How to respond when someone says “more guns save lives”

In the middle of watching Sunday football and doing the week’s laundry on November 5th, my phone pinged with a Tweet. Then another. And another. Something was trending. Before I could check to see what was setting Twitter ablaze, the local news broke through the game and announced that there had been a mass shooting. Another one.

This time, the tragedy hit close to home for me. Impacting the small Texas town of Sutherland Springs, this mass shooting that claimed the lives of 26 individuals — ranging from ages 17 months to 77 years — is now the deadliest in Texas history.

Once the world learned about this tragic shooting at the hands of homegrown terrorist Devin Patrick Kelley, the token gun reform debate started up.

As is the case after every major American mass shooting, the calls for stricter gun laws and increased vetting are being met with criticism.

Discussions on gun reform are being met with admonishment for “politicizing the tragedy,” with arguments that gun reform threatens the Second Amendment, and with cynicism claiming that, by criminalizing firearms, we are ensuring that only criminals have access to them. Conservative politicians have long been soft on calling for gun reform, and most have answered this tragedy by offering their thoughts and prayers — instead of actionable changes.

But if there ever was a time to come forward to take a stance against this national epidemic, it would be now.

During a press conference today in South Korea, President Trump had his chance to take action. When asked by NBC’s Ali Vitali if he would apply his demand for increased vetting for immigration to gun purchases, the president quickly shot down any possibility of increased firearm regulations.

After shaming the reporter for bringing up the issue before “letting a little time go by,” Trump then stated that if extreme vetting was used for gun purchases, there would be no difference in the outcome of the Sutherland Spring shooting — except that it would have been much worse had an armed citizen not been there to neutralize Kelley.

Unfortunately for the American public, the president is wrong.

While Johnnie Langendorff and Stephen Willeford — the men who chased after a fleeing Kelley — should absolutely be commended for their heroism, citizen intervention during mass shootings doesn’t usually work out positively for anyone.

The “good guy with a gun” archetype is one that America was founded on. We’ve seen the same character everywhere — from old Western classics like The Lone Ranger to modern day blockbusters like Gran Torino. Though there are good people who have every intention to use their concealed firearm to protect others during dangerous situations, research has found that the chaos of those situations often makes that an impossible feat.


Independent studies conducted by firearm experts working in law enforcement found that, in simulated scenarios in which an armed civilian engaged during a mass shooting, the death toll was considerably higher.

In these instances, the armed citizen either became a victim themselves or added to the death count due to “friendly fire” from their weapon.

Moreover, we shouldn’t expect that armed citizens can and should step in during these mass shootings; there is no true testing guideline for owning a gun and no required recertification. Individual states regulate the right to carry a firearm. Since there is no consistent test of abilities, continual training, or reevaluation, the ability of armed civilians is a gamble that could cost lives.

Besides these facts, a recent study from Stanford University analyzed over 40 years of crime data and found that states that had made it easier for citizens to obtain and operate guns had a higher rate of non-lethal violent crime than areas with stricter gun regulations. This study reverses the 1998 findings of economist John Lott. Mr. Lott’s research claimed that more guns decreased violence in communities and has been touted by the NRA since its publishing.

Even the theory that home invasions can be neutralized by possession of a concealed weapon has been found to be more wishful thinking than actual proof.

Studies have found that concealed weapons in the home are less likely to be used in the event of trespassing and, instead, more likely to be used to intimidate other members of the household — typically toward women and children.

Still, despite the proof that the “good guy with a gun” is more of a folk hero than an actuality, gun rights supporters continue to use this defense to disprove gun control regulations that America so desperately needs.

Since the tragic Columbine shooting, we have seen so many attacks that are even more deadly. After each of these mass shootings, we argued about what needs to be done to prevent this from happening again — and each time, we did nothing. I don’t want to imagine the tragedy that will finally cause us to make a comprehensive change, but I know it’s coming. And that hits closer to home more than anything else.

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