How do you know who the good guys are? (a repeat post)

This is a repeat post from over eight years ago. With yet one more mass shooting in the United States, on top of the usual gun deaths that happen every day reported in any newspaper, this message sadly must be sounded again. We cannot solve a problem, if we don’t admit we have one.

There have been many excellent posts on the need to lessen gun deaths in the United States. I have been thoroughly impressed by many blogging friends, in particular Amaya at who in the face of well-armed relatives will not back down on the need for smarter gun control. Yet, the purpose of this post is to address a series of questions I have, one in particular, in response to the infamous comment by Wayne LaPierre of the NRA.

“The only solution to a bad guy with a gun is a good guy with a gun.”

My simple question is how do you know who the good guy with a gun is as opposed the bad guy? The answer to this question is not that simple, as we are all varying shades of gray. There are very few, if any, all good or all bad, people. Even Mother Teresa confided in her journal how tempted she was and how hard she prayed to do the right thing each day. You would be hard pressed to find a better person than Mother Teresa. Yet, since we are not all Mother Teresa’s, let me quote Kevin Horrigan of the St. Louis Dispatch who said this week about athletes who lie and cheat – Social scientists who have studied the issue generally agree that 10% of people are honest all the time, 5% will lie and cheat any time it’s in their interest and 85% of people are basically honest, but depending on the circumstances, will cut a few corners or shave the truth from time to time.

Using the above as a proxy, we could say that 85% of people are in the category of the varying shades of gray. We are human and not bad people, but we will err, sin and use bad judgment. So, let’s place a gun in the hands of the 85% and see what happens on a daily basis. As I noted in earlier blogs, as tragic as Newtown is, the greater tragedy occurs every day. A 16-year-old kills a 13-year-old for showing him disrespect. A distraught son gets mad at his mom and kills his three siblings and parents. A person gets mad at a pizza parlor, goes to his car and comes back to kill the person who slighted him. A mother shoots her son over an American Idol argument. A football player shoots his girlfriend in front of his mother as he is mad at her for staying out late. A man goes home to get his gun after being confronted about his dangerous driving in a parking lot, then returns and shoots two people. A man takes a gun to sell at a weapons show and it discharges and hurts someone.

A gun in the hands of a perceived good person does not make things safer for many reasons. Our society has become less civil to each other, so arguments become more hostile than they need to be. Without a gun, you may have seen a fist fight or someone leaving the scene. With access to a gun, the good guy will be more prone to use it to preserve his honor. So, acting impulsively, a death occurs and he is charged with a crime and will go to jail.

Acting on impulse gets worse when you mix guns, alcohol and testosterone. Good men when tipsy or drunk will throw good judgment out the window. If a gun is handy and offense is taken, whether intended or not, someone will get shot. “Oh, but he was such a good man,” his neighbors would say. When I hear about people who want to take a concealed weapon into a bar, I truly think that is the most asinine action one could do. And, if you don’t believe me, please ask your wife, mother or sister about what good can possibly come from mixing guns, alcohol and testosterone.

But, let’s set that aside and talk to Mr. LaPierre’s thesis in a mass shooting situation, since that is the only crisis he wants to address. Let’s say we arm the 10% who are honest as the day is long. Police officers and soldiers will tell you, no matter how much training you have, it is a totally different ball game when you are shooting at someone who is shooting at you. Would a teacher better serve her students to get them out of harm’s way as practiced or attempt to be Dirty Harry? Once he or she is shot, the children have no prayer. And, to further embellish this point, there was someone armed in the Aurora theatre. He said it was so dark and smoky, he did not know who to shoot. This is someone who knew what they were doing and chose not to fire.

I am delighted the President asked his Vice President to discuss openly with lawmakers what to do about our nation leading the civilized world by far in gun deaths. With 80% of the gun deaths out of the top 23 nations combined, we hold an infamous distinction. I detest that this has become a wedge issue, but one side has to disagree with the other side because the other side said it. So, the recommendations made by the President based on the VP led committee are meritorious. They should be considered each and every one. I for one am against assault weapons in the hands of civilians. I think any civilian that has an assault weapon has the potential to do great harm given the above.

Yet, if we set that aside, as it gets included in the eternally mentioned and misunderstood Second Amendment rights basket, let’s focus on a couple of things that should be as close to no brainers as possible.

 All guns purchased need to have a waiting period and background check, period. There is no reason not to require this. There should be no gun show loophole as to have one defeats the purpose. This is not a fishing license, it is for a weapon that is designed to kill. You can wait 30 days for it James Bond.

– All weapons and bullets need to be traceable. The police have long advocated for this. If you have an unlicensed weapon or bullets, you should lose your weapon, be fined or go to jail if you continue to be non-compliant. If you have no malintent, then you should not be threatened by this requirement. That car you say that also kills people has a VIN number and the driver has a license. And, the driver could not drive it until he or she showed evidence of insurance.

– Guns should not be around alcohol. We must address civil disagreement as a society, but when judgment is impaired due to alcohol, people die when guns are around. Again stating loudly, mixing guns, alcohol and testosterone is assinine.

– I am for armed guards in school. To have at least the illusion of better security to dissuade mass shooters, we need security guards who know what they are doing. But, I do know many public schools cut back on teachers, counselors and security guards due to budget reasons. I have witnessed on many occasions, people cry out to cut back big government and then when positions are reduced, the same folks cry foul when something bad happens. This is important, so let’s fund it and more teachers with it.

– We must make mental health services more accessible and get over the stigma. One in five people will have some issue with mental health in their lifetime. One in 10 people in a company’s medical plan will be taking drugs for a mental health issue. In today’s world, we can live normal lives with mental health issues. Yet, with that said, when people do get depressed, the availability of a weapon increases the likelihood of suicide. This is why having guns on college campuses is a horrible idea – college kids have a higher degree of depression than general society and these kids will act impulsively. And, once acted out, it is over. There is no do over.

–  Finally, we must take responsibility for our actions. If we own a gun, we need to be like the many responsible gun owners who are rebelling against the NRA. We must also teach civil disagreement approaches in school. There are some forward thinking programs that are doing this, but it should be a routine part of the schooling and preached routinely by teachers and reinforced by parents, mentors, etc.

I guess if there is an appropriate prayer to the God of your own understanding, it is something like the following – Lord, please help me do the right thing, even when I am tempted to do otherwise. Please help me use good judgment and be accountable and responsible for my actions. And, help me treat others like I want to be treated. But, since I cannot always do the above, using the famous words of President Ronald Reagan, “trust but verify.” Make sure that if I own a gun, it is registered along with its bullets and I had to go through a thorough background check to get it. Therefore, I will make damn sure I am using it to a good purpose.

20 thoughts on “How do you know who the good guys are? (a repeat post)

  1. You make a good point, Keith. You are also a conscientious citizen. I have never understood the whole gun culture. From my perspective, it appears that the wild west has never been tamed.

    • Agreed. One keeps hearing the slippery slope argument for more governance, but that argument is stale as “now is not the time.” We are well past time and there are a number of changes that would be welcomed b gun owners. Keith

  2. Excellent post Keith.
    There are so many holes in that old NRA response that it sinks before it leaves harbour. You might as well say the answer is for the good guy to be driving at the bad guy with a fast car. Actually that the shoppers start pelting the shooter with anything to hand would have the same result.
    I can perceive the origins of the gun cultures:
    A. The militia back in the day before civil authority was established.
    B. The American myth of suspicion of central government, BUT as you pointed out…. “People cry out to cut back big government and then when positions are reduced, the same folks cry foul when something bad happens….”
    C. The obsession with ‘Liberty’ (which actually translates into I have the right to do what I want to do. You have to obey the law).
    The problem with the gun culture is that it does lead to an arms race which is not helped by the antics of the MAGA crew. If I was living in the USA these days I would be inclined to have one hand gun- just in case I encountered some of these barely under control folk.
    It is a most unhappy time

    • Roger, many thanks. The dilemma has always been the organized campaigns against an change. It makes the voices seem louder than they are. Now, with the NRA in state of disarray due to the embezzlement scandals, it will be interesting to see if their clout is the same. Keith

      • Ahh the old embezzlement scandals. Often the downfall of many an apparently strong organisation. Greed can be useful at times.
        Actually, with my far left socialist hat on one way to possibly spike the NRA is for those who believe in gun control to buy just one hand gun and join up, then work within.
        True in does mean a financial outlay, an apparent surrender of principals and having to mix with folk you would normally go to the other end of town to avoid……but sometimes working from within does the trick.
        (But don’t tell anyone I told you so)

      • Roger, based on my gray hairs, one of the least policed groups in my country are Associations. They collect gobs of money, enrich themselves with benefits, pay and perquisites and don’t have the needed regimen in Board governance. The leadership of the NRA did not do the Association many favors by their greed. And, they got caught. Keith

  3. Reblogged this on Filosofa's Word and commented:
    Two of my favourite blogging buddies wrote about our problem in this country of far too many guns in all the wrong hands, and I couldn’t decide between Keith’s and Brosephus’ posts, for both are thoughtful and thought-provoking. A coin toss made the decision. This is Keith’s post from more than 8 years ago, but it is eerily apt today. Thank you, Keith. I would like to wish that we won’t have to write these posts someday, but … we both know that would be a lie.

  4. Thank you for reposting, Keith! I also think mental health is a great issue. If there are so many control with traceable bullets, and a waiting time for getting a rifle, i can not really understand why they are not making a test for mental health too. Basically, however, I understand the arguments that follow from the US constitution and defend the right to arms. Unfortunately, times have changed, and back then there were no such difficult cases in which innocent people are killed. Best wishes, Michael

    • Michael, thanks. What makes me sad is to Google “six year old shoots four year old” and just read the stories. As for the college campus issue, the comment I made echoes that of the head of college mental health counseling for a major university. All it takes is one impulsive act and someone’s depressed college student is gone. Keith

      • I agree with you, Keith! You would have to see mentally unstable people more as needing help than putting them in the drawer of bad contemporaries. I don’t know now what it’s like in the USA, but here in Germany you could get hold of any firearm at any time, despite the rigid gun laws. Laws are just printed paper. Even if our Bavarian Minister of the Interior behaves like a sheriff in a small American town. Lol Best wishes, Michael

  5. Such a great write up Keith on so many levels. Complete, factual and I’m in total agreement with you here. “We cannot solve a problem, if we don’t admit we have one”.
    I loved your stats. What if you admit you lie, is that ok? I make it known if I play a game with you I will cheat so they are on high alert. It’s quite fun.
    This is no laughing matter though and I do pray we can make headway in this direction.

  6. This was written many years ago, but I would have objected to most of it then. Now I’m not sure I can agree to much, beyond the need to get rid of guns.Guns kill people. More guns only kill more people! I will leave it at that.

      • …have given up trying to change things just because of the sheer size of the task. No task is too big if people are determined to change it. In my opinion it is that determination that is lacking. The will is there for some, but far from enough.

      • Rawgod, I am with you, but unfortunately, too many are lined up against this kind of change. So, the only way to find change is start with what is acceptable and push for more. Sadly, whole scale elimination is not going to happen in the US no matter how much you and I would like to see it. And, it will turn others away from conversation. Keith

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