The Myth of the Good Guy with a Gun

invented-first-gun-1The debate over guns in our country is filled with disinformation on both sides.  Yeah – you heard me – both sides.  Being someone who isn’t all that nuts about guns, I totally get that I don’t know everything and some of the stuff I think I know is probably wrong.  I would like to believe people on the other side of the debate understand the same thing.

What I know is that I don’t like guns.  I don’t like it when I’m around people with guns.  Even police officers make me nervous.

I also know that not liking guns is different from saying “let’s get rid of all the guns.”

But look, I think the NRA is about the worst thing that can happen to the gun debate.  Because they are intractable.  Because they are a regular source of bad information.  And because they make shit up.

In specific, I want talk about the phrase “the only thing that will stop a bad guy with a gun is a good guy with a gun.”

I mean, that sounds like a really reasonable thing to say, right? If all of the good guys out there are armed, the bad guys don’t stand a chance!

Here’s the problem, though.  Everyone thinks they are the good guy.

OK.  Maybe not everyone.  But let’s take a few examples.  Let’s consider the dude who shot up an abortion clinic last year.  In his story, he was the good guy.  He was saving babies!

How about that couple who shot up a Christmas party?  Totally the good guys.  They had been radicalized and convinced that the people at the party deserved to die. They believed god would reward them in heaven.

And what about the guys who shot a bunch of people at a Black Lives Matter protest in Minneapolis?  They genuinely believed they were the good guys when they decided to deride the protestors and brought their guns along.  Now they are just lucky they didn’t manage to kill anyone.

The dudes occupying Federal land in Oregon?  Well they clearly feel they are good guys with guns.  Others (including myself) don’t see them that way.  But consider this – if law enforcement turned up and tried to get those guys to leave, would law enforcement be good guys with guns or bad guys with guns?  Wouldn’t that depend on your perspective?


Remember how the Branch Davidians were a bunch of crazy child rapists until they set fire to their own compound and now everyone think they were the good guys? Or at least they think the Government were the bad guys?

If you think the government controls too much land and those poor ranchers should be allowed to graze on land the government stole from the native americans, you are probably going to think anyone opposing those dudes is a bad guy.  And if he has a gun, those dudes would be morally justified to shoot him in order to “defend themselves.”

If, on the other hand, you think those ranchers are occupiers and they should maybe use their guns to poach deer instead of pointing them at federal officers (in case federal officers ever give enough fucks to show up), you might think of them as bad guys with guns.

Really, though, they are just guys with guns.

Good guys with guns are a myth.  So are bad guys with guns.  All of them are just people with guns. You can think it is fucking awesome that those people have guns or you can hate it.  You can’t, however, really know which ones are the good guys because good is almost entirely a matter of perspective.

So let’s fix that NRA phrase a little and say “the only person who can stop a guy with a gun is another guy with a gun.”  Because that’s all they are really saying.

And that, too, is a lie.

Because according to statistics posted on CNN (which is a hotbed of liberalism as we all know), 40% of shooters (“bad guys” with guns) commit suicide.  That means that four out of ten “bad guys” with guns are stopped by “bad guys” with guns.

Further, 13.1% are stopped by unarmed civilians.  So if your narrative is only people with guns can stop other people with guns, it turns out that narrative isn’t actually true.  Because people without guns apparently can stop people with guns.

The argument is a complete straw man built around the idea that our safety increases in direct proportion to the number of people around us who are packing.

All of these people feel a lot safer right now.

All of these people feel a lot safer right now.

Thing is, because we all think we are the good guy, guns really only make the person carrying the gun feel safer.  The rest of us really don’t know whether or not that person is a good guy because in this context, good is completely subjective.

Most crime is not premeditated.  That means that most people with a gun don’t believe they are going to use it to kill someone in anger.  Until they do.

The police are good guys with guns.  Until they shoot someone who didn’t pose any kind of immediate threat to life and limb and hide behind a badge to justify the act.

These acts may be random and they may be rare but how is everyone else supposed to know which person with a gun is safe on a particular day?  We can just assume they are all safe because most of them probably are.  But we still don’t know.  We can’t know.  Even if we think we know, what if today is their Falling Down day?

I don’t question that our country provides people with the constitutional right to have a gun.  I also believe that reasonable limits on gun ownership are fair.

I’m tired, however, of conversations that obfuscate the actual debate.  The good guy with a gun is a myth created to distract everyone from the real questions that need answering (like whether or not Obama pretends to cry about murder victims.)  I, like most everyone else, don’t have the answers.

But I can tell you that I, just like everyone else, believe I would be a good guy with a gun.  And that scares me.


About Petsnakereggie

Geek, movie buff, dad, musician, comedian, atheist, liberal and writer. I also really like Taco flavored Doritos.

6 responses to “The Myth of the Good Guy with a Gun”

  1. Jess says :

    What I find most interesting here is your narrative, which seems to boil down to “I’m afraid of guns. I’m afraid of people who aren’t afraid of guns. Therefore, guns are bad and shouldn’t be around at all.”

    Yup…interesting. What exactly ARE the statistics of people dying due to gun-related incidents? Auto accidents? Heart disease?

    What about the statistical murder rate in the US now, five years ago, ten years ago, etc? Ah, media manipulation of hot-button topics.

    Who needs facts, when there’s fear?

    • Gordon says :

      Sorry Jess, but you need to read more carefully. You’ve purposely misconstrued Tim’s meaning.

      What about

      “I also know that not liking guns is different from saying “let’s get rid of all the guns.””

      makes your interpretation correct?

      Nothing. That’s what.

    • Petsnakereggie says :

      What’s really funny is that I never said anything like that. Never said guns shouldn’t be around. Not once. Not ever.

  2. Albatross says :

    I read a lot of very reasonable approaches like this one, suggesting that it would be nice if we all calmed down and talked about this like reasonable people.

    My approach is different. I say, “Repeal the Second Amendment, leave all existing guns in place to rot, terminate all sales of guns and ammunition to private citizens. Over time guns used in crimes will be confiscated, while guns in the hands of responsible citizens and collectors will remain in place.”

    Why do I say this? I don’t say this because I believe it will actually happen. I say this because I’m tired of reasonable gun-control advocates finding themselves in debates with intractable absolutists who believe they have the constitutional right to open fire in a crowded theater if they have identified a “bad guy.”

    You guys want to be a bunch of absolutist jerks? Fine, so can I. Get rid of the stupid, outdated, antiquated, completely misinterpreted Second Amendment (amazing how the whole “militia” thing is completely ignored), end gun sales to private citizens, period.

    You don’t like that idea? Then quit being a bunch of absolutist fact-denying jerks in the face of the mass carnage being wreaked in America’s streets.

  3. Tyler Tork says :

    I’d be curious to know what percentage of “bad guys” are actually stopped by armed civilians. It’s not 100%-40%-13%=47% because often people shoot and flee and the police catch (or don’t catch) them later.

    • Petsnakereggie says :

      According to the CNN link, 3.1% are stopped by armed civilians. The rest are stopped by law enforcement.

      Gun advocates are quick to point out these statistics don’t include armed civilians who stopped a crime before it was committed and argue many of those crimes would end up going unreported. I couldn’t tell you what those percentages are but I’m willing to speculate they are pretty small.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: