In a number of past blog posts, I've tried to move beyond the bumper-sticker screaming that passes for "debate" on self-defense and gun control in the US by pointing out the real-world applications of guns and other methods of defending oneself or others. One point I've tried to be consistent on: carrying a gun does not, in and of itself, constitute a self-defense strategy. A host of skills are required, many of which don't have anything to do with the gun.
The article linked here provides a powerful case in point:
I've made this point before: without awareness of the situation around you, all the guns and self-defense skills in the world mean nothing. Yet many folks continue to think that buying a gun and taking a CCW class will make them "safe".
A scan of CCW curricula across several states reveals that the vast majority spend their time on two things: the safe and effective operation of the gun itself, and laws surrounding gun ownership and use. These are good and useful things, and should be taught. But if you spend your transit time buried in a smartphone, this knowledge is worthless.
One could extrapolate the scenario in the story above still further and ask how useful, in a crowded train car, a gun would be for self-defense in this situation even if someone had noticed the attacker's gun. This is, frankly, a difficult situation with no clear answers given the apparently random behavior of the shooter - it's hard to know how he would have responded to various attempts to diffuse or disarm him. But that's a debate for another time.
The deeper point here is simple: pay attention. Whatever other skills and tools you choose to acquire to defend yourself or others, if you're not paying attention you will have wasted your time and money. No class, no gun, no martial art or weapon can make you safe by yourself. Beware those who, in pursuit of ideology or profit, would tell you otherwise.