The NRA and many Republicans seem to think the solution to one person shooting into a crowd is … more people shooting. (More)

More, More, More, Part I: Guns

This week Morning Feature considers the curious conservative belief that the solution to many problems is more of the same problem. Today we look at their view on mass shootings. Tomorrow we’ll examine the Wall Street crisis and financial regulation. Saturday we’ll conclude with deficits and tax cuts.

A Failure of Gun Control?

“The government killed more people in Fast and Furious,” reads the subhead to Don Surber’s Charleston Daily Mail article headlined Gun control failed in Aurora, Colo. His source is a Mexican government claim that 150 people have been killed by weapons that were lost in the failed ‘Fast and Furious’ sting operation, where ATF agents attempted to catch Americans illegally selling weapons to Mexican drug gangs. Setting aside the dubious factual claim, let’s turn to the irony:

The theater in Aurora, Colo., is a gun-free zone, which means that even with a concealed weapons permit, no one was supposed to enter the theater with a firearm.

The city of Aurora has other restrictions on gun acquisition and use as well. The only legal firing of weapons can be done at a shooting range there.

Despite all that gun control, James Eagan Holmes shot the place up and changed hundreds of lives forever.

Laws did not prevent it.

The implicit argument is that had others in that theater had been armed, they could have stopped the carnage, an argument made explicit in this Investor’s Business Daily op-ed:

In December 2007, two church members were shot to death and three others injured after a gunman opened fire outside the New Life Church in Colorado Springs as Sunday services were wrapping up.

That tragedy could have been much worse, but the gunman was shot by a church security officer and was found dead when police arrived at the scene.

On April 22 of this year a just-released felon went to the New Destiny Christian Church in Aurora, Colo., and killed the mother of Pastor Delano Strahan before being killed himself by a congregant carrying a gun.

Unlike the tragedies at Columbine High School and the movie theatre in Aurora, there was someone at these venues willing and able to shoot back.

Other than the shooter, there was nobody armed in or at the Century 16 theater complex where 12 were killed and another 59 wounded, unable to exercise their right to self-defense.

Yes, the problem in the Aurora theater was not a man with a gun, but that there was only one man with a gun. By that logic, the ATF failed not by losing some weapons in the Fast and Furious operation, but by not losing even more weapons into Mexico. If they had allowed enough guns to cross the border, surely some would have ended up in the hands of civilians, who could then protect themselves from the criminals….

A tiny detail….

The stories of the church shootings are true, so far as they go, but each leaves out a tiny detail. Jeanne Assam, the “church security officer” who returned fire at the New Life Church in Colorado Springs, was a former Minneapolis police officer. And the “congregant” who returned fire outside the New Destiny Christian Church in Aurora was an off-duty Aurora police officer. In each case, lives were saved not by ordinary civilians with guns … but by trained law enforcement officers.

That tiny detail matters, of course. Like military service members, law enforcement officers have extensive training with firearms. That training includes not only how to load, fire, and maintain a weapon, but also how to use it in confusing and stressful situations. I dare say even the most fervent gun control advocate wishes an off-duty cop had chosen that night to attend that movie at that theater.

But that’s very different from wishing average citizens had been carrying guns. One such average citizen might have made a difference, had he or she responded perfectly, with no training, under the worst possible conditions. This was no planned trip to a well-lighted shooting range with a marked lane and a paper target. No one expected any gunfire except on the screen. The room was dark, and the shooter began his attack by throwing a smoke grenade and firing at the ceiling with a shotgun. He then began firing at people as they panicked and ran. And he was wearing body armor. To believe an untrained civilian could have found a clear path for a perfect head shot through a panicking crowd is sheer fantasy.

And what if there had been more than one untrained civilian with a gun? Would the second, third, or fifth untrained civilian drawing a weapon in a dark, smoky, crowded theater have returned fire at the original shooter or – far more likely – at the nearest other person with a gun?

Put another way: would you rather try to escape from a movie theater in which one person was shooting into the crowd, or from a movie theater in which several people were shooting at people they thought were shooting into the crowd?

Color me crazy, but I think my chances are better trying to escape the lone shooter. I’m allergic to crossfire.

By the gun advocates’ logic, theaters should issue a weapon to everyone on their way in. “Here’s your ticket stub and your Glock, ma’am. You may want to tuck it in your waistband, so you have both hands free for the tub of popcorn and jumbo soft drink. Enjoy the movie and thanks for coming to the O.K. Corral Theater.”

More, more, more….

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Happy Thursday!