The secretary general of Interpol, the Europe-based international policing agency, has some near-revolutionary thoughts on what people can do to protect themselves against terrorists like the group that killed dozens of people at a Kenyan mall last month. Addressing the topic of “soft targets,” meaning gathering places that aren’t secured like government or military buildings, the official, Ronald Noble, said, “Societies have to think about how they’re going to approach the problem. One is to say we want an armed citizenry; you can see the reason for that. Another is to say the enclaves are so secure that in order to get into the soft target you’re going to have to pass through extraordinary security.”
Speaking to ABC News, the American law-enforcement veteran went further: “Ask yourself: If that was Denver, Colorado, if that was Texas, would those guys have been able to spend hours, days, shooting people randomly?” Noble said, referring to states with pro-gun traditions. “What I’m saying is it makes police around the world question their views on gun control. It makes citizens question their views on gun control. You have to ask yourself, ‘Is an armed citizenry more necessary now than it was in the past with an evolving threat of terrorism?’ This is something that has to be discussed.”
In his remarks at a conference in Colombia, Noble explained that the Kenya attack indicated “an evolution in terrorism,” which will mean more attacks on soft targets and fewer attacks on secure targets (such as, in the past, the World Trade Center, the Pentagon, U.S. embassies, etc.) He also noted that Interpol would try to prevent such attacks by preventing terrorists’ movement across international borders.
Incidentally, armed civilians actually did play a role in staunching the violence during the horrific attack in Nairobi: Because the Kenyan security forces were, sadly, so incapable of responding to the attack, there were plenty of stories of individuals helping to secure the site and move civilians out of the mall. Take this one, about an Indian resident of Nairobi who grabbed his pistol and went to the scene as soon as he heard there was a “robbery” taking place, where he joined police and a former Kenyan defense official, now a civilian (seen here), in returning fire against the terrorists and carrying the wounded to safety. Or this retired British Royal Marine, who happened to be armed as he was enjoying his coffee at the Westgate Mall and was credited with saving as many as 100 lives.