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Is it True Armed Civilians Have Never Stopped a Mass Shooting?

5:33 PM, Dec 20, 2012 • By MARK HEMINGWAY
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Armed civilians attempting to intervene are actually more likely to increase the bloodshed, says Hargarten, "given that civilian shooters are less likely to hit their targets than police in these circumstances." A chaotic scene in August at the Empire State Building put this starkly into perspective when New York City police officers confronting a gunman wounded nine innocent bystanders.

There are some terrific, heroic police officers out there and I don't want to diminish their service. But there are also some terrible cops, as well. The fact that police would wound nine innocent people when confronted by a gunman doesn't mean we can assume that armed civilians would have somehow managed to shoot even more people. It might just be the opposite:

Newsweek has reported that law-abiding American citizens using guns in self-defense during 2003 shot and killed two and one-half times as many criminals as police did, and with fewer than one-fifth as many incidents as police where an innocent person mistakenly identified as a criminal (2% versus 11%).

I suppose the assumption that cops are better equipped to carry guns than civilians hinges on the fact that they are trained to handle guns. But so are military veterans, and there are millions of them who have likely as much or more firearms training as the average cop. Finally, it's also true that there are many people who have never had any law enforcement and military training yet are skilled and responsible firearms owners who are temperamentally well-suited to handle potential threats. Mother Jones makes no serious argument that arming more civilians wouldn't effective in preventing mass shootings.

I understand the impulse to do something in the wake of the horror that we witnessed in Connecticut last week. But Mother Jones's "study" is little more than a series of ideological fallacies propped up with cherry-picked data. If Mother Jones is serious about having a debate on guns, they had better hold themselves to much higher standards than this.

*UPDATE: I originally wrote that Mother Jones study was problematic because the list of shooting incidents did not include the Luby's shooting. It turns out that they did include the shooting, but it was only visible after zooming in multiple times on their map of shooting incidents. The article has been revised to reflect that.

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