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Do “Good Guys” with Guns Really Stop “Bad Guys” with Guns?
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Summary: In the midst of horrific terror in Paris, politicians tweeted about gun rights – prompting a conversation about guns and gun control.

After the recent terrorist attacks in Paris that left at least 129 dead, some American politicians turned to social media to comment on the tragedy – and use it to trill their pro-gun beliefs.

In the middle of the massacre, Donald Trump (@realdonaldtrump) sent out this tweet, which he later deleted:


Donald Trump Tweeting About Guns

Newt Gingrich (@newtgingrich) sent a similarly tasteless tweet:

Newt Gingrich Tweets About Guns

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Many were appalled by this seeming insensitivity, and the tweeters’ rush to capitalize on a tragedy for political gains. But, tasteful or not, these anti-gun control arguments represent a pattern that’s persisted for the past few years.

Fairly recently, the Supreme Court heard two cases that would determine whether individuals had the right to carry guns, or if the right was just reserved for militias. In both District of Columbia v. Heller (in 2008) and McDonald v. Chicago (2010), the court ruled that the Second Amendment granted the right of citizens to “keep and bear arms.”

District of Columbia v. Heller was the first time the Supreme Court had heard a case interpreting the Second Amendment in seventy years. The case challenged a law in D.C. that disallowed the registration of handguns, carrying a pistol without a license, and that all legal firearms be kept disassembled and unloaded. The D.C. Code was meant to help a city that had struggled with gun violence for decades, by making guns as difficult to find and use as possible. The Supreme Court found, however, that the law violated the Second Amendment right for individuals to bear arms, even those not taking part in a militia. McDonald v. Chicago was essentially an extension of District of Columbia v. Heller. The first case had ruled that Federal districts could not impose gun bans, and McDonald v. Chicago simply extended that ruling to the various states.

The decisions were controversial for many reasons – especially as they were ruled against cities that had been struggling with extreme gun violence for decades. Theoretically, the case meant that all cities had to allow residents to own weapons.

In 2012, a mass shooting at Sandy Hook Elementary School left 26 dead, including 20 children. This event prompted more discussion of gun rights and the benefits of gun control. The conversation has continued through the past few years, sparked by a seemingly endless parade of mass shootings in the U.S.

Gun control advocates allege that more guns can only mean more criminals have the opportunities to get their hands on them. But others tout guns’ importance, arguing that “good guys” with guns are the best way to stop the “bad guys” with guns.

Criminals, they say, don’t follow laws. If they want guns, they’ll get guns. Ultimately, the conversation comes back to the need for law-abiding citizens to carry firearms to defend their fellow Americans.

But do good guys with guns stop bad guys with guns? There is no evidence to suggest this is the case. In fact, a Harvard School of Public Health study found the opposite. The study claims that “guns are not used millions of times each year in self-defense.” In fact, it says, gun use in self-defense is a “rare phenomen[on].” The study also found that “few criminals are shot by decent law-abiding criminals.” In other words, there is no evidence that shows that guns deter or prevent crime.

Another Harvard study found that, almost universally, where there are more guns, there is more homicide, particularly among “high-income nations.” Even controlling for age groups, urbanization, and poverty, states with more guns have higher rates of homicide – especially homicides committed by guns.

Even without all these facts, Trump and Gingrich’s tweets were pretty clearly inappropriate. But looking into statistics about the actual effectiveness of guns protecting people – which rarely happens, according to Harvard – makes them even less palatable. Had there been law-abiding citizens with guns in the Paris theater when the terrorists opened fire, it is unlikely that the “good guys” could have stopped the attack – even if it hadn’t been in a pitch dark, crowded theater. With those additional factors against them, it’s pretty clear that tweeting about the importance of guns after a massive terrorist attack is just, well, unattractive.


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