I haven’t done a political blog post in awhile; I’ve been trying to be more open minded, less reactionary, and more open to ambiguity- but I’m seeing this argument come up more and more online and I want to put in my two cents. I’m seeing people say “If only more of the people in the club had guns, none of this would have happened”. Bullshit.
I live in Orlando, I've been to Pulse before. There were at least 320 people in the small building that night, probably more but 320 is the reported capacity. 320 people in a small bar with a small dance floor, a little karaoke room, and a little patio. When scientists are studying roads, and moshes, and clubs to understand how human traffic reacts as a group, they tend to simulate using fluid dynamics, using individuals as particles. A "sea of people" is almost literally that, an ocean of individuals getting buffeted around and carried with the currents that are available to them. There's some individual bias as people have minds, they have intentions and places they want to be, but they still have to do so by going with the flow, and overall the crowd acts much like a liquid. This is why in a club when a fire breaks out the worst immediate danger to you isn't the smoke or flames, it's the people around you, surges and crushes which can literally squeeze the life out of people. In a small bar, when guns start going off, the panic, hysteria, and pandemonium is not an ideal place to try and play hero and introduce more weapons into the mix. That tide, that flood of people fleeing makes it almost impossible to figure out where the danger is, and to make a clear shot. And worse, the confusion is going to lead to more killing. One guy starts shooting, another guy starts shooting back, another guy hears this and pulls his gun... is the man standing over the body the original shooter or the guy who killed the original shooter? In your terror with only a split second to judge are you going to be able to make that rational decision or are you going to shoot to protect yourself, potentially killing an innocent. A slaughter with more weapons only becomes a greater slaughter.
For reference, this happened in the Oregon shooting as well. An armed military vet ran chose not to get involved for these very reasons. He knew the police wouldn't be able to tell "good guy with a gun" from "bad guy with a gun", and him adding bullets to the air was only going to cause greater danger, not lesser danger. Bullets are powerful, they can punch through walls and concrete, they can ricochet and splash, they don’t come out of the gun like a laser beam, they can spread and tumble, and in a stressful situation your own shakiness will throw off your aim. People complain when trained police officers fire over a dozen rounds at an armed suspect and bystanders get minor wounds from stray bullets, ricochets and debris… And yet we’re trying to argue that more untrained civilians should be armed and firing in a chaotic situation? That more guns should be involved in any situation, more bullets should be in the air? No; inherently more guns means more danger, more bullets means more opportunities for innocents getting injured.
We hear this over and over, every time there’s a shooting… “wouldn’t it be better if more people were armed? Shouldn’t more people have been carrying guns? Couldn’t this have been avoided with more guns?” and by-and-large I’d say the answer is no. Because at a lot of these shootings there were people who had weapons, but panic gets the better of people. Unless you’re constantly terrified and paranoid and twitchy with a finger at your hip ready to draw at a moment’s notice, you’re not ready and not expecting a gunman. In a small situation, in line at a convenience store and the guy in front of you holds up the cashier, maybe a gun might help you then, but at that point a knife or just tackling the guy and wrestling the gun away from him would be equally as effective and less likely to cause collateral damage which could kill an innocent. Most of the time, the point of a gun is to never use it; you don’t draw a firearm unless you’re committing to using lethal force. You don’t point your weapon and let the barrel cross over anything you aren’t prepared to kill. In most cases, a weapon is only comfort. It’s like giving a guy an extra penis to caress. You’re probably never going to need it, you’re more likely to use it on yourself than anyone else, and it’s only meant to act as a deterrent.
When it comes to statistics for the discharge of a weapon, for every defensive use of a weapon there are 4 unintentional shootings, 7 criminal assaults or homicides, and 11 attempted or committed suicides. And, looking at FBI data for these deaths, only 2.1% of shootings are considered 'legally justifiable'. And this data isn’t entirely accurate, I know that, but it’s the best data we have to go on because Congress refuses to allow the CDC to investigate into gun violence. Our lawmakers refuse to allow research that could help save lives; why? Because they know that the NRA and gun nuts aren’t going to like the answers, they know they’ve fucked up, they know that our gun laws need to be changed. Because common sense dictates that if you have a gun, you're more likely to use it. It acts as a psychological trigger, having easy access to a weapon makes it more likely that you'll use that weapon. Overall, a culture of paranoia will lead to more deaths. But Congress has decided that the easier option is to just stick their fingers in their ears and pretend like nothing is happening; a fear of science, a fear of research, is a guilty fear of discovering the answers you suspect to be true but don’t want to hear.
I have an intellectual fascination with weapons myself, and I don't begrudge responsible licensed gun owners if they want registered weapons for sport or recreation, or for farmers to protect their cattle... Despite what most people think, it is actually possible to get a gun in pretty much every country in the world. They're far far far more heavily regulated than in the U.S.A; but the Canadians and the Australians and the Brits all still have firing ranges. But this pervasive idea that everyone can and should be armed and ready at a moment's notice to kill someone is ludicrous and dangerous. We're raised on a steady diet of Bruce Willis and cowboy logic that conflates self defence with vigilantism. The rest of the world values human life, and officers will attempt to disarm and protect even individuals coming at them with knives. An estimated 1/3 people have a gun in this country. The police are similarly armed knowing this, and adopt a "shoot first, ask questions later" mentality. And everyone else knows this and is suspicious of the next guy, and on and on... it's an arms race. A mexican standoff. And laws like "Stand Your Ground" embody this notion of civilian vigilantism, and have let criminals like George Zimmerman get away with outright murder. More guns, more paranoia, will only lead to more of Zimmerman and more of this recent genocidal lunatic. There are gun nut YouTube channels which recommend the best body armour for your wife and the best little compact pistol for your kid to take to college and keep in their car.... that's not a society, that's a dystopian frontier. That's the kind of world we want to live in, when we think a good Christmas present for our loved ones is a bulletproof vest they might one day need?!
I believe firearms should be regulated more tightly along the lines of cars; You should have to pass a written safety test, attend mandatory safety classes, pass a competency test, you should have to get a background check, get a mental health exam, you should have to have your license renewed over time, you should have to have your weapon registered and insured... I had to go through pretty much all of that just to drive my car, hell I had to register the Phantom 3 I use for hobby with the FAA, and you're telling me that people shouldn't have to register the massively deadly weapon they plan to carry with them? If I end up with too many DUI’s or tickets I can have my license suspended or revoked... you're telling me that violent offenders and people on terror watchlists shouldn't be prevented from gaining access to weapons and stockpiles of ammunition? At almost every single one of the last major terror attacks in this country, the FBI has said "We were watching them"... which doesn't mean a damn thing if nothing is actually being done to prevent the attacks.
So, to everyone who’s saying more guns would have saved lives at Pulse… no. They really wouldn’t. Fuelling the flames helps no-one. The shooter was on an FBI terror watchlist. The question we should be asking isn't "Why wasn't anyone else armed and why didn't they shoot the shooter?". The question we should be asking was "Why the fuck was a known terror suspect allowed to purchase weapons and ammunition, and carry those into a club?". Because this isn’t the first time it’s happened, and unfortunately it’s not going to be the last time it happens. Not until we start asking some hard questions and actually get to the bottom of why we are allowing the mentally ill, known terror suspects, and people with known violent tendencies to constantly get hold of weapons. Until that day, we're going to continue to have our weekly shootings, we're going to continue to lose over 30,000 innocent lives every year, and we're going to continue to make up bullshit excuses to dismiss our country's addiction to an excessive proliferation of arms only rivalled by war-torn third world countries.
My name is Jeffrey Hepburn, and I'm a young writer, graphic design artist, and aspiring filmmaker.