Jim Wright asked this question on his Facebook page recently,
Responsible Gun Owner Exercise: You’re in a public place. Lots of people. Guy in camo walks in with a pistol on his belt and an assault rifle in his hands.
Quick, is he a good guy with a gun or a murderous nut?
Well, which is it?
Come, come, seconds count, no guessing and don’t fuck it up. How do you KNOW? Is there a secret hand sign? A T-shirt? Does his phone emit an IFF signal? Which is it, good guy with a gun or bad guy with a gun? For full credit, you MUST answer BEFORE HE STARTS SHOOTING. Show your work.
Extra credit: How does he know YOU’RE not a bad guy with a gun?Stonekettle
He followed it up with a (very long) response addressing the various answers that he got. The answers are almost irrelevant. Of course there is no way to know what this person’s intentions are. As another Facebook friend pointed out as a counter you don’t know what anyone’s intentions are if you are just now seeing them.
But that isn’t the question. The presence of the firearm alters the equation. This is a known fact, that visible weapons alter the behavior of people. It is true, as that same Facebook friend pointed out, the person could be carrying invisible weapons. A suicide vest, anthrax, a firearm in his pocket, a knife in his shoe, you name it. But that also isn’t the question.
The question is simple. You are armed, you see another person that is armed. Do you shoot him or don’t you? You have to answer this question before he starts shooting other people, or you fail the test. This is a very valid point that Jim has been trying to illustrate for several years and over about a dozen posts on Stonekettle Station, all of which I’ve read. The question isn’t whether guns are bad or not. The question isn’t whether we should be armed or not.
The question is, how do you know what your actions should be? That is all there is to it. The gunnuts are convinced that the solution to the mass murder problem is more guns in more hands, but that just makes the question that much more difficult since it muddies the waters as to who is the bad guy and who is the good guy. If you shoot the guy before he shoots other people, are you the good guy or the bad guy?
You can’t know. There is no way to know. It is the nature of the universe, the uncertainty principle. You can’t know before the first shots are fired. If you shoot first, you are the bad guy. But if you’re carrying the weapon to prevent aggression, what good is it if you don’t use it when you should have? What if his first action is to shoot you because you have a visible weapon? What if his first action is to demand that you disarm? How many hours of time are we willing to waste making sure that each of us on an individual basis are good guys who are supposed to be carrying weapons and not bad guys who aren’t? All day, every day, from now on?
We can’t approach the problem from this direction. It just isn’t going to work. This is the reason why laws are made. This is the reason why governments exist. It isn’t for any of the paranoid delusions that individualists envision as they sweat inside their bunkers gripping their pistols in fear. Laws are written to make sure that standards are met. Government exists to see that laws are followed.
I wrote and then shelved the above months ago. I had some notion that I would riff on a response from J. Neil Schulman who insisted the above question was meaningless. However Mr. Schulman (surprise) really didn’t have a response to the above aside from putting more guns in more hands. He has since unfriended me over some trumped up excuse involving calls to use RICO laws to initiate civil prosecutions of climate deniers, similar to what was done to RJR after it was discovered that the cigarette manufacturer was paying scientists to muddy the waters surrounding the effects of cigarette smoke on the human body.
FYI, smoking causes lung cancer, and anthropogenic climate change is almost certainly as real as the findings concerning smoking and lung cancer. I don’t think it is outside of reason to use tactics similar to those used before in order to bring wayward corporate funded scientists to heel so that we can get down to the business of dealing with climate change. Climate change isn’t the subject of this post, but his level of denial concerning climate change is reflected in his level of denial when it comes to weapons and who should be allowed to have them.
I had forgotten that little dust-up and almost forgotten this post until last week (was it the Murders of Alison Parker and Adam Ward or Umpqua Community College? so many shootings that you can’t keep track of them all. -ed.) The subject of weapons is one of the subjects that gives me painful cognitive dissonance. Consequently I have a very, very hard time writing coherently on the subject. I have owned weapons all my life. My most treasured gifts as a young boy were the weapons that my father gave me.
However, being a good father as well as a responsible gun owner himself, he made sure that I went to classes to train me in the proper handling and storage of weapons before I was allowed to take possession of my first real shotgun. I still have the certificate issued by the (irony of ironies) NRA for hunter safety training in cooperation with the State of Kansas.
It is a mark of how far down the road to crazy we have come that the NRA no longer thinks weapons training is important enough to be required before allowing weapons purchases, even though their website stresses the importance of weapons training. I’ve known enough people who sleep with a loaded weapon next to their beds now that I no longer believe the argument that gun owners don’t need weapons training because they’ve already had it. A common refrain amongst gunnuts.
Then we had the latest mass killing, as well as the several other shootings on campuses across the US, even in Texas where campuses are no longer gun free zones (negating that counter-argument) and it seems that Jim’s question from a few months ago now has recent real-life examples that really do beg the question (no longer a fallacy) how do you tell who the good guys with guns are?
Take, for example, the case of the concealed carry weapons holder who fired on a suspected shoplifter as they drove away in their vehicle. Not the merchant, who might well have been forgiven for acting in the heat of the moment. No, it was a simple bystander (a good guy with a gun?) who happened to be armed and thought that the thing to do.
Or the guy who shot the carjacking victim, then took the time to clean up his brass before fleeing the scene of the crime? Jim Wright posts one of these types of stories virtually every day on Facebook, a tribute to the stupidity of the average American when it comes to owning and using weapons in a public setting. So these are not isolated events, rare occurrences that don’t deserve our attention. These are examples of the fact that there is something wrong in the US and we really should do something to fix the problem.
…The minute you bring up examples of a clear lack of training like the above though, gunnuts (or ammosexuals, take your pick) start screaming about how we want to take their guns away. I’d like to state for the record, yes. If you think that the above is a reasonable use of a firearm, I want you to turn in your weapons, right now. Because you don’t know the first thing about firearm safety.