After each mass shooting in America, a voice is heard somewhere in the wilderness of the gun control debate preaching the myth that “nothing stops a bad guy but a good guy with a gun.” This worn-out statement has been used in support of stand your ground laws, but it’s unlikely stand your ground laws would stop a mass shooting.
The good guy myth is repeated by the gun lobby – like a sales pitch for a reliable car – almost every time there’s a high-profile murder of innocent people, or a vigilante kills a perp, and it’s simply not true.
In the wake of the worst mass shooting in U.S. history, at the Pulse night club in Orlando, we heard it again. Presumptive Republican presidential nominee Donald Trump, an NRA supporter, is likely to have said it again by the time you read this.
Stand your ground is dangerous
Some gun owners may argue that engaging a threat is the best solution. In Florida – the birthplace of “stand your ground” laws – it’s highly possible that several patrons or employees of the night club were armed, and reports are that an armed security guard fired back at the gunman during the frenzy. It’s unclear if the club had a system to check for weapons at the entrance.
Chances are, 29-year-old Omar Mateen, like any other mass shooter, probably didn’t bother to make a normal entrance on his hours-long rampage, as he killed 49 people and wounded 53 others. it was only when police fired on him that the shooting ended.
Stand your ground law relieves a person of a duty to retreat. That means there is no obligation to try and escape any danger or call police in the face of a threat. It allows for the use of deadly force to meet deadly force.
It means the law may be on the good guy’s side even if he’s not the intended target of a gunman. There have been several cases where the “good guy” saved the day. A Good Samaritan can also be killed while trying to come to the rescue of others, as what happened outside a Dallas, Texas store last month.
No warning, lots of firepower
But without any warning or firepower to match, who can stand their ground against an AR-15 assault rifle firing 45 rounds a minute – a weapon designed for war – wielded by a crazed gunman intent on carnage?
Some research suggests that a “good guy with a gun” may not even be aware of a threat until it’s too late. In a mass shooting, there is usually no warning, in which case the good guy role is dangerously ineffective at least.
At it’s deadliest worst, there is also an increased chance during an active shooter situation that any number of innocent people may be hurt or killed by “friendly fire” from an untrained civilian – who happens to be a “good guy with a gun”. There could also be criminal or civil legal repercussions.
To successfully meet force with force, there must be some type of warning and an equal or better effective and accurate amount of force used to stop a bad guy with an AR-15. In almost every mass shooting of recent years (including the Newtown school shooting, the movie theater shooting in Aurora, and the San Bernardino shooting) it was the shooter’s weapon of choice.
Yet the NRA, the AR-15’s most avid supporter, has opposed any efforts to keep assault weapons out of the hands of bloodthirsty maniacs. In the immediate aftermath of the worst mass shooting in our memory, the organization was unusually quiet and offered no expressions of sympathy for the victims.
Manufacturers of these high-powered weapons of war are facing lawsuits from some families. Families of Sandy Hook victims have filed lawsuits against gun manufacturers they say made a weapon that shouldn’t be sold to civilians. In response to the Orlando shooting, presumptive Democratic presidential nominee Hillary Clinton said “It reminds us once more that weapons of war have no place on our streets.”
There should be state and federal bans on assault-type weapons designed more for war than for hunting, such as was in effect from 1994 to 2004. It’s estimated that there are millions of these weapons in circulation. Efforts to reinstitute the ban have been underway but encounter resistance from the gun lobby.
Only lawmakers can help
Unfortunately, it appears that mass shootings do little to change state gun laws, even when we say enough is enough. Many politicians only use phrases like “thoughts and prayers” after a mass shooting, when action is what’s needed.
It’s up to lawmakers in each state who recklessly feed into NRA rhetoric and NRA money to act now – with urgency – and address the epidemic of gun violence by enacting gun laws for safety that may protect us. Anything less will continue to diminish our pursuit of happiness.
Having a stand your ground law can’t help stop a mass shooting, but sensible gun laws can help. We must hold state lawmakers responsible if they want our votes. We must demand that they take action to make America SAFE again.