Why ‘Good Guys With Guns’ Fail to Stop Mass Shootings


Within hours of the college taking pictures in Uvalde that left 19 students and two teachers dead, Texas Sen. Ted Cruz stated armed police have to be stationed in elementary faculties. Former President Donald Trump advocated for armed lecturers and metallic detectors days later in a speech on the Nationwide Rifle Affiliation’s annual assembly. Texas Legal professional Normal Ken Paxton dismissed the thought of stronger gun legal guidelines in lieu of arming and coaching residents.

The political speaking level of accelerating the presence of police and armed lecturers to discourage mass shootings traces its origins to 2012—having been famously proposed by NRA head Wayne LaPierre following the taking pictures at Sandy Hook Elementary Faculty, the place 20 youngsters and 6 workers members had been killed. “The one method to cease a nasty man with a gun is a good guy with a gun,” he stated, because the nation debated more durable gun management measures.

However within the 10 years since, “good guys with weapons” have been current or shortly arrived on the scene of practically each main mass taking pictures and didn’t cease the gunman earlier than he was capable of take a number of lives. “Good guys with weapons don’t all the time win gunfights,” says David Hemenway, director of the Harvard Harm Management Analysis Middle and the Harvard Youth Violence Prevention Middle.

Within the Could 14 mass shooting at a Buffalo, New York grocery store, Aaron Salter—an armed security guard and former police officer—was hailed for his efforts at attempting to guard others. No less than certainly one of his bullets hit the shooter, however the gunman was protected by an armor-plated vest and he fatally shot Salter—certainly one of 10 victims.

Armed people have additionally been current on the web site of main a number of mass shootings since Sandy Hook. Police and safety guards had been current on the Route 91 Harvest Music Festival in 2017, and within the Mandalay Bay Lodge the place the gunman was positioned. Sixty folks had been killed, and greater than 400 wounded. On the Pulse nightclub taking pictures in June 2016, an armed safety guard shot on the gunman, who killed 49 folks. (Though initially lauded as a hero, some victims’ members of the family sued the off-duty officer, alleging he remained outdoors of the institution to guard himself.)

Armed guards have additionally didn’t cease shooters in faculties. In 2018, a shooter killed 10 folks at Santa Fe Excessive Faculty in Texas despite the fact that two officers had been on web site and one was wounded attempting to cease the gunman. Earlier that 12 months, a college useful resource officer was on campus at Marjory Stoneman Douglas Excessive Faculty in Parkland, Fla.—though he was accused of hiding throughout the mass taking pictures, relatively than speeding in.

The state of affairs is much more sophisticated in Uvalde, the place conflicting accounts of occasions have emerged and the police response is being widely criticized. Native police waited for greater than an hour earlier than a U.S. Border Patrol tactical staff arrived and stormed the school rooms the place the gunman barricaded himself—killing him. Texas Division of Public Security head Steven McCraw stated ready was “the incorrect choice, interval,” and police conduct is being investigated by the U.S. Justice Division.

Nonetheless, the primary police officer responded to Robb Elementary Faculty inside one minute of the preliminary experiences of a gunman with an AR-15 semi-automatic rifle—earlier than the shooter had even entered the college.

“Typically having a gun is beneficial however lots of instances it makes issues worse, even when there’s a transparent unhealthy man,” says Hemenway. Perpetrators of mass shootings usually tend to be armed with semi-automatic weapons and high-capacity magazines, which make them able to firing dozens of rounds. Some—just like the gunman in Buffalo—additionally put on physique armor. “Unhealthy guys get such military-style weapons, and now put on safety in order that even when you shoot them, they might not get damage,” Hemenway provides.

Analysis disputes current assertions from Cruz and others that armed legislation enforcement on campus is “the best device for holding children secure.” A 2021 JAMA Network Open study analyzed each documented incident from 1980-2019 during which “a number of folks was deliberately shot in a college constructing throughout the faculty day, or the place a perpetrator got here to high school closely armed with the intent of firing indiscriminately.” It discovered “no affiliation between having an armed officer and deterrence of violence.” “When there’s extra weapons, extra folks die,” says Jillian Peterson, one of many creator’s of the JAMA research.

A 2015 Harvard College research Hemenway labored on that analyzed information from 2007 to 2011 discovered that of greater than 14,000 crimes during which a sufferer was current, just below 1% concerned a gun utilized in self protection. The Harvard Harm Management Analysis Middle additionally found that self-defense gun use is “uncommon and less efficient at stopping harm than different protecting actions.”

Furthermore, perpetrators are sometimes at a powerful benefit in mass shootings; it’s extraordinarily exhausting to intervene as soon as a killer is on web site. Specialists say that’s partly as a result of shooters can afford to be rather more unpredictable, since they’re anticipating to both die or be caught. Victims of a taking pictures assault, in the meantime, usually reply in understandably chaotic and panicked methods. “The shooter isn’t essentially fearful about getting out of the state of affairs alive. The typical particular person or responding officer is worried about surviving. You might have one thing to lose. In order that’s an enormous drawback,” says Emma Fridel, an assistant professor of criminology and prison justice at Florida State College.

That has led many who’ve studied mass shootings to conclude that by the point somebody with the intent to kill exhibits up at a college, or a grocery store, or a home or worship with a gun, it’s too late to cease bloodshed. “One of the simplest ways to forestall issues is to go upstream and actually attempt to forestall issues relatively than wait till they’re about to occur,” Hemenway says. “There’s no cause why we have to have AR-15s or AK-47s in civilian palms. That’s kind of loopy.”

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Write to Sanya Mansoor at sanya.mansoor@time.com.

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