Opinion: Is it reasonable to think every good guy with a gun can stop a mass shooter?

·4 min read
Mark Durham says just because a good guy might have a gun, it doesn't mean that he has the courage to confront a bad guy with a gun.
Mark Durham says just because a good guy might have a gun, it doesn't mean that he has the courage to confront a bad guy with a gun.

I’ve heard it said by gun advocates that all that’s needed to stop a bad guy with a gun is a good guy with a gun. The idea is that we need more guns, not fewer. We just need them in the hands of the good people.

I doubt that means we are going to take guns away from bad people. That would fall under the heading of gun control. Well then, can we get more good people to get guns?

That might not help. On the average there are already 1.2 guns for every man, woman and child in the U.S. Since not many children are packing, that means there are probably already a lot of good people with more than one gun, maybe more than two.

Which brings me to the spate of mass shootings. If those numbers are right, it’s extremely likely that there were at least some “good guys (or women)” with guns at most of the mass shootings we’ve heard about over the past few years. However, with the exception of the armed private citizen who killed an active mass shooter at an Indiana mall, I haven’t heard of a mass shooter who was stopped by a good guy with a gun.

The idea that it could, is flawed. Just because someone has, let’s say a handgun, it doesn't they would have the ability or courage, or both, to confront at close quarters a desperate, possibly deranged, opponent with an assault rifle and body armor. The Indiana mall hero, it should be noted, fired first from a distance estimated at 120 feet. Not exactly close-quarters combat.

At the supermarket in Buffalo, my bet is that all of the handgun carriers were cowering under display cases like everyone else.

I consider myself of average courage. One night years ago an intruder entered the bedroom where I was sleeping with my wife, our children across the hall. When discovered, he ran down the hall. I followed him and believed him to be hiding behind a door. I can still recall how every fiber in my body screamed against opening that door and confronting him, even though the lives of my family might be at stake. I finally did, but he had escaped. That moment taught me to question anyone who might easily say, “I would lay down my life for my fellow man.” I’m ashamed to admit it, but I had a hard time doing that for my own family.

I think about the sheriff’s deputy who is facing criminal charges because he is believed to have avoided entering Parkland school to confront a mass shooter. If that is true, I am not excusing his behavior. But I also wonder how many who are judging him would have had the courage to do things differently alone.

Even less excusable are the 19 armed and armored officers who postponed entering the classroom at Robb Elementary School while some of the 21 students and teachers were being killed. One news outlet reported that one of the reasons they waited was to avoid getting killed themselves.

In an example of courage in the face of close-quarters conflict with an active shooter, Asheville’s own Riley Howell stopped a potential mass shooter in a UNC-Charlotte classroom in 2019 without a gun and lost his own life. Which good guy with a gun would have done the same?

Another thought: I am a mental health professional. I also hear that what needs to be done to stop mass killers is to make better use of our mental health treatment resources. Ironically the Texas governor who said that most recently, signed a bill last year to reduce state mental health funding.

But if that is the plan, what would it look like? You are going to force mental health “treatment” on every person identified as “unstable?” People who appear stable today might be unstable tomorrow. Are you going to allow mental health professionals to decide who gets a gun, or doesn’t? Can you imagine the outcry from gun rights advocates?

So, what do we do?

It makes sense to me to at least make it more difficult for “bad” or “unstable” people to get guns. Will it stop everyone who might be a mass killer? Maybe not. But is that a good reason not to? Passing a law against abortion is not going to stop everyone who wants to get an abortion either, and a lot of the gun advocating Republicans want to do that.

Mark Durham is a licensed clinical mental health counselor in Asheville.

This article originally appeared on Asheville Citizen Times: Is it logical to think a good guy with a gun can stop a mass shooter?