In the aftermath of the horrors of Orlando, the chorus has begun. "We need more guns." "If only someone in that nightclub had had a gun..." "The only thing that can stop a bad guy with a gun is a good guy with a gun." And on it goes.
The cynic in me wants to completely dismiss all of those speakers but I know there are some folk, probably even most, who say those things actually believe they are offering a real solution. We have a cultural myth that violence can actually solve problems and that responding with violence is the strong, manly, and usually appropriate response to serious problems.
I don't want to address that myth here although it is central to the discussion and challenging it is key to real solutions to the violence in our society. Instead, I want to look at the practicality of more guns and imagine just what that might have looked like at Pulse.
First, for mass shooters, the possibility of being killed is not a deterrent. Most end up dead anyway and go into the situation planning exactly that. In the case of religious crazies, there is often an overlay of martyrdom. The fear of death simply is irrelevant in those situations or may even be a motivation of the shooter.
So let's play this out in our imaginations - more guns. The nightclub is going full bore. There is loud music, flashing lights, and lots of people dancing. The room is tightly packed and the crowd is moving. Multiple people present have guns... They have been drinking and dancing and enjoying themselves. Suddenly people hear gunshots. The first reaction is confusion. Is it the music? What is going on? Then the crowd panics and is running in every direction. Joe Smith pulls his gun and in the craziness shoots at what he thinks is the shooter. Across the club, Bob Doe pulls his gun. Through the crowd, he sees two people shooting. He can guess the one with the AR15 is the person who started shooting first but is the 2nd one an accomplice or a good guy with a gun? He starts shooting as well just as the crowd closes in front of him... and the crowd is panicking even more, running in every direction. The first person to draw their gun hears shots coming from another direction and turns. Is that person another good guy or an accomplice? At whom do I shoot? Third, fourth, fifth guns are drawn and more people are shooting. None are trained to use a weapon under the stress of a situation like that. All are making life and death decisions in seconds. Most have been drinking. All the while the crowd is panicking and people are moving in and out of the lines of fire. someone hits the mass shooter and he goes down... but the bullets continue to fly. Multiple people have been shot... by whom? Ten minutes after the first shot, the police arrive at a scene that looks like the OK Corral. They see guns drawn, bodies on the floor, and people still shooting. How are they to know who is a good guy and who is not? Do they respond by shooting as well?
Were lives saved in this scenario? It certainly doesn't sound that way to me. Even in a situation where the people are trained for that kind of situation and someone is in charge, mistakes still happen. Soldiers talk about the fog of war where reason and training go out the window to be taken over by random instinct. Indeed, part of the design of assault weapons is meant to compensate for the lessened ability to aim, choose targets, and be completely intentional in battle. The weapon is designed to spray large numbers of bullets in a general direction in the hopes of hitting as many people as possible. They have a term for soldiers killed by their own in such circumstances - "friendly fire." We've also seen recent videos of police shootings where multiple trained police officers shoot scores of bullets at a suspect and at least a significant number of the bullets miss the target. In a setting like Pulse, where would those bullets end up?
No... I can't see a situation where having more guns would lead to a better outcome. I can come up with scores of situations where it would make things worse.