Every time the U.S. experiences a mass shooting, gun control opponents and advocates alike debate the best way to prevent another tragedy. One of the most pervasive arguments is that killers can be stopped by giving “good guys” more guns. But in the Parkland, Florida shooting on February 14th, school resource deputy Scot Peterson was unable to stop the massacre.
On February 22nd, Broward County Sheriff Scott Israel told reporters that Peterson was at the school when the shooting began, armed and wearing his uniform. But security camera footage revealed that, after the shooter opened fire, the Broward County deputy hesitated to enter the school. All told, Israel said the resource officer stood outside the building for at least four minutes. The Parkland shooting was over in six minutes.
When reporters asked what Peterson should have done, Israel responded that he should have “Addressed the killer. Killed the killer.”
According to the South Florida Sun Sentinel, Peterson was suspended without pay on February 22nd. He resigned and announced his retirement that same day.
Many were quick to condemn Peterson’s actions, calling him a coward. And while it’s true that Peterson failed to carry out his duties as a resource officer, the point is that this could happen to any “good guy with a gun.” It’s hard to know how people will react in crisis situations; sure, they may spring to action, but they could also freeze, like the Parkland school resource deputy. An FBI study of 160 mass shootings between 2000 and 2013 found that armed people who weren’t law enforcement (including security guards) ended only 3.1 percent of shootings.
Even the most well-trained “good guy” might not be able to take out someone armed with a semiautomatic rifle like Florida shooter Nikolas Cruz. According to the Harvard Political Review, police in large metropolitan areas like New York City or L.A. have average hit rates that are generally lower than 50 percent, showing just how difficult it is to act under pressure.
Despite the fact that there’s no proof that more guns save lives, many still believe it. After the Parkland shooting, President Donald Trump and other lawmakers have proposed arming teachers as a solution to gun violence. But Peterson’s inaction is just one example of how arming the good guys won’t necessarily stop the bad guys. We need to stop perpetuating this myth and find a solution that works.