Guns Kill People

The+Good+Guy+with+a+Gun+is+a+myth+that+costs+lives.

Tony Webster/Wikimedia Commons

The “Good Guy with a Gun” is a myth that costs lives.

By Billy Gardner, Lake Forest High School

Guns kill people.

It seems that this simple fact is often disregarded or even denied when the debate over gun control occurs, but it’s quite simple: guns kill people. A gun is a tool, true enough, but it is expressly designed for the purpose of harming others. This is indisputable. So why do we tolerate something in our society that has no other purpose than to harm people? What possible use could the average citizen have for that?

There is something ingrained in the American cultural identity concerning firearms: the myth of the ‘Good Guy with a Gun’ — the idea that any random American citizen can step up to the call of duty and right the wrongdoings of the nefarious public shooter by shooting them, because even when they are used for good, guns kill people.

The ‘Good Guy with a Gun’ so beloved by the gun lobby is an irresponsible fantasy. It does not exist. The mass shooter in Dayton, Ohio was shot by police a mere thirty seconds after first opening fire, and in that time he was able to kill nine and injure forty-seven. Is the gun lobby seriously saying that an untrained civilian would have a better response time and would be able to resolve the situation better than the police? Would the ‘Good Guy with a Gun’ have been able to remain calm under pressure, evade fire, and return it without hitting any bystanders? Doubtful. When the police arrive, would they listen to him as he carefully explains the situation to them and send him home with a junior deputy badge for his service? Absolutely not. The police would shoot him, and they’d be right to do so.

There is no such thing as a ‘Good Guy with a Gun’ to them; there are only civilians and potential threats. And the person waving a gun around over a fresh corpse in the area that they just got reports of a shooting in? That’s a threat. People with guns are threats, because guns kill people. Let’s stop pretending that this myth is anything more than that: a myth.

Guns kill people. According to the Pew Research Center, almost 40,000 people were killed by guns in 2017. This number has only gone up since then. Two thirds of those deaths were suicides, one third were murders. Three quarters of all murders involved guns, and over half of all suicides did.

There have been 2,641 days since the Sandy Hook massacre. In that time, 2,389 mass shootings have occurred. There has been a single calendar week without a mass shooting, that of Jan 5, 2014. The longest break has been the eleven days from Jan 8, 2013 to Jan 18, 2013. Just over two months into 2020, there have been 47 mass shootings, in which 62 people were killed and 182 were injured. Guns don’t help people. A gun has one purpose. Guns kill people.

America has the most lax gun laws of any developed nation. How can we justify this when Harvard studies show that there is an undeniable correlation between higher numbers of guns and higher levels of gun violence? Our gun obsession is uniquely American. We are fixated on the idea that the Second Amendment is prophetic, that one day the Government will come for you, and the only thing standing between tyranny and freedom is the firearm-wielding citizenry. Discounting how utterly ridiculous it is to think that your average Joe — or anyone for that matter — with a twelve-gauge could take on the U.S military, this is emblematic of larger cultural idea about guns.

‘God created man, but Sam Colt made them equal,’ the saying goes. The expression stems from the Wild West, a period of rugged individualism where men were men, women were women, and the Sheriff and his six-shooter kept the peace through threat of violence. Even back then, guns killed people.

‘The Second Amendment protects the First’ is the modern day equivalent. The government would crack down on us, freedoms would be infringed, and a police state would rule, if not for the guns of the American people. Thank you, brave citizen, for protecting me. Can we protect African-Americans from police by using guns now?

Oh wait, we used to. Then we passed legislation to stop it. Believe it or not, Republican Ronald Reagan, then Governor of California, passed gun control laws to stop open carry — a right defended by many gun activists — and ban assault weapons, and even said that guns are “a ridiculous way to solve problems that have to be solved among people of good will.”

Called the Mulford Act, it was written and signed into law due to Black Panthers’ practice of copwatching — following police patrols around while holding assault rifles, threatening violence to keep the government at bay. This was the exact scenario so often presented as the ultimate defense for guns, and the NRA itself supported the bill that stopped it. America has a complicated — and racist — relationship between minority communities and guns. African-Americans are almost four times as likely to be victims of gun violence than the average citizen. Of the three thousand children killed by guns every year, African-American children are ten times more likely to be a victim than white children. Guns don’t solve problems. Guns are the problem. Guns kill people.

Gun activists may shrug their shoulders and say that there’s nothing we can do. That banning guns will only make the problem worse by taking away guns from law abiding citizens. Ignoring those who commited suicide using a gun, who might have otherwise survived to go on to get help, and ignoring deaths due to mishaps with firearms, such as accidental and negligent discharges or hunting accidents, America’s firearm homicide rate is thrity people per million.

Australia, a different neo-European nation with a strong history of gun ownership, has a homicide rate of one-and-a-half people per million. In the wake of a 1996 mass shooting, Australia passed sweeping bipartisan gun control laws, enacted massive national gun buyback programs, and state gun amnesty programs. In spite of their history with guns, and the large numbers of people who owned them, Australia took decisive action, and it worked. Australia recognized that simple truth: guns kill people.

The Sandy Hook massacre shocked people to their very core. “Never again,” they said, “will we let anything like this happen.”

The San Bernardino shooting shocked people to their very core. “Never again,” they said, “will we let anything like this happen.”

The Pulse nightclub murders shocked people to their very core. “Never again,” they said, “will we let anything like this happen.”

The Las Vegas slaughtering shocked people to their very core. “Never again,” they said, “will we let anything like this happen.”

The Tree of Life massacre shocked people to their very core. “Never again,” they said, “will we let anything like this happen.”

The Parkland shooting shocked people to their very core. “Never again,” they said, “will we let anything like this happen.”

The El Paso shooting shocked people to their very core. “Never again,” they said, “will we let anything like this happen.”

Guns are not a friend. Guns are not a solution. Guns are not a multi-purpose instrument. Guns have one job. Guns kill people.

This story was originally published on The Forest Scout on March 6, 2020.