The NRA Misses the Target with Their “Good Guy with a Gun” Strategy

To stop a bad guy with a gun, it takes a good guy with a gun.
- Wayne LaPierre

While others struggled to flee the Borderline Bar and Grill, Ventura County Sergeant Ron Helus and a still unnamed California Highway Patrol officer ran towards danger. As Ventura County Sheriff Bill Ayub told reporters: “Both Sgt. Helus and the CHP officer knowingly and willingly went into what can only be described as a combat situation, risking their own lives to save many others”. The two officers were the ultimate good guys with guns; Helus was a 29-year veteran of the Ventura County Sheriff’s Office and the CHP officer was a nine-year veteran of the CHP and had a military background. At the end of the encounter with a mass-murderer, the CHP officer pulled Helus’ dying body out of the building. The coroner later revealed that it was his gun that likely delivered the bullet that ultimately ended Helus’ life. Neither police officer managed to hit the shooter.

To this day, the NRA and their allies still try to demonize the police officers who did not rush into the Parkland Shooting with guns blazing. While it is easy to armchair quarterback and fantasize that they could have easily walked into the school and instantaneously stopped the massacre, those officers also knew that the chaos enveloping the situation could also mean that what happened at the Borderline was also a possibility. Given the number of children flowing from the school was much higher than those in attendance at the Borderline, the chances are that they were the ones who could have been killed in friendly fire.

If Trump ever gets his way and teachers are given concealed permits so that they can carry guns in the classroom, the danger will increase. The CHP officer entered the Borderline with Sergent Helus and in the confusion still accidentally shot him. How will officers responding to a school shooting know how to tell the difference between the active shooter and a teacher? How will a teacher know that the flash from a gun is being held by the shooter or a police officer? How many children will be killed in the crossfire?

Recent headlines also provide answers to these questions. Jemel Roberson was an aspiring police officer who was working as an armed security guard at Manny’s Blue Room Bar. He apprehended a shooting suspect at the bar and held him at gunpoint for the police. Seeing the good guy with a gun, a responding officer shot him. Roberson is now dead.

Emantic Fitzgerald Bradford Jr. was also killed by the police. According to the first telling of the story of a shooting at the Riverchase Galleria on Thanksgiving, Bradford was a shooter who “was confronted by officers as he tried to flee…and a Hoover police officer fatally shot him.” However, further investigation showed that the man shot by police “was not, in fact, the gunman and that the true gunman remained on the loose.” Bradford’s family says that he was licensed to carry a firearm and that had rushed into the mall to protect shoppers. Perhaps Mayor Frank V. Brocato described the situation the best: “You just don’t bring guns into a crowded mall.” That should apply even if you are a good guy with a gun.

The US Naval Postgraduate School Center for Homeland Defense and Security counted 94 school shooting incidents in 2018, a near 60% increase on the previous high, 59, an unwanted record set in 2006.” While the gun manufacturers who fund the NRA would like us to believe that the only way to end the senseless killing of our students is to put more guns on the streets, this is a strategy that has not been working. It is time for them to stop demonizing the victims of these tragedies and work towards common sense gun control that protects our children. Surely our Founding Fathers did not write the Second Amendment with the thought that innocent lives are expendable.

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Carl Petersen is a parent and special education advocate, elected member of the Northridge East Neighborhood Council and was a Green Party candidate in LAUSD’s District 2 School Board race. During the campaign, he was endorsed by Network for Public Education (NPE) Action and Dr. Diane Ravitch called him a “strong supporter of public schools.” His past blogs can be found at www.ChangeTheLAUSD.com. Opinions are his own.