28 December 2012

The only thing that stops good guys with guns is a bad guy

A competition is probably already under way to draw messages from today's incident at the Gloucester Township, New Jersey, police station, where a man arrested on a domestic violence charge managed to seize a gun from one of the officers and open fire. He wounded three police before they shot him dead. For some, it may prove the point Wayne LaPierre of the National Rifle Association tried to make when he said, "the only thing that stops a bad guy with a gun is a good guy with a gun." The good guys did stop the bad guy this time, but not before the bad guy took advantage of the opportunity presented by the good guys' guns. This is not an argument for disarming the police, obviously, but it might serve as a warning for other good guys out there, self-styled or otherwise. Gun-rights apologists always want to remind us that gun regulations won't deter criminals from getting guns. That's a common sense argument so long as guns are around. But stolen guns are almost by definition guns taken by bad guys from good guys. If we want to differentiate further between bad guys and good guys, today's news provides an extreme example of the audacity that often gives bad guys an advantage even over armed good guys. If a motivated person can disarm a cop inside a police station, how much better would civilians fare against such a motivated person?

Here some will pause for further information on today's incident. Since one of the wounded policemen is a woman, it may be suspected that the bad guy disarmed the weak female, turning the incident into an argument against arming female cops. If the bad guy disarmed a policeman, it may only prove that all cops need more hand-to-hand combat training against attempts to disarm them. That itself may prove that the audacious criminal has an inherent advantage -- at least until a good guy actually draws his or her weapon -- since it's unlikely that criminals undergo professional training in the art of disarming people. Whatever differences exist categorically between "good guys" and "bad guys" probably favor bad guys in most showdowns. I always think of the man who witnessed Howard Unruh's 1949 proto-amoklauf and took a shot at the killer from the safety of a second-floor window. That would-be hero simply froze when his first shot, a hit, failed to bring Unruh down. Call this "cherry picking" if you like, but I only want to suggest that the "good guy" is more likely than the "bad guy" to freeze at such a crucial moment, while the "bad guy" is more likely to be calculating his chances of taking the gun from the "good guy." How far do the rest of us have to go toward emulating criminals in ruthlessness and hair-trigger reactions before we can really be certain of our advantage against them? The cops won today in Gloucester Township only through a preponderance of force that no individual will ever enjoy. LaPierre's one-on-one ideal is too idealistic, but this moral might be overlooked during the debate over weapons. The ultimate answer to criminal individuals, or to "bad guys" collectively, isn't individual "good guys" but a vigilant and truly just community. An individual right to self-defense is no solution to social or cultural problems -- and if it puts more weapons within reach of bad guys, it may be counterproductive.


Anonymous said...

The argument they always fall back on makes no sense if you really think about it. Unless criminals hand craft their own firearms, every gun used by a criminal was legal at least at the point of manufacture. Whether they were stolen from a legitimate dealer or illegally sold by a legitimate dealer, the result is the same. as long as guns are legal, criminals will have access to guns.

Anonymous said...

Yet another thought crosses my mind regarding the gun nut idea that a potential amoklaufer will think twice about going on a killing spree if they think people in their intended crowd may be armed.

Since they all seem to kill themselves anyway, it is obvious that the idea of losing their lives is meaningless, therefore an armed populace is not a deterrent to the potential amoklaufer.

However, what you will get is far more innocent blood being spilled when the "hero" pulls his gun, imagining he's John Wayne, and in the rush of battle - - - misses his target and hits someone else. I'd say the government should deal with it this way: If an armed civilian discharges his weapon and takes an innocent live, rather than protecting them, that civilian should automatically receive the death penalty.

Let's see how many potential heroes are deterred by the thought of their own demise.