Good Guy with a Gun

By: BW Ellis
Originally Published: June, 11th 2014

Note: This article was written for and published on Newsvine in response to the story seen at this link:

So here is a good guy with a gun, here is a man who died trying to use his weapon to stop violence rather than retreating and finding cover. What he did was brave, it was righteous, it was heroic and it set him apart from the others present during this terrifying time.

The only thing that failed him was the fact that he didn’t suspect that there was more than one shooter, and that simple and honest miscalculation cost him his life. In a life and death situation, that is what consequences look like.

Now, ask his family if they are proud of their son, their brother and they will stand tall and declare that he was always a hero in their eyes and in that moment he showed everyone else his heroism. They will use words like courage, honorable, willing to sacrifice to protect others and they will forever be justified to do so.

Yet if you ask those very same people if they would have rather their heroic family member stayed under cover and lived, they would wish for it beyond any other thing. Had they been there they would have held his arm and pulled him to the deck keeping him alive.

The others in the Walmart took cover and escaped with their lives. They are not cowards, they are not victims, they are probably traumatized by it but at the end of the day they will take a breath and the recovery will start.

So what is the better thing to do for the long term. Is the moment of courageous brilliance that this man demonstrated as worthy as the long slow burn of reliable love and companionship and the presence of his life.

This man had family, had a future and the opportunity cost of a good guy dying so painfully young is far greater than the benefit of shooting a madman with a gun. The deeds of good that an honorable man would accomplish within the span of his life was eliminated by the strobe of a muzzle flash and the high velocity impact of a slug in his chest, yet the gun that fired the shot is not the only one that cost him his life.

Here is a good guy, with a gun. If the good guy did not have the gun, would he have done what he did? Taking away the heroism of the moment, was not the gun in his own holster also contributory to the way the scene unfolded?

From a tactical standpoint it would be hard to believe that the same man would have attempted to intervene without the gun. In countless situations like this the people without the guns survive because they take cover and wait for the police to arrive and handle the situation. 

If he had retreated, created a defendable position to cover people while they escaped out a side or back exit, not engaged with an unknown opponent alone, if only…

This man was not trained in combat tactics, not schooled in the ways of war or practiced in keeping calm in panicked situations, it was not his job nor his education. In a way the fact that he was an ordinary man is part of why he was so brave to step out and attempt an early end to the conflict, yet it became the difference between life and death.

While everyone has the right to defend themselves and some of us choose to exercise the right to carry a weapon it is fairly obvious that we are all not prepared to take on a “bad guy with a gun” because it is not our job!

The news report claims that he did not carry the gun on a regular basis, who knows what his marksmanship was like but what if he was firing when he got shot? What if he missed the bad guy when the bullet tore threw him and hit another bystander? I doubt his heroism would be held in such great revere if one of the dead came from his gun.

The act of carrying the gun did as much to play a role in killing this good man as the gun that actually shot him. While this is a great tragedy, it is only honest to say that the situation would have ended in the same exact way regardless of the man’s death. That his loss is a waste of good in a world that is in dire need of that attribute, and that the contributions to his family and his community are a dire opportunity cost that is too great to bear.

Gun control advocates are not looking to take away this good man’s gun, but we would like to educate the people who carry guns on what is tactically and logically the smart thing to do. To fight against the Rambo ideology and embrace the more nuanced and disciplined approach to gun ownership and civic duty.

To introduce the idea that the gun, even when drawn, is an option of last resort. That killing does not produce the results that living does, and that honor on the battlefield can be earned with just as much valor, when focused on saving lives rather than on taking them.