Adirondack property rights activist Don Sage sent an email to a colleague of mine, arguing that the big problem in Tucson, Arizona was the lack of enough firearms at the event where Rep. Gabrielle Giffords was shot and six others were killed.
“The shooting in Arizona is just further proof that every citizen must have the right to concealed carry in all 50 states and between states. If the people attending this rally had been armed then Bloomberg/King/McCarthy/Slaughter’s pot-head lunatic would not have been able to kill or injure so many people.”
Sage then veers off into a rant against “constitution, bill of rights hating pro-communists, leftists” and others.
But rather than wrestle with his political views I want to question the basic science and logic of his premise.
First, I do think it’s fair to argue that the Tucson event should have had better security of some kind. Members of congress aren’t usually attended by a police detail, but Giffords had been the subject of repeated threats.
A trained law enforcement officer might, conceivably (I know, I’m being optimistic here) have detected the shooter’s erratic behavior before he began his rampage.
But regardless of whether it was a cop or a civilian, would it have helped if someone other than Jared Loughner had been armed in that crowd after the first shot was fired?
Obviously, we can’t be absolutely sure, but the answer is almost certainly no.
Jared Loughner wielded a Glock 19 semi-automatic pistol with an extended 33 round clip. The weapon is popular in part because it’s easy to draw and fire quickly and efficiently.
He was stopped by unarmed civilians before he was able to reload.
Could a “good samaritan shooter” have gunned Loughner down before he emptied that first clip? It’s very, very doubtful. In this video, a man is able to fire fifteen well-aimed and chosen shots with an identical firearm in about six seconds.
I can’t find details of exactly how long the Tucson shooting lasted, but I’m guessing that it was not much more than ten seconds.
For a good-guy shooter to have intervened effectively, they would have needed to a) draw their weapon and release the safety; b) accurately identify the shooter, not always easy in a chaotic situation; c) find a clear shot that wouldn’t have threatened other innocents; and d) fire accurately enough to hit or disable Loughner without accidentally shooting someone else.
All that in ten seconds, with very little margin for error. The vast majority of armed civilians would have no training in this kind of combat-like setting, especially one that involves a crowd of civilian innocents. In Afghanistand and Iraq, our best-trained soldiers have struggled to avoid “collateral” damage in situations that are far less confusing.
If we followed Sage’s suggestion to the letter, the situation would have been even more chaotic, with multiple individuals wielding (and possibly firing) weapons at the same, with little clear understanding of who might be a perpetrator and who might be another armed innocent.
Bluntly, it’s possible that in the mayhem, those unarmed heroes would have been unable to subdue Loughner. He might have been able to reload and continue his rampage.