I have sometimes joked with my friends that if I found myself in a dangerous situation facing would-be assailants (you know, the bad guys), in my mind I would be like Black Widow from Marvel’s The Avengers – kicking butt and taking names. I have visualized these encounters and just like Black Widow, I would do flips, avoid bullets, neutralize bombs and beat the bad guys (or gals). In my mind, I’m saving the day and all of humankind! Yay, me!
In reality, I recognize that my skills in this area are very limited. Sure, I took a self-defense class after someone attacked me. I now feel much more prepared to handle a situation like that should it happen again. But, unlike Black Widow, whose lines and stunts are scripted, I am not at all equipped to take down the villains or criminals that I may come across. Nor do I want to be. Self-defense is one thing. Turning into a vigilante or trained assassin is something quite different.
That’s why this current rhetoric about how people should respond if they find themselves faced with an active shooter or terrorist would be laughable if it wasn’t so dangerous. There are some who are calling for ordinary citizens to carry guns in large numbers so that if an attack breaks out they can pull out their weapons, take down the bad guys/gals and save the day. And, I suppose it could happen that way in some cases. There was the incident with the three Americans foiling a terrorist plot on the train in France. There’s the s/heroes who brought down Flight 93 on 9/11. There’s certainly other accounts of people who’ve stopped robbers, criminals and would-be terrorists.
However, I think that we are overestimating our own abilities if we think ordinary citizens—even with some training—will respond in predictable ways during a crisis that requires them to use firearms. That’s how it happens in Hollywood and maybe even on “reality” television, but not so much in real life. No one knows exactly how they will react when taken off guard and faced with making quick, split-second, life-or-death decisions. You can train for it on some level but even professionals don’t always know how they will react in those types of situations. Mistakes are often made. Mistakes that end people’s lives. At least, this is what we’ve been told following case after case of unarmed African American men and women losing their lives at the hands of law enforcement officers.
It’s actually quite presumptuous of us to think that more guns means more safety or less lives lost. I would say it’s just the opposite. More guns means more danger. I am afraid to think about how many lives would be loss if every college student, for example, started shooting at an assailant in a large lecture hall or classroom. Would they be such good markspeople that no innocent people would get hurt? I doubt it.
What about the grocery store or in the mall or movie theater? Everyone starts shooting and takes down the assailant and no one else? Only the bad guys/gals go down and the good guys/gals save the day? Not likely. Perhaps in the alternate universe where The Avengers are fighting Hydra. But probably not so much in Charleston, Sandy Hook, Aurora, Lafayette, San Bernardino, Blacksburg, Washington, D.C. and the many other U.S. cities that have been devastated by mass shootings.
It makes much more sense to change gun laws to make it harder for criminals and would-be terrorists to get guns than it does to advocate for every citizen to pack heat, so-to-speak. I mean why can’t we have more comprehensive background checks for those who want to buy guns? Why can’t we stop people on the “No Fly List” from purchasing firearms? Why can’t we put limitations on who is able to buy guns (and how many) at gun shows? And, please don’t say the Second Amendment has us bound to this insanity. It’s just not true.
There are a number of common sense approaches to ending the pervasiveness of gun violence in this country. We just need to have the political will and courage to do it. Because in real life, unlike in the movies or on television, there is no script nor is there a stuntperson able to take out the bad guys with one shot and no casualties.
So, if you say you want more people with more guns, I hope you’re kidding. But, if you’re not, please make sure they’re in your neighborhood and not mine.