How Should Responsible Gun Owners See the Irresponsible and Criminal

I’ve been spending more time than I would like to recently addressing gun owners shooting people for (seemingly) no good reason. After the recent “hide-and-seek” shooting in Louisiana, I thought about an opinion essay I wrote last summer on why I dislike the “good guy with a gun” slogan.

The responses were interesting, to say the least.

I will simply note, but not engage, those who took my post to be some sort of advocacy for gun control laws or having anything to do with The Second Amendment. Certainly, some respond to any commentary about guns with “Shall Not Be Infringed!!!!!” To borrow a response from my friend Annette Evans, #NotMyPeople.

Indeed, anyone who approaches the complex issue of guns in America from a simplistic perspective (pro- or anti-) is #NotMyPeople.

But some come at the issue with more nuance and raise a very good question: How should responsible gun owners see the irresponsible and criminal?

On the one hand, as a responsible user of alcohol, I feel no guilt for drinking alcohol when I hear the many stories of social mayhem, injury, death, and destruction caused by people who are irresponsible users of alcohol. If an alcoholic kills his wife or a drunk driver kills a busload of children, I do not feel responsible for drinking alcohol.

Similarly, when someone shoots their wife or commits a mass murder with a gun, I don’t feel guilty for owning guns.

On the other hand, as a human being, I care about bad things that happen to other human beings. I feel responsible for trying to improve the world while I am here.

As a high school student, I understood my peers’ lifestyles and activities. So I was well-positioned to try to reduce the problem of drunk driving and contributed to a program called “Safe Rides,” providing free and confidential rides home to high school students who were too drunk to drive.

More than those who do not own guns, gun owners know the risks and benefits of guns and so are well-positioned to try to reduce negative outcomes. (And, to be sure, already do this in many ways.)

This could include castigating those who use their guns irresponsibly to send a warning signal to others who might do the same. I would not go so far as to say any gun owner is required to do so, but certainly some feel this responsibility.

This includes BJ Campbell of Handwaving Freakoutery (Substack here) who added some astute commentary about being “Responsibility Puritans” in response to my Tweet.

I agree strongly with all of the sentiments in the Twitter thread above (including Kostas Moros and Tom Gresham).

In the end, I fear that this is yet another area in which our either/or views of guns in a polarized political culture hurts.

Some gun owners are reluctant to publicize the problematic behavior of gun owners because they fear gun control advocates are just waiting for an opportunity to capitalize on such events. And, sadly, they are not altogether wrong in that fear.

And the negative feedback loop continues.

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3 thoughts on “How Should Responsible Gun Owners See the Irresponsible and Criminal

  1. How often should we castigate any other violent criminal? I didn’t read the facts of the case, but shooting a girl playing hide and seeks sounds psychotic to me.

    I think some of this is a bit of a ploy to get us to police our own while the other side of the debate routinely, even very consistently lies, misinforms, and misleads with made up data to try to win culture war points. Therefore any commentary we use about any violent criminal will be used against us in some way or another.

    I’m open to other ideas, but it would be a lot easier and more reasonable if the other side of the debate would work with us on facts.


    • “I didn’t read the facts of the case, but shooting a girl playing hide and seeks sounds psychotic to me.”

      He had no idea of who or what he was shooting at. He just knew there were shadowy figures in his yard and, in his ignorance, that was all he needed to let a few bullets fly into the darkness.

      Probably worried they were “antifa” or something.


  2. The drunk driving analogy is a good one.

    I also cite your figure of 99.21% of gun owners never involved in an unjustified shooting, from your Light Over Heat video, “Just How Normal are Guns and Gun Owners, Anyway?”


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