Good Guys and Bad Guys


I’ve visited the subject of gun control from a few personal directions. The most in-depth I’ve gone is discussing the dangerous combination of my father who came to have dementia and firearms. Since I wrote that, there was an active shooter lockdown at Georgia Tech where my son attends college and a student was killed by police outside his dorm. The Parkland mass killing occurred and I know people who knew or were related to a victim. My younger son’s high school was put under lockdown two days later because a threat was made at a different school with the same name. And I’ve known amazingly successful people who still committed suicide with guns. I’m betting you know someone who’s been affected too.

The way I commonly hear objections to gun control is, per the NRA’s statement after Newtown, “The only thing that stops a bad guy with a gun is a good guy with a gun.” Here’s the way I look at this. Maybe this is a bad assumption, but nobody who is sold a gun legally is thought to be a “Bad Guy”. Why would we sell guns to Bad Guys? We don’t want to sell guns to Bad Guys. We want them defined and separate from the Good Guys. Of course, the Good Guys are around to help stop them should someone sell them a weapon. This is how the NRA wants us to think of it.

Good Guys and Bad Guys
How the NRA tells us it is: Good Guys and Bad Guys

The reality is that there are really just gun owners. There are those who have committed violent crimes in the past and are really Bad Guys. We know who they are in general because they’ve been convicted. There are also other flavors of Bad Guys who beat their wives. There are loads of people who are Good Guys and responsible owners. Good Guys have various histories and training levels. Some were military or cops, some grew up with guns in the family, some hunt, some have felt threatened and have a gun to protect themselves, some love target shooting. There are plenty of reasons for someone to want a gun and obtain one legally.

It's really Guys With Guns
It’s really Guys With Guns
This is a simplistic model, however. What percentage of firearm deaths are due to Bad Guys who buy a gun to do nefarious things like kill kids at Sandy Hook, partiers at a nightclub in Orlando, concert goers in Vegas, or high school students in Columbine or Parkland? It’s pretty small and they were Good Guys as far as anyone knew at the time. Meanwhile, there’s a long list of ways to die with a gun. Suicides are number one, domestic abusers who’ve been charged with nothing are high on the list, accidental discharges like toddler shootings happen and are tragic. Good Guys also can lose their guns or have them stolen – those end up with Bad Guys. There’s also the guy who went to Comet Pizza looking for Hillary Clinton’s child trafficking ring with his gun and fired it in the process. I’m sure he thought he was a Good Guy, but it didn’t really work out that way, right? Also, people do become mentally ill and dangerous. My father was a lifelong gun owner and became violent when his frontotemporal dementia got truly bad. None of us can make a promise that this will never happen to us. My dad was as healthy a macho man as there ever was and the disease turned into a destructive cocktail which easily could have ended in someone’s death. He was a damn good shot too. Our clean separation of Good Guys and Bad Guys is about as messy as it gets.
There are many kinds of Guys With Guns.
There are many kinds of Guys With Guns.

The thought that a Good Guy is there to stop a Bad Guy if we sell more guns doesn’t hold water because all we’d be doing is adding to the soupy picture that’s not as clear cut. The more guns we have across the population, the more people will wind up with them who shouldn’t now or, due to something unforeseen, in the future. We’re just saying that we’re not going to sell to the same set of known bad guys. We’re also not going to succeed by training every new gun carrier like a SWAT team member, because some of those new Good Guys will turn out to be well-trained Bad Guys later (or end up in one of the other categories of firearm deaths). The rest is actually gray, not green.

Bad Guys are really the only ones we know.
Bad Guys are really the only ones we know. The rest is gray.

Now the other thing we hear is that guns don’t kill people, people kill people. I think I’ve been consistent with that in how I’ve laid this out. The thing is, the only people who kill people are Guys With Guns. Really simply put: Guys Without Guns aren’t shooting anyone. It feels a little dumb to have to say it, but there we are. The rest of us don’t own guns and presumably don’t have an urge to do so. I often hear something like “We had gun racks in our cars when I was growing up and we didn’t kill anyone. What’s changed with the country?” I’m not here to give you a concrete answer. What I will tell you is this: People who don’t have guns still aren’t shooting people. If anyone’s changed, it has to be gun owners. It. Has. To. Be. This is a gun-owner problem, there is no other answer. Our share of the world’s gun problems is astoundingly disproportionate. It’s not getting any better and the NRA, which claims to represent gun owners’ 2nd Amendment rights, continues to bully Congress and the President into a situation where it’s getting worse.

I know that the NRA doesn’t represent all gun owners. Many many many truly Good Guys want safer gun policies. This outstanding article by Brené Brown spells that out well. What I will say is that the rest of us are pissed. We’re absolutely pissed. Democrats will run on this and they’ll win. “Gun grabbers” should absolutely not have their way. It is simply not realistic with nearly a gun per person in the country. People would die and I’m firmly against that. Somehow, some way, gun owners who profess to be Good Guys are going to have to shed the NRA’s simplistic Us vs. Them position amplified by fear and work with The Rest of Us. Because we’re going to vote.

70-75% of the US doesn't own a gun and doesn't want one
70-75% of the US doesn’t own a gun and doesn’t want one
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