Thursday, April 11, 2013

The Truth About Good Guys with Guns

NB: I'm writing strictly in my personal capacity, despite linking to my employer's website. Their endorsement should not be inferred. Thx, mgmt.

I'm beginning to believe Mark Follman was put on this Earth just to vex me. His latest at MoJo almost immediately gave me a migraine for its selectivity and implicit privilege in its data.
Moreover, our investigation made clear that so-called "good guys with guns" do not stop public shooting rampages. Likewise, Blair's data couldn't be any clearer when it comes to the National Rifle Association's favorite myth: He found just 3 cases out of 84 in which an armed individual who had been on the scene used a firearm to stop the shooter. And none of the three were ordinary citizens. According to Blair, in two instances those who intervened were off-duty police officers: one in a case in upstate New York in 2010, and another in a case in Philadelphia in 2005. The third case took place in Winnemucca, Nevada, in 2008; the man there who intervened and shot the rampaging gunman, as I've reported previously, was a US Marine.
Granted, the NRA and other pro-gun folks have been giving Follman & company a litany of straw men to take down. (There's an argument that Follman overestimates the utility of training police get with the use of firearms which he believes makes them something other than ordinary citizens, and any number of instances of police overreacting and endangering the public with reckless shootings supports this, but it's beside the point here.) I don't think every citizen should be armed at all times, but I think every law-abiding citizen should be able to protect himself if he feels threatened. And while only a few mass shootings have been stopped by armed citizens, which I've already pointed out are themselves extraordinarily rare by any metric, the same is less true for more common crimes.

There are hundreds of documented cases of armed civilians stopping crime against themselves or others, and who knows how many robberies, rapes, and assaults are stopped by a citizen brandishing a weapon are never reported. The more zealous anti-gun folks support Vice President Biden's "if it saves one life" mantra for more gun control, but such simplistic sloganeering ignores the indisputable fact that, at least sometimes, guns save lives.

And in those instances, like this one in my old neighborhood, often don't find their way to national headlines because dozens of disrupted liquor store robberies in marginalized neighborhoods don't garner the same emotional effect as horrific scenes at middle class schoolhouses. And that makes complete sense when you're talking about what makes headlines, but national policy should be aimed at the broader problems: those issues which affect more people and have more common underlying factors like poverty, educational outcomes, high crime neighborhoods, drug abuse, and the like. But Follman exploits a freak and random tragedy in order to push new gun laws--none of which up for vote would have have affected Newtown one bit--without considering what impact they may have on places like the south side of Fort Wayne and any number of other cities where people have reason to defend themselves.

Law-abiding citizens have a right to protect themselves and have done so on literally countless occasions. Maybe "good guys with guns" don't stop random mass murderers, but they do stop a lot of other crime and save many lives. There is more to gun violence than mass shootings, and there is more to America than Newtown. Any new regulations should recognize both of these facts, where Follman recognizes neither.

bellum medicamenti delenda est

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