‘Good guys with guns’ – do they help stop shooters? Here’s what data says

Pistol hidden in belt - stock photo

Pistol hidden in belt – stock photo (iStock/Getty Images)

(NEXSTAR) – In the aftermath of the Tuesday mass shooting at Robb Elementary School in Uvalde, Texas, which left 19 students and two adults dead, national outcry for more regulations on guns has poured in from many Americans, including Pres. Joe Biden.

Tuesday night, Biden said, “As a nation, we have to ask when in God’s name are we going to stand up to the gun lobby? … The idea that an 18-year-old can walk into a gun store and buy two assault weapons is just wrong. What in God’s name do you need an assault weapon for, except to kill someone?”

These sentiments were echoed widely, with many also mentioning changes to Texas’ gun laws in the past year.

Last year, Gov. Greg Abbott signed over a dozen laws protecting gun ownership, including most notably, House Bill 1927, known as the “constitutional carry” or “permitless carry” bill. Under HB 1927, Texans under the age of 21 can legally carry handguns without permits. This law went into effect Sept. 1, 2021. Other pieces of the legislation made the state a “Second Amendment Sanctuary State,” a preemptive protection against future federal gun laws.

“Texas will always be the leader in defending the Second Amendment, which is why we built a barrier around gun rights this session,” Abbott said last June. The governor offered condolences to the victims and their families on Wednesday, as did several other Texas lawmakers.

Many of these statements called for preserving citizens’ ability to jump in when acts of violence occur.

“People that are shooting people – that are killing kids – they’re not following murder laws, they’re not following gun laws,” Texas Attorney Gen. Ken Paxton told Newsmax. “This idea that if you somehow ban guns from law-abiding citizens that somehow these people will follow the gun law is somewhat ridiculous… I’d much rather have law-abiding citizens armed and trained and who can respond when something like this happens.”

Meanwhile, Texas Sen. Ted Cruz told reporters: “Inevitably when there’s a murder of this kind, you see politicians try to politicize it, you see Democrats and a lot of folks in the media whose immediate solution is to try to restrict the constitutional rights of law-abiding citizens. That doesn’t work. It’s not effective. It doesn’t prevent crime.”

The concept of citizens stopping acts of violence – often called “good guys with guns” – originates back to the 1998 book, “More Guns, Less Crime,” by economist John Lott, VICE reports. The book and its arguments have been resourced for many gun advocacy groups, including the National Rifle Association.

“The only way to stop a bad guy with a gun is with a good guy with a gun,” NRA executive vice president Wayne LaPierre famously said after the Newtown shooting in 2012. LaPierre has repeated the line several times since.

But expansive research out of Stanford University found states that passed right-to-carry (RTC) concealed handgun laws saw between a 13 to 15% increase in violent crimes in the 10 years after. The data spanned stats from the 1970s up until 2014.

“There is not even the slightest hint in the data that RTC laws reduce overall violent crime,” Stanford Law professor John Donohue stated in the paper.

Previous research on this topic came to similar conclusions, though noted not enough data was currently available.

In 2019, KXAN News in Austin worked with the ALERRT Center at Texas State University to compile data on 316 mass shootings in Texas between 2000 and 2019. The data showed that citizens stopped shooters 50 times out of 316 but only 10 of those instances were by using a gun. The other 40 times, the citizen used either their hands or another weapon.

As school shootings are concerned, CNN notes that in some instances, armed guards have been present and were unable to stop shooters, including the 1999 Columbine High School shooting.

In the Stanford paper, Donohue ultimately argues that while many Americans believe carrying a gun may reduce their risk in potential violent situations, the preparation for the possible may not be worth the real-world risks.

In 2020, FBI’s Uniform Crime Report found about 77% of reported murders in the U.S. that year were gun-related. This is an increase from 74% the previous year and an all-time record high.

Over 45,000 people were killed in 2020 by a firearm, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. In addition to murders, 24,292 of these were suicides.

The state of Texas has the 28th highest gun death rate in U.S., Giffords Law Center reports. According to the organization’s data, there are 12.7 gun deaths for every 100,000 residents – an average of on gun-related death every two hours.


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