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'Good Guy With a Gun' Stories Are a Lot Less Common Than the NRA Wants You to Believe

06/22/2015 04:55 pm ET | Updated Jun 22, 2016
KAREN BLEIER via Getty Images

Every time there's a mass shooting, it ignites the debate about whether guns make us more or less safe. And even though the NRA has been surprisingly silent since the Charleston massacre (but that will probably change within the next few days) they have plenty of surrogates running the virtues of the 'armed citizen' up the rhetorical flagpole, of which the latest is a story in the online Washington Times about how "a good guy with a gun stopped a bad guy, saving lives." The intro to the story says "With tragic events such as the shooting of a bible study group at a church in Charleston, South Carolina, the stories of heroic self defense and lives saved by legal gun owners are often overlooked." And we are then treated to eleven examples of what happened when bad guys were confronted by good guys carrying guns.

Before I review these 11 stories, bear in mind that whenever someone promotes the armed-citizen nonsense, there's usually some caveat about how the 'mainstream' media goes out of their way to diminish or entirely ignore all the wonderful things accomplished by good guys with guns. But since this story ran in the Washington Times, which promotes the NRA's viewpoint as if the Reverend Moon owned the NRA, I'm going to assume that these stories are the real deal and, if not an exhaustive compilation of good guy-bad guy episodes, at least give us some idea of how much and how often we can depend on our fellow armed citizens to protect us from all those nasties out there.

The first story concerns Jeanne Assam, who was something of a poster-girl for the CCW movement after she shot and killed a shooter outside of a Colorado Springs church following a Sunday service when congregants were heading for their cars. Actually, it turned out that the shooter committed suicide after being wounded by Assam's gunfire, but let's not quibble over details. The bottom line is that her actions may have saved the lives of other parishioners, so she deserves our recognition and our thanks.

But there's only one little problem with the story itself, namely, that it occurred in 2007. And if you take the trouble to read through all 11 accounts of armed citizens protecting someone else or just themselves, it turns out that only one of the episodes took place in 2015. In fact, one of the episodes took place in 2006, and in two other instances, the 'armed citizens' turned out to be professional security guards or cops. So what the story gets down to is, in fact, exactly nine examples of good guys protecting us from bad guys over a period of nine years.

Now you would think that in a country which, according to John Lott's estimate, has issued more than 11 million concealed-carry permits, that the Washington Times could dig up more than nine stories to prove that bad guys are only stopped by good guys carrying guns. So I went to the real fount of knowledge when it comes to the benefits of concealed-carry, namely, the NRA, which has been publishing examples of good guys stopping bad guys since 1958. Here's how they put it: "The NRA Armed Citizen® stories highlight accounts of law-abiding gun owners in America using their Second Amendment rights to defend self, home and family."

Know how many good-guy stories the NRA has published in the past 57 years? Somewhere around 1,540, give or take a few, which translates into roughly 36 per year. Don't get me wrong; the people whose lives were saved by those 1,540 good guys will never be able to thank them enough. But do those numbers balance out the 30 people who are shot to death every day? Maybe what good guys do and what bad guys do have nothing to do with each other. But they do. It's called a gun.