Monday, January 18, 2010

You keep using that word...

So far, customs officials have not explained how a highly trained agent could commit such a serious security breach.
Nothing against the valiant men and women of our Customs Service, (and they do perform a valuable job,) but I've never really considered them the ninjas of federal law enforcement, if you know what I mean. If I'm checking my heater through because it's just too dangerous to let me take it on the plane, then they probably should be, too.

Of course, it's easy to see where the public gets these ideas about highly-trained supercops, watching prime-time TeeWee shows where some blow-dried guy in a tie and a button-down shirt has spontaneously inserted himself as the #1 man in a stack, right behind the breacher.

This meme is long overdue for collapse, the idea that the average desk jockey with a badge and a Glock has anything more than a Clouseau-like level of competence and safety with their issue heater. In this era of armed janitors, most of these people are actually not especially well-trained; further, unlike the average CCW toter, they're carrying a gun because they have to, not necessarily because they want to.

(H/T to Breda.)


Rich in Ohio said...

It seems that the weapon is more a badge of office than a tool. Pistols have the advantage of being more convenient to carry than swords or spontoons.

Anonymous said...

I worked on projects with Customs, now ICE for better than 10 years. Most are no more than a local LEO that wanted federal pay and benefits. You should expect the same level of gun handling and firearms skill.

The ones I worked with are decent folks and very good at tracking money offshore.


Noah D said...

some blow-dried guy in a tie and a button-down shirt has spontaneously inserted himself as the #1 man in a stack, right behind the breacher.

OT as usual, but that was my favorite part of CSI Miami. I giggled every time it happened. Apparently the Miami-area SWAT gets a lot of callouts. Whenever it happened, I imagined the rest of the guys in the stack, bug-eyed and slack-jawed, thinking "Ooookay...maybe it'll be just him that gets killed, if we're lucky..."

Stranger said...

I have to second Gerry's comments RE most Customs and ATF agents are local LEO's who wanted a raise.

The several LEO's I know who joined Customs/ICE and ATF have either been one cop town guys dazzled with the new agency, or seasoned big force pros who were horrified at what went down.

One postal inspector in particular has some very sharp comments about his short stint with ATF. He was very glad to lose a pay rate to get back to accountability.


Anonymous said...

Wuz reading an article just the other day about "brain farts". The times you're in some routine activity and the brain momentarily shuts down. E.g., you walk into a room and momentarily don't remember why. Or you drive past the freeway exit you take to get home.

In bathroom? Hey, activities there are routine, right? So she either took it from a purse carry to root through for something, or set it on the floor from concern about it falling from a holster.

Brain fart. I doubt any sort of training would help.

Actually, I raise an eyebrow over the behavior at the finding. I tend to expect, "Finders keepers, losers, weepers."


Joanna said...

I'd rather have a gun and no pants than be the other way around, frankly. In a pinch, the former can get you the latter.

Joel said...

Well, I've been known to unholster my 1911 prior to dropping trou and mounting the ivory throne, then forget I left it on the counter. It can happen when you carry every day; you forget it's there.

Never did it in a public washroom, and pray I never do. But I can see how it could happen.

Kristophr said...

Maybe they should be issued something like an early 20th century french police pistol ... a full sized pistol chambered in .25 ACP?

It looks like a pistol, but won't do a heck of a lot of damage in the hands of Barney Fife or some criminal.

I'd bet if GLOCK made one, all the counterstrike kids would want it.

Gregg said...

Joel and Art,
Training is the answer. Train them to "drop it in the hammock" and the problem will go away.

Next time that you drop trou and mount the ivory throne look between your ankles. Notice how your pants form a cool little hammock (or pouch)? Drop the gun in there and I will guarantee that you will not forget it. Cold, hard metal on tender body parts tends to be noticeable.

Hunsdon said...

Wait, didn't I have a gat when I came to work this morning? Mmmmm. Probably not.

Justthisguy said...

What Gregg said.

Actually, what Jeff Cooper said.

There was a thread about this on The High Road a while back. I there recounted Cooper's advice that one should always set, even though a pointer, and wear Jockey shorts or equivalent. I tested this with the 25-5, and found it not possible to stand up and re-trou without noticing the wrongness.

Will said...

What I notice is that "Thunk!" as it slides down a pants leg and impacts the floor, and usually taps an ankle in passing. Or the thunk as the grip hits the floor when the holster flips over the belt. Shoulder rigs, I gots me lots of shoulder rigs. Best thing for public toilets.

Sigivald said...

If I'm checking my heater through because it's just too dangerous to let me take it on the plane, then they probably should be, too.

Well, my reading of this (it's not perfectly clear from the article) is that the Customs Officer in question wasn't flying.

Hopkins is an International airport; it has its own Customs and Immigration station for processing inbound international travellers.

The agent in question is presumably armed as part of his duties as a Customs Agent (ie, if some wacko freaks out at Customs, there'll be an armed Federal agent right there), and thus not exempted from on-plane regulations regarding firearms possession.

In other words, he doesn't get to take his on the plane either, but they want him to have it for his job in the Airport. Just like security guards get to have guns, but can't take them on the planes.

Tam said...


That's probably the correct interpretation, but in my defense, these are the days of armed federal dog-catchers, so one can never be certain.

GuardDuck said...

After I started job related carrying, it took me all of the first visit to a public stall to realize that stashing the pistola on the TP holder was courting a negligent abandonment.

Since doing so would play havoc with my career prospects, a better solution was needed - the boxer tuck worked handily.

In today's environment of better than thou only one's, such a mistake may not even result in censure let alone career damage. Add in the mix that most federales tend to think their quarterly quals are actual firearms training.

What's surprising is not that one left a pistol in a restroom, but rather that they aren't shooting themselves on a daily basis.

Justthisguy said...

No, GuardDuck! Not Boxer! Jockey!

Col. Cooper was very clear on this. You need a "hammock" as someone else said, not a precarious rigdeline, when resting ye piece. Col. Cooper did not believe in standing up at the urinal; somebody might sneak up behind you while you had at least one hand occupied.

He was manly enough to pee seated and dare anybody to object.

GuardDuck said...

OK Justthisguy, let me get this straight.

Banana hammock = bad
Beretta hammock = good

Justthisguy said...

Well, yeah, sometimes you have to be cold-blooded, and not care about how you appear to other people, which shouldn't matter anyway, because they should worry about how they appear to you. Amirite?

Anonymous said...

Years back when my carry was high-ride hip, I figured out quite quickly that if I lowered the holster, my trousers went right down with it. No flop, no clunk. No fall from holster, nada. No problem.

And I figured that out all by myself. Nobody had to "train" me.

Another flaw in our public skool system, I guess, not teaching folks how to go to the bathroom in a successful manner. Maybe U.S. Customs should provide a little "How To" instruction card for that.


Geodkyt said...


Given teh floors in most public restrooms these days, letting your gun drag your trousers all the way to the deck to swim in the filth?

Eh, not so much. {grin}

Still better than laying the piece down somewhere else, though. . .

Camry said...

“Most officers do not make a personal commitment to firearms practice, in fact many detest guns, never mind taking pride in carrying one. And while there is a mandate within the law enforcement and military communities to ensure a basic level of firearms proficiency for those who must carry weapons, most agencies do not have the time and financial resources to prove officers with the firearms training time or ammunition necessary to condition shooting skills to the level necessary to perform predictably well in a gunfight.”

Kenneth R. Murray, Training at the Speed of Life, p. 27