After Aurora: the Good, the Bad and the Predictable

I’d like to propose that a new term be added to the vernacular: The NRA Minute. As you may know, a “New York Minute” is the proverbially brief interval of time between when a stop light turns green and the (allegedly rude and impatient) New York driver behind you honks his or her horn. By the same token, I offer the following definition:

NRA Minute (n) The interval of time between the news of a mass shooting and the gun culture’s response that we shouldn’t “blame the gun”.

Of course, nobody is literally “blaming the gun”; we all know that they don’t just fire themselves. But a lot of people do blame the ready availability of guns. And the gunsters are always eager for an opportunity to shoot down this notion, even on the heels of a massacre like the one in Aurora. (The media always refer to such a massacre, rather euphemistically, as a “tragedy”. Isn’t that a word better reserved for the accidental sinking of a ferry with passengers aboard? As my nephew astutely commented, the tragedy of an incident like Aurora is that nothing will change.) They always insist, while the smoke is still dissipating at the shooting site, that the answer is even more guns. This line of “thinking” is based on three incredibly naive assumptions.

Incredibly Naive Assumption # 1: There is an impermeable line of demarcation between Armed Good Guys and Armed Bad Guys.

The gunsters are quite willing to stake their lives (and yours) on the belief that it’s easy to distinguish one from the other; and that only the latter use their guns for malice, while the former always use them in defense.

Incredibly Naive Assumption # 2: Gun owners will be armed and ready when an attack occurs.

I keep hearing that even in places where concealed carry laws are in effect, many owners often don’t bother, because it’s just so awkward. Do you really want to tote your piece to the beach with you? Or the movie theater? Actually, many people no doubt will be doing the latter for a while, and with any luck none will shoot himself in the foot during a love scene. But it’s a good bet that once the sensation of Aurora fades, the great majority of them will stop babysitting their hardware during a flick.

Incredibly Naive Assumption # 3: The Good Guys will be able to outgun the Bad Guys effectively and efficiently.

The shooting in the movie theater happened quickly and amid a great deal of confusion. Many other shooting incidents happen much more quickly and with even more confusion, leaving little if any time to stop it. Furthermore, there is always the possibility that trying to shoot a gunman will result in shooting innocent people. Just imagine how much worse the scene in a crowded movie theater would have been if, in accordance with NRA objectives, everyone in the theater had been armed! Gunsters seem quite willing to assume that all gun owners (except the bad guys) will be perfectly responsible, perfectly in control, perfectly accurate in their marksmanship, even under the most panicky circumstances. Maybe they’ve spent too much time in movie theaters themselves, watching cops shoot guns out of the hands of criminals — which never, ever happens in real life.

Sure, it’s possible that in some cases an armed citizen can stop an armed criminal without doing more harm than good. Indeed (as no doubt your gun-totin’ friends and relatives have informed you many, many, many times) it happens rather often. But just how¬†often is very much a matter of debate. The million-dollar (or million life) question is whether it happens often enough to justify the consequences of flooding the streets with guns.

If there’s a silver lining to what just happened in Colorado, it’s that at least one news network (MSNBC) made it a policy not to name the shooter except where necessary. And its reporters mentioned that a number of government officials — including President Obama — were following the same policy. I say it’s about time; I’ve been urging this kind of blacklist for years, as I can’t help suspecting that forcing anonymity upon the gunmen would reduce their numbers. And as a bonus, the NRA would bark a little less often.