Bell Curve The Law Talking Guy Raised by Republicans U.S. West
Well, he's kind of had it in for me ever since I accidentally ran over his dog. Actually, replace "accidentally" with "repeatedly," and replace "dog" with "son."

Sunday, January 16, 2011

Concealed Handguns and Personal Safety

Many on the right like to argue that society is breaking down, that law enforcement agencies in particular are incapable of protecting law abiding individuals. They argue from this premise that allowing as many law abiding citizens to cary concealed hand guns will enhance the personal safety of the armed individual as well as general public safety. The logic is that when criminals are forced to consider that any given potential victim may be armed, they will not attack/rob as many people as often.

In the wake of the shootings in Arizona, CNN interviewed a witness who was carrying a concealed hand gun at the time of the shooting. He said he carried it because it made him feel safer. He was in the grocery store when he heard the shots. When he looked out the door of the grocery store, he saw a man raising a semi automatic hand gun. As the man told his story, he said he had a split second to decide to draw his own weapon and fire, run away for cover, or confront the man he saw raising the gun without drawing his own weapon. He chose the last option. That is fortunate because when he grabbed the man's arm, he found out that the guy raising the gun was not the shooter but one of the victims who had tackled Loughner when he stopped to reload.

The man being interviewed was fairly candid about how close he came to compounding the tragedy rather than preventing or resolving it. He pointed out that he could easily have shot an innocent man and in doing so made himself appear as a "second shooter" to anyone else in the crowd who might have had a concealed weapon or to responding police/security.

This story underscores many of what I consider to be the myths around the idea that having lots of random people carrying concealed hand guns makes any of us safer. This man being interviewed could easily have turned a tragic shooting with 20 or so victims into a chaotic free-for-all with many more victims. Or he could have been shot by the police while brandishing his weapon in a well intentioned attempt to secure the situation himself. Furthermore, in the end, this man in the interview was confronted with a truly violent crisis that was a potential threat to his safety. Unless he is a cop, a soldier, etc or lives in an unusually dangerous neighborhood, this will probably be the most dangerous situation of this sort he ever sees in his life. And yet, his hand gun ended up not doing him any good at all and may have made his situation worse.

Finally look at this situation from the point of view of a responding police officer. Suppose you are a cop responding to a frantic 911 call about shots fired at the local mall with several victims down. You pull up in your cruiser and jump out drawing your weapon. In an instant you have to survey the crowd for the shooter. You have every reason to believe that you are the first police officer on the scene yet you see a couple of people in civilian clothes holding pistols amid a panicked crowd with several people on the ground wounded. Would that situation make your job easier or harder?

At a minimum, a cop in this situation would have to confront the armed people he sees and tell them to disarm. That takes time. Assuming the people with guns that (s)he sees first are innocent bystanders trying to protect themselves with their legally carried guns, the cop still has to identify and stop the perpetrator. Having to disarm bystanders slows that down at best and at worst presents opportunities for further tragedy.

As an unarmed citizen, I feel safer with faster response rates by police, fewer people throwing bullets around in a crisis, and an environment in which trained law enforcement agents (accountable to democratically elected representatives) can perform their duties as efficiently as possible. To be honest, I simply do not understand the thinking that bring people to the conclusion that a world with high numbers of secretly armed civilians makes any of us safer.


The Law Talking Guy said...

It is an unfortunate libertarian myth promoted by the NRA and the right wing that these shooting incidents are (1) acts of lone nutjobs that would occur no matter what society, laws, or government we had and (2) that there is an easy, satisfying non-state, non-law solution to these, which involves citizens taking law enforcement into their own hands.

The premise and conclusion are flawed. First, these acts do not happen in a vacuum. The shooter in Tucson had ready access to weapons and untreated mental health problems, plus a society that encourages violence as a means of solving problems. These shootings are American problems for the most part because owe have lax gun laws, no mental heath care for most people, and a strong gun lobby. Second, the solutions are not wild west deterrence. But stricter gun laws, good mental health care, and a change in our culture away from gun violence.

It is worth recalling that in the old west, it was the general rule that guns were not permitted in towns. This was true in Dodge, Kansas. It has been known for a very long time, ever since swords were banned in parliament, that te presence of deadly weapons dramatically multiplies the negative effects of violence.

Raised By Republicans said...

"It is worth recalling that in the old west, it was the general rule that guns were not permitted in towns. This was true in Dodge, Kansas. It has been known for a very long time, ever since swords were banned in parliament, that te presence of deadly weapons dramatically multiplies the negative effects of violence."

It was also true in Tombstone, AZ at the time of Wyatt Erp et al. In fact, I believe the famous gunfight at the OK Coral began when the Erps (who were law enforcement officers) attempted to disarm the Clantons and McLawrys who were violating the ban on carrying weapons (concealed or otherwise).

Anonymous said...

Not to get all Helen Lovejoy on everyone, but a depressing number of gun-related deaths in this country are accidental and involve children (Junior finds gun in nightstand, shoots Taylor and Tyler).

More guns make that statistic worse, not better. If I kept a concealed weapon in my diaper bag, I'm sure Law Talking Toddler could find it faster than I could if she was looking for goldfish crackers.

I've never properly understood the rationale for having guns and kids in the same house (maybe I've been avoiding television news too assiduously). Guns are supposed to be stored unloaded, and both guns and bullets are supposed to be kept locked up (preferably in separate locations). If I'm ever the incredibly unlikely victim of a "home invasion," I'd much rather dial 911, thank you very much.

-Seventh Sister

Anonymous said...

скачать саундтреки к фильмам скачать фильмы бесплатно регистрации смс

USwest said...

The New Yorker just ran something rather interesting about the Constitution and guns, and it reflects with Citizens have said in other comments on the issue: that everyone pretty much thought the NRA was nuts when it first presented the argument that the 2nd Amendment protected the right of individuals to bear arms. Read on.
Gun discussion stars on page 5 of the article.
"In an interview in 1991, the former Chief Justice Warren Burger said that the N.R.A.’s interpretation of the Second Amendment was “one of the greatest pieces of fraud, I repeat the word ‘fraud,’ on the American public by special interest groups that I have ever seen in my lifetime.”

USWest said...

Another hit for you all to look at:

This is a clip from a panel discussion I saw on The News Hour on PBS at about how we deal with the mentally ill from a medical and legal perspective. It was really eye opening for me. As one panelist said, "We talk about a system. We don't have a system. We have something put together with bubble gum."

Dr. Strangelove said...

Thanks for the link--that was good article from the New Yorker. A bird's eye view of some of the issues here.