"This wouldn't have happened if teachers were armed."
"If I'd been at that theater in Aurora with my gun, I'd have taken out the shooter."
"If we allow concealed weapons in public places, these deranged gunmen would never get away with it."
Where do they come up with these idiotic ideas?
I suspect, it's the consequence of having grown up watching American television. Not so much the violence, mind you, the stupid ideas about how to stop the violence.
I watched a lot of TV growing up. I can't count the number of times that the hero shot the gun out of the hand of the villain.
I watched hundreds of shootouts where only the hero's bullets hit their target. The bad guys are always terrible shots.
In Bugs Bunny cartoons, Bugs can always stop Elmer Fudd by putting his finger in the barrel of Elmer's gun. If you drop an anvil on someone's head, they are knocked out, but they always survive.
On TV, people get "knocked out" by a blow to the back of the head, but nobody ever gets a closed head injury that leaves them disabled for the rest of their lives.
Cowboys chase the bad guys on horseback and shoot the bad guys out of the saddle.
Jack Bauer can find out anything with torture, and the information will always be accurate.
The way violence plays out on TV is determined by how the writer wants it to play out.
This is not an argument for censoring popular entertainment. Most of us watched those shows and understood that they were fiction. I watched uncounted Bugs Bunny cartoons when I was growing up and never ever decided that dropping anvils or pianos on people was an effective way to deal with conflict.
If you walk up to a right-wing gun supporter and ask him if sticking your finger in the barrel of his gun will stop him from shooting you, he'll laugh. "Bugs Bunny cartoons aren't real," he'll tell you. He knows that cartoons aren't real. He probably even knows that Jack Bauer is a fictional character and the stuff he does wouldn't necessarily work.
I think there is something more subtle than thinking TV shows are real happening here.
The argument for censoring popular entertainment goes something like, "Children grow up watching thousands of murders on television. While they may understand that they've been watching fiction, they become desensitized to violence."
I don't pretend to know whether that is true. I do know that all the crime shows I watched as a child and teenager did not make me more likely to commit violence. I am not likely to commit violence -- even if my life is threatened..
But, it may have made me more likely to think violence is a "normal" thing.
Without crime statistics to rely on, I suspect I'm going to think that there is more violence happening that is really happening. I'll probably think that because of all the violence I've seen on television. I don't believe the television shows are real, but they inform the landscape of my perception of reality.
By the same token, I suspect that my hypothetical right-wing gun nut imagines his weapon is a more effective deterrent than it actually is. He doesn't think "The A-Team" is real, but it informs his perception of reality.
The difference between him and me is what component of the television we watched we wrapped into our perception of reality.
Here's where I'm going with this
In real life, a gun is an ineffective defensive weapon. A gun is an offensive weapon.
There's a reason that back when soldiers fought with swords, they carried shields. Guns are not good shields.
A Kevlar vest is a defense. A gun is not.
The first person who pulls a gun has the advantage. The second person does not get the opportunity to pull his own gun.
So, if I'm approached by an armed robber, I'm never going to get the opportunity to rummage through my purse and get out my gun. (Note: I don't have a gun in my purse.)
The deranged gunman walks into a crowded place and starts shooting. Before he starts shooting, nobody knows he's a deranged gunman. After he starts shooting, there is chaos. The only time when it would be possible to "take him out" is before he starts shooting. After he starts shooting, the chances of hitting a bystander rather than the shooter rise dramatically. But you certainly can't shoot him before it's clear he has murderous intent.
It's a "Catch 22." The only time having a gun would be useful is before the threat is clear, and before the threat is clear, you cannot use the gun.
Increasing the number of bullets flying while everyone is screaming and running for the exits is not going to help. A clear shot at the shooter is unlikely. And if you have a clear shot at the shooter, he has a clear shot at you.
The action that will reduce the number of people injured/killed is running away and/or hiding. Better yet, if you're brave and steady in a crisis, help other people run away and/or hide.
I never carry a weapon. I own no firearms and never will. I believe this protects me, because in a crisis, my thought process is going to go directly to "How do I get away/help others to get away?" It will never go to "how can I confront the gunman?"
Gun supporters don't imagine that scenario the way I do.
That's why we can't have a rational discussion of gun control. We're coming at the problem from different versions reality.
I hear people say, "The solution is more guns!" and I think "Is that person insane? More guns=more death." They hear me say "The solution is gun control!" and they think "Is that person insane? She wants to leave us all vulnerable."
Me: A gun in my home would make me vulnerable to someone using it against me.
Them: A gun in my home protects my family.
All the statistics in the world won't convince either one of us the other is right because we see the statistics through the filter of our own worldview.
The challenge we face is framing this argument in such a way that we can break through a mindset developed by watching "The A Team," and "24."