Public safety and an armed populace

Looking back I realize I wasted far too much of my time arguing with certain Americans of my acquaintance on the merits, or lack thereof, of gun ownership and the utility of an armed populace serving as a deterrent, both against crime and “government tyranny”. The arguments employed struck me as simplistic, nonsensical, and inconsistently applied (standards seemed to change overnight once a Republican took the Presidency).

And oh…it was not supported by the wealth of statistics available both from the United States and internationally.

Indeed under questioning (Do you wear your gun when you go to the store? No. Then what good is it? It’s a deterrent – the criminal doesn’t know you if you don’t have a gun. Isn’t that incentive for them to shoot you before you can react? No, because they don’t know if there are other citizens with guns around. How will the other citizens know which one of you is the criminal?…etc etc etc…) the gun supporters would be left with a scenario so narrow that you would have a higher chance of being hit by lightning while concurrently be bitten by a shark.

But in the tragedy in Tucson over the weekend, there happened to be an armed citizen who was able to intervene:

Zamudio was in a nearby drug store when the shooting began, and he was armed. He ran to the scene and helped subdue the killer…”I came out of that store, I clicked the safety off, and I was ready,” he explained on Fox and Friends. “I had my hand on my gun. I had it in my jacket pocket here. And I came around the corner like this.” Zamudio demonstrated how his shooting hand was wrapped around the weapon, poised to draw and fire. As he rounded the corner, he saw a man holding a gun.

The man with the gun, however, was not Jared Lee Loughner, it was the man who subdued him. Zamudio did the right thing and checked his fire but you can easily imagine how this – a favourable pro-gun scenario – could have gone very, very wrong.

Imagine not just a favourable scenario, but the ideal one: a number of people are able to draw weapons when Loughner struck. No one would be sure in the heat of that moment if there might be multiple assassins. Who is who, etc.

A recipe for a bloodbath.

In the 18th century there might have been a sort of logic to an armed populace, when the state was weak, democratic institutions new and frail and the memory of absolutism fresh. But it makes no sense to 21st century me.

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