Donald Trump Is Dead Wrong About the “Good Guy With A Gun” Theory - A Ballistics and Firearms Expert Explains Why

Hollye Dexter
Jun 15, 2016 · 5 min read

In the wake of the Orlando shooting massacre, Donald Trump said this: “If you had some guns in that club the night that this took place, if you had guns on the other side, you wouldn’t have had the tragedy that you had. If people in that room had guns with the bullets flying in the opposite direction right at him…”

I’m just going to leave that there for a moment.

One of the benefits to having the LAPD and Sheriffs on your Board of Directors is that you get to go behind the scenes of the Nation’s largest crime lab. Recently, our board of Women Against Gun Violence spent over an hour touring the Los Angeles Regional Crime Laboratory, and I spent most of that time asking questions of the Forensic Scientist who was an expert in ballistics and firearms. I learned a lot about guns that day, including these little-known facts:

  • A bullet cannot penetrate through more than 3 feet of water (so if you’re ever being pursued by a shooter, jump in a pool or lake if possible).
  • 3D printed guns are not a big concern for law enforcement at this time. It takes 40,000 pounds of external pressure to keep a bullet from exploding, which is why the barrel of a gun is made of steel. There is no polymer or plastic invented that can withstand that kind of pressure. What ends up happening with a 3D-printed gun is that the gun itself will shatter with one firing.
  • Bullets can be traced to a crime gun due to microscopic impressions left on the bullet casing from the unique imperfections of the inside of the barrel of the gun.

But above all, the most interesting thing I learned that day was this: I asked about the “good guy with a gun” theory, and whether or not a civilian could have stopped the Aurora theater shooter. The forensic experts told me that sending civilians to do battle in a mass shooting would be a disaster. Police, who are highly trained and also experts in firearms, have an 18% accuracy rate for hitting their intended target in a live shooting situation. You can be the most expert sharpshooter at a shooting range, but add adrenaline, moving targets, poor lighting, emotion and chaos to the scenario, and all that training isn’t good for much. A recent article in Time Magazine explains what happens in the brain and body when shots are fired. “The brain stem sends out signals that cause blood vessels to constrict and hormones to surge…eyesight becomes narrower (literally tunnel vision) under such conditions. People who have been in gunfights describe hearing very little and perceive time slowing down. Amid this chaos, as police officers have to make difficult, split-second decisions, they can lose motor skills as the body reverts to basic fight or flight instincts.”

I’m going to assume here that if our highly trained police officers miss their targets 82% of the time, Joe Shmoe, with his little-to-no training, is going to fare much worse, in spite of his “Die Hard” Bruce Willis fantasies. Still, Donald Trump insists that everyone in the Orlando shooting should have been armed. What a reckless statement for a Presidential candidate to make. Imagine multitudes of people shooting in a dark, crowded nightclub where people are running and screaming and a madman with an assault rifle is shooting at them. Bullets would be flying everywhere. Not to mention, when the police arrive to find multiple shooters, how are they supposed to know the good guys from the bad guys? The increased death rate would be unfathomable. The Donald Trump “good guy with a gun” fantasy is just that —a fantasy.

There are over 300 million guns in circulation in America, enough to arm every man, woman and child. We are a country plagued with gun violence and mass shootings, with over 33,000 Americans killed by guns every year — that’s 90 people every single day. It’s time for us to put to rest these absurd assertions that America needs more guns to be safe. If more guns made us safe, America would be the safest country in the world.

Aside from hate and guns, the real danger in this country is a Congress controlled by the gun lobby. On Tuesday, June 14th, the House GOP voted to block the “No Fly No Buy” bill that would have stopped people on the terror watchlist from buying guns. Every crime gun starts out as a legal gun. Our nation’s laws make it easy for criminals to buy guns, legally. In addition, 40% of guns are sold, legally, without a background check, through unlicensed dealers at gun shows, through the internet, and in some states, you can even buy guns at yard sales. 91% of Americans want Background Checks on all gun sales, but after the Sandy Hook massacre, the GOP (and a few Dems) voted against it. 91% of Americans don’t agree on anything- 91% can’t even agree that apple pie is good. But we all want safer gun laws. It’s up to us to VOTE OUT the members of Congress that are controlled by the gun lobby and beholden to the NRA, and VOTE IN legislators who will stand up to the NRA and do the will of the people. Congress works for us. It’s up to us to use our votes and make America safe again, because in reality, the only thing that can stop a bad guy with a gun, is a good guy (or gal) with a VOTE.

Having experienced gun violence in her own family, Hollye Dexter is a dedicated advocate for gun reform, and serves on the Board of Directors of Women Against Gun Violence. Through her nonprofit Art and Soul Programs, she worked for a decade with at-risk teens, keeping them off the streets and involved in arts programs. She is also an author (Fire Season, Dancing at the Shame Prom) and has had many articles published on the subject of gun violence.

Hollye Dexter

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Author, Mother, Activist, Feminist, Board member of Women Against Gun Violence