A few hours after Sunday’s horrifying mass shooting in a Sutherland Springs Baptist church, a Fox News host asked the attorney general of Texas, Ken Paxton, “As a country, what do we do? How can we get our arms around this and stop this insanity?”
“The only thing I know, because you can’t necessarily keep guns out of the hands of people who are going to violate the law … in Texas at least we have the opportunity to have concealed-carry,” Paxton answered. “And so if it’s a place where somebody has the ability to carry, there’s always the opportunity that gunman will be taken out before he has the opportunity to kill very many people.”
This comment, as you’d expect, triggered incredulous reactions from gun-control advocates. If there’s anything that gets anti-gun types worked up — well, anything other than sending “thoughts and prayers” — it’s the notion that a responsible gun owner can bring down a killer. As Newsweek put it, Paxton was perpetuating “a widely held, but deeply discredited theory that the only thing that stops a ‘bad guy’ with a gun is a ‘good guy’ with a gun.” Though an incontrovertible truth for many media, it’s not really a “theory,” much less deeply discredited. It is a fact that the only real way to stop a “bad guy” with a gun is a “good guy” with a gun, whether that person be in law enforcement or a private citizen.
Much of the coverage of this topic is layered in a scientific veneer. Once you crunch the numbers, they say, self-defense simply isn’t worth it. Studies done by the Violence Policy Center and other gun-control friendly groups bolster the idea that, statistically speaking, with a gun you are more likely to cause an accidental death than to stop someone from committing a crime.
First of all, we can’t quantify how many would-be mass shooters or random criminals avoid situations where they anticipate guns might be firing back at them. Some of these studies also conflate criminality with accidents. Once a man is menacing his neighbor with a gun, he is engaged in illegal behavior and his actions are no longer unintended. Many of these studies also conflate home gun accidents (sometimes even suicides) with concealed-carry holders — the people most likely to stop a shooter outside of the home. It is incredibly rare that those who conceal carry break the law or have accidents, so dealing with them separately undermines the storyline.
If we’re going to start making unscientific comparisons, though, then I would point out that I can’t find an example of a single example of an accidental fatality by a gun-owning parishioner during a service at a church (or temple or mosque). Perhaps someone can point one out to me. I can think of at least two incidents off the top of my head in which church parishioners likely stopped a massacre because they had guns.
One was at the New Life Church in Colorado in 2007, when a woman named Jeanne Assam, part of a volunteer armed security team, shot an anti-Christian gunman who had already opened fire on parishioners and held a bag of weapons, 1,000 rounds, and a pipe bomb. The other was last year, when a 22-year-old church usher in Antioch, Tennessee named Robert Engle tackled a shooter and, despite head injuries, ran out to his car in the parking lot, grabbed a gun, and held the shooter at gunpoint until police arrived.
Even at the Sutherland Springs Baptist church, a man named Stephen Willeford managed to shoot Devin Kelley at the church, police officials said, and when the mass shooter fled Willeford asked another citizen, Johnnie Langendorff, to chase down Kelley, which he did until the gunman wiped out and shot himself. Perhaps Kelley was off to kill more. We don’t know.
Many of the same people who tell you that mass shootings are rampant also treat you as some kind of paranoid, slack-jawed yokel for wanting to protect yourself, your family, and your community with a weapon. Now, chances are exceptionally low that you’re going to need that weapon. That’s because we live in a far more peaceful place than the news might let on. Yet we often engage in precautionary efforts for safety. Why shouldn’t responsible gun owners who are fearful of these shootings practice their rights?
Many of the same people believe more gun control (regulations that rarely deal with the causes of mass shootings; in this case, the usual suspects have been demanding that we pass laws that already exist) will do more to protect citizens than a gun. I’d love to see the stats on how many lives a bump-stock ban would save. Maybe someone will run the numbers on how people fare without any weapons when faced with shooters compared to those who are armed. The fact is that the state can’t even properly execute laws that are in place. Kelley was able to purchase firearms because the Air Force had failed to enter his assault conviction into a federal database. There will always be human error even if we pass laws inhibiting ownership.
Of course, there is no guarantee that a gun will keep you safe, either. Yet it’s going to keep you safer than any restriction gun-control advocates float. Moreover, Americans have an inherent right to defend themselves, even if that notion is controversial these days.