A Tragic Stage Full Of Mousetraps

In response to today’s mass murder at an Oregon community college, my son posted something on Facebook mocking the NRA. In response, someone posted…

Unfortunately up to 10 dead due to the lack of ability to legally carry and defend themselves and prevent such a high number of casualties.

…and I thought, “Jesus Christ, are these people really this stupid?”

Let’s imagine a classroom with a high percentage of “good guys with a gun.” They’re safe, they’re secure. They’re Wayne LaPierre’s kind of guys!

Are they all keeping their weapons loaded, out on the desk, and ready for use every moment they’re at school? Even while they’re taking notes, or paying attention to the teacher, or taking a test? “Just in case?”

If so, I’m pretty sure that qualifies as clinical paranoia and they need serious, professional mental help. (And since they’re mentally ill, they really shouldn’t own a gun.)

Okay, let’s give this argument and the NRA the benefit of the doubt.

Let’s say we have a classroom (or a church, or a store, or a beauty salon) with twenty-five people in it, and five of them are armed. In our BEST CASE SCENARIO, the guns are loaded but properly holstered, the safeties are on, the users well trained – just like the NRA recommends. Everyone’s occupied with class, looking up at the teacher and the whiteboard, when someone bursts in behind them and starts shooting.

How long does it take any or all of those well-armed citizens to get their weapon out and use it? People are screaming, everyone’s diving under desks, people are dying, blood’s flying through the air – it’s total chaos.

This is almost certainly a situation none of our well-armed, well-trained citizens has ever seen. There might be one who is a veteran or police officer, but the odds of that are extremely low. The vast majority who might find themselves in this horrible situation will, within seconds, be in a crisis far beyond their worst nightmare, with no warning.

Do they freeze? Do they dive for cover? Do they charge the guy bare handed because they don’t have time to draw their weapons? Do any of our five well-armed and trained citizens even get their weapons out before they themselves are shot?

Think about it. If it’s common knowledge to the shooter that there is likely to be armed resistance in the room, after the first volley he’s going to start targeting those who look like they’re trying to draw their own weapons. Has carrying a gun for protection now made our well-armed citizens prime targets?

Let’s assume for the sake of argument that at least one protective weapon is drawn without the owner being killed, he’s able to use it without shooting his balls off, and the initial mass murder is shot and brought down. (Remember, this is still our best case scenario.)

Success! Right? The bad guy has been shot and while he may have shot a bunch of people by using the element of surprise, we’ve minimized the body count by taking him out. Right?


This chaos has not occured in a vacuum. There are multiple classrooms. They might be off of a common, interior hallway, or they might all open to the outside of the building, as was the case in Oregon today. We’ve just had a massive gunfight, possibly with dozens of shots fired, multiple wounded and dying, bleeding, and most likely many people still screaming hysterically.

People in the classroom next door might have heard, don’t you think?

So if in that next classroom there are also multiple well-armed, well-trained citizens, do they respond by barring the door and preparing to defend themselves if a shooter comes into their classroom? Or does some “good guy with a gun” come rushing out and running toward the sound of gunfire next door, in order to help?

I’m thinking the odds are in favor of at least one of them wanting to be a hero.

So armed student #2 runs up to the door of the classroom which holds the initial attack. He sees bodies, blood, chaos, someone on the floor, and someone else holding a gun.

Is the guy holding the gun a good guy who just saved the day? Or is it the original gunman, waiting for armed student #2 to show up so that he’s the next prime target, just like the other armed students in the room were to begin with?

You have a quarter second to decide. It’s a life or death situation, and you also have absolutely zero-point-zero experience with this other than watching television and movies.

What are the odds that armed student #2 shoots armed student #1?

What if you’re armed student #1, in the classroom after shooting the mass murderer? You’re possibly injured, perhaps seriously, almost certainly in shock even if you’re not injured (have you ever been shot at or actually shot and in this kind of pain before; do you know what to expect?), you have enough adrenaline in your system to let you leap tall buildings in a single bound – and now someone rushes up to the door with a gun. Is he someone from down the hall who’s come to back you up? Or the second mass murderer, coming to back up the guy you just shot? (Remember Columbine?)

You have a quarter second to decide.

What are the odds that armed student #1 shoots armed student #2?

Either way, the probability is significant that more shots will be fired. More people may be injured.

Now armed student #3 comes from another classroom. Maybe there’s a classroom full of injured and dying with a guy standing outside the door with a gun, or maybe there’s a dead or dying guy in the doorway, with a guy inside the room holding a gun.

Repeat the previous confrontation between armed student #1 and armed student #2, this time for armed student #3 and whoever survived the previous confrontation.

Repeat for armed students #4, #5, #6…

Unrealistic? I think not. Furthermore, with every exchange of gunfire, justified or mistaken, those who haven’t yet gotten into the game get more motivation to shoot first and ask questions later.

At some point, the police arrive. There are multiple people with guns, people injured, people dead, perhaps shots still being fired.

Who do the police start shooting at?

You think that’s not chaotic enough? What if someone else in one of the classrooms, someone with a gun, perhaps someone wounded who has just regained consciousness and/or come out from hiding, what if they go off half-cocked when they see someone with a gun, someone not wearing a police uniform? Good guy or bad guy? A tough decision if you’re shot, in pain, and afraid that you’re going to die any second.

When there’s a lull in the shooting, panic can and will set in and there will be people, no matter how many times that they’ve been taught to “shelter in place” during such an event, people who will see their chance and take off running for safety. (And just how freaking horrible is it that we have to plan ahead for what to do if and when we’re caught in such an event? Jesus Christ!) You have a situation now where there might be multiple people with weapons drawn – now throw in screaming people running around, probably in all different directions. What if the crisis is not over and there are still bad guys out there? What if the bad guys are all dead but the good guys have no way of knowing it?

How many innocent, panicked potential hostages get killed or wounded running for safety?

How many of those are shot by bad guys and how many by good guys?

It’s now been a half hour. The police have control of the situation and the long line of ambulances, morgue vehicles, and television vans are clogging the roads.

How many dead? Less than the ten who died today?

If you believe that, there’s a river in Egypt that I would like to sell you. If you’re blind and ignorant enough to want a society where this scenario is realistic, my money says you’ll add at least 50% to the body count, probably more.

How many of the dead were killed by the mass murderer and how many by the “good guys”?

What does this scenario remind me of?

At first I thought of dominoes, but that’s too linear. This is chaos spreading out in random directions at random times, like the spikes in a bolt of lightning.

Then I remembered.

There’s a bit they do on “Who’s Line Is It Anyway?” where they have the stage covered in live mouse traps. The performers are blindfolded and barefoot. Once the first mousetrap goes off, others start going off at random as the performer hops around blindly and in panic. It’s a hilarious bit.

Now imagine that every one of those mousetraps is an innocent person dying, on an ordinary day when they thought they were just going to school. Or church. Or the grocery store. Or the mall. Or a political meet-and-greet.

Same model. Same chaos theory. Much less hilarity.

Anyone want to guess the over/under for how many minutes it is before I start getting responses (aka hate mail, aka attacks, aka threats) from loyal NRA members?

“That’s totally unrealistic, if someone’s well trained and well armed, they would gun the guy down immediately and save everyone!”

Bullshit. Pull your head out of the fantasyland that is your ass.

“Really, the good guys will get their guns out fast and protect everyone else and kill the bad guy! You just don’t know anything about guns!”

You mean, just like all of those armed military personnel at Fort Hood, the ones who have some of the finest professional training in firearms in the world? The ones who were attacked in 2009 with thirteen killed and thirty-three injured? Or the ones who were attacked in 2014 with three killed (not including the shooter) and fourteen injured?

“Yeah, but most of those Army guys didn’t have their guns with them on base. THAT’s why they got killed!”

Do you know why the military generally has severe restrictions on allowing people other than the MPs to wander around on base with weapons, especially loaded ones? Because it’s too freakin’ dangerous! But I forget, the NRA and their redneck sycophants know so, so much more than the US military about weapons and their use. Right?

“When the initial shooting stops, the good guys will put down their guns and there won’t be any secondary shootings!”

Yeah, right. You’re talking about people who are so gung-ho about “being prepared for anything at any time” that they’re carrying loaded weapons into a public place on the less than one-in-a-million chance that someone will show up and do something horrific and terrifying so that they can be the hero and save the day. Can you say, “trigger happy?” Sure. I knew you could.

“The good guys would recognize each other and not shoot other good guys.”

Really? Is that why police and military train to make snap decisions to distinguish shooters from victims? Would random citizens be able to make those decisions correctly without any training?

“In this world, yes, they’ll be well trained, they’ll have that kind of training! You can get it right now!”

I know that training exists for civilians. It’s been offered as a raffle prize at some events I’ve attended. It’s really, really expensive, only for the elite and wealthy. So if you want to argue that each of a couple dozen random folks in a random location at a random time will all have had it, or even something close to that, you might be full of shit.

“They’ll recognize each other because when we all start allowing and welcoming open carry and concealed carry regulations, those who are trained will wear a badge/uniform/hat/something!”

We already have a group that does that. They’re called the “police.” They generally wear those blue uniforms and drive those black and white cars. But even if you do have some symbol of recognition for the magical well-trained, well-armed, citizen militia, doesn’t that just make militia members the first target for the mass murderer instead of the second target during the initial ambush?

“But the police wouldn’t end up making it worse when they arrive! They’re trained!”

Yes, they are. The odds are better that they won’t accidentally shoot the wrong guy. Unless the “wrong guy” is a “good guy” who happens to be black. Or Muslim-looking. Or anything else that might be “suspicious” in a war zone. And the police wouldn’t ever accidentally shoot one of the good guys once he’s identified himself. Or shoot another policeman. That “friendly fire” stuff never really happens except in the movies. Right?

“The good guys won’t get shot, they’ll wear body armor!”

Right, not only are our “good guys with guns” going to have their loaded weapons with them 24/7/365 but they’re going to wear body armor all the time also. Just. In. Case.

Is that the world you want? A significant percentage of the general populace wearing body armor and carrying loaded weapons at every event you go to, at any time of the year or day, “just in case” some madman with a gun shows up? Think about that. Think carefully.

Would it not be easier, by at least a dozen orders of magnitude, to put in place some common sense regulations of guns?

Before you freak out, read what I just wrote. “To put in place some common sense regulations of guns.” Did I say, “repeal the Second Amendment”? Nope. Did I say, “take away everyone’s guns”? Nope. “Common sense.” “Regulation.” You know, the same way that cars and driving are regulated. Or zoning laws. Or building codes. Or the laws that say you can’t have a hundred stray cats living in your house.

Common. Sense. Regulation.

Gun ownership in the United States is a Constitutional right. Somehow it’s also become an obsession and a religion, and it doesn’t seem to matter how many innocent people get slaughtered in cold blood.

This isn’t television. It isn’t the movies. It’s reality, it’s incredibly messy, it can be chaotic beyond belief.

It’s time to stop mentally ill people from having access to guns.

If you honestly think the solution to stopping the slaughter is to have a significant portion of the general populace with loaded weapons in public places all the time, you’re the problem, not the solution.



Filed under Freakin' Idiots!, Moral Outrage

6 responses to “A Tragic Stage Full Of Mousetraps

  1. The NRA has a cult following. There are a few who buck the system and believe that common sense regulations need to be put into place but they are few and far between and not nearly as vocal as those who are of the opinion “you’ll get my guns when you pry them from my cold, dead hands…” Your comment, “it’s also become an obsession and a religion, and it doesn’t seem to matter how many innocent people get slaughtered in cold blood,” is exactly spot on. It’s sad and terrifying at the same time.

    A recent, relevant story for you — in Texas a week or so ago a “good guy” with a gun tried to assist in a car jacking at a gas station, started shooting the place up, missed ALL three of the would-be car thieves, but managed to hit the car OWNER in the head. So much for helping out. Oh, and he was so sure of his actions, he disappeared shortly thereafter. So yeah, good guys with guns are always the way to go.

    I couldn’t agree with you more on everything you’ve said in this article. Unfortunately, as I said, the NRA has a cult-like following and they pretty much own the representatives in Washington. So it will have to be a state by state initiative to get this issue under control or else something major will have to shake things up in Washington to get them to do something. Although with the sheer number of mass shootings that occur in the U.S., I don’t know what exactly it will take to convince them. Something that is either more tragic than what we’ve already gone through or harder to rationalize away as compared to what the NRA is paying them for their support I suppose.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Responsible gun owners should welcome responsible, common sense gun regulations. No one wants to take the guns they have for protection (although the AK-47s they claim to have for hunting are a little suspect) — I get so tired of hearing the “the government wants to take our guns” refrain. But

    Liked by 1 person

  3. Dang, I can’t type today…keep sending before I’m done! Sorry to litter up your comment sections! What I wanted to say is…But, anyone who claims to be a responsible gun owner should also be gung-ho for the much needed regulations on those guns.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Thanks for the comments, Wendy! No worries about the attack of the mutant return key…

      One organization I would recommend for everyone to look at is Americans for Responsible Solutions. A PAC started in early 2013 by Mark Kelly and Gabrielle Giffords, ARS’s aim is to be a voice that offers an alternative narrative to the NRA in the debate over firearms legislation. The group is decidedly not anti-gun, but it is strongly against irresponsible gun ownership and blind allegiance to the NRA no matter how insane the NRA gets.

      Mark Kelly is a retired Navy Captain and NASA astronaut who flew four Space Shuttle missions, two as pilot and two as commander. (His twin brother Scott is currently on the International Space Station for the United States’s first year-long space mission.)

      Gabrielle Giffords is a retired United States Congresswoman who was seriously wounded in an assassination attempt in Arizona on January 8, 2013. Six others were killed in that attack at a “Congress On Your Corner” event, including a six-year-old girl, Giffords’ community outreach director, and a US District Court judge.

      Needless to say, they have some first-hand experience with firearms, their use and misuse, and the state of current legislation on the subject. Anyone wanting to engage in a rational and intelligent discussion about firearms legislation in the US (an oxymoron if there ever was one!) should check out what they have to say.


  4. Jemima Pett

    Writing from Europe, we can’t understand why you have guns everywhere. I know it’s your cowboy heritage, but we don’t run around with bows and arrows or guns here, we’ve grown out of it. But you know we’re on your side, Paul.
    The only thing I can really say is to repeat something my niece posted on Facebook today – apply the same procedures to anyone wishing to carry guns as you do to anyone wishing to have an abortion. I’ll have to find the post to get the details, but I know it includes a psychiatrist, counselling and a cooling off period.
    Good luck.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Thanks, Jemima, I’ve seen (and reposted on Facebook) the abortion/gun control comparison meme. It’s brilliant. It also points out how so many facets of American society (guns, abortion, race, politics, climate change) are so insanely polarized that we can’t even have anything resembling a civil or rational discussion about them.

      Liked by 1 person

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