About that ‘good guy’ with a gun
Viewpoint: Washington Post The solution to a bad guy with a gun, it is often said, is a good guy with a gun. Yet according to Dallas Mayor Mike Rawlings, there were 20 to 30 good guys openly carrying guns among the protesters whom Dallas police were supervising last Thursday night, when Micah Xavier Johnson began picking off officers.
In fact, the presence of so many guns could have made Thursday’s massacre worse. Officers did not know where the shooting was coming from, how many people were involved or what kinds of weapons they were facing. Innocent protesters publicly toting guns became immediate suspects.
Yes, guns can be properly and effectively used in self-defence. But saturating the nation with firearms also primes the country for deadly violence. Potential suicides are more likely to succeed. Deranged and angry people, such as Johnson, can murder trained law enforcement officers from a distance. Curious children accidentally shoot themselves, their friends or their parents. Domestic abusers kill family members before tempers cool or authorities arrive.
Debate about gun laws spikes after mass shootings because their carnage reminds us that guns are uniquely and efficiently deadly, and pitifully underregulated relative to the risks they pose. Yet gun violence in the United States is also unacceptably mundane, taking one or two lives at a time, all the time, with little fanfare and few headlines — just an ambulance carrying away the corpse of another battered wife, another child, another mentally ill person who felt she had no other option.
Partially because of gun advocates’ pressure on research organizations, public health experts have relatively little data on gun violence. But the research that exists increasingly shows there are effective measures that reduce gun deaths without materially infringing on law-abiding people’s liberty: deny firearms to domestic abusers, for example; perform serious background checks on would-be gun buyers; require that gun owners obtain a licence. Such measures would not stop every person bent on doing harm. But by making guns less easily available and less ubiquitous, they would make society safer.