CNN’s Chris Cillizza had a really awful hot take on the news that Sheriff’s Deputy Scot Peterson stood outside doing nothing while Nikolas Cruz was inside Marjory Stoneman Douglas high school shooting people. Cillizza’s take is that this proves, once and for all, that a ‘good guy with a gun’ doesn’t always stop a bad guy with a gun.
“To stop a bad guy with a gun, it takes a good guy with a gun,” LaPierre said to applause from the CPAC crowd on Thursday morning.
The problem for LaPierre is that this latest shooting in Parkland, Florida, isn’t an affirmation of that view. It’s a direct rebuttal.
There was a good guy with a gun just outside the school when the bad guy with a gun started murdering people. The good guy with the gun wasn’t the solution. He didn’t stop it.
What the Parkland school shooting exposes is the fallacy in LaPierre’s argument: This is not a simple problem. And it does not have a simple solution like arming more people.
I’m actually amazed at how many people seem to think this is a clever argument. Scot Peterson is not a rebuttal of the idea that a good guy with a gun is needed to stop a bad guy with a gun. Here’s why: He didn’t try to stop anyone. He stood around outside, protecting himself behind a concrete pillar, aiming his gun at nothing.
Implicit in the idea of “a good guy with a gun” is the idea that he makes some effort, takes some action, possibly at risk to himself, to actually stop the bad guy. Does Chris Cillizza really not get this?
Let’s put this in another context. Imagine a cop is called to the scene of an ongoing bank robbery. He arrives at the scene, sees the robbers are still inside. Parks his car and watches from somewhere down the street. And then he hears gunshots and…he stays where he is listening. And he hears screams for help and…he waits to see what happens next. People run out of the bank and the robber/killer gets away. The cop never moves.
Looking at all this after the fact, journalist Chris Cillizza writes a story titled: “Here’s proof that cops can’t foil bank robberies.” Does it prove that? I don’t think so. I don’t think most reasonable people looking at that scenario would see the main takeaway being ‘Hey, maybe cops can’t stop bank robberies. Maybe we’ve been wrong about this all along.’
Normal people would look at what happened and say, ‘What the hell was wrong with that cop? Why didn’t he get in there and do something?!’ Literally no one would take the argument that cops are useless at stopping bank robberies seriously. But when you add in partisan animus toward the NRA, suddenly this very dumb argument sounds convincing to some people.
If Peterson had charged in and immediately been shot you could maybe argue that outcome was a rebuttal to the NRA line, i.e. a good guy was there but nothing changed. But in this case, the “good guy” never tried to engage the shooter. So unless the NRA claims, “To stop a bad guy with a gun, it takes a guy standing around outside doing nothing,” this is not any kind of rebuttal.
You could argue I guess that just because a cop has a gun doesn’t mean he isn’t going to act like a coward. That’s true but this argument cuts both ways. There were a couple of unarmed teachers who did their best to protect kids while the shooting was happening. They gave their lives trying to make a difference. So you really can argue, and some students have, that there were good guys on the scene but, unfortunately, they didn’t have a gun. If they had, this might have turned out differently.