Is There Such a Thing as a 'Good Guy With a Gun'?

Wednesday, June 18, 2014

gun guns (Chang Liu/flickr)

In video games, you're supposed to decide—in an instant—who to shoot and who to spare. There's the bad guy with the bag of money that he stole from the bank. Shoot him and you might earn a few points. But there's also the surprise pop-up—the grandmother. Shoot her and your score goes down.

In real life, those calculations don't always add up so easily. It was a calculation that shooter Joseph Robert Wilcox recently made when he tried to stop Jerad Miller, a man who killed a cop in a Las Vegas Walmart a few weeks back.

Wilcox was armed—he saw Miller and believed he had the opportunity to intervene. But he didn't notice a smaller woman standing by, with a shopping cart and a handbag. That was Miller's wife Amanda, and she too was armed; in an instant, she shot and killed Wilcox.

Wilcox was supposed to be one of the good guys, but owning a gun may have cost him his life.

That tragedy has led Adam Weinstein, a writer for Gawker and long-time gun owner, to stop and think a lot about what it means to be a good guy with a gun—a motto the NRA has reclaimed in the 21st century.


Adam Weinstein

Produced by:

Mythili Rao


T.J. Raphael

Comments [19]

unkerjay from Puget Sound

What happens when the "good guy with a gun" is actually a "bad guy with a gun" masquerading as a "good guy with a gun"? (Not that THAT EVER happens):

In Nigeria, distrust hampers the fight against Boko Haram

"People came out shouting and cheering and hailing them," said Abba Adam, 42, a market trader. But the cheers soon died out. The uniforms weren't quite right: baggy trousers here, a caftan there, a couple of turbans.

"That was when we realized that they weren't soldiers," said Ali Malallam, 32, a cellphone repairman who had just finished midday prayers.

Jun. 24 2014 01:17 AM
unkerjay from Puget Sound

How about a rorschach test in which people are shown photos of various individuals in street clothes (i.e. not uniformed officers or servicemembers) with various guns and given a second or two to declare them good guys or bad guys.

Catchy line, "good guy with a gun" and how exactly do you know? What's the tell? Other than that, "they're shooting at you"?

How about when a "good guy with a gun" BECOMES a "bad guy with a gun" as recently happened in South Korea:

or the Fort Hood shooting?

How does one tell from looking?

It's too easy to make a mistake assuming either a "good guy with a gun"
or "bad guy with a gun". Get it wrong, it could cost your life.

And, like the average police officer, you may have seconds to decide.

But, it's just so much more pithy than "background checks", which if "mental illness", or criminal record is at all a factor just might make
a definitive difference. Too harsh? Well, let's err towards leniency:

Tennessee court adopts tougher bail rules following assault case

What could possibly go wrong?

It's a complex issue which requires more than just pithy knee jerk reactions. Somewhere in between "they're coming to take your guns away"
and "taking their guns away" is a sane solution. Unfortunately, that's
where much of the debate on this currently resides.

ANY time it happens is one time too many.

Now, how often does it happen? Significantly?
Well, that's up for debate as well:

Criminologist Says Murder Is Down, 'Only Thing Up Is Fear And Publicity'

We need more light and less heat in the discussion as well as the resolution.

Jun. 24 2014 01:05 AM

"How do you telegraph your goodness to the cops and bystanders?"

As the gun laws stand right now, this line resounded with me. I'm still waiting to hear from anyone (preferably one of those hypervigilant people Mr. Weinstein refers to) about an effective way to tell apart a 'good guy' from a 'bad' one in the middle of a shoot out. How am I supposed to know who is the Amanda Miller and who is the Joseph Wilcox? Also, I need help identifying good guys vs bad guys *BEFORE* anyone starts shooting. You see, here in Texas, some people have recently taken to carrying their semi-automatic weapons to places like restaurants and department stores. I know they're doing so legally, I just don't know that they are legally sane.

Jun. 20 2014 01:28 PM

In the near future laser weapons will be manufacturable by means of 3D printer technology. High capacity lithium battery technology will soon enable you to set your featherly light and highly concealable weapon on either stun or vaporize. The Glock will be relegated to vintage musket realm status shortly. Hang on to your backwards-worn baseball caps.

Jun. 19 2014 05:05 PM
johm from wa

Who's making the most money in Iraq? Exxon? Follow the money.

Jun. 19 2014 11:15 AM
Michelangelo from Miami FL

We already tried out a society where firearms are displayed openly. We called it the Wild West.

Contrary to mid-century American television, hat color did not identify one as good or bad. Carrying a gun turns law-abiding individuals into the Schrodinger's Cats of social behavior. These individuals are both good AND bad until there is or isn't a random "trigger" event.

Jun. 19 2014 08:57 AM
Mothrover from Plainfield, NJ

A recent video shows a soldier handing his AK47 to a chimpanzee. The soldiers scatter as the chimp fires away at them. More proof that a good monkey with a gun is the only thing to stop a bad guy with a gun.

Jun. 19 2014 07:37 AM
TerryM from Philadelphia, PA

How about the idea that "good guy with a gun" is a transient state? All the mass murderers were law abiding citizens until they shot someone. In the time it takes to fire a gun, a law abiding citizen becomes a bad guy. Emotions as well as mental illness can change a "good guy with a gun" into a bad guy with a gun and no one arriving on the scene of a shooting can readily discern who is who. You could have a scenario where a "good guy with a gun" shoots another "good guy with a gun" because the second guy doesn't realize that the first guy is trying to take out the murderer.
In addition to that, how about those people who walk around openly displaying their guns? How is that not threatening to other people? Why are they displaying it in the first place? To threaten and intimidate others - and to use their argument about law-abiding citizens would be the ones to turn in their guns, not criminals, it would be law abiding citizens who would be most afraid, not the criminals. Openly walking around displaying a gun is a threat to use it. Otherwise, why would someone do that? Do we want to live in a society where people walk around scared all the time - scared that the "good guy with a gun" is just one chest thump away from becoming a mass murderer.

Jun. 18 2014 08:38 PM
Redward from Jersey

Dear John,
Professional media editors and reporters, back in the day when there were such creatures, had an unwritten rule that they would NEVER publish a photo of a gunman aiming directly at the viewer/photographer. The eye-catching and hypnotic effect of these photos encouraged amateurs and children to mimic the photo set-up, resulting in all-too-predictable slips of the finger with a loaded weapon, and death for the photographer. It was a good rule then, and it's a good rule now. It's just good gun safety. Pass it on...

Jun. 18 2014 06:06 PM

I loved that you covered this, I was surprised that no one mentioned this "Good guy with a gun dieing like a hero". He was a hero but also, you pull a gun and everything gets very complicated. Would not have been surprised if another GOOD guy with a gun shot the hero! Sadly not joking.

I carried a concealed gun for 7 years. I does make you act like a very chicken person.If I start a verbal fight with a guy, then he starts to physically threaten me or hits me lightly in the chest my only real move is to run away. Because if it come to blows with him, there is a great chance one of us are going to die by gun fire. I will go to jail for not running away, this will cost all my savings in lawyer fees and maybe 10 years in jail. If I am lucky. I live in CA.

Also after carrying a gun for 7 years (this was a snub nose .38spl ), I finally realized, I was mostly carrying it because I had been held up at gun point. Also I bought two Rottweiler's over 100lbs, which stopped all the attempts of people trying to break in to my house. If you have a B & E problem, just put up several "Beware of dogs signs". All the junkies banging on the door at night because "I was just in a car accident" stopped (I would offer to call police and they would run). This was when our dog was only 4 months old and had not learned to bark.

I was trained extensively by a friend who was a instructor, who had trained the FBI SWAT teams HRT's. Most important thing he taught me was I was great at the range at static targets (bulls Eye). But if I had my adrenaline up to 10, my first 2 shots just go wild, so I was taught "empty your weapon of all bullet's."

Final reason I quit carrying a gun was I don't want to kill anybody or someone innocent behind them.

Jun. 18 2014 05:29 PM
Leslie J. Levine, Esq. from Lake Worth, Florida

Given the state of affairs in this country, I believe in a citizen's right to own guns for self and family orotection and sporting purposes. But the 2nd Amendment does not protect the rights of mentally defective individuals to purchase assault weapons and 30 - shot banana clips.

Jun. 18 2014 05:22 PM

There is only one reason that this story was produced and aired on The Takeaway; to offer some clever pushback to the NRA slogan that "the only thing to stop a bad guy with a gun is a good guy with a gun."

There have been a large number of crimes/attempted crimes that have been stopped by good guys with guns. Absolutely none of those stories ever had a chance in hell of being produced and aired on The Takeaway.

Nope; this is the one to get airtime.

Jun. 18 2014 04:26 PM
Not happening from US

Most people are NOT trained to properly use guns but they have them to protect themselves. For example, I live in the middle of thousands of acres without a chance of receiving backup in a reasonable amount of time; therefore, I better be able to protect myself or I will die.

This is rebel-rousing. Add up the numbers and you will see...we are safer with guns. Remember the first three people killed in Santa Barbara were killed with a KNIFE.
It seems that broadcasters are trying to get more listeners. It's not working.

Jun. 18 2014 04:20 PM
Elizabeth from Tampa

I will be encouraging everyone I know to listen to this piece. It hit on all my concerns about guys with guns, good or bad.

Jun. 18 2014 03:42 PM
tom winn from st johns florida

ive lived in fla for 31 years and thank god we finally have decent gun laws here. It used to be ALL under every county's control- no its the state. And stand your ground was passed here by a landslide with the jouse and senate support. The NPR segment was the usual uninformend trash- you think cops have training? or majic powers whenit comes to guns? try once a year qualification and classwork- these fla cops dont even know the Fla stats when it comes to guns-I go everywhere armend and always will

Jun. 18 2014 03:04 PM
Dan from 32901

I heard the segment, then read his essay on Gawker. I couldn't agree with him more. I understand how those that, a bit too angrily, desire to have their weapons, and are convinced that they've got just as many stories of how, "a-good-guy-with-a-gun-stopped-the-bad-guy-with-a-gun." I'm still trying to see how everyone in this country has the same education, same morals, same "upbringin'", etc., and is the same age, etc. So many variables!! I can't help but wonder just why did the "Old-Wild-West" insist on guns being metaphorically parked-at-the-door, etc.? Could it have been due to too many error-shootings? Isn't this part of the problem now? Lastly, his essay spoke well to me---instead of angry rantings I keep encountering. Thanks for the segment.

Jun. 18 2014 02:58 PM
Larry Fisher from Brooklyn, N.Y.

I absolutely have no problem with "Good Guys With Guns," my only issue is that many "bad guys with guns", don't think of themselves as "bad guys." I bet they think they are really great individuals who are just protecting themselves.

Two weeks ago, I had to tell my 9 year old daughter and 7 year old son to run from a shooting on Classon and Lafayette in Brooklyn.
A 16 year old was shot dead and ran across the street and dropped dead in front of the Police Station on Dekalb.

My daughter has nightmares and my son is acting out with some strange behavior.

Jun. 18 2014 01:58 PM
Dan Moyes from San Antonio, TX

The statement was made on air that discussions are often of rights, but the concepts of responsibility are rarely heard. I just finished my state-mandated (Texas) training for a concealed carry license. I don't recall the concept of gun-owner's rights being presented during the training, but the responsibilities of the gun owner (and licensed carrier) were pounded into us hour after hour--our responsibilities as trained and licensed gun owners was, by far, the most heavily stressed topic in the training.

Jun. 18 2014 01:33 PM

I suggest that your "reasonable and inclusive" segment with the Gawker writer is not as reasonable and inclusive as it feigns to be.
The anti-gun crowd is not a "shall-issue-to-trained-persons" lobby [the oft made analogy to automobile ownership usually leaves this out]

The persons who are not heard in this debate (at least not on NPR or WNYC) are persons such as Nick Gillespie, Sam Harris, and Ann Althouse)

"'We cannot let a minority of people -- and that's what it is,
it is a minority of people -- hold a viewpoint
that terrorizes the majority of people.'

"Whoa! That's the line I was looking for. Read it again and see how shocking it is. Not only did Hillary completely turn her back on "balanc[ing] competing values" and "more thoughtful conversation," she doesn't want to allow the people on one side of the conversation even to believe what they believe. Those who care about gun rights and reject new gun regulations should be stopped from holding their viewpoint. Now, it isn't possible to forcibly prevent people from holding a viewpoint. Our beliefs reside inside our head. And in our system of free speech rights, the government cannot censor the expression of a viewpoint. But the question is Hillary Clinton's fitness for the highest office, and her statement reveals a grandiose and profoundly repressive mindset. . . "

(Is that Treyvon holding the gun in the attached photo?)

Jun. 18 2014 01:03 PM

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