On HBO's Real Time with Bill Maher last Friday there was an extended and heated debate about gun control. The participants included Newark, NJ mayor Cory Booker and author Sam Harris, who, in case you don't recognize the name, happens to be an insufferable marketeer of the "both sides are awful" false equivalence. The debate mostly centered around Cory Booker arguing for a massive effort to seize illegally-obtained firearms, with Maher and Harris telling him he's crazy to try. Toward the end of the exchange, Maher paraphrased a question that Harris raised on his blog and presented his panel with a scenario in which they're all in a public place and "a mad man has a gun."
Then Maher asked the question, "Are you really happy that he's the only one there with a gun? Really?" He continued, "Is what's going through your mind: thank God he's the only one with a gun, because I wouldn't want to be caught in a crossfire?" Maher pointed to Booker and asked him, "Is that really what you would want in that situation?" It's easy to see where Maher was leading the panel with this line of questioning. Shockingly, yes, Maher was invoking Wayne LaPierre's classic NRA bumper-sticker myth: "The only thing that stops a bad guy with a gun is a good guy with a gun."
I've always been a huge Bill Maher fan, but on this issue he's either been reading too many of Sam Harris' "both sides are equally crazy on the gun debate" posts, or he's seen too many movies in which the hero miraculously appears from around a corner and, barely aiming, pops off a single lethal shot to the villain's head with laser precision even though innocent bystanders and human shields are all around.
If I had been sitting on that panel I would've emphatically replied, "No. I don't want some other dude with a gun in the room. Generally speaking, the addition of a second gun has effectively doubled my chances of being killed by one of the gunmen, intentionally or not."
1) Not even trained law enforcement officials will charge randomly into a gunman scenario with weapons blazing when there are civilian hostages involved. In Alabama, it took days for law enforcement officials, including the FBI, to finally blast their way into Jimmy Lee Dykes' doomsday bunker where he was holding a 5-year-old boy hostage. Should they have unflinchingly risked the life of the boy by storming the bunker on day one? It's difficult to know for sure, but clearly they delayed their rescue attempt because of the existence of a child hostage.
2) In the last 30 years how many mass shootings have been thwarted by "a good guy with a gun" in the United States? According to Mother Jones, zero. None. In fact, one in every five shootings at hospital ERs occur using a firearm taken from an armed guard.
3) Ronald Reagan and John F. Kennedy were surrounded by trained Secret Service agents armed with powerful firearms including, if you recall from the infamous Reagan assassination-attempt footage, an Uzi sub-machine gun. Reagan was wounded, as were James Brady and two others. Kennedy was killed and Texas governor John Connally was seriously wounded.
4) On Sunday, the author of American Sniper, Chris Kyle, who also happens to be the American military's deadliest sharpshooter, was gunned down. At a rifle range. While carrying a firearm. Not only that, but the gunman shot and killed a second man, Chad Littlefield, who was also carrying a firearm. Two good guys with firearms couldn't stop one bad guy (in this case a veteran suffering from Post-traumatic Stress Disorder).
5) So, based on both anecdotal and empirical evidence, there's really no chance of a trained good guy gunman taking out a bad guy gunman. That leaves us with someone else who's conceal-carrying a firearm. In this case, I especially don't trust a fumbly adrenaline-charged self-deputized self-appointed hotshot good guy whose actions could potentially escalate the situation -- perhaps instigating the gunman to start popping off more rounds. At me. I mean, what if this other good guy gunman was standing right next to me? Or, worse, behind me. Then I'm definitely in the crossfire. And what if another bystander thinks the good guy is a second bad guy and tries to stop the good guy, subsequently starting a ruckus that instigates the bad guy to start shooting people?
The last thing I'd want is for there to be a second gunman in the room.
In broader terms, here's why the left always loses the gun control debate: we're too inclined to acquiesce on serious points -- to concede to the immovable, uncompromising gun people. No matter what you or Bill Maher or Sam Harris say, the pro-gun lobbyists and their human predator drones in Congress will not concede on anything. Ever. Granting them validity on one of their most nefarious bumper-sticker slogans by using some sort of myopic hypothetical conundrum only empowers the NRA who absolutely will not offer a single reciprocal concession.
The NRA types are hardline domino-theorists and they will forever argue that any encroachment whatsoever on gun ownership will lead to a tyrannical government usurping our freedom. They're clinging to the antiquated Second Amendment like religious zealots who worship at the altar of Leviticus. Again, you will not persuade them by capitulating to their nonsense.
Enough is enough. We have to get the guns and erase the toxic culture around them. Period.
Adding... Regarding the Mother Jones study, a commenter noted that the 62 mass shootings wouldn't be mass shootings if the gunman was killed, therefore the study is a logical paradox. Wrong. Mass shootings have to end somehow, and none of the 62 mass shootings over the last 30 years have ended with an armed civilian taking out the gunman. Fact.
UPDATE: Several commenters have posted lists of gun incidents in which the gunman has been allegedly thwarted by a citizen with a gun. (Wow -- a lot of gun violence in America. Maybe we should do something about that.) It's important to note that these commenters plagiarized their posts from a column by Ann Coulter and an Examiner.com and Daily Anarchist writer named Davi Barker, claiming the information as their own without any attribution. I would advise you consider any factual information reported by these columnists as suspicious, not to mention the commenters who plagiarized them.