It Would Have Been a Massacre

The horrifying scene at a practice field in Alexandria, Virginia, at which Congressman Steve Scalise was shot in a shocking flurry of gunfire, could have been much worse. Rand Paul pointed out that “it would have been a massacre” had a member of the House leadership not been there. His presence guaranteed that the heavily armed Capitol Police could take him down. Many others present expressed similar feelings. They were sitting ducks. If the offensive gunfire could not be met by defensive gunfire, the bloodshed would have been far worse.
As this case shows – and there are millions more like this one – force must be met with force to stop the violence.The aftermath will include all the usual questions. What were the gunman’s motivations? Shooter James T. Hodgkinson’s Facebook page shows that he is a supporter of Bernie Sanders and socialism generally. Where did he get the gun? Did he obtain it legally with all the appropriate background checks? What does this scene imply about gun regulations and controls on distribution?
To some degree, all these questions are beside the salient point. As this case shows – and there are millions more like this one – force must be met with force to stop the violence. If a murderous monster has the most firepower in the space, everyone else’s life is in the balance. The calls for gun control refuse to deal with this reality. To the extent they succeed in restricting people’s rights to defend themselves and others, they bear moral culpability for an increasingly violent society.
Defense Use
What happened at the baseball park was a classic case of defensive gun use. In the entire debate over guns, this is the point I find most compelling in a practical sense. Despite being raised in a gun-owning family, and having spent many hours at gun ranges and owning some myself, they are not my favorite things, which is to say I don’t really like them. I have no romantic attachment to them at all. I would rather live in society without them.
There is a strong reason for people like me to hope for a wide distribution of guns and firing skills. And yet a society without guns is not an option. Given this, there is a strong reason for people like me to hope for a wide distribution of guns and firing skills. It is precisely because of my attitude, and others like me, that I hope that there are plenty of others out there, who have my back in case like this.
The use of guns for defensive purposes makes the strongest case there is for liberalization of gun laws. Trevor Burris comments:

The prevalence of defensive gun use (DGU) is one of the most hotly debated issues in gun control policy. In the words of one study produced by the National Research Council, measuring DGU “has proved to be quite complex, with some estimates suggesting just over 100,000 defensive gun uses per year and others suggesting 2.5 million or more defensive gun uses per year.” That’s quite a range, but if it falls anywhere in that range then it is still a lot of DGU.
The dispute about the number of DGUs centers primarily on the definition of defensive gun use and the method of counting it. When the Bureau of Justice Statistics performs the National Crime Victimization Survey they ask about DGU, and they generally reach a number around 100,000. Florida State University criminologist Gary Kleck and others have criticized that method because many people are understandably unwilling to tell a government agent that they have brandished or fired a weapon in self-defense. They may not know if what they did was legal, and they may illegally possess the weapon, to name just two concerns. Thus Kleck performed surveys designed to reach just defensive gun use without creating biased concerns in his subjects. Through that method he reached the number 2.5 million.

Feeling Safe
This is why the prevalence of private owners carrying guns makes me feel safer. To be sure, there are bad actors but the best foil to them are good actors who serve as a counterforce. Once you pay attention, you see examples everywhere.
Knowing that there is no way for government to ban guns — there is a black market in nearly every country with severe restrictions — the best protection for everyone is for ownership to be widespread and distributed through the population.
So I would like to make a plea to my fellow citizens: please buy guns. Carry them. Keep them in your homes and cars. It’s especially important to do this in public places, where freak murderers could conceivably lurk. The weapons should be loaded and dangerous, capable of killing with one shot.

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