The latest church shooting, in which a good guy with a gun shot a bad guy with a gun, offers several lessons, each of which is certain to offend either supporters of gun owners’ rights or gun control advocates.
First, we, the people, need guns, or at least the right to acquire them for our own defense and protection. Gun control advocates would limit, if not eliminate, the access of good guys (and good gals) to guns, forcing us to rely on the police for protection. But what if bad guys have guns, and start using them? What are the good guys supposed to do about it? Wait for the police to respond? What about the meantime? Are they supposed to run and hide, duck and cover? And what if those options aren’t available? Just sit there and take it? Ridiculous! Guns possessed by the good for self-defense at least give them a fighting chance against the bad guys who, regardless of what gun control advocates may delude themselves into thinking, have no more respect for gun control laws than they have for the lives their hell-bent on taking.
Second, for self-protection and for the protection of the innocent in the absence of the police, a good guy with a gun may be necessary, but is not sufficient. Sure, the hero who took out the monster trying to shoot up the church was indisputably a good guy—after all, he showed, courage, initiative, and a profound sense of responsibility to the lives and safety of his fellow parishioners. But he was much, much more than that as well. He was a firearms instructor, a shooting range owner, and a reserve deputy sheriff. He was able to take out the monster with a single shot. In short, he had a skill set which made him perfect for his position with the church—head of a voluntary security team—but which most of us probably lack. Those of us who want to entrust our safety to good guys with guns, and those who consider themselves, or aspire to be, good guys with guns, should insist that the good guys be good not only in their intentions, but in the use of firearms as well. So all good guys, if they’re not already doing so, should report to their nearest shooting ranges and do what’s necessary to get to Carnegie Hall—Practice, practice, practice.
Third, we need background checks for gun owners and prospective gun owners. There’s no such thing as an absolute right to do anything. The right to own and use guns should be limited to the mentally sound men and women with no record of the commission of serious crimes, especially crimes of violence. The monster’s background was easily known, and it would have been perfectly justifiable to have denied him access to firearms. Red Flag laws should be seriously considered, albeit with due regard to the constitutionally protected rights of those from whom we seek to take away their guns: They’re entitled to due, process, the presumption of innocence, and just compensation for whatever is taken from them. And we must recognize that while there may be inconveniences, if not outright injustices, to those from whom guns may be confiscated—whether temporarily or permanently—they’ll be minor compared to the inconvenience and injustice to those who are murdered by monsters. In the case of the former, the injustices, if any, can be rectified; in the case of the latter, they can’t.
In sum, we need more good guys and gals—good not only in their intentions, but in their handling of firearms as well. And while we need no reminders that monsters walk among us, knowing that they’re out there should make us all the more imaginative in finding ways to limit their powers without destroying our own rights.
Malcolm L. Cross has lived in Stephenville and taught politics and government at Tarleton since 1987. His political and civic activities include service on the Stephenville City Council (2000-2014) and on the Erath County Republican Executive Committee (1990 to the present). He was Mayor Pro Tem of Stephenville from 2008 to 2014. He is a member of St. Luke’s Episcopal Church and the Stephenville Rotary Club, and does volunteer work for the Boy Scouts of America. Views expressed in this column are his and do not reflect those of The Flash as a whole.