Guns: The NRA Was Right About One Thing & Absolutely Wrong About Everything Else

Aug 4, 2017 · 10 min read

By David Grace (

Are We All Safer When Everyone Carries A Gun?

It’s been a foundation principle of NRA orthodoxy that America would be a better place if everyone were free to carry a gun all the time.

“Self help will defeat the ‘bad guys,’” NRA members preach. So-called “Citizen policing” is the answer to crime, they claim.

The NRA’s Reasoning

Their simplistic logic chain goes like this:

  • The good guys outnumber the bad guys.
  • If everyone has a gun at every given location at every given point in time then there will be more good guys with guns than bad guys with guns.

The next step in their reasoning is where their so-called thinking goes totally off the rails, where they jump to the following completely false and frankly, immensely-stupid conclusion:

  • Then the good guys won’t get shot anymore.

Making the leap from “When the good guys with guns outnumber the bad guys with guns” to the conclusion that “Then the good guys won’t get shot anymore” is about as thoroughly dumb an idea as: “If I drill a second hole in the bottom of the boat then all the water that’s pouring in from the first hole will leak out of the second hole.”

The NRA members thinking that once everybody has a gun that the “bad guys” won’t cause any more trouble is as good an idea as people who can’t think more than one move ahead playing checkers for money.

Do More People With Guns Mean Fewer People Will Be Shot?

When it comes to the notion of everybody being able to carry a gun, anyone with even a little common sense would ask themselves:

What’s going to happen in the real world when dozens of real people carrying real guns find themselves dealing with other people in parking lots and parks and traffic jams and bars?

How’s that actually going to turn out, they would ask themselves, especially since, inevitably, some of them will have been drinking, taking drugs, are mentally ill, have juvenile personalities, or have anger issues?


Chicago’s Experience Tells Us That More Guns Means MORE Shootings

I point to Exhibit A — the South Side of Chicago where between January 1 and June 30, 2017

  • the police have seized over 5,000 guns
  • more than 2,100 people have been shot
  • more than 400 people have been killed

Does this sound like shootings going down when more people are carrying guns or shootings going UP when more people are carrying guns?

More People + Guns = More People Shot

Let’s take a detour from NRA Fantasy Land of More Guns = Fewer Shootings back to the real world, a world that works like this:

If everyone one has a gun then

  • The long blast on the horn and a raised middle finger at the red light will turn into “Shots fired.”
  • The shout, “Hey, the line begins back there” will turn into “Shots fired.”
  • The “Don’t look at my girlfriend that way” will turn into “Shots fired.”
  • The “That’s my parking place” will turn into “Shots fired.”
  • The “He wouldn’t stop laughing at me” will turn into “I didn’t mean to kill him.”
  • The “Hey, you spilled my coffee” will turn into “I didn’t mean to shoot that lady. I was aiming at the jerk who bumped my arm, but he ducked.”
  • The “I’m calling the cops” will turn into, “I didn’t want to kill him. I thought his cell phone was a gun.”

A Hypothetical Example

The “Everybody should carry a gun” NRA people should ask themselves how they think the following scenario is likely to turn out:

You’ve got thirty people in a grocery store. Twenty of them are packing heat. A few women, a couple of toddlers, a wussy or two aren’t strapped, but that’s their problem, right?

Of the twenty who are carrying, three are members of the Dead Saints gang and one is a High King Rollers wannabe. What’s going to happen next? Go on, take a guess.

Will the wannabe say to himself: “Gee, I’m outnumbered here. I’d better be a good boy and not cause any trouble?

How stupid do you have to be to think that’s what some fifteen-year-old with a new Nine stuck in his pants and his girlfriend watching him is going to do?

The answer is: Really, really stupid.

Noticing the guy who’s up for membership in the High King Rollers, will the Dead Saints all put their heads together and calmly, rationally decide, “Yes, we could shoot him but that might start a dangerous confrontation with the civilians and that would be bad.

Do you think that’s how it’s going to go?

Isn’t it like a million million times more likely that the High-King-Rollers initiate will try to sneak up behind one of the Dead Saints in the dog-food aisle so that he can put a couple of slugs into his back?

Or maybe the Dead Saints will try to catch the High-King-Rollers wannabe in the frozen foods and blast him to kingdom come?

And then what’s likely to happen when seven or eight of the other sixteen armed people pull their guns and start blasting away?

Take a wild guess.

More People + More Guns = A Chain Reaction

Have you ever seen one of those films they show to school kids to explain how a nuclear chain reaction works? They fill a table with mouse traps and they put two ping-pong balls on each mouse trap. Then they trigger just one mouse trap.

The two balls go flying and they hit two other mouse traps, releasing four balls. Those four balls go flying and they hit four other mouse traps and eight more balls go flying. Pretty soon dozens of ping pong balls are flying around.

Well, if everyone in a store or a theater or park or a traffic jam is armed, it’s like that with bullets.

It doesn’t take a genius to figure this out. You don’t need to be a rocket scientist to grasp the chain-reaction principle here. But this fact of life has apparently eluded the brilliant theoreticians in the NRA.

What We Learned From Chicago Gang Members

CBS News managed to embed one of their reporters in a Chicago gang for a few days and the story that resulted was really, really interesting.

The first thing the gang members said that stands out is that they more or less agreed with the NRA about one thing, namely, that in a dangerous environment you want to carry a gun.

“I know people who can’t walk from they house to the store without a gun,” said Aaron Murph. “Because people getting killed left and right. It’s sad.”

“I got shot twice and I could have been gone, but I’m still here so, that scar, that’s with me, so,” said Tyshaun Grant, “It’s hell on earth.” [emphasis mine.]

That doesn’t sound like the low-crime paradise that the NRA claims we’d be living in if everybody is able to go around packing heat.

When asked why anyone would need a gun with a lot of firepower, one man said, “Protection. It dangerous out here.”

The interesting thing is that, unlike the NRA, the gang members say they don’t want to carry guns. Unlike the NRA, they say they’d be happier if nobody had guns but none of them wants to be the only guy who’s unarmed. If their enemies have guns then they believe they need guns too.

The Tipping Point Where People Need To Have A Gun

They don’t want to carry a gun out of some abstract, constitutional motive. No, it’s the recognition of the concept of a “tipping point.”

At some point, if some percentage of the other people around you have guns, then you also need to have a gun too. What’s that percentage?

As sure as I am that I don’t know exactly what that number is, I’m just as sure that there is a number and that every effort that the NRA makes to increase the population of armed people pushes us closer to hitting that tipping point in our own town, because, sure as hell, neither you nor I want to be the last unarmed people on our block.

When asked if there was some kind of a way where everybody could just put their guns down, the reporter got this response:

“Put the guns down? Probably would happen. Maybe in the near future. No time right now. I don’t want to put my gun down. Nine times out of ten the innocent ones get hurt, you know what I’m saying? If they come do a shooting right now we [the gang members] probably won’t even get shot. And we got guns. You [meaning the reporter] might get shot. That’s how f****** up it is, you know? But it’s survive or be killed.”

What the gang members have figured out is something that the NRA doesn’t seem to have the basic common sense to comprehend:

If everyone is armed all the time then everyone will be living in a war zone all the time, that more people with more guns makes everyone less safe, not more safe.

A Teenage Boy’s Fantasy

The world the NRA seems to want is a fifteen-year-old boy’s wet dream of being back in Dodge City where men were men and the fastest draw in town got tons of respect and all the girls.

I want to scream at that fifteen-year-old mentality in whatever apparent adult body it’s now inhabiting: “Grab another beer and a fresh bag of Doritos and watch High Noon again [greatest movie of all time IMHO] but stop trying to drag the rest of us into your juvenile fantasy. Grow the fuck up!”

The NRA has never managed to figure out that the second checkers move after its slogan: “When guns are illegal only criminals will have guns” is “When everyone has a gun, everyone is a target.”

If all the “bad people” have a gun then I’m going to need a gun too. And if I have a gun, and someone frightens me, then I’m going to have to pull out my gun, just in case. And if I pull out my gun, that other person might decide that they’d better shoot me first before I shoot them.

And if I manage to duck or I get a shot off before I lose consciousness then I might hit them or someone else, who also has a gun, who will, of course, try to shoot me, but they might miss and hit someone else, who will want to shoot back at them. . . .

Remember the mouse traps and ping pong balls?

Why Doesn’t Everyone Just Put Down Their Guns?

BTW, the reporter asked some of the gang members that if they think their lives are so terrible why they don’t they just put down their guns and do something else?

“We felons. You know what I’m saying? Ain’t nobody gonna give us no jobs. The cops don’t give a f*** about us.”

They have no training. No skills. They can’t go out into some wilderness frontier and hunt for game and live under a tree. In other words, what’s their alternative?

That’s not a trivial question. In a reasonable sense, not some mythical Horatio Alger fantasy, but in the real world, what is their alternative?

Three Ways To Reduce Gun Violence

If you want the government to stop gangs and shootings it can do three things:

  • Guarantee that everyone who’s willing to work has access to a living-wage job. Give everyone a way out, an alternative, a chance to support themselves without being in a gang. Not all will take the opportunity but some, perhaps many, will.
  • Make it really, really difficult for anyone without a carry permit to get a gun and lock up for a long time every armed person without a carry permit .
  • Keep us from getting anywhere near the armed-percentage-of-the-population tipping point that they’ve already passed on the South Side of Chicago.

Or, we can all get guns like the NRA wants, and you and I and our spouses and our parents and our kids can all live in a live-fire war zone, an Afghanistan-Iraq-Syria analog without the poison gas attacks.

How great do you think that will be?

Do you think that completely opposite to the real-world experience of the people living in the South Side of Chicago that crime will go down in your city when everyone is armed?

Put Your Lives Where Your Mouth Is

So, here’s my suggestion.

A hundred NRA members should move to gang territory in Chicago, strap on their Glocks, and live there for a couple of weeks. That will give them a good idea of what a low-crime paradise it is where everybody is armed all the time and everybody has the ability to shoot anybody else who they think might be a threat to them.

Do you want everybody to be able to carry a gun?

If you do, then don’t just talk the talk. Walk the walk. Go live in Gang Country in Chicago for a while and see how crime-free it really is when everyone is armed.

You can slap your NRA decal on your front window and put your “Protected By Smith & Wesson” bumper sticker on your car.

Knock yourself out. Carry a copy of the Second Amendment in your breast pocket over your heart.

See how much good that does you.

But if you’re willing to out-grow your juvenile fantasy of facing down Ike Clanton in the dusty street behind the OK Corral, you can think about this:

If there’s one overriding, real-world, real-life lesson to be learned from what’s going on in Chicago it’s this:

“When everyone has a gun, everyone is a soldier, everyone is a target, and eventually, everyone will be a casualty.”

– David Grace (

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Graduate of Stanford University & U.C. Berkeley Law School. Author of 17 novels and over 200 Medium columns on Economics, Politics, Law, Humor & Satire.

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