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Of Course It Would Have Been Better If Somebody Had Shot Back

President Obama today criticized the notion that the victims in Orlando would have been safer had one or more of them been armed. Such an idea, Obama proposed, “defies common sense.” In taking this approach, the president echoed comments that Bill Clinton made earlier in the week:

Former President Bill Clinton said Tuesday that more people would have died in the terrorist attack at a nightclub in Orlando over the weekend if clubgoers had been armed and shot back at the lone gunman.

In an interview with Bloomberg TV, the former president was asked to respond to Donald Trump’s claim that fewer people would have died at the club if they had firearms.

“Did you see how dark it was?” Clinton said. “It’s likely that more people would have been killed.”

I must say, I find this way of thinking somewhat bizarre. Certainly, one could argue that there would be more accidents/shootings/suicides if more people carried in general (although this isn’t borne out by the data). Likewise, one could argue that nightclubs are bad venues for concealed- or open-carriers because they are dark and loud, and because people tend to drink a lot and/or take drugs while inside them. But those are aggregate, not specific arguments. When one gets to the specifics, can one really say with a straight face that the victims at Pulse wouldn’t have been better placed had one or more of them had been armed?

According to the Miami Herald’s minute-by-minute report, the killer roamed with impunity for more than three hours. At various stages he stopped shooting and walked around; from time to time he searched the areas in which people were hiding; and, at one point at least, he put down his gun and washed his face. Eventually, the police breached the building and opened fire, possibly killing some innocent people in the process. In so doing, they brought to the situation the one thing that was the most necessary of all: bullets flying in the other direction. If, as a general matter, President Obama thinks that the carrying of firearms will yield bad outcomes — or if he would prefer to work toward confiscation rather than parity in arms — that’s a logically defensible position, albeit one for which there is scant evidence. But to contend that things on Sunday would have been worse had the targets had been able to return fire seems rather silly to me.


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