Don’t shoot me. I’m armed

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Some gun stories don’t always work out the way they’re supposed to.

Take the recent incident at the Empire State Building in Midtown Manhattan.

Jeffrey Johnson had shot and killed a former co-worker. Police were called, of course. When they showed up, Johnson pointed his gun at them. Half a dozen officers or more appeared on the scene. They returned the fire.

Naturally, police bullets finally hit and killed Johnson. But not before their bullets had hit and injured nine bystanders. Now one news account put that at eight bystanders. Still, that means these highly trained officers, who must regularly re-certify their marksman skills, missed their target numerous times.

Here it is in the middle of the day and a group of law-abiding citizens ended up unwitting actors in a OK-corral shoot-out. No officer was shot.

You’d think police officers would only shoot the bad guys. In fact, the NYPD has conducted studies of this sort of incident. Turns out, police only hit their targets about a third of the time.

Advocates of gun rights often argue that people are safer if they have a firearm handy, in their home, car or on their person. The Empire State Building incident ought to suggest a caution about depending on a firearm to protect you.

If highly trained police officers regularly miss their target, what’s the chance that the homeowner, perhaps in the middle of the night, perhaps in the dark, will have the presence of mind to properly aim a gun, fire and actually stop the person before he shoots back?

Sure, there are plenty of stories gun rights advocates cite as evidence that firearms can protect you.

I remember what these same folks said after Jared Lee Lochner killed six people and injured 18, including Rep. Gabrielle Giffords, at Tucson shopping center.

“If one of the congresswoman’s aides had been armed, this tragedy could have been shopped.”
But the fact is that nearby at least one citizen was carrying a gun. The man complained later that he couldn’t see what was happening soon enough to get off a shot. Bystanders did manage to wrestle Lochner to the ground when he was trying to reload.

In the Aurora, Colorado, theater, James Holmes, wearing armor and a gas mask, firing tear gas, killed 12 people and injured 50 before he ran from the scene.

Again, I remember too well the response of the gun rights advocates: “If somebody had been armed, Holmes wouldn’t haven’t killed and injured so many.”

I don’t know why the advocates are so sure some people in the Aurora theater weren’t armed. After all, Colorado is one of those states with very permissive gun laws.

Some years ago, I was invited to debate Don Davis on a live daytime talk show in downtown Indianapolis. Don owns the Midwest’s biggest gun dealership. I wrote editorials in favor of tough gun control laws for The Journal Gazette in Fort Wayne.

I must admit Don was a pretty good debater. He’d had lots of practice doing TV commercials, I guess. But his professed belief in guns protecting citizens hasn’t always panned out. (I always suspect the main issue with gun dealers is profits.) One time, a holdup man shot and killed on of Don’s employees who was working late. And carted off a bunch of firearms. Then this fall at Don’s shooting gallery, another guy got into an argument over charges shot and critically wounded another of the store’s employees, Ben Chance. This time, Chance managed to return fire, killing the assailant. I understand Mr. Chance will survive, thank goodness.

But you’d think the last place anybody would want to pull a gun on an employee would be in a gun store.

I grew up around guns. Dad and many of his friends were hunters. So when hunting season arrived, Dad with his double-barrel 12-gauge and I with my 20-gauge single shot headed for the country and the fields in search of pheasants. I doubt if I ever hit anything. Dad was a good shot, though, and he often bagged one of those beautiful birds and carted it home or to my grandparents’ for Thanksgiving dinner. I haven’t hunted in many years, I guess since high school. I do understand why lots of people really enjoy the pastime and may even contribute money to the National Rifle Association, in the belief they’re preserving their rights under the Second Amendment.

But you’re kidding yourself if you think having access to a loaded gun will protect you from someone intent on harming you.

You’re not likely to replay a scene from an old Western movie in which the guy wearing the white hat shoots the gun out of the hand of the guy wearing the black hat. Don’t be a hero. Just hand over the money and jewelry. And when the bad guy leaves, call the cops. You’ll have better luck. They’re only minutes away.

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