It’s a myth propagated by the corporate gun lobby mostly in the figure of Wayne LaPierre of the NRA that a “good guy with a gun” can stop a “bad guy with a gun”. This presupposes that the only folks with guns who mean evil intent are the “bad guys”. Let’s look at this mythical thinking in the first linked article above:
That argument was put to the test last weekend in Las Vegas, Nevada, when two “bad guys” with guns, Jerad Miller and his wife, Amanda, shot and killed two police officers. To be clear, the Milers were, in the eyes of the NRA, “good guys” until that exact moment when they used those guns to do “bad” things.
After the cold-blooded shooting, the Millers headed to a Wallmart for a final confrontation with police. Inside, there was a good guy — Joseph Wilcox, a 31-year old Las Vegas resident with a concealed carry permit and a gun in hand. Rather than running away, he took out his weapon and approached Jerad Miller from behind. It was a heroic and selfless act and one for which Wilcox deserves nothing but praise.
But it was an act that cost Wilcox his life.
Unbeknownst to him, there was more than one shooter, and when Wilcox approached Jerad Miller, he was shot in the back and killed by Amanda Miller.
While the NRA claims that a more armed population can prevent these types of mass killings, we know this is not true — and a tragic death like Wilcox’s is a far more likely outcome.
How does the gun lobby respond to this recent shooting in a Grand Forks, North Dakota Walmart store? From the article:
The gunman in Tuesday’s shooting had two passengers in the car when he pulled up to the Wal-Mart in south Grand Forks, Grand Forks Police Department spokesman said Wednesday.
Police Lt. Derik Zimmel said the two people stayed in the car while Marcell Travon Willis, 21, entered the Wal-Mart around 1 a.m. Within seconds, Willis allegedly shot two Wal-Mart employees, including 70-year-old Gregory Weiland, who died as a result.
Lisa Braun, 47, was injured from a gunshot wound. She was still in “satisfactory condition” as of 8:15 a.m. Wednesday, according to an Altru Health System news release.
Willis then shot at a third, unidentified Wal-Mart employee and missed before turning the gun on himself and ending his own life.
The shooter was stationed at the nearby Grand Forks Air Force Base:
Sean Willis of Nashville, Tennessee, said only that his son had been in the military for about three years and was originally from Springfield, Tennessee.
Sgt. David Dobrydney, a base spokesman, said he couldn’t yet release any information about Willis due to Air Force regulations.
So far we don’t know why the shooter did this and then took his own life with the gun. Most likely we will learn more in the coming investigation. But I think it’s safe to say that the shooter was a “law abiding” gun owner and therefore one of those “good guys” with a gun that the gun lobby is talking about.
The words uttered by Mr. LaPierre dropped like a thud on the American public. The inane response to a terrible national tragic shooting just seemed to puny and ridiculous and just plain incredulous. But this must be what the corporate gun lobby and its’ minions actually believe. They are wrong but they continue believing in myths. The Coalition to Stop Gun Violence took on this myth in an article about a poster boy for the “good guy” with a gun myth. They write about a case of an Alabama “good guy” with a gun who shot another in a presumed robbery but got away with the shooting. From the article:
Who Will Protect Us from the “Good Guys”?
Folks like Wayne LaPierre and Cam Edwards and “More Guns, Less Crime” Author John Lott might think our country is better off when criminals under indictment for rape are allowed to own guns and carry them in public. Rational Americans might disagree, and ask, “If these are your ‘good guys,’ who are your ‘bad guys’?” Perhaps then-NRA President Karl T. Frederick had this quandary in mind when he told Congress in 1934, “I do not believe in the general promiscuous toting of guns. I think it should be sharply restricted and only under licenses.”
It also begs the question of how many other NRA “Armed Citizens” have criminal records and histories of violence, a topic which Media Matters recently explored. As Timothy Johnson of Media Matters pointed out, the NRA’s glorification of individuals like Marlo Ellis “demonstrates how the show must scrape the bottom of the barrel to find actual cases of self-defense with a gun for its audience.”
The thing is, when all of those “good guys” with guns are walking around in public with their guns as they now are everywhere, how do we know what will happen? How will we know when one of them snaps or is suicidal and takes the lives of innocent people? How can we tell these “good guys” from the “bad guys”? And when we allow people with no permits or training to now carry guns as we have done in several states, we will open up our communities to more of these kind of shootings. It is inevitable.
And why wouldn’t the “bad guys”- and by that term I assume the gun lobby means criminals and domestic abusers and others who are otherwise prohibited from owning and carrying guns- also then carry their illegally or, actually, legally purchased guns in public? And what I mean by legally purchased is the policy of allowing private sellers to sell guns at gun shows, through Internet sites ( Armslist.com) on Facebook, in daily newspapers and/or flea markets and other venues. It’s legal because we have not passed laws to require those gun sales by private sellers to undergo background checks.
Which brings me to my point. We have no idea if someone obtained their gun with a background check or not. And in states that don’t require background checks before granting carry licenses, we surely can’t guarantee that the person with the gun is law abiding. Without background checks on all gun sales, the person carrying with a license that doesn’t require a background check and a gun purchased without a background check could be the next Jared Loughner or the next Radcliffe Haughton.
The public has common sense when it comes to background checks. 92% of Americans (and including gun owners) believe all gun sales should come with a background check. Of course. Why in the world did anyone believe it was a good idea in the first place to not require background checks for all gun sales? It slipped through the cracks of the Brady Law when it passed in 1993 in part because then there were only occasional private sellers. Now is different. Private sellers often have exhibits of guns similar to those being sold down the aisle by licensed dealers where background checks are required. And a whole new market has opened up on the internet at places like Armslist.com, even on Facebook and in ads in local newspapers for just a few. Yesterday there were 3 guns for sale by private sellers in my home town newspaper. How about yours? I assume they will be sold with no background check. In my state of Minnesota today there are multiple listings of guns for sale by private sellers- presumably with no background check. In fact, this website called gunlistings.com makes it very easy to find gun ads in papers all over the country. Interestingly enough, there is advice for the buyer and the seller here:
For ensured safety when buying or selling your guns you should meet at a FFL dealer and conduct the transaction through the gun dealer. (transfer fees vary by dealer)
It is up to the buyer and seller to determine if transfering the gun through an FFL is required by law.
If you choose to conduct a transaction privately always meet in a public place!
Always consult federal, state, and local laws before conducting firearms transactions.
At least that advice was given. We have no idea if it’s taken. And we can see how easy it is to find guns for sale from private sellers.
Consider the reason we need a national law. Some states require background checks on all or most gun sales and some don’t. Naturally those who don’t want to go through a background check know where to go to get their guns. And when they are allowed to buy as many as they want, it doesn’t take too much imagination to understand what happens with those guns.
We need to finish the job started in 1993 and require all gun sales to go through Brady background checks. The Brady Campaign’s Finish The Job campaign asks you to sign a petition to send to Congress to pass the background check law they refused to pass after the horrific Sandy Hook school shooting. If we don’t pass this law, we are not doing our job to protect our communities from devastating gun violence. We also know that even this will not stop all shootings or all “bad guys” from getting guns. There are straw purchases, stolen guns, bad apple gun dealers and lots of trafficking. But it is one way to make us safer. Saving lives is what this is all about and if we can save lives, why wouldn’t we? And the bigger question is why the corporate gun lobby is so opposed to keeping guns out of the hands of the “bad guys” instead of a laser focus on arming who they believe to be the “good guys”.
It’s time for a change of conversation and a change to our gun las. We need action and we need those who support background checks to speak out and bring others with them. Lives depend on it. We are better than this as a country.
10 thoughts on ““Good guy with a gun” myth”
I’m not an NRA member but I do carry a gun for self defense. For as many stories were an armed citizen was killed by his attacker, there are just as many were the armed citizen prevailed. The reality of many of these incidents are never reported as they are not news worthy and some are even not reported to the police. I’ve used my gun in my defense on three separate occasions and each time I did so without firing a shot. Just the presence of the drawn weapon was enough to make the perpetrator cease his violent action and ended the fight.
Then we have to just believe that what you say is true because there is absolutely no concrete evidence showing that you used your gun in self defense. And that is the big deception about defensive gun use. Read this article for the actual numbers and why what you say doesn’t hold up. http://www.armedwithreason.com/debunking-the-defensive-gun-use-myth/
“Kleck himself admitted in 1997, in response to criticism of his survey, that 36 to 64 percent of the defensive gun uses reported in the survey were likely illegal—meaning the firearm was used to intimidate or harm another person rather than for legitimate self-defense. His conjecture was confirmed by a Harvard study showing that 51 percent of defensive gun uses in a large survey were illegal according to a panel of 5 judges. This was even after the judges were told to take the respondents at their word, deliberately ignoring the tendency of respondents to portray themselves in a positive light.
Let’s assume for a moment that Kleck and Getz’s estimates are accurate. Rather than being a boon to civilized society, then, these estimates of 1 million to 2.5 million defensive gun uses annually would instead indicate an epidemic of irresponsible gun owners—millions! Lucky for us, despite what the NRA’s favorite criminologists claim, this clearly isn’t the case.
The myth of widespread defensive gun use is at the heart of the push to weaken already near catatonic laws controlling the use of guns and expand where good guys can carry guns to bars, houses of worship and college campuses—all in the mistaken belief that more “good guys with guns” will help stop the “bad guys.” As Wayne LaPierre of the NRA railed in the wake of the Sandy Hook shooting: “The only thing that stops a bad guy with a gun, is a good guy with a gun.”
But the evidence clearly shows that our lax gun laws and increased gun ownership, spurred on by this myth, do not help “good guys with guns” defend themselves, their families or our society. Instead, they are aiding and abetting criminals by providing them with more guns, with 200,000 already stolen on an annual basis. And more guns means more homicides. More suicides. More dead men, women and children. Not fewer.”
“Then we have to just believe that what you say is true because there is absolutely no concrete evidence showing that you used your gun in self defense. And that is the big deception about defensive gun use.”
That is pretty Orwellian to ask a person to prove he has not committed a crime (i.e. criminal use of firearm) rather than relying on the fact that people are not guilty until proven otherwise… which in this case Mr. Edwards clearly is, unless you get Internet connection in US prisons.
I don’t understand why you feel the urge to mix the issue of easy access to firearms to criminals with the issue of defensive gun uses by crime victims. You could have written quite a good post on the issue of lack of background checks, but you just couldn’t resist the urge to top it up with the nonsensical assertion that a crime victim is better off unarmed than armed (because that is what you are ultimately saying), could you?
If you so much believe that the sentence “good guys with guns don’t stop bad guys with guns”, then you should start advocating also Police disarmament. Because policemen are good guys with guns as same as your average CCer, and in quite few areas policemen are actually more likely to commit a crime than a person with concealed carry license.
I love reading anti-gunners saying that good guys with guns don’t stop bad guys with guns, but when the SHTF instead of singing Kumba Ya and hugging the attacker, they do call the good guys with guns to come to the rescue, be it a cop on the phone or – when they realize that the police response time maybe way, way longer than what is needed to stop the attacker before he delivers serious harm to them – or the armed neighbor whom they have been until that moment always calling a paranoid armed lunatic.
It was supposed to be:
If you so much believe that the sentence “good guys with guns don’t stop bad guys with guns” IS WRONG.
cimmerianpraetor; well said.
Commongunsense, I am intimately familiar with the gun laws in my state and do not violate them. I do not brandish, or flaunt my weapon. The only times I have drawn my gun was in situations where I was legally in the right to use deadly force. That is to say, if I had pulled the trigger, I would have been in full legal right to shoot and kill the other person on the end of the gun. I would seriously suggest you look in to self defense law, particularly the concept of “Disparity of Force”.
And that is not my point. If you read my blog you would know that I am saying it’s not true that the only people who do bad things with their guns are “bad guys” and it’s very rare for “good guys” to defend against those times. It is, as it turns out, mostly “good guys” with guns who are shooting others or even themselves. So carry if you must but just know that the gun you carry or own is more likely to be used against you or someone you know or love than in self defense. I know the self defense laws.
No worries. I’m not gonna dispute any of your statistics. I just wanted to clarify that I follow the laws where I live and do not use weapons as intimidation tools. I treat my firearm like I would any other piece of life saving equipment. Same as I would my fire extinguisher or my trauma kit, (both of which any responsible shooter should take to the range). Handled only when needed and left alone when not. As to making sure my firearm is not used against me, firearm retention training is a great skill to have and one I would recommend that anyone who carries learns.
Glad to hear you are a responsible gun owner. Too many are not as I write about in every post on this blog.
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