January 11, 2011

Arizona gun laws and the logic of more guns

According to NPR yesterday, Arizona has among the most liberal gun laws in the country. I am mostly agnostic on guns. I don't care for them myself, but don't have a problem with most of the people around me who do like them. I know they are responsible gun owners.

But I don't quite understand the push in Arizona or Oklahoma to further liberalize gun laws. As Yglesias notes here, one State Rep believes that everyone should be packing.
“When everyone is carrying a firearm, nobody is going to be a victim,” [Jack] Harper [R-Sunrise] continued. “The socialists of today are only one gun confiscation away from being the communists of tomorrow.”

On one hand, as Yglesias notes, this is part of the problem. One party is suggesting that the other party wants to turn the country into a totalitarian state. That is irresponsible rhetoric and part of our difficulty.

But on the other hand, I wonder how this kind of gun access is supposed to work. If this shooter was unhinged, one thinks that he would not care if the crowd was armed. Is the logic that we would have a free fire zone of everyone in the crowd grabbing their guns and opening fire? Would that produce a better outcome than what happened?

I have wondered that with the school shootings. The gun people seem to envision a movie scenario where one brave hero takes out the gunman with one shot. But with a bunch of people not trained for a combat situation, isn't it more likely we would end up with more friendly fire? More problems, not less?

And again, as a deterrent, it doesn't work against some of these shooters who plan on either killing themselves or being killed in the process.

Or am I missing something?


steves said...

I suppose I would be moderately evangelical on the gun issue ; )

I still spend a fair amount of time on "gun" boards and am still active in a few gun rights groups. I also still occasionally teach basic pistol and concealed carry. I don't claim to speak for all gun owners, but I think I can offer some perspective.

Harper's comments don't really refelct the feelings of most gun owners, IMO. While it is true that groups use the fear of confiscation as a fund raising tool and to get votes, I don't think that most gun owners think that everyone is out to take their guns. That doesn't mean that they aren't aware that there are some politicians (e.g. McCarthy D-NY) that frequently try to get legislation that would severely restrict gun use and ownership.

I don't know that this shooter would have cared if the crowd was armed. He hasn't made any statement that would let us know. I think that most gun owners believe that it may have been possible for someone to have shot back and stopped the shooter.

Most gun people don't take the position that everyone should carry a gun. They just want everyone (or mostly everyone) to have the choice. I think they are respectful of the fact that some don't like guns and are just plain uncomfortable around them and are just not interested. Given the choice, only a relatively small peercentage of adults will go to the trouble of carrying a firearm on a regular basis.

Given that, unless you are at an NRA convention, LEO convention, or gun show, it is highly unlikely that there will be a situation where a large number of people whip out their guns and we have a free fire zone. I can't think of a single incident in the last 20 years where a gun was used stop a criminal and there was some kind of wild shootout.

I know that there are some Walter Mitty types that fantasize about shooting it out with the bad guys. I doubt that most gun owners believe that it really happens the way it does in the movies. I don't know a single triner or school that teaches anything that is even close to that. Most stress the fact that a violent encounter is likely to be over very fast and that you need to train, train, train, and practice, practice, practice.

Most defensive gun uses, according to the research, involve brandishing with no shots fired. Of the ones that involve an actual shooting, very few (less than 4) shots are fired. I am not aware of any research that compiles the number of people hurt by so-called firendly fire, but I would guess that it is pretty low. A person that injures innocent people in a defensive shooting will likely garner a lot of media and legal attention.

On the other hand, there are a fair number of defensive shootings by people that have little training. They don't tend to make the national news, but the NRA and other groups will publish some of these stories in the magazine or e-mails.

Streak said...

I think I understand most of that, and even agree with much, but the question still remains. The use of guns in a defensive manner that you note are, at least from what I have heard, in more individual crimes. Robberies or home invasions or the like. I have not heard of a gun owner stopping one of these public shooting sprees, yet there seems to be the assumption that had someone in the crowd been armed, he could have been stopped.

Say only two people were armed, and both pulled out their weapon. Seems to me that at that point, unless the two lawful owners knew each other, it would be very difficult to discern who was a threat.

steves said...

An off duty cop (who was carrying a concealed gun) stopped the Trolley Square shooter back in 2007. Several citizens confronted a shooter at Appalachian State Law School after he had killed 3 and wounded 3. The Pearl High School Shooter was confronted by the vice principal after he retreived a gun from his car.

That being said, these types of shooting sprees are rare. Given that only a small percentage of people carry, it only stands to reason that the odds of someone being at one of these incidents is probably low.

The situation you describe would be difficult. The same holds true that if you draw your gun and the police eventually show up. You better drop it fast or you are likely to be shot. I think most people that carry guns are extremely cautious and reluctant to draw their weapons.

Streak said...

Steve, I hope you are right. I wish that NRA and gun rights people would talk in a more subdued and sober manner (as you do) and I might take them more seriously.

steves said...

Thanks, I think most of them are fairly subdued, but some can get pretty worked up.