By now anyone with an internet connection should be familiar with Matt Harrigan’s “I’m going to buy a sniper rifle” twitter melt down. If you aren’t, David Codrea covers it here: http://www.ammoland.com/2016/11/economic-social-privilege-no-barrier-death-threats-trump-supporters/
The Twitter temper tantrum that Harrigan let derail his entire professional career shows clearly that he’s not ready to enter the ranks of “deadly international assassin and man of mystery” professionals. His publicly stated plan simply won’t work, but he didn’t know that at the time he wrote it, so I’m going to say he “lib-splained sniper tactics.”
Assassinating a head of state is one of those “high profile, hard targets” with “nation state resources to hunt down your ass” after the fact. It is a fools errand, however the real problem for the security professionals of the world is that there is almost an unlimited supply of fools in the world.
I believe most of my readers already know why murdering people is a bad idea, but here is the hypothetical as to why Harrigan’s plan is a bad idea.
Should Harrigan every try to make good on his bluster his first step would be to procure a “sniper rifle” and I’m pretty sure he can’t do that through normal channels anymore because his background check should come back “deny sale” based on his public statements. Lets say that he lays low and manages to find someone willing to sell a rifle to him in a state that doesn’t require a background check for a private sale (hey, it is possible). If not that then he’ll have to make some contacts in the criminal world and purchase or stolen rifle, or steal one himself. At this point he has either gone out of his way to purchase a rifle through a legal private sale, or he’s engaged in one or two criminal acts.
The second thing he’ll need to do is learn what ammunition works well with his rifle and how to shoot it. This requires purchasing ammunition, or making ammunition, and load testing at someplace where shooting a big game rifle for long distances is acceptable behavior.
Assuming that Harrigan manages to get to this point, he’s got a lot of education to cover. Learning exterior ballistics, learning how to read the wind, and how to maintain his rifle so that accuracy stays consistent. Lets just gloss over this and pretend that the kick of the rifle into his shoulder doesn’t give him a case of PTSD and somehow he is convinced he can do it.
So Harrigan packs up his rifle, and ammunition, data book (possibly on a digital file on his smartphone, he’s a tech entrepreneur after all), and he buys his plane ticket too.. wait, he can’t buy a plane ticket because threatening to kill the head of state probably landed him on the “no fly” list, especially with a “no fly to Capital City International” and the Security services pay him yet another visit. So Harrigan has to go on a road trip. But he can’t use his debit or credit cards, because now they’ll show him traveling across the country towards Capitol City. He can’t take his cell phone with him as it is as he knows the Government’s most effective bug and person tracker. He can’t make a huge cash withdrawal all at once, because this raises even more red flags…
So he has to build up a supply of cash over time, withdrawing just a bit extra over time until he has all the cash he needs to make his way across country without having to use his official government issued ID and get noticed that way. So he sleeps in the car or uses a fake ID at any non-chain hotels.
And then he gets to Capitol City and what, just pulls a big rifle from his car and walks into a building that has line of sight to one side of the Leader’s Mansion? Can’t do that, the security team is already on him at that point. So lets say that he magically figures out how to camouflage the rifle into a briefcase or two, and manages to get to a room that has line of sight, and manages to spot his target through a window.
Can he make the shot? Nope, he never researched what he would need to defeat ballistic glass, and he gets rounded up and locked away, or shot and killed during the arrest attempt.
Now, that isn’t to say things like this can’t be done because everyone will die eventually, and no one has perfect security all the time. But Harrigan can’t do it, he doesn’t have the skills, knowledge, or discipline to do what he said he would do on Twitter. And anyone with the skills and knowledge already has the self discipline and understanding of the risks and won’t choose to throw their life away on a fools errand. This is why black belts don’t go around picking bar fights, and why our military snipers come back to the USA and are model citizens. Nation states have chains of succession just in case some fool does succeed, so literally Harrigan would affect nothing, change nothing, and just throw his life away.
What would keep me up at night as a security professional are the “suicide assassins” because it doesn’t take skill to strap a bomb to your body and kill yourself, only an insane amount of zealotry or “true belief” and some jackwipe to make the bomb. This threat always requires constant vigilance, and you can’t rely on “passive” security (like ballistic protected windows) to contain that threat. The good news is that we have a lot of great historical data on how to spot a suicide attacker, so it simply becomes a matter of training for security professionals.
I write this not because I just want to make fun of Harrigan (a worthy endeavor in its own right to be sure), but explain in sufficient detail to anyone else thinking about “buying a sniper rifle and killing someone” how utterly stupid they sound when they say it, especially on Twitter.