This won’t convince the people who hold that weapons of mass murder are an inalienable human right, especially not the stand-mah-ground fantasists who seem to believe that every attack by a madman could have been defused if only everyone else had been armed. But to the sane out there—gun owners who are on the fence about making firearms more difficult to obtain—please consider the difference between London’s terrorist on Saturday, who stabbed 3 people with a knife, and the San Bernardino terrorists, who murdered 14 people and injured 21 more with firearms. And now consider a very, very simple question: What if it had been harder for that couple to accrue firearms?
I know, you can play the what-if game too. You can say, “well, if armed Londoners had been about, they’d have taken him down.” Except we know that’s not how it goes down—we know that there are conceal and carry gun owners at these murder sprees in the US and they’re never the heroes—not once has a mass shooting began only to be put down by a brave American and his twice-daily-cleaned Desert Eagle.
But there’re more problems with that what-if than meets the eye. Bullets go through brick. And wood. And metal. What if, say, six Americans with rifles on their shoulders had been at the San Bernardino massacre? Supposing they all survived the initial confusion—having guns makes them very likely first targets—and begin firing on the terrorists, what next? How many lives are lost in the collateral damage? And how do our American patriots in this scenario know who to shoot at? God-fearing Americans with even the most patriotic gun-fetish do not have walk-talkies embedded in their minds, nor do they know each others’ cell phone numbers, nor do they look particularly like good guys or bad guys. They can’t coordinate their attack, and how can any of them be sure they’re firing on the armed terrorists instead of other armed patriots? Or instead people who had the misfortune of holding objects that, at a distance, in the confusion, look like guns?
Maybe you have some way of hand-waving these questions away, so here’s another: the terrorists prepared for the attack. Did the armed Americans at the scene prepare? No. Do they practice drawing and redrawing their firearm over and over again so that they can do it quickly in a bad situation? Maybe. But the terrorists still fired first, so here’s another question: what if the patriots lose the gunfight? What if it’s still going on when the police arrive? How do the police handle these vigilantes on-scene?
So in my perfect world, no one has guns. But we know what that looks like, too, and that looks like November 13 in Paris, and it’s very hard to imagine that someone armed in the audience would not have been a stark improvement. So many targets. Darkness. Places to hide. A defensive shooter may well have been able to save someone, or reduce the number of attackers. The situation couldn’t escalate any further than it did, right? What additional harm could a good guy with a gun have caused in that theater? Why not consider him into the situation?
If November 13th had been in the US instead of Paris, nothing different would have happened, regardless of gun-owners in the crowd–and the casualties and confusion may even have been worse. But that doesn’t have to be true.
We already have good guys with guns — people who practice diligently with them and who are trained to respond to crises. And these heroes, oft-criticized though they are in their other duties, perform admirably and successfully in ending terrorist massacres. These are the heroes of Paris, Sandy Hook, San Bernardino, and countless other massacres. They get very little recognition compared to the people they stop, and seem to always vanish from the conversation when talking about active shooter situations.
So here is what this bleeding heart liberal is proposing for people who insist on keeping guns that have nothing to do with hunting—and realistically, very very little to do with home defense. Let’s model the “Good Guy with a Gun” hero-patriot off of a system that already works.
1) Regular crisis training to keep your permit.
2) Regular arms training to help ensure that you are safe with your weapons.
3) Regular inspections by a qualified third party of your weapons.
4) An easy, quick way to identify you as a good guy with a gun in the chaos.
It’s a lot to ask. It’s very, very similar to already being a police officer. But it’s also a lot to ask to trust you—a complete stranger—with a gun.