes were laid across a road, Bryant said. 
"The suspect has been caught and is in custody in Lancaster," he said. Erath County sheriff's investigators and Texas Rangers were securing a capital murder warrant, he said. 
Witnesses told sheriff's investigators that the gunman opened fire on the two men around 3:30 p.m., then fled in a pickup belonging to one of the victims. The Sheriff's Department didn't get a call until around 6 p.m.
Rough Creek Lodge is 77 miles southwest of Fort Worth between Glen Rose and Hico. 
The motive for the shootings remains unclear, Bryant said. "Not a clue, absolutely no idea." 
WFAA/Channel 8 quoted unnamed sources as saying that Kyle, who lived in Midlothian, and a neighbor had taken Routh on an outing to help him deal with post-traumatic stress disorder. Routh turned on the men and shot them in the back, the report said.

Here is an interview with Chris Kyle.  

Here is another interview about his days as a sniper.  At timepoint 5:19 he is asked by the interviewer, "If you never got to kill another person again, would you be okay with it?" There is sad irony when Kyle answers, "I'm fine.  I don't have to kill to live."

The real irony here is that Chris Kyle was also very outspoken against any possible form of gun regulation.  See here as he recites the NRA propaganda that any regulation is a prelude to an all-out gun ban and confiscation, then goes on to give falsehoods about other nations which don't match statistics.  Oh, and for good measure, throws in support for arming school teachers (trained by his security company, of course).  I wonder how he felt about reporting dangerously mentally ill people to the background check system (which his shooter clearly wasn't reported, despite being committed to a mental hospital, twice, in the past six months and threatening to shoot his father to death).

Though I am a pacifist and feel the Iraq war was unjustified, I have great respect for Kyle as a decorated war hero and veteran, and for most other veterans.  He did his duty, and did it well.  Sadly, he leaves behind a wife and two kids.  

But let's not kid ourselves here.  There are some important lessons to be learned from this incident.  And unlike most veterans, particularly snipers, Kyle reveled in the fact that he was a killer, advertising it widely, including in his book, and sharing how much he loved his job killing Iraqis.  The old man who taught me gun safety at Boy Scout camp had been a sniper in WWII in the Pacific.  He was very humble, and it was only with great reluctance that he shared just a few bits of info about his experience.  Nothing at all like Kyle and his narcissism. 

Kyle is a gun nut's dream example of someone who can defend himself, and he had guns within reach.  Let's look at his qualifications, shall we?
  • He was the military's most deadly sniper, with a record 150 confirmed kills, and perhaps as many as 255 including unconfirmed kills. 
  • He was an ex-Navy SEAL, with  two Silver Stars, five Bronze Stars with Valor, and two Navy and Marine Corps Achievement Medals.
  • He was a firearms trainer for military, law enforcement, and civilians.
  • He grew up with guns and hunting, riding rodeo and living the life of a cowboy.
  • He literally wrote the book on a sniper's life, called American Sniper, an autobiography released last year.
  • He was  president of Craft International, a Dallas firm that provided military and law enforcement sniper training as well as private security.

Lessons to learn:

If this "good guy with a gun", with his firearms within reach, and all of that experience killing "bad guys with guns" can't protect himself against a shooter right next to him, then how can the gun nuts claim they would be any better?

[this post is part of an ongoing series of people being shot to death or attacked despite being armed (and sometimes because they are armed)]
UPDATE (2/3/13): Some additional detail in another article:

Bryant said Kyle, Littlefield and Routh went to the shooting range around 3:15 p.m. Saturday. A hunting guide at Rough Creek Lodge came across the bodies of Kyle and Littlefield around 5 p.m. and called 911. .... 
Travis Cox, the director of a nonprofit Kyle helped found, told The Associated Press on Sunday that Kyle and Littlefield had taken Routh to the range. Littlefield was Kyle’s neighbor and “workout buddy,” Cox said. 
“What I know is Chris and a gentleman — great guy, I knew him well, Chad Littlefield — took a veteran out shooting who was struggling with PTSD to try to assist him, try to help him, try to, you know, give him a helping hand and he turned the gun on both of them, killing them,” Cox said. ... 
Cox described Littlefield as a gentle, kind-hearted man who often called or emailed him with ideas for events or fundraisers to help veterans. He said he was married and had children. 
“It was just two great guys with Chad and Chris trying to help out a veteran in need and making time out of their day to help him. And to give him a hand. And unfortunately this thing happened,” Cox said.
UPDATE (2/4/13):  The shooter, had been to a mental hospital twice in the past half year and suffered from PTSD.  Just the sort you should arm and take to the shooting range with you.  From an article:
Routh, a member of the Marines Corps Reserve, was first taken to a mental hospital on Sept. 2 after he threatened to kill his family and himself, according to police records in Lancaster, where Routh lives. Authorities found Routh walking nearby with no shirt and no shoes, and smelling of alcohol. Routh told authorities he was a Marine veteran who was suffering from post-traumatic stress disorder. 
"Eddie stated he was hurting and that his family does not understand what he has been through," the report said. 
Routh's mother told police that her son had been drinking and became upset when his father said he was going to sell his gun. She said Routh began arguing with them and said he was going to "blow his brains out." 
Police took Routh to Green Oaks Hospital for psychiatric care. 
Dallas police records show Routh was taken back to the same mental hospital in mid-January after a woman called police and said she feared for Routh's safety. 
In May, Routh's mother reported a burglary that included nine pill bottles and her son was involved, according to a Lancaster police report. No other details were available.
UPDATE (2/5/13):  A article with additional details on the killer (Routh, that is).

UPDATE (1/8/15):  A new movie is being released about Kyle, named after Kyle's book, American Sniper.  I haven't yet seen the movie, but the trailer looks to be a spin on the man's story glorifying him as a reluctant hero.  I wonder how it will handle his ironic death, or if it will display his glee at killing.  HERE is a good write-up on this.  From the article:
Chris Kyle, a US navy Seal from Texas, was deployed to Iraq in 2003 and claimed to have killed more than 255 people during his six-year military career. In his memoir , Kyle reportedly described killing as “fun”, something he “loved”; he was unwavering in his belief that everyone he shot was a “bad guy”. “I hate the damn savages,” he wrote. “I couldn’t give a flying fuck about the Iraqis.” He bragged about murdering looters during Hurricane Katrina, though that was never substantiated.
UPDATE (1/20/15):  The movie, "American Sniper," is clearly fictionalized, with added arch-nemesis bits, over-simplified demonization of Iraqis, and glorification of Kyle to paint him as a victim instead of a killer.  From a good review of the movie:
One investigating journalist wrote in the New Yorker that these tales “portray Kyle as if he really were the Punisher, dispensing justice by his own rules. It was possible to see these stories as evidence of vainglory; it was also possible to see them as attempts by a struggling man to maintain an invincible persona.” Maybe some of these brags were true, and maybe they weren’t. A lot of this film certainly isn’t – and all the complicated questions it leaves out would have made it a much more interesting story than the Bush-era propaganda it shovels in.
UPDATES (2/24/15):
-- Kyle's shooter, Eddie Ray Routh, has been found guilty.
-- Another sniper from the Iraq war questions Kyle's depiction of Iraqis as "savages" and the way they are portrayed in the movie. 

UPDATE (5/25/16):  One example of where Kyle has lied about his credentials has been in his exaggeration of the number of medals he has won.

UPDATE (7/9/16):  Exemplifying Kyle's overestimation of himself, he overstated his medal count on an official Navy form, stating that he had an extra silver star and an extra two bronze stars.  Recognizing the mistake, the Navy corrected the form.  From an article:

The Navy personnel form that Kyle signed and initialed when he left the Navy in 2009 credited him with two Silver Star and six Bronze Star medals with “V” device for valor, according to the document. Kyle, whose best-selling book American Sniper was later made into a Hollywood blockbuster, wrote that he had been awarded two Silver Stars and five Bronze Stars.  ... 
However, the Navy’s investigation of Kyle’s record, which began in 2012, determined that Kyle had commendations for one Silver Star and four Bronze Star medals with “V” devices. .... 
“After thoroughly reviewing all available records, the Navy determined an error was made in the issuance of Chief Petty Officer Chris Kyle’s form DD214,” Ensign Marc Rockwellpate, a Navy spokesman, said in a statement. “Specifically, the DD 214 did not accurately reflect the decorations and awards to which Kyle was officially entitled. After notifying his family of the error, the Navy issued a corrected copy of the DD 214, which accurately reflects Kyle’s years of honorable and extraordinary Navy service.”