The Enduring Power of the “Good Guy With a Gun” Myth Against the Facts


Just as predictable as the swarm of conservatives who spent the past eight years condoning violent rhetoric against the first African-American President emerging to call for more “civility” in wake of yesterday’s Alexandria shooting was the wave of gun nuts arguing that the shooting presented evidence for their claim that we need more citizens armed and carrying concealed weapons in the U.S.

Now, it seemed not to matter to them that those who responded to the shooting were not armed citizens but a trained security detail. It also didn’t seem to trouble them that even these trained professionals took casualties and could not immediately stop the shooter despite heroic action on their part.

For the gundamentalist adherents of the Church of the Holy Second Amendment, every shooting in the United States is neither a moment to reflect on just how easy it is to get a deadly weapon nor time to consider how it is fewer guns, not more, that will make our communities safer.

Like Montana legislators, pumped up on their John Wayne fantasies, these absolutists are absolutely convinced that adding the steely gaze and iron nerve of an “armed citizen” will prevent most mass shootings from happening and quickly end those that begin.

This faith in the power of the gun is problematic when one looks at the statistics, however. In its study of Active Shooter Incidents in the United States between 2000 and 2013, the the FBI found that exactly one was stopped by an armed citizen with a valid firearms permit.

The .6% of active shootings stopped by the mythical “good guy with a gun” demonstrates that the idea that more guns will prevent these kinds of shootings is not based in fact, but rests on the mistaken belief that more guns won’t lead to more accidental shootings, more confusion and danger for law enforcement on the scene, and precious few Second Amendment heroes saving the day.

After every mass shooting in the United States, we’re told it’s not the right time to “politicize” gun violence, but we absolutely need to have a conversation about the reality of firearms, not the myths constructed by those who believe more guns are always the answer.

When can we have that conversation? Before the next shooting?

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About the author

Don Pogreba

Don Pogreba is an eighteen-year teacher of English, former debate coach, and loyal, if often sad, fan of the San Diego Padres and Portland Timbers. He spends far too many hours of his life working at school and on his small business, Big Sky Debate.

His work has appeared in Politico and Rewire.

In the past few years, travel has become a priority, whether it's a road trip to some little town in Montana or a museum of culture in Ísafjörður, Iceland.

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William SkinkEricPete TalbotDon PogrebaEric Coobs Recent comment authors
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Eric Coobs
Eric Coobs

Sure Pogie – go ahead and not talk about the 800lb Gorilla in the room – which is a Democrat, who worked on Bernie Sanders campaign, listening to all the talk coming from the Democrats since election night, deciding to go shoot some Republicans.

The Dems might as well have been there pulling the trigger for him, and you know it.

I hope all you lefties are proud.

Eric Coobs
Eric Coobs

Let’s talk about the shooter first, and admitted Democratic operative, who Bernie stood up and apologized for, admitting he worked on his campaign. The shooter had a list of republicans he wanted to shoot in his pocket. He used a surplus chinese SKS rifle and a 9mm handgun, and he shop a lot of cartridges. That establishes method. The Dem shooter stopped and asked somebody if they were Republicans, or Democrats on the field – This establishes opportunity. Now lets look at his motive – where YOU come in, representing the loony left of the Dems; Ever since election night,… Read more »

Pete Talbot

In light of an unstable person shooting a Republican congressman, last February the Republican President repealed an Obama-era regulation to keep guns out of the hands of the mentally ill.

Your insight on this, Eric?


First Pete, the last minute Obama directive was aimed at taking guns away from every retired person that couldn’t balance a checkbook. It’s not the same as Pogie spewing hate at this blog, and finding himself in the unenviable position of not being able to defend his actions. During the Obama regime, if you disagreed with The Great Leaders bad policies, you were immediately branded a racist. If a comedian would have held up a bloodied Obama head they would still be in jail. If they put on a play assassinating Obama every day there would be lawsuits. Yet when… Read more »


I’m grown up enough to apologize, because this shooter didn’t read this blog. You personally didn’t inspire anybody – yet at least.

But 90% of what you’ve done since the election has been to spew hate towards Republicans, and so I can’t prove it, but you are probably enjoying the news about the shooting, and wishing he had gotten a few more, right?

Call my criticism spam if you want – not exactly an award-winning argument.

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