The Good Guy with a Gun Myth, Debunked

Hey, Fickle Readers! I don’t normally like posting a lot of video clips. There are plenty of web sites that used to be actual news outlets until at some point they decided it was much easier to slap together a bunch of clips of Stephen Colbert and Larry Wilmore. (I’m looking at you, Salon.) But this segment of the Daily Show is really worth watching. In it, Jordan Klepper shows how completely impossible it is for the casual, well-intentioned gun owner to stop an active shooter.

While you’re watching this, remember: video clips and arguments may not change minds, but the goal of representative democracy is only to change POLICY. Get lawmakers to do what you want, and if they ignore you, send their asses home.

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No More Prayers. Action.

Today, I posted my reaction to what I thought was the latest mass shooting in the U.S. Later, I found out that two other mass shootings had taken place today: one in Savannah, where a gunman killed one woman and injured three men; the other, which happened practically as I was typing my fantasy of flaying the last shooter, in San Bernardino, California, where a small group of gunmen killed 14 people and injured as many as 17 others in a facility for people with developmental disabilities. This afternoon, there was also another shooting at a women’s clinic in Houston, although reports are murky as to whether the person shot and killed was a victim or suspect, or if the shooting was directly connected with a political agenda.

At some point I remember blogging (or possibly thinking about blogging) that if I tried to keep up with all the gun violence that happens in this country I’d spend all my time writing about it. Turns out my prediction was a lot more accurate than even I could have imagined.

I know I’m probably preaching to the choir here in my little corner of the Internets. But I’m going to say this anyway: this has got to stop.

Guns are not technogadgets. Guns are not fashion statements. They’re weapons. And our country is not a firing range or a real-life movie set. Civilization isn’t sustainable if every ten minutes there’s some disgruntled individual out there preparing to open fire on a supermarket or a bank or a strip mall. Nor can we have a functioning society if we let everyone with a trigger finger have a gun. Too many guns means too many opportunities to use them. I think the well-publicized fact that there have been more mass shootings than days in the year this year bears that out.

I’m sure many of you Fickle Readers out there know of Chekhov’s gun, the rule of writing that says if you introduce a gun in a play, you’d better be prepared to fire it before the play is over. Well, now we’re discovering that if you allow unfettered access to guns that people will find occasion to fire them. Even if they don’t start out as “bad guys with guns,” they often wind up that way.

Remember Steven Jones, the Northern Arizona University freshman who killed one fellow student and wounded three others in an early morning fight? Jones was reportedly very familiar with guns and was even a certified safety instructor. Now he’s murderer, and even though he’s maybe not going to jail for the rest of his life because he’s young and white and grew up in a nice neighborhood, he’s still going to have a criminal record for gun violence following him for the rest of his life. Because of something he did at age 18.

You know who else is going to have gun violence following him for the rest of his life? Laquan McDonald. And Tamir Rice. And Trayvon Martin. And Michael Brown. That’s because all these people are dead because of guns. Or, more accurately, because “good guys with guns” decided to reach for a gun instead of a phone or a pair of handcuffs–or instead of maybe just trying to communicate with words. The good guys felt threatened, and a gun was within easy reach.

I could go on about suicides and murder rates, both of which go way up when guns are present. I think I’ve made my point, though. The way things are is unacceptable. The golden age of guns, guns guns! has to end. Now.

[UPDATED] Gun Violence Today: This Is What You Get When You Let the Kids Run the Candy Store

UPDATE: In case anyone’s interested, the Washington Post now has an article on the Michigan Home Depot shooter, who has yet to be charged. Officials haven’t disclosed her identity, either. (Twenty bucks says she’s white. If she isn’t–if she has brown skin or is of any ethnicity other than Caucasian–I want to be the first on record to applaud the Auburn Hills PD for their restraint. In some places here in the U.S., had a brown-skinned woman opened fire in a public area, she’d probably have a bashed-in face from being forced to the pavement, whether or not she was “cooperating fully with the investigation.” In some places here in the U.S., such a shooter would be dead.)

For what it’s worth, I’ve had a really hard time talking about the latest shootings in Oregon. I feel like at this point, half my life would be taken up with writing about the latest gun-related deaths, and how needless they all were, and how fueled by entitlement, paranoia, and madness. Hell, I’m starting to feel like I don’t even need to post links to any specific articles anymore. We all know this shit is wrong. We all know our country has a problem, even though some of us aren’t willing to admit it.

But this story out of Auburn Hills, Michigan, really takes the cake. It seems that a 47-year-old woman, who HAS a permit to carry concealed weapons, decided she’d help out a Home Depot by shooting at a pair of fleeing shoplifters in the parking lot. Yes, you read that right. No this wasn’t some late-night fiasco. This happened in broad daylight, in the afternoon, while there were many other shoppers in the area.

Scott Eric Kaufman gets props–if he really wants them–for titling his article for Salon.com : “Good woman with a gun shoots up Home Depot parking lot trying to take down suspected shoplifters.”

And the SERIOUSLY depressing thing about this whole story is not that U.S. citizens seem to think it’s okay to treat all public places in the country as Wild West shoot-em-up zones. Nor is it the fact that someone actually thought it was acceptable to use deadly force to bring down a suspect or two in a space where many innocent bystanders could have been killed.

No, the truly upsetting little detail about this story is that the local authorities DON’T KNOW IF THEY’RE GOING TO CHARGE THE SHOOTER WITH ANYTHING. Because, you see, the woman didn’t hit anyone. She took out one of the tires on the fleeing car. The shoplifters still got away, but she maybe seemed like she knew what she was doing, maybe? She didn’t cause any injury, so the police are going to give her her own deputy star?

Do I really have to say this? Okay, but I’m not going to say it in giant capital letters…

What the fuck, America?

More to the point, what the fuck, Michigan? Do you really want random individuals with concealed weapons and law-and-order fantasies to pull out their pistols when the situation merely suggests that something dangerous is going on? Or have you been so beaten down by the NRA that you’re afraid to make one little peep that might be construed as a knock against the sanctity of guns?

Does it make a difference that this woman doesn’t seem to have had the slightest fucking CLUE about how GENUINE law enforcement officials judge whether or not they can get a clear shot? Does this woman understand that she could have KILLED SOMEONE JUST SO SHE COULD BE THE GOOD GUY WITH A GUN?

Yeah, I lied. I did use capital letters after all. But all of these situations, where masses of people are getting shot at on a daily basis, is so blatantly unacceptable that I personally don’t know how I can discuss the matter without letting out some of the inchoate rage that I feel about the subject.

Let me be Mother Fickle for a moment. Guns are not toys. Guns are not fashion accessories. Nor are they acceptable conveyances for expressing your own private outrage of the moment.

The “good guy with a gun” image is just that–an image. As in, exists in people’s imaginations. Good guys with guns don’t stop crimes in real life. And some people even start out as good guys with guns (ie, gun enthusiasts, men and women who legally purchase weapons) and wind up as bad guys with guns (murderers or murder-suicide perpetrators).

Seriously, folks. This isn’t about denying anyone’s theoretical rights, or quashing anyone’s ego, or attacking anyone personally. This is about safety and common sense.

We need to stop screaming at each other and start getting things done. Start talking to each other like adults. Start acting like parents and not children.

Seriously. Didn’t parents use to be in charge of the country back in the day?