In the Wake of Manchin-Toomey, Why NRA’s “Good Guys with Guns” is a Bad Idea that Won’t Prevent Another Sandy Hook
The Manchin-Toomey bill may be the most significant gun control legislation to come before Congress in years, but it falls well short of what is needed. An assault weapons ban and a limit on clip sizes are not even on the table, and even the background checks under consideration would exempt many sales, such as those between private individuals (a major source of criminal gun trafficking).
Worse, the NRA has used the Sandy Hook massacre in Newtown Connecticut to introduce some pernicious and harmful arguments, foremost among them that it is a good idea to place armed guards at schools. More good guys with guns, they reason, will put a stop to bad guys with guns.
For the sake of argument, let us suppose that, as gun control opponents, this is a fiscally feasible solution, even with rampant budget cuts in states all across the nation. Let us assume that having armed guards in schools can in fact prevent future Newtowns. And finally, let us ignore the fact that school massacres are responsible for a minuscule percentage of gun murders. Even conceding the NRA’s points, what are the implications of more “good guys with guns” for our society?
If armed guards are necessary to protect innocents in schools, why stop there? Why not install them in all public places where massacres have taken place: schools, parks, offices, pretty much all places where people congregate in numbers? Even if having armed guards stationed everywhere is an effective, fiscally feasible way to reduce gun violence, it would force us to live in a society of oppressive fear, where everyone knows from the time they are children until the day they die that they’re always in danger and that their fellow citizens are all potential threats. Is that the kind of country Americans want to live in? All for the sake of avoiding common sense limits on military-style weapons and large clip sizes? Only a truly sick society would consider this a worthwhile trade-off.
But again, let us assume that a society in which every potential site of a public gun massacre is defended by men with guns is perfectly acceptable. Gun violence would still be a problem. A high percentage of gun murders occur in domestic settings. Spouses shoot each other, children shoot their parents, parents shoot their children, children shoot themselves and in many, if not the majority of cases, these murders are not planned, but occur in fits of passion. They occur when a gun is lying in a drawer somewhere, just waiting to be picked up to permanently resolve a dispute that could very well end with less or no bloodshed.
Furthermore, the simplistic notion that equipping “good guys with guns” is the only way to defend against “bad guys with guns” is based on a flawed Manichean perspective with little grounding in reality. Sure, there are some psychos out there who want to go on shooting sprees for the sheer, sadistic pleasure of it. But in most cases, the human mind is far more complicated. In most cases, those who commit gun crimes are “normal” people whose emotional or economic state compels them to commit desperate acts that they later regret. Desperate acts that would not be nearly as fatal to everyone else if they were not equipped with military-style weapons.
All of this begs the questions: if armed guards are the only way to protect against gun violence, should the government dispatch armed guards to every household in America to protect us from ourselves? This is the natural culmination of the NRA’s reasoning, and it is neither possible nor desirable. It is especially ironic when it comes from the mouths of conservative who bemoan the “nanny state” in its most benign incarnations.
How can those who extol the virtues of small government favor an expensive policy that requires government employees to intrude in every little crevice of everyday life? How can the people who allegedly keep guns to defend against government oppression advocate armed government personnel stationed at every large public space? For that matter, why do they do everything in their power to fund a bloated military armed to the teeth with weapons that no number of armed men can fend off? Add that to modern conservatism’s endless list of contradictions.