An article from The News and Observer earlier this week disclosed that in 2019, there were 652 reported shooting incidents in Durham alone, wherein 190 people were injured and 32 people killed. Despite the shocking numbers, 652 is not a record high. Durham experienced 729 reported shootings in 2017, and the statistics parallel the national average over the past several years. Although shootings aren’t increasing, as shown in this data as well as national averages, the large number so close to home is definitely concerning.
Through modern media outlets, it’s nearly impossible for a day to pass without hearing of another shooting incident in the United States. Each story, depending on its events, is presented with various narratives that are pushed by select organizations in order to push political agendas relating to gun control. The most recent and notable shooting incident, which was almost immediately twisted into a political stance, was a Texas church shooting in late December 2019. After an armed shooter entered the church and killed two people, he was fatally shot by another parishioner who had a legal firearm on his person.
The rhetoric following the event reinstituted the classic ideology of a “good guy with a gun,” supported by many pro-gun lobbyists and organizations. In this argument, the only way to stop a bad guy with a gun is by arming law-abiding citizens: the good guys. This rationale is flawed and should not be continued, as it can misinform and prevent real reform from being implemented to improve the local community.
North Carolina has an interesting relationship with guns. The state does allow for concealed carry if the resident has a permit, which allows them to carry in state parks on liquor establishments, and it may stay locked in a vehicle on school campuses including universities. Interestingly, most North Carolina residents are relatively split on topics regarding gun control and the NRA; however, the NRA and other pro-firearm organizations have relative influence on many Republican N.C. legislatures.
Therefore, in a state where concealed carry is allowed, gun lobbyists have relative influence in government. As shooting incidents mirror the national average and resident opinions are split, it is natural for topics of gun control to be a central debate topic for elections and politicians.
The best informational video breaking down the concept of ‘a good guy with a gun’ is a satirical news reporting from The Daily Show, where Jordan Klepper went through the procedures to have his concealed carry permit in order to “become a hero.” Yet the most important information from the video came from Pete Blair, the director of the Advanced Law Enforcement Rapid Response program. One in every five active shooter events gets stopped by a potential victim at the scene, and only 3.1% of those cases are ‘good guys with guns,’ according to a 2014 FBI study. These heroes are often not average Joes, but are extensively trained or have been previous law enforcement officers, such as the Texas church man who stopped the active shooter.
Having properly trained, not overworked law enforcement is a better response to active shooters than putting the onus on armed citizens. This aligns with Police Chief C.J. Davis’s proposal to add 72 officers to the force over three years as a means to reduce overtime and reduce shifts from 12 to 10 hours. Her proposal from last spring is a proactive way to decrease crime and shooting incidents.
Gun control and combating shooting incidents across N.C. and the nation is not an isolated issue that can be quickly solved. Widespread reform that better controls firearm usage and distribution while combating other aspects of life that indirectly impact crime, such as mental health resource access and support systems for at-risk communities, is just as important. Until that happens, it is crucial that the lie of ‘good guys with guns’ does not spread misinformation for a false quick fix to the shooting epidemic.