More Guns, More Shootings

Another day, another mass shooting, this time at a video game tournament in Jacksonville, Florida.  Since the shooter turned his weapon on himself before police could arrest him we’ll likely never know just why.  He may have had a personal grudge against another player or just got pissed when he lost.

Of course, the gun nut lobbyists at the National Rifle Association wasted no time bringing out the “more guns in the room would have either deterred the shooter or allowed someone to bring him down” chestnut.  (Or maybe they just want to ban headsets in public.)  So I have to express my exasperation with people who believe that mass shooting tragedies can be prevented by creating an armed society and normalizing guns in public places.

It is obviously impossible to ban handguns, both politically and as a practical matter. Though events occasionally bring gun control back onto policy agendas, there is little support for repealing the Second Amendment.  Even if there were we are no more likely to round up and destroy all the handguns in America than we are to round up and deport every illegal alien.

But I can’t think of any good reason to think that expanding the pool of Americans walking around with guns in their pockets is a good idea. John Lott’s efforts notwithstanding, no real evidence exists to show that more guns reduce crime, or even homicide.

Subjecting the idea to a thought experiment might help. Let’s imagine that some number of participants in or spectators at the Madden tournament had been armed. While this may have deterred the shooter (I refuse to use his name—it won’t get a Google hit here), knowing some of his targets were armed might just as likely made things more interesting for him.  And though an armed citizen in the might have stopped him, think for a minute what this would look like.

Even well-meaning armed citizens reacting to the gunman would likely have little or no training. This means they would probably have failed to stop him and likely succeeded only in getting themselves shot. This happens every day to well-trained police officers and soldiers, and there is no reason to think that untrained Rambo wannabes would be any more successful.

More importantly, armed citizens in the room would have no way of coordinating efforts with others. As many as five or six people might have attempted to return fire with no idea whom they needed to take out, no idea where he was, and no way to know whether others they found armed were not the original shooter or working with him. This seems to me a recipe for a running gun battle, with people shooting each other more or less randomly out of fear, shock, or mistaken identity. With six weapons in the mix instead of one, the death toll would likely have grown much larger before the gunman was taken out.

And then of course the police arrive to find several armed people shooting at each other.  They have no way to identify the original shooter or control the situation without a high risk of killing some or all of the innocent people who took the law into their own hands.  More unnecessary death.

The best research shows that arming more citizens does not reduce crime, and that in fact America’s mass shooter problem depends on easy access to firearms.  The solution then is to make purchasing a gun more difficult and require owners to secure them properly when not in use.  Let’s get to it.

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