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Wednesday, December 9, 2015

The Myth of "The Good Guy with a Gun"


The more guns a society has, the greater the number of people who get shot. That fact has been well established; the correlation is beyond dispute. And yet there are those who say "If we just had more good guys with guns we could intervene and save more people." And it's true that now and then a "good guy with a gun" is there to save the day (quite often these "good guys" are off duty police officers). And if we increase the number of guns, we'll increase the number of "good guys." And that is because we'll increase the total number of shootings, and therefore the number of opportunities for a good guy to intervene. But the increase is linear. So, to put it in simple terms, if today there are 1000 guns and 100 shootings and one time a good guy saved the day (and this does not happen in reality in anything like 1% of the times), then if we double the guns to 2000, we'll get 200 shootings and 2 times a good guy has saved the day. The number of people saved will go up 100%! But so will the number of people who get shot. Whereas before it was 99, now it's 198 (assuming for simplicity's sake only one person gets shot and one saved). There is never a point where more guns equals more safety.

Click the title of this post for supporting stats.

1 comment:

  1. Alas, it's worse than that. Because semi-automatic weapons are legal, one shooting often produce multiple victims. So while the "good-guy-with-gun" stat typically remains linear (as you note), the increase-in-guns stat does not. That stat increases by an unknown multiple of magnitudes.

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