Who stops ‘bad guys carrying guns’ in the US?

Many Americans believe that only good people with guns can stop bad guys from armed, but shooting data shows that’s not the case.

The director of the Texas Department of Public Safety admitted on June 21 that police had “failed miserably” in their slow response and made many mistakes when responding to the shooter at an elementary school in the city of Uvalde.

This incident, along with the death of a security guard while confronting a gunman at a Buffalo supermarket last month, has sparked debate: What role do police and citizens play in the shootings and where? is the best measure to prevent tragedy.

Police at the scene of the shooting at Robb Elementary School, Uvalde City, Texas, USA on May 24.  Photo: AP.

Police at the scene of the shooting at Robb Elementary School, Uvalde City, Texas, USA on May 24. Image: AP.

The debate has spread to Capitol Hill, as lawmakers consider a new gun-safety bill that would increase funding for mental health services, ensure school safety and other measures to improve safety. prevent “bad guys from carrying guns”.

“To stop the bad guys from having guns it takes good people with guns,” said senator Ted Cruz after the Uvalde tragedy, echoing the views of many gun rights advocates over the years.

Shooting researchers say it is difficult to draw general policy from individual incidents, but data on mass shootings recorded over the past two decades show their common pattern as well as the difficulties. difficult to prevent once they occur.

At least 433 shootings have occurred in America in the period 2000-2021. In 2021 alone, the US recorded an average of more than one mass shooting per week. This data was produced by Texas State University’s Center for Advanced Response Rapid Response Training (ALERRT), where researchers work with the FBI to statistics and study shootings.

While the updated data may not be exhaustive, the researchers believe in their overall assessment that mass shootings are on the rise in the United States. However, the problem is how to limit the damage, when they happen very quickly, with dangerous weapons with high damage.

The end of 433 mass shootings in the US.  Graphics: NY Times.

End of 433 mass shootings in the US from 2000 to 2021. Graphics: NY Times.

ALERRT data shows that most shootings in the US end before the police arrive. Those present at the scene intervened. But in about half of the cases, suspects committed suicide or fled.

“It’s indisputable direct proof that the fallacy of the ‘good guy with a gun is the only way to stop the bad guy from having a gun’ view is wrong. It’s clearly wrong because shooters often stop themselves. back,” said Adam Lankford, a professor at the University of Alabama.

Most shootings end before the police arrive, but police officers are often the ones who end the incident if they arrive while it’s happening.

Hunter Martaindale, director of research at the ALERRT center, said the team used the data to train law enforcement officers that “when you show up and it’s happening, you’re going to be the problem solver. “.

Information on police response times is incomplete, but available data shows that it takes an average of three minutes for police to arrive at the scene of a shooting. However, even if the police responded within seconds or were on the scene before the attack, gunmen could still injure and kill many people.

“It can take a minute for law enforcement to show up. But if an attacker is proficient in the use of a weapon, they can quickly fire a lot of bullets. And if they have the ability to shoot accurately, the number of casualties. is very large,” said Mr. Martaindale.

In Dayton, Ohio, in 2019, an assailant shot 26 people and killed nine outside a bar in just 32 seconds before being shot down by police. A week earlier, at the Gilroy Garlic Festival in Northern California, a police officer was present a minute after the attacker opened fire, but 20 people had been shot before. Three victims died and the gunman committed suicide.

“There’s not much that can be done to stop an attacker in the first seconds of the crime,” Mr Lankford said.

Similar in Uvalde, law enforcement was not always quick to stop the attack. When a gunman attacked Pulse nightclub in Orlando, Florida in 2016, a police officer shot the attacker from outside the nightclub. More police arrived within 2 minutes later. But they didn’t go inside until the gunman had stopped his initial assault. Police officers ended the tragedy by shooting down the gunman three hours after the shooting began, in which 49 people died and 53 were injured.

After many deadly shootings, gun rights advocates argue that people need to be better armed to prevent “bad guys from having guns”.

After a gunman shot 46 people at a church in Sutherland Springs, Texas in 2017, a neighbor went to the scene and exchanged gunfire with the assailant, wounding the suspect and fleeing.

“But the data shows that heroic moments by armed citizens to stop the gunman are extremely rare,” Mr Lankford said.

The fact that many armed people outside of the police force are on the scene can create confusion and present serious risks. A passerby after killing the shooter in Arvada, Colorado in 2021 was shot dead by police because he was mistaken for the shooter.

However, about a quarter of attackers will commit suicide after noticing that police have arrived at the scene.

At an immigration service center in Binghamton, New York in 2009, a gunman shot 17 people, killing 13, before taking his own life. A high school student committed suicide after shooting two students and a teacher in Sparks, Nevada in 2013. After fatally shooting 471 people at the Route 91 Harvest Festival in Las Vegas from a hotel room overlooking the present. school, the gunman killed himself before the police arrived.

An officer trained in shooting response during a drill at Meadowview Elementary School, Virginia in 2020. Photo: AP.

An officer trained in shooting response during a drill at Meadowview Elementary School, Virginia in 2020. Photo: AP.

Observers said many attackers were expecting death or sometimes trying to provoke the authorities to be killed.

Police officers exchanged gunfire with an attacker who shot 12 people at a bar in Thousand Oaks, Calif., in 2018 before the suspect killed himself. At Virginia Tech in 2007, a gunman locked the building door before attacking students and professors, leaving 49 dead. The gunman then shot himself just as police arrived.

About a quarter of the shootings ended when the gunmen stopped and left the scene, before being arrested or killed themselves at another location.

The reason why shooters commit suicide is still elusive, but after years of research, Lankford has come up with several theories. According to him, many gunmen before committing the crime planned a dramatic confrontation with the police, but things did not go as they planned and the shooters chose to take their own lives. .

After the recent mass shootings, many initiatives have been launched in the US to ensure school security, such as adding police or equipping teachers with guns. However, Jani Hitchen, who spent 23 years as a teacher in American high schools and is now a Commissioner of Pierce County, Washington state, says such initiatives have many shortcomings.

According to Hitchen, schools are often very crowded and no teacher wants to risk opening fire in a place with so many students, even in a response to a shooter situation. Increasing the number of police in schools is also difficult to prevent tragedy, because they only carry handguns, while the shooters are often armed with semi-automatic rifles that are much more powerful.

“Policies that don’t address the rampant gun problem in America will not address the root cause and only create more problems,” Hitchen said.

Thanh Tam (Theo NY Times, NewsTribune)

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