When it comes to carrying concealed weapons, ABC’s 20/20 conducted an experiment that showed just how much of an illusion this imagined safety really is. They set up a classroom scene to imitate a mock shooting. All classroom participants were dressed in police gear, and one student was given a handgun with specially loaded rounds designed to fire paint pellets. This person was given a standard course on gun usage, similar to what is required in many states to get a concealed weapon permit. These participants knew ahead of time that at some point during the day a shooter was going to enter the classroom and begin firing randomly at students, in the typical fashion of mass shootings. So did being armed themselves make them or their classmates any safer?
The answer to this is a resounding no, and in fact, it wasn’t even a close call. The experiment revealed that having a concealed weapon actually makes one more likely to be killed, not less. It revealed that armed volunteers still weren’t able to get their gun out in time to defend themselves, and in the process, it put them in the position of being wide open and vulnerable. A full half of the volunteers couldn’t even get their gun out before it was all over. They fumbled with it, dropped it on the floor, it snagged on clothing, other objects were in the way or people bumped into them while running past. The others who did manage to draw their weapon couldn’t get it out fast enough to save themselves or anyone else. One woman, firing five shots at nearly point blank range, missed with 4. One round nearly hit a civilian that was running by, while the one shot she managed to land only grazed the suspect’s knee. Meanwhile, she took 6 shots to the head and chest herself. (ABC, 4-10-09) Standing up to confront the attacker made her more vulnerable than everyone else in the room. And since many mass shooters have prepared themselves by wearing Kevlar vests, it’s not even a fair fight to begin with. You’re better off trying to escape or hide, or to confront them in hand to hand combat.
Real life examples lend further credence to these principles, showing that armed citizens are typically useless in these situations, and in fact, frequently do more harm than good. One shooting in Las Vegas is a perfect illustration of the futility in this approach. Jared and Amanda Miller, a man and his wife, went on a shooting rampage targeting authorities. First they went into a restaurant and killed two police officers. Both police officers killed had guns. Having guns did not save them. Next the shooters went to a Wal-Mart, where 1 more man was shot and killed. This isn’t surprising: in studies of simulated shooting, having a concealed weapon just makes you more likely to die. Since the shooter has a head start, he (or she) nearly always comes out on top. What wasn’t discussed much in the media is that this person who was killed was a concealed weapon carrier. He tried to confront the gunman, and when he went for his weapon, he was shot and killed. Yet these two shooters weren’t targeting civilians, only police. So trying to intervene with his weapon got this man killed. If he didn’t have a gun, he’d still be alive today.
People are fond of guns because they provide the illusion of control. When you have a gun, you feel powerful. You feel safe. You feel like you can take on anyone. But of course, feelings are not fact. Not only were concealed weapons useless in stopping this shooting, but there’s a good chance it added to the body count. Since the shooters in this particular case had a vendetta against the police and government, not private citizens, it’s more than likely that had this man fled like everyone else, he would still be alive today. (Cashiers in the front had no problem escaping, had these two been inclined to kill citizens, there were plenty of easy targets in both locations.)
Of course, this all assumes that you are presented with an actual life-death situation and someone intent on killing you. A far more likely scenario is that you pull a gun in response to someone who appears threatening, and who may not actually do you any harm. But the moment you pull a gun, you change the dynamics of the situation in a dangerous and unpredictable way.