The Insanity of the ‘Good Guy with a Gun’ Argument

Why arming our teachers is such a bad idea

NRA Executive Vice President Wayne LaPierre’s favorite soundbite, ever since the 2012 massacre at Sandy Hook elementary school, goes something like this:

“The only way to stop a bad guy with a gun is with a good guy with a gun.”

He said it again recently, in the wake of the recent shooting in Parkland, Florida.

I’ve got to give him some credit here. His “good guy with a gun” phrase appeals to our collective silver screen fantasies, whether we’re admirers of the old-time John Wayne movies or of the fictional John McClane:

“Yippee-ki-yay, motherfucker.”

The problem? If you look beyond its surface appeal, you’ll realize that the “good guy with a gun” argument is complete hogwash.


Arming teachers won’t work

In recent days, Trump and others have floated the idea of arming schoolteachers, suggesting that it would deter shooters from entering our schools.

He’s wrong. He’s ignoring the fact that school massacres aren’t the work of a logical mind.

When asked by a writer for Politico.com whether the presence of guns discourages a massacre, Dr. Peter Langman, a clinical psychologist and author of School Shooters: Understanding High School, College, and Adult Perpetrators, stated:

“Many of these shooters intend to die, either by their own hand or by suicide by cop. There was an armed guard at Columbine. There were armed campus police at Virginia Tech. The presence of armed security does not seem to be a deterrent….They’re going in essentially on a suicide mission.”

Let’s just pretend for the sake of argument that an armed teacher happens to catch a gunman in the hallway of a school. Does it really seem plausible that they would be able to stop them before anyone else was injured?

I don’t think so.

Consider this. As was reported in a 2013 article for Time.com, even NYC police officers, who have “some of the most comprehensive and sophisticated firearms training of any police force in the country, using a combination of live fire, non-lethal force and simulated scenarios” — have a low “hit rate” — only about 18% — in active shooter situations.

Can we really expect a teacher to do any better than that?

And, as pointed out by the veteran’s organization VoteVets, armed teachers are likely to create more problems in active shooter situations than they solve.


We should have fewer guns, not more

Here are a couple of startling statistics, via CNN.com:

A 2007 survey revealed that Americans own almost half of all civilian-owned guns worldwide — 48% of an estimated 640 million.
Americans also own more guns per capita than any other country — 89 guns for every 100 people.

With all of these guns, if the “good guy” argument were true, the US would have the lowest mass shooting rate in the world. However, that’s simply not the case:

Even though the US has only 5% of the world’s population, 31% of all mass shootings between 1966 and 2012 occurred here.

And it wasn’t even close. The US had 90 mass shootings between 1966 and 2012, compared to the Philippines, which was second with 18.

Researchers from the Harvard Injury Control Research Center have also thoroughly debunked the “good guys with guns” theory in several studies. They found just the opposite — that more guns correlate with higher homicide rates.

“The evidence indicates that the current easy access to guns by all members of our society makes our proclivity toward lethal violence much worse….Within the United States, a wide array of empirical evidence indicates that more guns in a community lead to more homicides.” — Private Guns, Public Health by David Hemenway, Director of the Harvard Injury Control Research Center

Most teachers don’t want guns in their classes

It’s not just liberal, anti-gun, teachers that oppose having weapons in the classroom. Even gun-owning teachers agree:

Randi Weingarten, president of the American Federation of Teachers, backed up Gorman’s point of view when speaking to Polico.com:

“There is not a schools person I know who would make this case [for arming teachers] in any credible manner. Anyone who suggests this has no real understanding of what goes on in schools, or worse doesn’t care, and is more focused on the needs of gun manufacturers and the NRA than of children.”

And suggesting that we give bonuses to teachers based on their willingness to carry a gun just strikes me — and others — as insulting and dangerous.

What might help?

For starters, why don’t we bring back the assault weapons ban, which was remarkably effective at reducing deaths from gun massacres?

“Compared with the 10-year period before the ban, the number of gun massacres during the ban period fell by 37 percent, and the number of people dying from gun massacres fell by 43 percent. But after the ban lapsed in 2004, the numbers shot up again — an astonishing 183 percent increase in massacres and a 239 percent increase in massacre deaths.” — via the Washington Post, citing research from Rampage Nation by researcher Louis Klarevas

Why don’t we train teachers and students to look for behaviors that indicate a student is planning an attack?

According to a recent article in Business Insider, researchers found that when Germany tried this approach after a series of school shootings, 19 high-risk students were identified and offered help in just a seven-month period, averting many possible incidents.

Why don’t we insist that Congress enact meaningful reforms for background checks before someone is allowed to purchase a gun?


Let’s follow the example of the Parkland students and take a stand against gun violence. Call and write your representatives. Ask them to support assault weapons bans and stronger gun control regulations.

If you can’t find the right words to do this on your own, here are some resources that might help.

Thanks for reading.