It's now been a couple days since the tragic shooting in Aurora, Colorado, at a midnight screening of The Dark Knight Rises. Sometimes you need that long to get everything properly processed. The discussion over the shooting has, unfortunately, started down the exact same path all shooting tragedies in America tend to take, as the Onion demonstrated the same day.
I'm not so naive as to think this will be any different. Although this one, somehow, is a bit more insidious than the others, and requires commentary.
Part of any shooting-aftermath discussion will tend to include an analysis of the weapon used in the shooting, which a lot of the time is some hulking thing typically used by the Mythbusters to reduce various objects to a fine mist. In this case, the shooter was mainly using an AR-15 assault rifle; that's where the resulting discussion has centered. He was also carrying an 870 Remington 12-gauge shotgun and two .40-caliber Glock handguns, one of which was on his person and one of which was left in his car. (We won't use the shooter's name here, just in case the as-yet-unclear motivation behind the shooting included a bid for notoriety.)
Every time the shooter uses an overpowered weapon such as an assault rifle, inevitably there will be a cry of 'surely, you do not need THAT to defend your home from a burglar,' as there has been here. And just as inevitably, there will be a competing cry of 'if we ban that, what's to stop people from banning ALL guns?', as has been done here (never mind that nobody has disputed the shotgun or the handguns).
Although, really, think about it a second. If you are in a situation where an assault rifle proves to be insufficient firepower, the three most plausible situations for you to be in are:
1) Your adversary is the type who is likely to simply fire through the door and kill everything inside before even entering, or alternatively, the type that will kick the door open and then start blowing away everything in sight, leaving no opportunity for whoever's inside to have any response whatsoever. Perhaps you are the subject of a mob hit. And your adversary probably has backup as well.
2) You are in a warzone- like, an actual, honest-to-God warzone- and your adversary is currently driving a tank or piloting a drone plane. Your adversary probably has backup here too.
3) Your adversary is the Terminator.
In any case, in this instance, another, more insidious angle has been taken: blaming the victims for not carrying guns themselves. That is where I'm stepping in. There have been plenty of commenters- let's say, oh, Representative Louie Gohmert (R-TX), or Senator Ron Johnson (R-WI)- stating that if one of the moviegoers had been carrying a concealed gun, they might have been able to stop the shooter.
Let us rip this argument apart limb from limb.
First off, let's note that, at first, the victims thought that the shooting was part of the show. Remember, this was a special midnight screening of The Dark Knight Rises, a dark, gritty Batman movie in which the main villain is Bane, a violent, roided-out hulk of a man who dresses in black, as does Catwoman, who also appears in the movie, and Batman himself. To have a guy clad in black come out and start acting like he was blowing the crowd away with half an arsenal, after first throwing a canister of smoke into the theater, would be a totally plausible publicity stunt. (Fun fact: the Joker, who isn't in this movie but is Batman's most iconic villain, uses a gas weapon as part of his arsenal. It makes the victim laugh uncontrollably.) By the time they realized it wasn't a stunt and he was actually trying to kill them, the shooting had already begun.
If the other guy is firing before you've even realized there's a guy with a gun trying to kill you, it really doesn't matter if you have a gun of your own. It doesn't matter if you have an RPG on hand if you get shot before you can fire it. You've seen those Old West duels. Reaction time is everything.
Second, let's talk duels. From a cold, unfeeling shooters-duel perspective, let's examine how likely you are to actually win this duel.
We've already established that the shooter has the element of surprise on his side. We know that he has drawn and fired his weapon before anyone realized there was something amiss. He is in a darkened movie theater (remember he's wearing black), and has thrown a smoke grenade, allowing himself cover of darkness and a smokescreen cover as well- a cover he himself can clearly see through well enough to target and shoot people attempting to flee the theater. The shooter is wearing Kevlar and a helmet; nobody else in the theater has any armor whatsoever beyond maybe whatever flimsy protection a Batman costume might provide. Some theaters have a raised platform immediately in front of the screen; using this platform would also give the shooter the high ground over many of the moviegoers. (Whether that platform existed or not, I'm not certain; all the video I've seen of the actual incident is of people exiting the theater and I quite frankly don't have the stomach to look for video of the shooting itself.) Even if one or more of the moviegoers had been carrying guns, it's almost certain none of them would have been concealed-carrying anything as strong or stronger than an assault rifle; that would give the shooter superior firepower as well, and that's before you take the shotgun or handgun into account. He has many different targets; the moviegoers, who have superior numbers but are unable to use those numbers in any way, have one. The shooter is paying well enough attention that any move for a concealed weapon would all but certainly have resulted in that person going for their gun being the next target. Even if a moviegoer got their gun out without being noticed, they're only going to have one shot- through darkness and smoke at a target clad in black, and who is wearing armor on both his body and his head- before the shooter's attention is absolutely aroused. If you do not quickly and discreetly draw your weapon and just as quickly either find a hole in or punch through the shooter's armor and not just hit but completely kill or otherwise incapacitate the shooter in a single bullet, it is certain to result in you being shot next, in direct response, until dead.
Oh, and be sure not to hit any of the other moviegoers, or allow them to think that you're a crazed gunman yourself and draw fire from any guns THEY might have on hand.
Call me crazy, but I don't think you're going to win that duel. Try to fight that duel and I guarantee you will get yourself killed trying.
See, this is the thing. So many people, given stimuli such as this, think they're some sort of armchair hero. They see some horrific act, they see dead bodies and wounded victims, and they always seem to think that, in the same situation, they'd have saved the day. They'd have known what to do. They'd have gotten the bastard. You'd think we'd never have any helpless victims of anything (because very few are willing to admit that they wouldn't be the hero, and even fewer will admit to being one of the victims). But the thing is, they don't know what they'd have done. Nobody ever really does. Personally, I think I would be one of the victims. I think I'd be one of the people that tried to run out of the theater and got gunned down trying. But I don't know for sure either. The only way to know for sure what you'll do in a given situation is to actually be placed in that given situation. The only people who know for sure how they'd react in the case of the Aurora shooting are the people who were actually in that theater. And some of them didn't even get the opportunity to react.
There's a reason that, when you're the victim of an active robbery or mugging, the number one thing police advise is to just give them what they want. Your first priority is to not get yourself killed. Everything else is secondary.
Third, how low have we sunk as a society when we're berating people who have been shot and in many cases killed for not packing heat to a goddamn movie theater? How banally violent have we become that a person is now expected, as a societal norm, to carry a gun to every single life situation, no matter how innocent-seeming, just in case there's a maniac nearby ready to shoot them? Have we lost that much trust, have we become so utterly terrified of our neighbor that that is the way we have to live our lives? Because that's an awful, frightening society in which to have to live.
I would hope that I could walk down the street without having to think that every single person I lay eyes on is in turn laying eyes on me, ready to blow me away at a moment's notice, with them thinking I am secretly doing the same. And I would hope that the fact that I myself don't carry a gun and never intend to could be regarded as something other than stupid and dangerous, and that I could go about my life without being pressured- or God forbid, ordered- to start carrying one.
I respect your right to bear arms. Please respect my right not to.