Mass shootings have become so common in the United States that sometimes I’ll sit through almost an entire hour of CNN before they get around to mentioning it. That’s what happened on Thursday with the shooting in Thousand Oaks, Calif.
I woke up to a text from my friend Jay Adams about it, but the text was vague and about how horrible everything was, which could apply to an endless number of situations in this political climate. I turned on the news to watch the continuing saga of midterms fallout, and finally, at the top of the hour, the anchor referenced the shooting. If that tells us anything, it screams that this has become an all-too-common occurrence in our culture.
Every time it happens, you’ll see second amendment enthusiasts suggest that the solution to mass shooting after mass shooting is actually more guns. Donald Trump even said it after the massacre at the Tree of Life synagogue in Pittsburgh in October.
“If they had protection inside, the results would have been far better,” Trump said.
If only there had been a good guy with a gun on the scene! That would have changed everything! They insist this with sincerity and a straight face, ignoring the evidence that suggests that this is illogical and false. Allow me to explain why the “good guy with a gun” fairy tale isn’t rooted in reality and is not a viable solution to our nation’s mass gun violence crisis.
Average citizens are not trained to handle active shooter situations
It’s easy to buy a gun in the United States. If you’re not a felon — and even that qualifier has some loopholes — and you have the money to buy one, they’re pretty readily available. The education and licensing requirements are low. You can stock up on assault-style weapons like AR-15s and expanded magazines, which you definitely don’t need for hunting or home defense, and defend your family against the tyranny of some guy who wants to steal your television or whatever.
If you’re dead set on owning a firearm or two for home defense, fine. I have no interest in taking that right away from you. If someone breaks into your house, it’s still a high-pressure situation, but you’re in a defensive position in a familiar environment that’s more controlled.
It’s nothing like minding your business in a movie theater, at school, at your place of worship, at a country music concert, at a bar or nightclub, at your job — you know what? If I list all of these places where American terrorists have shot people recently, this thing is going to be a novel. In short, a home invasion is nothing like being in a public space when someone who wants to murder as many people as possible in a short span of time starts firing.
That comes out of the blue. The shooter is firing indiscriminately, trying to take out as many people as possible. There’s screaming and mass confusion and panic. The average civilian is not going to react to that by calmly and rationally pulling the trigger and saving the day.
You’ve got to be close enough to the shooter to take him down, but you’ve also got to stay under cover so you don’t get shot. You have to be a hell of a shot. People are going to be running and trying to escape, and the shooter is going to be on the move tracking targets. You don’t want to shoot a bystander and add to the casualties. In the case of a nightclub or a movie theater or an outside location at night in particular, you’ll have visibility issues.
Once the shooter knows you have a gun, you’re their top target. You’re interfering with their grand plan to go down in history as the most recent mass shooter to collectively break America’s heart while still not spurring her to take action to change things — a designation that will only last until the next mass shooting, which is a span that will be tragically short based on recent trends.
And you have to do all of this with adrenaline pumping through your veins and panic overwhelming you while you wonder if you’ll ever see your loved ones again. You’ll have to do it with people dying all around you as the shooter continues to fire. You’ll have to stay focused and shoot straight and remain calm in what is, for almost every single person who lives through it, the most traumatic thing that you will ever experience in your entire life.
You’re extremely likely to get shot
The cops have been called. Everyone and their grandmother has a cell phone, and there were likely multiple calls placed to 911 the second the gunman started shooting. So law enforcement is on the way, and here’s the most important thing you need to know: They’re coming to handle an active shooter situation, and they don’t have any way to know that you’re “a good guy with a gun.” They just know that someone’s been shooting people and you’ve got a gun.
When a gunman has already killed multiple people, the cops are going to be in “shoot first and ask questions later” mode. The chances they enter the scene, see you with a gun and take your ass down are high. And that’s only if the gunman didn’t already shoot you for trying to stop him.
In Thousand Oaks, the death toll included Sgt. Ron Helus of the Ventura County Sheriff’s Department — a true good guy with a gun. He was the first on the scene, responding to the call within 2.5 minutes. He brought 29 years of experience in law enforcement through that door with him. He was trained, as all law enforcement officers are, to handle active shooter situations. He was murdered by the shooter.
The “good guy with a gun” confuses the situation and makes law enforcement’s job in an already impossible situation much more difficult.
It doesn’t work
There is zero evidence or data to suggest that a “good guy with a gun” can stop a mass shooting with any consistency.
The National Bureau of Economic Research completed a study to establish the impact right to carry laws had on gun violence in the United States. The co-author of the study, John Donohue, a law professor at Stanford University, told ABC News that the results of the study discredited the “good guy with a gun” fallacy. The study revealed that allowing citizens to carry handguns in public leads to 13 to 15 percent increases in violent crimes in those areas over a 10-year span.
“The presence of the gun actually stimulates more provocative action and ends up getting people killed,” Donohue said.
ABC also reported on some FBI research from 2014 examining the role innocent bystanders have played in stopping incidents of mass violence. They reviewed 160 — a staggering number — mass shooting incidents that occurred between 2000 and 2013. Five of those incidents ended when an armed civilian bystander was able to wound or kill the shooter or the shooter took his own life — so they didn’t even stop all five incidents.
What of the other 155 incidents? In 21 of those cases, unarmed bystanders stopped the shooter. That’s a significantly better track record for the good guys without guns.
At Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School, an armed security guard was on the scene. He did not enter the area where the shooting occurred and played no role in stopping the shooter. In Las Vegas, there were off-duty police officers providing security for the concert, and every casino in the area has heavily armed security guards. It did not matter.
More “good guys with guns” are just as effective as “thoughts and prayers” in slowing down mass shootings. A “good guy with a gun” in an active shooter situation increases the likelihood he will be shot by a gunman, adds risk to other innocent people present, creates confusion for law enforcement and makes it harder for them to do their jobs in an already impossible situation, and creates a very real possibility that he will be mistaken for a bad guy with a gun and will be shot by police when they arrive.
The answer to the gun violence crisis in our country is not more guns. It’s not thoughts and prayers, and it sure as hell isn’t “good guys with guns.” It’s common sense second amendment reform and a nation that’s willing to set aside its selfishness to save lives. Period.