The Armed Citizen Argument

The most important element of the tragedy in Aurora, Colorado is, and should be the victims, living and deceased who will never be the same because of the actions of one deranged individual.  We, as a nation, regardless of how we feel about the causes of this horrific crime, the fate of the souls who were lost or the numbers of guns in our communities,  must come together to honor the victims, and to show love and compassion to the survivors. The people of Aurora are all Americans and all Americans must stand in solidarity with the people of Aurora, both in terms of compassion and because this could happen anywhere in America.


That’s a scary thought, isn’t it?  I was at the movies last Sunday with my wife and kids watching Ice Age.  There is literally nothing that would have prevented the same thing from happening. The shooter broke no laws until he entered that theater and opened fire.

There are those who believe that more guns are the answer, that an armed citizen in that theater could have stopped the unfolding horror in its tracks by shooting the assailant.  Let’s pick that apart a bit.

Exhibit A:  Fort Hood. On November 5, 2009, an army psychiatrist went on a shooting rampage killing 13 and injuring 29.  This occured on a U.S. Army base.  Now, I understand that soldiers on large, stateside bases like Fort Hood are not walking around armed all the time.  In fact, the wikipedia account give no indication that any uniformed military personnel returned fire.  Civilian police employed by the Department of the Army ultimately shot the assailant.  Again, I would not expect everyone at Fort Hood to be walking around with guns, but one would expect to see some fire arms at an intake center, if only in the hands of MP’s.  Now, this was the workplace of the shooter, so maybe he had intimate knowledge of the security he would be up against, but conventional wisdom would dictate that if you are on an army base, there are plenty of guns around.

Exhibit B:  Tucson

On January 8, 2011, a gunman shot Rep. Gabrielle Giffords of Arizona at a meet and greet outside a Safeway store.  Nineteen people were shot, six fatally, including a member of Giffords’ staff, a Federal Judge and a  nine-year old girl who was born on September 11, 2001.  Here’s what I find relevant in that tragedy.

Joe Zamudio was next door at a Walgreen’s. He had a carry permit, and when he heard the gunshots, he freed his weapon and rushed outside to what could only have been a scene of complete chaos.  People were on the ground and one person was holding a gun.  Zamudio promptly had the individual pinned against the wall, having seen that the offending pistol was not cocked to fire,  and was ready to shoot him.

This is the ideal of the armed citizen.  Zamudio was well trained and took the time to assess the situation. He didn’t go out with guns blazing, but he used his training to see a window of opportunity for stopping the gunman.

There’s just one problem. He had the wrong guy.  The person holding the gun had heroically intervened with other bystanders to disarm the shooter when he stopped to reload.  He had been left holding the gun and got a face full of a Ruger pistol for his trouble.

Once again, Zamudio is the ideal of the armed citizen. He had the tactical awareness to listen to the people telling him he was aiming at the wrong guy.  He lowered his gun and further catastrophe was averted.

Now we get to the Aurora shooting and ask ourselves if more guns would have helped. To do that, don’t we have to consider the tactical situation?

In a word, the tactical situation was ugly.  You had a crowded, darkened theater filled with smoke and  hundreds of innocent civilians running for safety while an intense combat scene played on the screen. I would think that such a scenario would be considered a nightmare for the most elite of law enforcement or military units.

So what does it look like for an armed citizen to intervene effectively in Aurora?  Well, first they have to not panic. Second they need to draw their weapon, identify the target in the panicked crowd, get a clear shot and hit a weak spot in the body army that the gunman was wearing.  Keep in mind that this is all taking place in dark, smoky room with a big budget Hollywood combat scene playing on the screen and sound system.  I don’t know what the odds are of a civilian being able to pull that off, but they can’t be favorable.

I’m going to stop here, although I’m going to write more on this later.  There’s a serious conversation that needs to happen in this country, and a significant number of people are going to engage in that conversation by saying that it takes guns to prevent gun crime.  It’s a fair approach, but think about whether the scenario that I painted for you is likely to be made better or worse with more guns.


About Andrew

I'm a Christian, American, liberal, geeky, thoughtful, Northwest-transplanted Angeleno husband, father, and pundit who writes about anything he can think of.
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