Friday, May 31, 2013

The good guys with guns myth Part II: Identifying good guys

Earlier, we asked whether good guys with guns are really a deterrent to bad guys with guns. Spoiler: They aren’t. Today, we’ll delve a little deeper and ask, ‘what exactly is a good guy, and how do we recognize him so that we can make sure he’s armed?’

Here are a few examples of people with guns. See if you can spot the good guys.

I don’t bring up these examples to suggest that any possession of a gun will inevitably lead to grief. Obviously, that’s not the case (though these kinds of disasters occur more often than you might think). My point is that the idea that you can protect society from gun violence by arming ‘good guys’ is absurd. Don’t you think the parents in this and every other such tragedy would have sworn that they were responsible gun owners? In the first case, the parents were teaching their son how to use a rifle from the age of four. I think it's fair to assume that they were very familiar with their own guns.

Up until the day you shoot your own granddaughter because you’ve mistaken her for an intruder, you’re a good guy with a gun. Up until the day a four year old shoots and kills your wife with a gun you left lying on a bed, you’re a responsible gun owner.

Let’s make an analogy with another dangerous invention: the car. Tens of thousands of people are killed each year in motor vehicle accidents. Many of those deaths are caused by what we could term ‘bad’ drivers, though more descriptive adjectives might be ‘reckless’, ‘inattentive’ or ‘intoxicated’. Does anyone think that a solution to the problem of bad drivers is to increase the total number of cars on the road by putting more 'good' drivers behind the wheel? Leaving aside the problem that on any given day, the same person might be a good or a bad driver, how could adding more cars to the road possibly result in fewer accidents? 

Like with drivers, there’s simply no such thing as a ‘good guy’ with a gun, there’s only good behavior and bad behavior. There’s safe behavior and reckless behavior. And just like with drivers, the same person might fall into one category one day and the other the next, depending on the circumstances. The fact is that guns are dangerous and accidents happen. The more guns in circulation, the more chance for errors in judgment, as many families have found to their sorrow.


  1. Missing good guys who thwarted a robbery. Missing a good guy who saved his family from a break in by a convicted felon. Missing a man who just because he was openly armed, stopped a mugging.
    The poor parenting you show here has absolutely nothing to do with good guys. No good guy leaves a gun lying around, period. No good guy leaves children unattended with a gun, period.
    In the interest of fairness, you really need to show both sides, Kathy. I know your position is anti-gun but you haven't presented any of the hundreds of heroic acts that occur every year.
    I'm enjoying your series.

    1. The 4 year old I mentioned killed the wife of a County sheriff. With his own gun. Did the County Sheriff not know how to properly handle his weapon? Like everyone in this post, including the other parents, he was irresponsible on *that* day. He might have done heroic deeds with his gun many times prior to that fateful day. But we don't arm and disarm people on a day by day basis. That's why the idea of arming 'good' guys to thwart armed 'bad' guys doesn't work. The good guys and the bad guys are the same people, just on different days.

    2. Part I addresses your points. You are right that SOMETIMES crimes are thwarted by the presence of firearms, but how often compared to tragedies such as those listed above? Is it worth the cost? AND, as discussed in Part I, how often does it ACTUALLY save a life? I would rather be robbed then have my life, or my child's life, taken. A burglar alarm, accidentally triggered, never took anyone's head off.


What are your thoughts? I welcome civil disagreement and discussion.