Donald Trump thinks the solution to America’s gun problem is vigilante community college professors.
Speaking in Tennessee on Saturday, Trump offered this assessment of the recent mass shooting at Umpqua Community College in Oregon. “It was a gun-free zone,” Trump inaccurately told the audience. “I will tell you — if you had a couple of the teachers or somebody with guns in that room, you would have been a hell of a lot better off.”
Umpqua Community College is not a gun-free zone. A 2011 court decision forbade public colleges in Oregon from banning guns on campus. Indeed, a student who was on campus at the time of the shooting says that he was carrying a concealed weapon when the shooting began, although he told MSNBC that he chose not to confront the shooter because he feared that police might not be able to distinguish him from a bad guy with a gun.
This risk of confusion, it should be noted, cuts another way as well. In 2012, New York police confronted a man believed to have just murdered a co-worker near the Empire State Building. During the ensuing gunfight, nine bystanders were shot — all nine of whom were struck by bullets fired by the officers. These were trained law enforcement officials — professionals who are likely to be much surer shots than a college professor with a gun — and yet in the confusion of a gunfight, even they were unable to avoid striking innocents.
Trump’s idea that the solution to gun violence is more guns is hardly a new one — after a 2013 shooting at the Navy Yard in Washington, DC, National Rifle Association CEO Wayne LaPierre complained that “the problem is there weren’t enough good guys with guns” — though there is little empirical support for this position. A study by the Violence Policy Center found that for every justifiable homicide where a firearm is used against a felon in the process of committing a crime, there are 32 criminal homicides committed with a gun.
Another reason why more guns are likely to lead to more criminal homicides is that the overwhelming majority of these homicides do not occur in the kind of premeditated mass-shooting scenario where a “good guy with a gun” might be able to bring a killing spree to an end sooner. According to one study, “[n]early half of all homicides, committed by men or women, were preceded by some sort of argument or fight, such as a conflict over money or property, anger over one partner cheating on another, severe punishment of a child or abuse of a partner, retaliation for an earlier dispute, or a drunken fight over an insult or other affront.”
The most common model for a gun homicide, in other words, is an argument or confrontation that escalated to a shooting match because one of the participants happened to have a gun. Laws allowing greater access to guns will only increase the likelihood that these conflicts become homicides.
Perhaps that explains why there is such a close correlation between strict gun laws and fewer gun-related deaths. Indeed, according to a 2013 report by the Center for American Progress, “the 10 states with the weakest gun laws collectively have a level of gun violence that is more than twice as high — 104 percent higher — than the 10 states with the strongest gun laws.”