“I only wish I had a gun rather than a camera.”

These are the words of Sebastian D’Souza, a picture editor at the Mumbai Mirror, who ran towards the Chhatrapati Shivajo train station in Mumbai when he heard gunfire on Wednesday. D’Souza took one of the most popular photographs – with a telephoto lens – of one of the terrorists as he calmly walked through the rail station.

D’Souza watched much of the carnage that occurred at the station as two terrorists moved in. During interviews he has mentioned that armed police took cover and did not respond even when there were clear opportunities to take a shot

D’Souza’s story is told by Jerome Taylor in the Belfast Telegraph. I certainly do not mean to question the account, but some may question his recollection. Were there masses of police at the station?

But what angered Mr D’Souza almost as much were the masses of armed police hiding in the area who simply refused to shoot back. “There were armed policemen hiding all around the station but none of them did anything,” he said. “At one point, I ran up to them and told them to use their weapons. I said, ‘Shoot them, they’re sitting ducks!’ but they just didn’t shoot back.”

This paragraph, if true, is telling. We all want to think that if we were in a position to do something – especially if trained to respond – we would. But we really do not know how we would react in a fight or flight situation. In this case it seems police took cover and refused to engage.

If you think training with a firearm a few hours a year ensures that you can take control of an escalating situation, think again. Remember, even when trained police are close by, they may be unable to help.

This tragedy is just that, a tragedy that was probably difficult to stop. Here in the States, my sources tell me that cargo ships and tanker crews are logged at their departure point and, in many cases met, by the Coast Guard prior to reaching port where crew manifests – forwarded earlier – are matched to the crew on board. The Coast Guard does have an extensive system similar to air traffic control to monitor shipping traffic.

That said, it may be difficult to stop an attack similar to this in the United States.

D’Souza continues.

The gunmen were terrifyingly professional, making sure at least one of them was able to fire their rifle while the other reloaded. By the time he managed to capture the killer on camera, Mr D’Souza had already seen two gunmen calmly stroll across the station concourse shooting both civilians and policemen, many of whom, he said, were armed but did not fire back. “I first saw the gunmen outside the station,” Mr D’Souza said. “With their rucksacks and Western clothes they looked like backpackers, not terrorists, but they were very heavily armed and clearly knew how to use their rifles.

Just because one continued to fire while the other reloaded does not make this a professional team. I’d venture to say that describing them as calm may simply indicate that they were determined to keep going, and cause as much terror as possible.

Blackfive mentions another quote by D’Souza.

“They were firing from their hips. Very professional. Very cool,” says D’Souza, the newspaper’s photo editor.

Blackfive – well versed – goes on.

I hate to bust your bubble, but shooting from the hip is the perfect sign they were not professionals. It is inherently inaccurate, and also makes you very likely to shoot over people’s heads as the muzzle climbs. Pros of any flavor, or even marginally trained chimps would be firing from the shoulder. Remember again that other than the police station most of these were soft targets and they were simply walking around spraying rounds and tossing grenades. Once again not much more than chimps with an evil purpose.

And willing to die.

Update: Hinderaker at Power Line Blog just posted, and flat out invites D’Souza to join us here in the good old United States of America.

If Mr. D’Souza ever wants to emigrate to the United States, we’ll take him.

I wondered earlier today how a mere ten terrorists could bring a city of 19 million to a standstill. Here in the U.S., I don’t think it would happen. I think we have armed security guards who know how to use their weapons, supplemented by an unknown number of private citizens who are armed and capable of returning fire. The Indian experience shows it is vitally important that this continue to be the case. This is a matter of culture as much as, or more than, a matter of laws.