I got mugged one night. It was nearing 3 a.m. and I was walking from my office to my apartment, a distance of probably 15 blocks. The entire trip lay within an urban downtown and, of course, a number of watering holes sat between my office and home. I had visited several after work.
The streets were nearly deserted but I saw a few pedestrians. Ordinarily, I’d have called a cab but it was a balmy night with no rain or snow so I’d decided to walk. Undoubtedly, I had been drinking.
I caught sight of a group of seven males who looked to be late teenagers. The group was walking toward me on the opposite side of the street. As they got closer, they crossed to my side. They were laughing and swearing and they made remarks denigrating my skin color as they passed me.
I turned a corner on my way home, glad I only had about three blocks to go. As I neared the next corner, I heard running footsteps behind me and I tensed, quickening my step, hoping I was wrong about what I thought was seconds from happening.
I was not wrong.
Now, I am six-foot-two and I learned to swear in the military. If you’re unfamiliar with that type of cursing, the U.S. military has a unique way of teaching its members to string together impossible combinations of curses and then to release them in astonishingly vulgar streams. My ability to bellow like an enraged moose while unleashing U.S. Navy obscenities had saved me from more than one risky situation. I had come to rely on this skill.
This time it failed me.
The seven thugs surrounded me and wasted no time beating the crap out of me while they disparaged my white skin. In a weird out-of-body-like experience, I listened to them bickering among themselves as they beat me, arguing over who would get my coat and who would get my boots and be careful, don’t get his blood on them. It was my blood they were talking about. And while they hit me and bickered, they continued cursing me.
I fought back and I fought back hard. When I realized my military swearing was accomplishing nothing other than wasting breath I desperately needed, I went quiet, fighting silently. Strangely, I could see myself getting beaten but I didn’t feel anything. I’m pretty sure the whiskey I’d consumed earlier helped this effect.
But there were seven attackers so the outcome was very much predetermined.
Barefoot and bloodied, now coatless, my clothes hanging in shreds, they left me. They took my very nice leather coat, boots and wallet but they somehow missed my watch, which was probably worth more than the coat and boots combined. It remained on my wrist, unscathed — I believe my shirt cuff had hidden it.
A witness across the street had backed into the shadows and called the police, who arrived surprisingly quickly. But the two officers stayed less than 30 seconds because they didn’t care for my attitude. Seriously? I was battered and bleeding, I had just been mugged, I had a moderate blood-alcohol level and they expect me to be mellow and cordial?
They didn’t even get out of their patrol car — they just rolled up their window and drove off.
I borrowed a .38 revolver from a friend and packed that thing in a shoulder holster for the next month or so. I lived downtown and I was determined to avoid a repeat episode.
Carrying the gun was probably a stupid idea even though I had pretty broad experience with firearms.
I got my first gun — a .22 rifle — when I was in grade school. My father was a police officer in Southern California during the Watts Riots so I had a good teacher.
I suck at a lot of things but for some reason I am good at shooting — I could shoot straight early and I got to be a crack shot. Later, after I had kids, whenever we played laser tag, everyone wanted to be on my team because I can shoot quickly and accurately.
I know laser tag isn’t real life but that’s kind of my point. I learned to shoot early and I am comfortable with my ability to do so accurately. I am familiar with firearms. But I do not have the skills to be the hero who drops a mass shooter with one quick shot.
And therein lies the problem.
I have lost count of the number of times I have heard intelligent people make decidedly ignorant statements about mass shootings. These well-meaning people firmly believe the lie they’re telling. Talking about the problem of mass shootings is a good thing but fantasizing is not.
“If only there had been a concealed-carrier in Buffalo, there wouldn’t have been a massacre!” I heard this one dozens of times.
“If only there was an armed teacher in Uvalde, there wouldn’t be all those dead kids!” Ditto this one, dozens of times. These 2A supporters are deadly serious when they say this. They believe what they are saying.
This clearly false narrative is being used to justify doing nothing meaningful to combat the scourge of daily mass shootings. With 239 mass shootings so far in 2022, we are well above one mass shooting per day this year.
The Gun Violence Archive (GVA) defines a mass shooting as an incident having “…a minimum of four victims shot, either injured or killed, not including any shooter who may also have been killed or injured in the incident.” The GVA is a non-profit organization that tracks and tabulates shooting “…incidents collected from over 7,500 law enforcement, media, government and commercial sources daily in an effort to provide near-real time data about the results of gun violence.” The organization is an independent research group with no link to any advocacy organization.
The lie being presented essentially boils down to “if only there had been a good-guy-with-a-gun at [insert mass shooting location here], there wouldn’t have been a mass shooting!”
They say the only thing that takes out a bad-guy-with-a-gun is a good-guy-with-a-gun.
If only it was that simple.
I am an odds-figuring kind of guy which is probably why the only vice I never had was gambling. When the odds are heavily against me, I don’t bet. The odds of a well-intentioned good-guy-with-a-gun dropping a mass shooter with a clean shot are so small as to be laughable, if the situation wasn’t so deadly serious.
When I ask 2A supporters to explain how a guy in jeans and a t-shirt, armed with a single sidearm, could take out an armor-clad, heavily armed mass shooter with one quick shot when a professional law enforcement officer could not, they repeat the good-guy-with-a-gun mantra and do not answer my question. Or they call me a liberal gun-grabber and block me.
I am neither a liberal nor a gun-grabber but I do pride myself on having disciplined critical thinking skills.
I take issue when firearms enthusiasts make outrageous statements like a good-guy/gal-with-a-gun will quickly take out a heavily armed mass shooter clad in body armor. They say it like it’s a certainty, if only the anti-gun folks would let them carry.
When a nutcase with an armory of semiautomatic rifles and handguns, thousands of rounds, body armor and some weird grudge carries out a planned attack at a church or school or from the 32nd floor of a hotel, the most earnest and courageous good-guy-with-a-gun stands almost no chance of taking out the shooter.
Without tactical or military training, practicing at a range might make good guys and gals fluent with their weapons and teach them steady aim but taking down a madman who’s got evil intentions, body armor, multiple weapons and nothing to lose generally takes something more than handgun competency and a good eye. In the second-to-second violent chaos that makes up a mass shooting, even professional law enforcement officers with tactical training have lost their lives when trying to stop the bad guy. These dead professional officers should be evidence that an average John Doe with a concealed-carry stands a less-than-ideal chance of dropping a mass shooter.
Having endured the mugging described above, among other incidents, I know a good-guy/gal-with-a-gun might very well stop a street attack, albeit with some risk. The good-guy/gal-with-a-gun could also intervene if he or she encountered something like a mall disturbance among a horde of angry teens where one pulls out a pistol. Or with luck, even stop a liquor store robbery. Yes, a good-guy-with-a-gun can end certain shootings — I fully agree with my 2A friends on this. But mass shooters like the ones in Buffalo, Uvalde, Las Vegas and so many other places? Not a chance.
In my case, I was taught to never draw a weapon unless I intended to use it and never use it unless I intended to kill. I know some will disagree with me, but brandishing a revolver in close quarters with seven angry thugs could’ve made my situation worse because, even with exceptional aim, there is no way I could’ve taken out seven thugs with six rounds. If I had been determined to defend myself at all costs, I would’ve had to have extraordinary luck to brandish my .38 and scare my attackers away — one or more of them could easily have been armed.
As it was, I lost a coat, boots and a bit of my pride and none of that is worth even a single human life, let alone seven. And it certainly wasn’t worth my life — the risk to me would’ve increased exponentially if I had drawn a sidearm.
But when it comes to a madman clad in body armor with multiple weapons, ammo and a plan, the average John Doe good-guy-with-a-gun doesn’t stand a chance. When they tell you otherwise, that’s the lie.
I am not opposed to Americans exercising their Second Amendment right to defend themselves. Indeed, when I packed that .38 around after I was mugged, that’s pretty much what I was doing.
But I am opposed to people who delude themselves into thinking a gun can make them do the impossible. I am opposed to arming people who do not take firearms ownership deadly seriously. I am opposed to arming people who cannot demonstrate competency, maturity, stability and accountability. I am opposed to arming people who see no value in training.
I am opposed to arming people who believe fantasies. I am opposed to arming morons.
Photograph © Andrey Zvyagintsev via Unsplash