In the aftermath of every mass shooting incident, gun-control advocates and opponents leap into action. And sure enough, the events in Tucson have led to arguments on both sides.
Inevitably, gun-control opponents make an argument that goes like this: if more people had guns, crazed lunatics might be deterred or stopped. As William Saletan points out at Slate.com, that's exactly the argument made in the wake of the Virginia Tech shooting - and it's an argument that they're making now.
But in Arizona, there WAS someone who appeared on the scene almost immediately, armed and looking to take down the shooter. His name is Joe Zamudio.
"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....
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."
As Saletan points out, this is a very clear, very real example of why it is that adding more guns to a chaotic shooting scene - even in the hands of the well-intentioned - is a very, very bad idea.
That's what happens when you run with a firearm to a scene of bloody havoc. In the chaos and pressure of the moment, you can shoot the wrong person. Or, by drawing your weapon, you can become the wrong person—a hero mistaken for a second gunman by another would-be hero with a gun. Bang, you're dead. Or worse, bang bang bang bang bang: a firefight among several armed, confused, and innocent people in a crowd. It happens even among trained soldiers. Among civilians, the risk is that much greater.
Now, I'm not particularly inclined toward additional gun-control measures (though high-capacity ammo clips don't seem to serve any rational purpose) but I certainly don't think that incidents like the attempted assassination of Gabrielle Giffords are a reason to make guns more available.