The ‘You Don’t Need A Gun Because You Can Call 911’ Argument Fails Again…Still

Cell phone no signal service

All too often, we hear from anti-gunners that we’re silly for wanting to own guns. After all (as long as there are no acorns around), there’s always a highly-trained taxpayer-funded oper9er wearing a badge who’s just a phone call away. Call them! That’s what they’re there for.

The standard response to that argument is to point out that when seconds count, the police will be there in minutes. If you’re lucky. In recent times, we’re seeing response times go from minutes to hours in many places. And that’s assuming your 911 call is answered at all.

And this week’s AT&T outage goes a long way toward sinking that argument entirely.

From the AP . . .

Outage tracker Downdetector noted that outages, which began at about 3:30 a.m. ET, peaked at around 73,000 reported incidents. AT&T had more than 58,000 outages around noon ET, in locations including Houston, Atlanta and Chicago. The carrier is the country’s largest, with more than 240 million subscribers.

By 9 p.m. ET, the reports on AT&T’s network were fewer than 1,000.

Cricket Wireless, which is owned by AT&T, had more than 9,000 outages at one point but the reports had also tailed off later in the afternoon. Users of other carriers, including Verizon and T-Mobile, also reported issues but those companies said their networks were operating normally and the problems were likely stemming from customers trying to connect to AT&T users.

According to the company, the outage was due to a technical mistake of some kind. During an expansion of the network, someone didn’t enter the right code and it took a good chunk of the whole network down. So it only takes a few or even one person making a fat-fingered mistake for the system to come crashing down for hours.

For some phones, it was still possible to route 911 calls through other carriers’ networks. For others, however, that option didn’t seem to work.

You Can’t Take 911 For Granted

Even if all people could get through, this week’s relatively minor inconvenience should serve as a wake up call for people. Other carriers’ networks might not stay up next time, and more widespread outages are still very much possible in the future.

A small screw-up can take a network down, and people make mistakes. So this kind of non-malicious routine outage is something we’ll see see again.

As global tensions ratchet up, there’s also the possibility of more malicious activity like cyberattacks. The “zero day” attacks that exploit system vulnerabilities are, by definition, unknown to security researchers and network security personnel. They can do their best to keep their systems hart to hack and still get caught with their pants down. The worst kinds of attacks are doubtless being saved for a rainy day, as they often can’t be used more than once before the holes get patched.

no bars signal strength cell phone

A related kind of attack is jamming. Various media outlets have reported on Mexican drug cartels using jammers against people they intend to attack, so it probably won’t be long before we start seeing criminals in the US jam a house and their neighbors before a break-in. That would not only keep people from calling for help, but would also disable many security systems.

Despite online rumors, space weather wasn’t to blame for the AT&T outage. Not only were the storms not the right kind or intensity, but such solar storms affect northern latitudes more. If space weather were bad enough to affect AT&T in the United States, Canada would have suffered significant power outages.

But that doesn’t mean space weather can’t cause us problems in the future. If something like the 1859 Carrington Event were to happen today, we’d lose nearly all communications infrastructure, probably for hours and maybe months depending on how prepared communications providers are.

And something as dumb as a misguided backhoe operator can cause local outages. All it takes is for the wrong bit of copper or fiber optics to be cut for many people to lose phone and internet connectivity. So there are lots of ways these services can go down, and they aren’t all due to black swan events.

You Need To Be Prepared For Long Outages

Instead of depending on government and major corporations for our safety, we should all be prepared for outages that last days or more.

The obvious thing we can all do is be prepared to defend ourselves without help from the police. The only reasonable way to do that is with a firearm, because you don’t know whether the attacker will be bigger and stronger than you, have their own weapons, or come in too great a number for someone with a baseball bat and pepper spray to fight off.

There’s more to think about. Consider backup systems like a landline phone (remember those?), amateur radio, or mesh networking devices like Meshtastic. For internet, Starlink is also a viable option. You’ll also want to keep at least a three-day supply of food and water on hand, basic medical supplies, and anything else you might need in a bad situation.

But one thing I don’t want to hear again is that we should depend on government to come help in an emergency because it’s always possible that we might not be able to get ahold of them.

7 Responses

  1. 911: “911, what is your emergency?”

    Victim: “I’m at Robb Elementary School. ”

    nuff said right there, says it all.

  2. I still have a landline phone. It’s through the cable (internet provider) company instead of the phone company. It’s only about $10 extra per month, so why not?

    I’ve had a similar conversation with someone, except I didn’t bring up the possibility of their phone not working. I’ll be using that next time! Anyway, she couldn’t process it. In the end she kept saying, she would call the police, and they would come rescue her.

    1. “I still have a landline phone. It’s through the cable (internet provider) company instead of the phone company.”

      That’s still vulnerable to an internet attack, unfortunately.

      A POTS (plain ‘ole telephone service) landline over copper wire should be unaffected, but they killed that nearly 20 years back around here.

      A plain ham radio repeater is probably the most resilient to attack. You can set up something similar to use, many VHF-UHF mobile radios have the ability to exploit a cross-band-repeat setting. Get the radio and antenna up as high as you can and power it with batteries charged by a solar panel.

      Viola, your own personal communications system…

      1. Geoff, ham radio is an alternative and getting a ham license no longer requires one to pass a morse code test.
        A simple hand held radio used in a vehicle powered by the car battery can be used in emergency situations assuming you are within range of a repeater that has not lost power during an emergency. Being in range of a repeater should not be a problem now days with so many up and on the air…W5EW

  3. The simple fact that a phone outage for a few hours made national news headlines for two+ days shows how dependent, fragile, unprepared and afraid we all are.

  4. Anyone living in Florida (or any hurricane-prone state) can attest to the experience of losing phone service for a few hours — or days — or weeks.

  5. The concerning time is the time it takes for a bad guy to pull/squeeze the trigger in which case the LEO could be on your front door entry and his job would switch from rescue to calling a detective to investigate the scene with an expired body.
    Of course having a gun may not help if the bad guy gets the jump, but not having and being able to use a gun is a terrible risk to take.

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