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.
Sunday, January 16, 2011
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.
Posted by Raised By Republicans at 4:31 PM