Sunday, December 16, 2012

A Word about "One Good Person with a Gun"

Following on my Firearms Insurance post from yesterday, I'd like to address a common argument in discussions about gun control: The hypothesis that "One Good Person" is all that is need to put an end to murders and crime, and therefore more people should carry guns, not fewer.

The argument goes, that one good person armed with a gun could put a stop to tragic mass shootings when they start, greatly reducing the harm done. The problem I have with this that it’s practically mathematically impossible. Without getting directly into the numbers, here is why I think this:

1) One is not enough: If the "One Person" knew in advance where the massacre would be, it would work. In practice we would need thousands, maybe hundreds of thousands of armed individual carrying firearms on a regular basis. A significant portion of the population would have to be armed at all times in order that one of them might happen to be in the right place, at the right time, often enough, and soon enough, to make a difference.

2) "Good" is not enough: The "Good" person refers to intent, but they also must be very good at handling a firearm. And more than good, they must be nearly perfect. Accidents occur even to trained professional police officers, and the "Good Person" would need to be at least this good, if not considerably better.  Consider that thousands of people carrying firearms in public also means thousands of opportunities for accidents to happen. This risk will occur every day, not just on the day that some misguided soul decides to Go Postal take out their anger on innocents. Even a tiny risk of accident, multiplied by thousands and thousands of opportunities, will soon lead to more accidental shootings than the good people could ever prevent. **

** Add to this even a few gun owners that might want to "play Cowboy", and the harm could be far worse.

Put 1) and 2) together and it is pretty easy to see that the "One Good Person" hypothesis just doesn't work. It's a myth. The intention is fine, but the cure is worse than the disease. I could have looked up some statistics and put numbers on this, but then someone would just argue with my numbers. That is also my point - don't believe me - try it yourself: Find a source for firearms crime and injury statistics and put it to the test. I invite anyone to look up their own numbers and work this out for themselves. The math involved is fairly simple, but I can be available to help should that be needed.