If only other people in that theater had been armed, maybe this wouldn’t have happened…
This sentiment has made its way around since Friday. For the most part, it is a fantastical load of bull. Here’s why.
Dark theater, loud movie, intense action sequence. Add to that a deranged gunman and a room full of people who were not expecting real gunfire. I have never attempted to shoot a specific person in a crowded theater full of panicked people, and neither has almost 100% of the American public. It sounds prohibitvely impossible. Did I mention that this all occurred in the dark. In. The. Dark.
Experienced Delta Force operators would have difficulty with that sort of situation, I imagine, because once again, no one expected gunfire.
In a crowded, chaotic, dark environment, several questions present themselves. What if you shoot and miss, and hit an innocent bystander? What if you see someone with a gun, you shoot, and you then learn that the person you killed was a fellow CHL carrier, also trying to take the shooter down? What happens when the cops show up? They are, in all likelihood, not going to know that you are a heroic defender of the innocent. They are going to see an asshole with a gun, and it is highly likely that they are going to take you down. They may or may not conclude that you were not an aggressor, but by then you’ll be dead, and the cop who shot you will probably still get a medal.
It is very comforting to think that an armed citizen could have handily taken the shooter in Aurora down, and it is possible that someone with sufficient training and skill could have. The odds are very much against it, and pondering it is really just a comic-book fantasy that we use to make ourselves feel better and to tell ourselves “I would have done it differently.”
David Weigel at Slate looks at the reality of trying to shoot this guy in the context of a darkened, noisy theater filled with what might have been tear gas. He discusses past situations where a bystander did successfully stop a shooter, noting that they all occurred in open spaces and in broad daylight. In a follow-up piece, Weigel talks to Greg Block, a federally-certified firearms safety trainer with twenty-nine years of experience. Block, to put it mildly, knows more about firearms than most people talking about arming the moviegoers will ever, ever know. Block thinks that he, personally, could have gotten the drop on the shooter, but for the fact that it was dark, crowded, and full of disorienting smoke. He says he could have gotten shots off within two seconds. Among anyone reading this, or anyone that anyone reading this knows, how many people could fire multiple accurate shots from a pistol within two seconds of drawing their gun? Again, I can’t say for certain, but I suspect the answer, if not zero, is asymptotic to zero. How many people who want to carry guns in public could even have the reaction time to draw, identify the correct target, and shoot in under two seconds? Very, very few, I reckon. Unless, of course, you are a current or former Delta Force operator.
We stopped being the kind of society that spends a significant portion of its free time preparing for gun battles over a century ago. Do we really want to go back to that? Because that is the only way that arming the moviegoers would have even stood a chance of success, i.e. if everyone had gone in there mentally prepared for battle.
What Happens When Bystanders Have Guns
Two fairly recent stories cast doubt on any guarantee of a happy outcome when law-abiding citizens are armed. Continue reading