Being Wyatt Earp

Being Wyatt Earp

by digby

Wow. I had heard there were other people with guns at the Tucson massacre, but I didn't know about this:

"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.

Zamudio agreed:

I was very lucky. Honestly, it was a matter of seconds. Two, maybe three seconds between when I came through the doorway and when I was laying on top of [the real shooter], holding him down. So, I mean, in that short amount of time I made a lot of really big decisions really fast. … I was really lucky.

When Zamudio was asked what kind of weapons training he'd had, he answered: "My father raised me around guns … so I'm really comfortable with them. But I've never been in the military or had any professional training. I just reacted."

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."

This is a much more dangerous picture than has generally been reported. Zamudio had released his safety and was poised to fire when he saw what he thought was the killer still holding his weapon. Zamudio had a split second to decide whether to shoot. He was sufficiently convinced of the killer's identity to shove the man into a wall. But Zamudio didn't use his gun. That's how close he came to killing an innocent man. He was, as he acknowledges, "very lucky."

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.

It's not surprising that the gun fanatics are all praising this fellow, because he's the poster boy for the belief that none of this awful gun violence would ever happen if everyone just carried a weapon and was prepared to use it. This shows exactly what that means in practice -- being lucky.

And you don't have to be an expert to understand this without having to have it acted out on the streets of Arizona. It's obvious to anyone with a brain that people wading into gunfire with a gun will just be adding more bullets to the chaos. This rationale for arming everyone to the teeth has been nonsensical and absurd from the beginning and the fact that anyone has ever taken it seriously is a sad comment on our culture.

Consider this:

Happy-hour beers were going for $5 at Past Perfect, a cavernous bar just off this city’s strip of honky-tonks and tourist shops when Adam Ringenberg walked in with a loaded 9-millimeter pistol in the front pocket of his gray slacks.

Mr. Ringenberg, a technology consultant, is one of the state’s nearly 300,000 handgun permit holders who have recently seen their rights greatly expanded by a new law — one of the nation’s first — that allows them to carry loaded firearms into bars and restaurants that serve alcohol.

“If someone’s sticking a gun in my face, I’m not relying on their charity to keep me alive,” said Mr. Ringenberg, 30, who said he carries the gun for personal protection when he is not at work.

Gun rights advocates like Mr. Ringenberg may applaud the new law, but many customers, waiters and restaurateurs here are dismayed by the decision.

“That’s not cool in my book,” Art Andersen, 44, said as he nursed a Coors Light at Sam’s Sports Bar and Grill near Vanderbilt University. “It opens the door to trouble. It’s giving you the right to be Wyatt Earp.”

Yes, having everyone armed to the teeth in places like bars where people are drunk or contentious political rallies where people are screaming at the tops of their lungs in each others' faces is a wonderful idea. What could go wrong?

The gun zealots really seem to believe that it's reasonable to deal with gun violence by enlisting average citizens to step into a gun fight and dispatch the "bad guy" before he has a chance to get off a round. That only happens in the movies. In real life, the very best case scenario has the bad guy killing quite a few people before the good guy takes him down. Why we're supposed to settle for that as the best we can do has never made much sense to me.

By the way, Wyatt Earp earned his reputation by being a gun grabber:

“In the 10 months before Earp became town marshal for Dodge City, 25 people had been shot and killed in the town and twice as many wounded in saloon brawls and street battles. In the eight months following the establishment of no guns north of the railroad tracks for Dodge City, only two men had been shot and killed in brawls and no one killed by a police officer.” And this was during the time the cattle drives and celebrating cowboys arrived. (Stewart H. Holbrook, “Wyatt Earp U.S. Marshal,” pages 3, 4, 30)

Update: I should say that I'm not against the right to own a gun. I just see no earthly reason why it should be so easy for people to get them or why people should be allowed to carry them anywhere in public that they choose. It just doesn't seem like such a huge sacrifice to have some restrictions on it. Certainly the idea that having everyone armed to the teeth will somehow stop gun violence defies common sense. Unless you think drunk, angry and crazy people who have no judgment don't exist, this is a ridiculous argument on its face.