October 15, 2009

The Best Defense Against Psychos

During the recent town hall healthcare protests, John Whitehead of the Huffington Post claimed that, while of course legal, those who brought guns to these meetings were "downright stupid" and did nothing but "endanger innocent lives".

This is an example of what's wrong with the gun debate. Gun critics see these meetings as unsafe because there are people with guns on premise. But, these same critics likely have no problem with an armed police force at these meetings, and would probably feel safer in that situation.

Gun proponents see armed citizens in the same light - that if a psycho with a gun decides to go on a killing spree, the dude's going to be stopped WAY faster if there are people there willing to defend their fellow man.

My sister-in-law was at Northern Illinois University during the Valentine's Day Massacre last year. The guy got 54 shots off, striking 24 people and killing six, including himself before police showed up...several minutes later. Any thoughts on how this tragedy could have been lessened?


Anonymous said...

I think it is quite clear that in places where gun safe zones exist is where the next massacre will occur. Think of all the biggest killing sprees of the last 20 years. They have been in gun free zones where no one could stop them. I am sure people will argue that if guns laws wwreore strict this wouldn't happen, this simply isn't true. When deranged individuals want to kill people laws will not stop them, if it did this question would not arise.

Clearly it isn't the guns that are the problem, but the person pulling the trigger that does not have one once of respect for human life. If it is the crime of gun use that will further limit the freedom of us all we might as well control the births of women so serial rapists cannot commit crimes.

Arcane Rest said...

wow anonymous, umm....I see where you are going, killing sprees/crimes do seem to be in 'Green' zones where guns are forbidden, i.e. a bank on University of North Carolina at Wilmington, which has been robbed by 20 somethings multiple times only to have to robber slip into anonymity with walking to a campus of like-aged individuals.

I do remember a sign in my parent's room that would sum of my thoughts. It was a skull face with a double barrel shot gun facing toward you that read: Never mind the dog beware of Owner, in this case replace dog with gun and there you go. We have to do something to value LIFE of all kinds not get rid of guns.

Jeff said...

Here's the opposing argument.

Gun laws are very open in this country, relative to the rest of the world. Just head down to your local Wal-Mart and you'll have yourself a gun within 72 hours. Or better yet, walk into a gun show in most states and you can buy a gun without a background check. The same cannot be said in places like New Zealand or the U.K.

So why isn't easy access to guns making us any safer? Why do we have the highest incidence of gun violence among developed nations? Why aren't we able to defend ourselves with the guns we already have? Why do households that keep a gun in the house have a much higher incidence of gun violence? Suicide is 4.8 times as high and homicide is three times higher in homes with firearms, according to one study done in the '90s published in the New England Journal of Medicine: http://content.nejm.org/cgi/content/short/327/7/467

I could find statistic after statistic, but that's not really going to convince anyone who thinks carrying a gun around will help them protect others.

I'd simply say that the burden of proof that an armed citizenry makes us safer is on those who wish to continue to enable open access to guns -- it's what we have now and it isn't working.

There will always be psychotic people motivated to kill. They will not be deterred by worrying if someone else in a classroom has a gun. The problem is that it's too easy for them to get a gun in the first place.

Eric Olsen said...

my argument is not that this would prevent any of those paternalistic measures you cite. and it's definitely not that the pyscho is going to be deterred by the thought that someone might have a gun in the classroom. It's that the actual shooting spree would likely be shortened because of it.

Jeff said...

You're speculating that a shooting spree would be shorter, but again the statistics of violence-prevention in places where concealed guns are legally allowed just don't stack up in favor of such an argument.

Here's another, very recent study that makes that point:


"Individuals in possession of a gun were 4.5 times more likely to be shot in an assault than those not in possession. Among gun assaults where the victim had at least some chance to resist, the adjusted odds ratio increased to 5.5. The study concludes that on average, guns did not protect those who possessed them from being shot in an assault. The researchers also wrote that possessors of guns may be in more, not less, danger for a number of reasons. Offenders may use surprise to overpower their victims, making it difficult to use a gun for self-defense. If a victim is able to draw a gun, it signals to the offender that he must use maximum force to overpower the victim. In addition, the increased possibility of guns being carried in the community may lead to an escalation in the lethality of weapons brought to an argument."

I'm sure we could haggle over competing research, but at the end of the day, the burden of proof still should fall on those who favor concealed carry laws and open access to purchasing guns as something that makes us safer. I just haven't seen any data that makes that point.

At the end of the day, I guess I'd just feel much, much more unsafe walking around if concealed carry was allowed in Chicago or on most college campuses. I just don't envision vigilante heroes to save me from gun violence -- and with that attitude, I think we may be at an impasse.

(I will say however, that at a national level, I'm in the minority and therefore can concede that I don't think gun control is going anywhere.)

Eric Olsen said...

oh, my argument's not about self-protection, it's about heroism. of course the psycho is going to aim at the people with the guns first. The question is whether or not concealed carry would lessen the effects of the crazy.

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