Gun Anecdotes and Pretzel Logic

They seem to be arriving in the Inbox more frequently these days, those reports of incidents in which a law-abiding citizen thwarts the intents of evildoers thanks to being armed. Passed on by one of the gun addicts we all know in an effort to rationalize their habit, these narratives are often accompanied by dubious statistics about how often this sort of thing occurs, and often by comments that defy all reason for anyone except a gun addict.

In the first place, most of these incidents are bogus. There is, for example, the popular story of the 11-year-old girl in Montana who fatally shoots two home invaders. For an added touch of realism, the names and ages of the offenders are also included, and their names are -whaddaya know- Hispanic. (Paranoia about THEM wanting to harm us dovetails neatly with paranoia about THEM invading our borders and taking over our country). Nonetheless, the story is a fabrication.

Occasionally, however, such a thing really does happen. Earlier this month in Philadelphia, a Temple University student named Rob Eells was accosted by three teenagers demanding money, one of whom pulled a gun and shot him. Whereupon Eels pulled out his own gun and fired back. This incident has been making the rounds along with the fake one. And both of them have prompted some very strange conclusions, like the following.

1.” This proves that we have a constitutional right to own a gun.”

Say what? It might establish the advisability of owning a gun in some circumstances, but that’s a different matter from constitutionality or legality. Reason, alas, does not always inform constitutional or legislative changes. Remember Prohibition?

2. “This proves that gun control doesn’t work.”

How so? Firearm regulation, more pejoratively known as “gun control”, is not a single measure but a wide variety of measures, some more effective than others. The fact that one teenage hoodlum was able to get his hands on a weapon hardly proves that nobody else has ever been prevented from doing so.

3. “This proves that it’s stupid to outlaw guns.”

It may make a strong case that it’s unwise to do so in some communities, but every community is different. However, the comment is mostly irrelevant. It’s not very common for a community to ban guns altogether (and it wasn’t common even before the “conservative” Supreme Court rewrote the Second Amendment). That’s not what “gun control” is all about: it’s about keeping guns away from people like the teen hoodlums rather than people like the Temple student. Many advocates of “gun control” are themselves gun owners.

4. “This proves that more people should have guns.”

Seriously? You honestly believe that the Philadelphia episode would have turned out better if all three of the teens had opened fire instead of just one?

5. “Okay, but it proves that at least more law-abiding citizen should own guns.”

Ah, the classic John Wayne wet dream. Bad guy pulls his gun, good guy pulls his gun, and bang! good guy gets the drop on him, and rides off into the sunset.  The real world, however, isn’t nearly so pat.

The day after the shootout in Philly, a man rushed into a Nevada restaurant blazing away with an AK47, killing 3 people before turning the gun on himself. Two of the dead were National Guard members – meaning that they themselves were trained in the use of weapons. They probably weren’t armed at the time, but suppose they had been. Do you really believe that they would have taken note of what was happening, and looked up from their waffles and chat in time to prevent the shooter from doing his damage? Possibly, but not bloody likely.

Still, let’s indulge the fantasy. Imagine that the gun addict’s vision of Utopia had come to pass, and EVERYONE in the IHOP was packing heat. Imagine 50 diners slapping leather and opening fire from 50 directions. Imagine a dozen or two dozen bodies on the floor instead of 4. Do you truly consider that a preferred alternative?

There is no quick and easy solution to the problem of gun violence, particularly after so many years of Americans falsely believing they have a constitutional right to be armed. Even gun addicts themselves have been known to point this out – you may have seen, for example, bumper stickers that say “Gun Control – A Simple Solution for Simple Minds”. But there is nothing simple or simpleminded about “gun control”, which does not profess to be a magic bullet, as it were. What IS simpleminded and naive is the assumption that the problem will just take care of itself if we do nothing.