The Good Guy With a Gun Fallacy

Feb 22, 2018 (San Diego) Predictably President Donald Trump embraced this during the listening session with students and survivors. He got some pushback. He was even reminded by a parent why the other National Rifle Association talking point involving Israel is false. However, this was the gun solution the president was excited about. No doubt, he has watched a few Dirty Harry movies, oh and Dirty Harry is a trained cop.

He even used the technically correct name: Concealed carry. It is a common fantasy encouraged by the NRA, partly because it helps to keep people afraid and to sell more guns. First off, when the call comes into the 911 dispatch, the first officers to respond to any scene involving a gun, will be patrol officers. Rarely, that officer on patrol might be a trained SWAT officer. But most of the time the first officer on the scene will be armed with a service side arm, and will have to decide to shoot or not to shoot.

Imagine if you will, being the first officer at a movie theater, and chasing a guy who is armed with a gun who went into a theater, full of patrons, to escape you? This happened in 2013 in San Diego. The patrol officer, who was a good shot, opened fire and wounded the suspect.

Now, the officer came into that already chaotic scene with the report of a male armed with a gun. Let’s insert into this very real life situation the good guy with a gun. Our well intentioned hero shot the suspect before the officer came into the scene. How will the officer know this is a good guy? It is not like there are flashing neon lights going “good guy.” Most likely, a second after the officer orders the good guy to drop it, the officer would have, justifiably, opened fire.

This is why police do not want that added complication.

So we are going to arm teachers. Let’s go that far. For that matter, we are going to arm coaches, janitors, the lunch lady. Sure, we have enough volunteers at every school to do this. First question, since we are going to essentially deputize them as law enforcement, who is paying for the guns and the biannual certification? The school District? Let’s just average this. A new gun is let’s say $500. Some are more, some are less. We decide that a good number of staff to be armed, backup and all that Jazz is three. That comes to $1500. Add to that the cost of training, and the ammo that goes with it. So to be nice another $1500 a year?

That comes to a hefty $60,000 for a school district with 20 schools. San Diego Unified has a 212 schools. So our budget comes to $318,000 initial cost. San Diego Unified, and it is hardly unique, is having budget issues. They have a $47 million shortfall. According to the Union Tribune:

In a report filed Tuesday, San Diego Unified officials were required to inform the San Diego County Office of Education whether they expect to be able to pay their bills for the following school year and the next two fiscal years.

Districts expect to have enough funds available issue a positive declaration. They can issue a “qualified” rating if they’re unsure or “negative” if they know they lack sufficient funding.

San Diego Unified has issued “qualified” reports in recent years, so Tuesday’s presentation of “positive” was somewhat of a milestone.

So let’s add this extra cost to the budget. I mean, we cannot pay for programs and teachers, but sure, we can afford the guns.

But let’s forget the financials for a second. Let’s assume that yes, we will have a few volunteers from each school agree to conceal carry and train. And somehow we find the money. Here comes another question. One that faces police officers and department regularly. What ammo do we choose for our side arms? This is a critical question. One that police departments and the FBI wrestle with regularly. Why departments go back and forth between them, and this includes the FBI.

The choice of platform is secondary to the ammo. I know must fans of good guys with guns rarely understand stopping power, wound characteristics and penetration value. Or for that matter, follow through, if the round should go though your target. And some will do that.

Moreover, if the schools are going to equip our good guys with guns, it makes sense to equip them with what the local responding officers carry. It is also critical that these good guys also train at the same range, with responding officers. So in the case of San Diego Unified, this means SDPD has to open its firing range for teachers and other staff, and the school staff better be trained to at least the same standards in dynamic shooting scenarios as patrol officers. It is not like our designated good guys with guns don’t have other responsibilities, like grading papers or preparing curriculum or going to mandatory school training. Oh, and shooting at nice paper targets in the afternoon, while enjoyable, does not prepare you for a guy with a gun, or rifle running around your school actively opening fire.

This training, side by side, might also prevent an officer, pumped up with Adrenalin, and with tunnel vision (effects of fight or flight) from shooting Jack, who was shooting at the range the other day besides the officer.

Which brings me back to real life. When the call goes out, the first officers on scene will be the nearest patrol officers. Once they realize what is going on, a call will quickly go out for mutual aid and SWAT. You will get officers from surrounding departments, and the local Sherriffs responding full tilt. Care to guess how many of them know Jack, or that Jack is a designated good guy with a gun? So we go back to the scenario at the movie theater, a very real situation. What happens when Officer Friendly comes across Jack, who is armed? Remember, they got a report of an active shooter. Likely they have no idea how many active shooters there are, Yes scenes are that chaotic initially. Or for that matter how many designated good guys there are at the school?

It gets worse, the bad guy is armed with a rifle. Let’s ignore what riffle for the moment, and concentrate on the ammo. Like all recent events, .223 is what it spews out. Our designated good guy with a gun has about one third the effective range of our bad guy. So unless you open the door and bad guy is standing there, chances are he will shoot our good guy before he can close range. Why officers tend to bring out a rifle when a rifle is involved. Oh and what happens when our bad guy is wearing a bullet resistant vest? Chances are bad guy will be very annoyed when good guy shoots him center of mass.

To his credit, Senator Marco Rubio understands this, and was clear during the CNN town hall. So there is hope that this idiocy will peter out.

But as a talking point this fantasy from the NRA will not die until a few good guys with guns are shot and killed by police officers who cannot tell them apart from the bad guys. And I am not even going into how much shooting skills degrade if you do not train, or for that matter when you are pumped up with Adrenalin.

Then there is the reality that most teachers do not want to carry heat. Or that most teachers would not conceal carry, but keep guns in lockers. Nor am I getting into the very real liability issues. Who will be responsible when good guy actually fires, but misses bad guy and instead hits a student? Or the round goes through bad guy and hits the student?

As I wrote earlier. I was once a first responder. Unlike the movies, I know how chaotic emergency scenes are. I also have covered a few incidents as media. I know information will dramatically change within 24 hours. So if you expect things to be that clear cut, and for good guys to stop bad guys, that happens in movies.

Written by

Historian by training. Former day to day reporter. Sometimes a geek who enjoys a good miniatures game.

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