03 February 2013
Another good guy with a gun
For the sake of discussion, let's give Chris Kyle the benefit of the doubt. He was the "American Sniper," a Navy SEAL credited with 160 kills in a decade of service to his country, and later a memoirist of his career. According to reports, he dedicated himself to helping fellow veterans with Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder adjust to civilian life. Part of the therapy, it is said, involved taking the sufferers to rifle ranges. I don't claim to know the reasoning behind this, though I can guess it may have had to do with normalizing peacetime gunfire so that sufferers didn't identify loud noises with imminent attacks. It is unclear for the moment whether the man accused of murdering Kyle and another victim at a rifle range yesterday was a PTSD sufferer, or whether Kyle had brought him to the range for any therapeutic purpose. This much seems clear: it would be hard to imagine someone better qualified than Chris Kyle to play the role of the "good guy with a gun" whom gun-rights apologists depend on to defeat those "bad guys" with guns whose appearance becomes inevitable given the apologists' insistence on minimized regulation of gun ownership. It is hard to imagine a more controlled environment for gunplay than a rifle range where the killer was presumably under the victim's supervision. Yet the American Sniper is dead, along with another man for whom he was presumably responsible. If that can happen, how safe is anyone from a bad guy no matter how many good guys may have guns nearby? If Chris Kyle wasn't safe where he fell, how safe is anyone with all the guns in the country, and when the line dividing good guys and bad guys is never so absolute and impermeable as some would think? People talk about the individual right to self-defense as if that was synonymous with public safety. The Kyle murder may not change any minds on that point, but it's as good an occasion as any to question the equation.