I understand that the gun issue has reasonable and well-thought out positions on either side. I realize that the Second Amendment, at least to a first degree of interpretation, guarantees the civilian right to own a gun. I understand the need for protection. I say this in order to clarify that this is not a call to outlaw guns, to enact more control or to repeal the Second: those who know me realize my positions, while generally trending liberal, aren’t always predictable in terms of the arguments I recognize or use.

However, in the inevitable outcry over the horrible events in Aurora, I keep hearing an argument I don’t understand: that if only more people in that theater had guns, this wouldn’t have happened, because if the gunman knew that other people in the theater had guns, he would have thought twice about it.

However I can’t understand why anyone would make that argument, in this case. The gunman was wearing tactical body armor. Was he trying to protect himself from bee stings? One wears tactical body armor when one EXPECTS to be shot at. Obviously the thought that someone else in that theater might have a gun DID occur to him, and he clearly expected to be able to survive being shot at long enough to potentially kill them (since that person WOULDN’T have been wearing armor) and continue the massacre.

Let me repeat: I understand a lot of the arguments for and against gun control. I’m not 100% anti- or pro-, so please don’t assume I accept or agree with any of the standard arguments. At best I can say I am conflicted about the position. I don’t intend this to be a general discussion about all the arguments pro- and con-, I am asking about this one position.

A variation on the theme is that MORE gun carriers in the theater would have meant FEWER deaths or injuries… at least those caused by the gunman himself. Perhaps that is the case. But the number would not have been zero, and I ask you how long the average person (even one with the minimal gun training required to carry a weapon these days) would take to assess this situation in the chaos of tear gas, bullets, and screaming people, then identify which of the 100 people waving weapons and firing was the real threat, and then fire enough accurate shots at the gunman to take him out (considering he was wearing tactical body armor).

Long enough, perhaps, that we might be talking about 6 deaths and 30 injured instead of twice that number.

Is that low enough to end the conversation?

And do we really think that all 100 of those people waving guns would be sufficiently trained and rational and calm enough to not accidentally take out several innocent people running in front of their weapons while they fired through the tear gas and smoke? We’d be talking about a different number of dead and wounded, not zero. Knowing some of the people I know who own and carry guns, I would not even be ready to assume it would be fewer than the number with which we ended up.

I would note that this is not by any definition a straw man discussion: the arguments above have been stated repeatedly in the aftermath of the Aurora massacre. Links available if you really need proof.

Let me repeat: I am not a gun control nut, nor am I a Second Amendment nut. My position is best described as uncomfortable with the need for guns in the first place (as we should all be), understanding and in favor of the need in many cases, but VERY skeptical about the vision in which a Utopian peace is guaranteed by knowing everyone around you is carrying a gun. But, to be clear, I have also seen friends of mine–intelligent, otherwise sane people–use their cars recklessly and in ways that endanger lives (including their own) merely over the offense of being cut off in traffic. I have no illusions that they would use their guns less recklessly if given the chance.

So at best, my position is “uncomfortable” or “conflicted”.

But these two argument variations don’t work. Not in general, and DEFINITELY not in this case. I welcome discussion pointing out any nuance of the arguments I am missing.

My heart goes out to the people in Aurora, the people wounded and dead, their families, even the family of the gunman. It was a horrible, horrible event, and I cannot imagine the anguish they are going through, even as I hope that no one I know ever has to experience the same thing.

Even as I know that, very possibly, some of us will.


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