Dear Good Guy with a Gun,
In the wake of this latest mass shooting, we've all heard the NRA's rallying cry, "The only way to stop a bad guy with a gun is a good guy with a gun."
If only a few patrons of the Pulse nightclub had been armed, maybe Omar Mateen would not have shot so many people. If only a few theater-goers in Aurora had brought their guns, more people would be alive today.
So, we must ask ourselves, in the midst of all the noise and chaos of a mass shooting, how is anyone to tell The Good Guy With the Gun from one of the perpetrators? Let's break this down. In Orlando, no one knew if Mateen was acting alone or with others--he wanted people to believe he had accomplices. If you're a victim and you see another gunman, is he protecting you, or out to get you? How can you possibly tell?
What does a good guy look like? Is he (or she) yelling, "I'm a good guy?" Can you even hear them amidst all the screaming? Are they in a uniform? Are they of a certain race or ethnic group? Age group? Wearing certain clothing? Using a handgun or an assault weapon? Do they fit a "profile?" How good is their aim? Have they had a few drinks in that nightclub or before they went to that movie?
The vast majority of mass shooters are white males. So, if we see a white male with a gun, should we feel frightened or feel protected? What if it's an African American male? Should we feel relieved that our hero has arrived? What if it's someone in uniform? Mass shooters have been known to wear uniforms- it happened at Fort Hood. They've been known to be female (San Bernadino). They've been known to be Asian (Virginia Tech), and African-American (the DC Sniper). Since many are doing it for a political cause, they may see themselves as the Good Guys With a Gun.
If you are someone who wants to carry a gun around to be that Good Guy hero, please know that I don't feel safe around you. I feel terrified around you. You are not my hero. When I see a gun, I start to sweat and my pulse goes up. Two months ago, I saw a man open-carry a handgun at the hospital where I work. I became frightened. It turned out he was a plain clothes police detective whose badge was not visible, but that did not stop the feeling that my peaceful community was now starting to become a war zone.
Twenty years ago, there was a shooting in front of my apartment. My landlady's daughter took her son and moved away in response. I stayed and bought a house and put down roots. In the past year or so, I hear of another shooting in my neighborhood every couple months. I don't want to buy a gun. I want it to stop. I don't want to move away. I want to live in peace in my own neighborhood, where I have a family, a garden, a network of friends. A gun will never bring me peace. Isn't the right to live in peace more important than the right to own a gun without restriction?
Dear Good Guy With A Gun: You scare me. You are not my hero. And I wouldn't know you if I saw you.