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Gosh, who could have predicted that the Tucson shootings would revive the gun control debate yet again? Instead of paying attention to the frustrating cuts to mental health services in Arizona and elsewhere, we have the Villagers all focused on guns and gun control.
Conventional Village wisdom goes like this: In situations where a bad guy has a gun and is shooting everyone in sight, a good guy with a gun will save lives. Not letting good guys carry guns means more people will die at the hands of the bad guy.
In the midst of Saturday's chaotic news reporting, one question on my mind was whether the shooter had been subdued by someone else's gun, and whether any of those hit in the barrage of bullets had been hit by so-called friendly fire. As events unfolded, it seemed as though only one weapon had been fired -- the 9mm Glock in the hands of Jared Lee Loughner.
But Arizona is an open carry state. It's not unusual at all for citizens to be carrying their guns, even to the supermarket. So what happened? Why wasn't there a hero with a gun ready to shoot Loughner down before he trained his Glock on that nine-year old child, or that Federal judge, or the nice little elderly man waiting to chat with her?
It turns out there was. Only this particular hero was smart enough to stop and think for a second or two, which probably saved more lives than were otherwise lost.
But before we embrace Zamudio's brave intervention as proof of the value of being armed, let's hear the whole story. "I came out of that store, I clicked the safety off, and I was ready," he explained on Fox and Friends. "I had my hand on my gun. I had it in my jacket pocket here. And I came around the corner like this." Zamudio demonstrated how his shooting hand was wrapped around the weapon, poised to draw and fire. As he rounded the corner, he saw a man holding a gun. "And that's who I at first thought was the shooter," Zamudio recalled. "I told him to 'Drop it, drop it!' "
But the man with the gun wasn't the shooter. He had wrested the gun away from the shooter. "Had you shot that guy, it would have been a big, fat mess," the interviewer pointed out.
If you compare Zamudio's story to Bill Badger's account (video at the top) as told to Lawrence O'Donnell last night, a picture emerges. Had Zamudio not been careful, there might have been another fatality, or six. At about the 5:36 mark in the video, Badger says that after Loughner went down, the gun left his hand and someone else picked it up. Badger yelled for him to drop the gun, fearing that the police might shoot him, thinking he was the shooter.
Or a well-intentioned citizen like Zamudio.
This idea that good guys carrying guns will somehow make us safer from bad guys carrying guns is straight out of the NRA talking points, but it doesn't bear any relationship to reality. At a recent school board meeting in Florida, a deranged person yanked out a gun and held everyone hostage for a time. One brave woman tried to knock the gun out of his hand with her purse. She's lucky to be alive today, but that purse was likely as effective a weapon as someone in that room with a gun would have been. Ultimately, the shooter turned the gun on himself. No well-intentioned citizen with a gun ended that standoff.
And then there's the dilemma that Zamudio ultimately faced when confronted with the prospect of using his own gun:
The Arizona Daily Star, based on its interview with Zamudio, adds two details to the story. First, upon seeing the man with the gun, Zamudio "grabbed his arm and shoved him into a wall" before realizing he wasn't the shooter. And second, one reason why Zamudio didn't pull out his own weapon was that "he didn't want to be confused as a second gunman."
Here's the truth: Had Zamudio used his gun, there's every indication the tragedy would have been compounded, not averted. Isn't it time to lay this canard to rest?