The “good guy, bad guy” argument needs to stop. There is no such thing. Two summers ago, an excellent student with no criminal record walked right into a movie theater and shot and killed twelve people, injuring 70 more, half an hour away from my house. I was out that night at a different theater, watching that same movie. Today a retired police officer shot and killed a man in a movie theater in Florida because of an argument about texting during a movie. Pro-gun rhetoric squeezes all it can out of the word “training,” and the idea that a Good Guy gunman could have helped these situations. Naturally two guns in the same crowded room makes us feel safer than just one, right? Wouldn’t it just have been better if both men had shot each other? That’s justice, right?
To make it a little clearer, let’s grant the fabulous future of Trained Good Guy Gunmen popping out of every cupboard, just for the sake of argument. In this ideal world, one day you go to the grocery store. You’re browsing cereals without a care in the world, when all of a sudden you hear gunshots from the checkout lines. You pull out your gun and your Training and move toward the sound. Surprise! Everyone else had the same idea, and they’re all shooting at one another. Good thing your Training taught you to… recognize Bad Guys? Clearly everyone else has had the same training, so you should all be shooting at the right person. Wait, no, that’s not it. Training taught you how to shoot people. Are you nervous? Probably not reading this. You may still be thinking about cereal. “I wouldn’t be nervous,” you say. “THAT’s what training is for.”
The same summer as the shooting, my family happened to be at my grandmother’s house for brunch at about ten o'clock on a Saturday morning. Halfway through the meal we heard some noises by the front door, and my grandmother went to see what it was. Within a few seconds, she was shouting for us to call 911, and my little sister got up from the table just in time to see a man hit my grandmother over the head with a pipe and run out of the house. I have had self-defense training. I watch plenty of movies. I’m an admittedly neurotic person sometimes when it comes to defending the people I love. Until that day I had, every day, grounded some of my peace of mind in being sure that I could react the right way in unexpected situations, so here’s another moment when I want to be abundantly clear: I feel no shame in having panicked in a horrifying and unexpected situation. I feel regret; I feel pain; I still get overwhelming rushes of fear and adrenaline thinking about that day, and I get up almost every night to check noises that I hear. It’s probably some form of PTSD. I do not feel shame, because this situation happens to everyone. If you are so sure you think you know how you will react when you’re unexpectedly threatened, you are tragically wrong, and it’s something you just have to accept. My grandmother is now fine, and the police caught the man later that day. I don’t wish I had had a gun.
Forgive the language, but the thought that you need a gun to defend yourself as a Good Guy against a Bad Guy is bullshit. Complete and utter bullshit. After the Florida theater shooting, apologists argued that the incident proved that the retired police officer had no business owning a firearm, and that it was not the firearm’s fault.
If the sign that someone shouldn’t own a gun is the thoughtless killing of ordinary unarmed people, what is an ordinary unarmed person like me to do about it? What about children?
Is the value of my entire life, or the life of your child, your parent, your sibling, your lover, your friend, really worth the “test” to see whether or not any random person should own machines designed specifically to kill human beings?
“It’s not the gun’s fault” is laughable. Did you raise the stupid thing from a little gun-puppy? Do you sing it to sleep? Does it have sensitive feelings that are hurt by all those nasty gun-control people? Give it a rest. Newsflash: everyone KNOWS guns aren’t sentient. When it comes down to it, gun designers have one thing in mind, and that’s murder. Efficient murder. Efficient, easy murder. Ideally, that’s the murder of the guy breaking into your house. It also happens to be the kind of murder anybody can just walk into a movie theater and perform on anybody’s father.
Here’s my take on guns. As an ordinary citizen taking a walk, when you choose to carry a gun with you, you’re also carrying five degrees of premeditated violence that any other ordinary citizen does not have. First, you get a license and carry permit for your gun – you want have it and be ready to use it. That’s one degree of premeditated violence. Then you buy it. That’s two degrees of premeditated violence. You also buy bullets to load in the gun – the gun won’t work otherwise. That’s three degrees. On any given day, you choose to load the bullets into the gun – the gun won’t be ready to do what it does if you haven’t. Four degrees. You decide to take it with you when you go on your walk – what if you happen to need your gun to do what it does? At the absolute bare minimum, that’s five separate times you’ve been motivated to be ready to do something violent. I certainly don’t have that readiness. Should I?
You are not the Good Guy or the Bad Guy. Neither am I. We are both human beings, and neither of us should be ready to kill.