So, you’re a good guy with a gun. I get it. I’ve seen the bumper sticker, heard the slogan a million times, and I even used to be one of you. I’m retired military, was an expert marksman, and was even awarded the Bronze Schützenschnur by the German army.
I was a bonafide good guy with a gun for most of my adult life thus far. But even in my most pro-gun days, the entire American motif of a good guy with a gun made me ask some hard questions– and left me feeling less and less comfortable with the whole concept.
I appreciate the basic sentiment of it all, really. I want my family to live in safety as well, and my desire-meter ranks precisely zero for how badly I’d like to die while standing in line at the deli.
However, this idea that the only thing that can stop a bad guy with a gun is a good guy with a gun is really over-simplified. In fact, I think it is dangerously over-simplified and should really invite some hard questions for those would-be good guys with guns.
The first question this invites is, where will you keep it? Studies show that the presence of a gun in the home increases the likelihood that someone will get shot. Further, we have a growing problem in America of toddlers shooting people with guns they stumble upon. Will you at least keep it locked up in a gun safe where kids can’t access it?
I hope you’ll be that reasonable. But, if you do keep it locked up in a safe because you don’t want your kids getting their hands on it, that invites another question: What good would that do you in an emergency? I mean, having it inconveniently out of reach under lock and key sorta defeats the entire point, no?
But let’s say you resolve that issue– perhaps you’ll be one of those good guys with a gun who carries it everywhere. You strap it safely to your hip, have a hollow point in the chamber, and you’re locked and loaded. That too invites a whole additional line of questioning.
Perhaps the biggest question it invites is this: What qualifies you to be a good guy with a gun who is ready to end a human life at a moment’s notice? Is there some special qualification, or is the mere fact that you think highly of your personal character all the qualification you need?
Some states (like my home state of Maine) require no training at all to be a good guy with a concealed gun, while others require some sort of basic gun safety training. Let’s say you took one of these basic courses: Does a few hours or even a few days of training qualify you to be making life or death decisions in a split second while shopping in Walmart?
If it does, why do the military and law enforcement constantly train? Why not give our professional good guys a few hours of training on a Saturday, hand them a gun, and call it good?
Let’s give the benefit of the doubt for a moment, and consider that you’re an expert on gun safety and an expert marksman. That still leaves a bigger question: Have you taken “kill or no kill” training? Like, lots and lots of it where you decide if someone lives or dies, on the spot and in less than a second? Because that’s what you’ll have to do in real life as a good guy with a gun.
It’s one thing to be a decent person who owns a gun and is trained on the mechanics of how to use it, but what about split-second judgement calls when a human life is in the balance? This is why professional arms bearers repeatedly take kill or no kill training– it’s not enough to be ready to shoot, one needs to have the ability to decide if to shoot at all.
Let me ask you a hypothetical: let’s say you’re standing in the movie isle at Walmart and you hear gunfire and people screaming. You quickly remember that you’re a good guy with a gun, so you draw your weapon and run to the end of the isle. Once you get there, you see a guy with his own gun drawn, and is pointing it in the opposite direction as you.
Do you kill him while you have a clean shot?
How do you know he’s the shooter and not good-guy Jeff who is trying to save the day? You only have a second to decide, so is Jeff a terrorist or one of the good guys? Should he live or die? What if you hesitate too long and he kills another person? What if you shoot too soon and find out that Jeff was the father of four kids and a super nice guy with a gun?
Are you really comfortable deciding who lives and who dies with limited information, surging adrenaline, and total chaos?
And what about the cops? Let’s say they arrive at this active shooter scene, and they see you in aisle number 4 with your gun drawn. Do you expect them to just intrinsically know you’re a good guy with a gun? They only have a second to decide too– and now your life hangs in the balance.
So, you’re a good guy with a gun. I get it.
But have you wrestled with these questions? Politicians and gun makers like to simplify the entire aspect of being a good guy with a gun, as if the average good-hearted Joe is qualified and has the ability to make life or death decisions on a dime. And, if it really were that simple, I’d understand.
But the reality is, it’s not that simple.
Guns, when used properly, end life. Once you pull the trigger there’s no taking the bullet back. There’s no do-overs in this game, and not the slightest room for even partial error.
While I appreciate the sentiment of wanting to protect one’s family, I hope you’ll at least ask yourself some of these hard questions– because being a good guy with a gun isn’t as simple as they’d lead you to believe.
The Daily Show recently took on this issue, and tried to find out if basic gun training was enough to be a good guy with a gun. Here’s what they found out: