About that ‘good guy’ with a gun

The Hamilton Spectator - - OPINION -

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.

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