In the wake of seemingly every mass shooting in the United States, gun control opponents invoke the argument that if more people carried concealed firearms, then one of those armed citizens could have neutralized the attacker.
This notion may appeal to gun owners who see Charles Bronson when they look in the mirror, but it rests upon the dubious logic of using more guns to address a problem that essentially begins and ends with guns themselves.
Gun advocacy groups are now pushing to allow concealed carry on college campuses, presumably in response to the number of high profile shootings that have occurred at schools throughout the country. Allowing for concealed carry at colleges would be disastrous—not just for the reason that guns have no place on a college campus, but also for the simple fact that concealed carry has been proven to endanger public safety.
According to the National Conference of State Legislatures, 19 states—including New York—ban carrying concealed weapons on college campuses. Twenty-three states, however, leave the decision solely at the discretion of the college or university. Since 2013, Texas, Kansas and Arkansas state legislatures have all passed bills allowing for concealed carry on college campuses.
In order to pass such legislation, state lawmakers have invoked predictably bilious rhetoric. Nevada assemblywoman Michele Fiore—the sponsor of a bill to support concealed carry on college campuses—said that guns could prevent sexual assault.
“If these young, hot little girls on campus have a firearm, I wonder how many men will want to assault them,” Fiore said. “The sexual assaults that are occurring would go down once these sexual predators get a bullet in their head.” While I commend Fiore’s concern for the safety of our nation’s “young, hot little girls,” I shudder to think what a gun in the hands of a sexual predator might result in.
The crux of the argument for concealed carry, however, is that more guns in the right hands will make everyone safer. The people carrying these firearms are trained and licensed to do so; therefore, they will not pose a threat to themselves or others.
Yet, the facts paint an entirely different picture. Research by the Violence Policy Center shows that since 2007, concealed firearms carriers have been responsible for at least 763 deaths in the U.S. in which self-defense did not play a role. In that time, concealed carriers committed 29 mass shootings and have killed 17 police officers. There have been only 21 instances since 2007 in which self-defense was determined to have played a role in a fatal shooting by a concealed carrier.
Furthermore, the VPC also reports that from 2008-2012, justifiable homicides by firearm made up just 2.5 percent of all homicides by firearm in the U.S. So where are all those good guys with guns?
The logic that more guns will promote public safety is simply untenable. It presupposes the constant presence of a good guy—and a gun—to be able to swoop in and stop shooting deaths. An armed vigilante would not be able to stop an accidental shooting death, a suicide or a shooting that occurs in a private space.
The problem is not just crazed gunmen running around murdering people—the problem is our cultural attachment to weapons that kill with frightening efficiency. Guns are a malignancy and the feverish insistence of their presence in any and all public spaces will invariably cause more deaths. The numbers do not lie.