Many years ago while hiking across an Alpine meadow in the mountains of Wyoming I was approached by two people on horseback. They inquired about my destination and I replied that I hoped to make it up onto the top of the mountain where a B-25 bomber had crashed during a World War II era training mission.
Familiar with the site themselves, they informed me that I would never make it up and back down before nightfall. They then asked why I was hiking alone and I explained that my girlfriend from the “mountains” of eastern Kentucky had altitude sickness and was back down at the campsite nursing a booming headache.
I added that I wasn’t really “alone” . . . I had a loaded .357 in my daypack. That’s when the laughing started.
One cowboy pointed out with a broad smile that if I happened to surprise a female bear with cubs and she charged, I would not have time to get the weapon out of my pack. The other cowboy added with a grin that most people don’t perform such simple everyday tasks like unzipping a backpack and rummaging for a gun very well under the extreme duress of a charging, angry bear.
In addition, he stated in a stern tone that if this hypothetical bear happened to be a grizzly, a .357 would most likely just anger the bruin even more. As this lecture was happening the other cowboy had reached into his saddlebag and produced a bright orange spray can.
“This is how you stop trouble whether it be bear, moose or otherwise . . . right in its tracks,” he proclaimed. It was a can of high octane pepper spray with a range of 50 feet designed specifically to incapacitate a charging grizzly bear. “Most effective short-range weapon on the market,” he added.
Two days later we were in Yellowstone National Park, a place that is famous for its healthy grizzly bear population. I fact checked the cowboy advice on bear defense with several park rangers and each one fully endorsed pepper spray as the best defense against a charging grizzly. It is easy to deploy and you don’t have to be very accurate.
With all the troubling mass shooting incidents affecting this country and the subsequent heated debate over whether America should disarm the average citizen through more stringent gun control legislation or encourage more people to carry sidearms for self protection, why not give more serious attention to the power of pepper spray?
Most mass shootings have been close proximity events. That lone individual up in a bell tower with a long-range rifle is the exception. Chaotic classrooms, crowded school hallways or poorly lit movie theaters are terrible locations to utilize a handgun for defensive countermeasures.
It takes a tremendous amount of high quality training and intense, repetitive practice to safely and effectively take down an unanticipated moving target on the fly in a crowded or poorly lit environment with a pistol without inflicting collateral damage or simply being disarmed by the assailant. Multiple firearms being discharged from various directions creates significant confusion in a crowd. Who is friend and who is foe?
Inadequately training individuals fumbling for and firing sidearm’s under extreme duress simply compounds the situational danger.
A potent pepper spray similar to that designed for use on charging bears could be more effectively utilized by the average citizen with a minimal amount of training. Pepper spray can be directed in a somewhat indiscriminant fashion to a general area as opposed to the extreme accuracy required by firearms. Many innocents would most likely be temporarily incapacitated, but they would recover.
In such incredibly hectic events of ongoing mass murder, the only immediate objective is to incapacitate the aggressor. Waiting for the police is usually not an option. As these events happen with ever-greater frequency, people do need to seriously consider some form of immediate personal protection.
I sometimes tune into the “John Boy and Billy” radio broadcast and they do a funny feature called “Dumb Crook News”. Several years ago they recounted the story of an elderly lady confronting two burglars in her rural home out west. She was armed only with bear spray and promptly doused both intruders. The thieves managed to stagger out into her yard where they promptly collapsed. She called 911 and was told it would be awhile before the police could get to her location.
This woman calmly stood on her porch and periodically reapplied the pepper spray when she felt like one of the intruders was starting to recover. The police eventually arrived and apprehended both offenders without any resistance.
Recently on the evening TV news I noted that the mayor of Jerusalem was encouraging Jewish citizens to arm themselves with pepper spray — not handguns — as the most effective countermeasure to the increasing random acts of violence afflicting his city.
In my opinion, a potent pepper spray may be a more effective low tech, almost idiot-proof countermeasure to quickly interrupt these violent mass shootings which plague our country.