Donald Trump may be bucking the conventional Republican wisdom on many things, such as whether George Dubbya Bush lied us into the Iraq War and whether or not a presidential campaign actually requires you to have money or a campaign staff.
But on the subject of gun violence, he’s right in line with Republican (which is to say NRA) thinking on the solution: MOAR GUNZ!!
In reference to the recent tragic shooting at the Pulse nightclub in Orlando, the Prince of Orange had this to say:
“If you had guns in that room, if you had — even if you had a number of people having them strapped to their ankle or strapped to their waist where bullets could have flown in the other direction right at him, you wouldn’t have had that tragedy.”
It seems that The Donald has fully bought into the “good guy with a gun” doctrine that’s so prevalent among the ammosexual community. It’s the doctrine which holds that, in an active shooter situation, every armed citizen becomes a steely-eyed gunslinger ready to take out the shooter with one perfectly aimed round, after which they will presumably twirl the gun around one finger before sliding it back into the holster like Val Kilmer in “Tombstone.”
It also appears that in Trumpworld, all of the “good guys” with guns will be on one side of the room with the shooter on the other so the bullets will only be flying in one direction.
There are so many problems with treating this fantasy like reality that it’s hard to know where to start.
For one thing, there was actually a “good guy with a gun” in the Pulse nightclub. His name is Adam Gruler. He’s a 15-year veteran of the Orlando Police Department. He was working security at Pulse, armed, when Omar Mateen showed up and began shooting.
According to the OPD’s own press release, Gruler “engaged in a gun battle” with Mateen before Mateen went “deeper into the club” and “the incident turned into a hostage situation.” The Orlando Sentinel’s investigation states that Gruler, quickly realizing that Mateen had him outgunned, “retreated and called for backup,” which promptly arrived in the form of nearby patrol officers Lt. Scott Smith and Sgt. Jeffrey Backhaus. Smith and Backhaus also “exchanged shots” with Mateen, who then grabbed hostages and retreated to the bathroom where he made his final, fatal stand.
Three “good guys with guns.” And 49 people still died.
So much for that idea, unless you’re saying that everyone in a crowded bar in the wee hours of the morning would be so much safer if all of them were carrying AR-15s and 9mm pistols, just so they’d have parity with terrorist nutballs like Omar Mateen.
Yeah, I can’t think of any way that combination of alcohol and semi-automatic weapons could possibly go wrong. At that point we wouldn’t even need terrorists, because we’d be stacking the bodies like cordwood.
The reports that officers Gruler, Smith and Backhaus “engaged” the gunman, without lethal result, points up another problem with the “good guy with a gun” fantasy.
The RAND corporation did a study in 2008 of the New York Police Department’s performance in gunfights. The average hit rate was 18 percent. That means trained law enforcement officers, who have to qualify on their weapons and keep up their proficiency, missed 82 percent of the time.
This isn’t a slam at law enforcement. Getting shot at tends to be, to say the least, an upsetting experience for anyone. Killing is even harder, even for trained professionals acting in self-defense. And we’re supposed to believe that amateurs will do better?
Hey, look, I write thriller fiction when I’m not doing this column or practicing law. I understand the attraction of the fantasy where Joe Everyman can rise to the occasion and take down the bad guys with the gun he just picked up. Sometimes it even happens in real life. But I’m not putting all my faith in that as a solution.
“Good guy with a gun” is a classic example of trying to shut the barn door after the horse has left, come back with a torch, and burn the barn to the ground. Why not do things like close the gun show loophole, make background checks universal, and try to keep bad guys from getting guns in the first place?