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The 'good guy with a gun' theory fails again

With 37.5 percent of its residents owning firearms, Nevada is one of the more gun-friendly states in the U.S.

So if you believe Donald Trump and most other conservatives, it should also be an extraordinarily safe state.

Trump seemed uncharacteristically human in his response to the horrific shooting in Las Vegas last night — tweeting, “My warmest condolences and sympathies to the victims and families of the terrible Las Vegas shooting. God bless you!” — but it’s what he says when he’s riling up his base that should really demand our attention.

Here he was responding to co-moderator Maria Bartiromo during the Fox Business GOP debate on January 14, 2016, when she asked, “Are there any circumstances that you think we should be limiting gun sales of any kind in America?”:

”No. I am a Second Amendment person. If we had guns in [San Bernardino], California on the other side where the bullets went in the different direction, you wouldn’t have 14 or 15 people dead right now. If even in Paris, if they had guns on the other side, going in the opposite direction, you wouldn’t have 130 people plus dead.”

And here he was after the June 2016 Orlando Pulse shooting:

“If you had some guns in that club the night that this took place, if you had guns on the other side, you wouldn’t have had the tragedy that you had. If people in that room had guns with the bullets flying in the opposite direction right at him, right at his head, you wouldn’t have had the same tragedy that you ended up having.”

Yes, the “good guy with a gun” theory. Guess we can toss that one now.

It’s more than likely that up until yesterday, the Las Vegas shooter, Stephen Paddock — a 64-year-old white man — would have been seen by most Trump rallygoers as the consummate good guy with a gun. And certainly the theory’s adherents would think a country music festival, of all places, would be a safe haven.

But if one gunman can cause so much bloodshed in an open-carry state in which more than a third of the population owns guns, how valid can this theory possibly be?

The truth is, it’s useless and always has been.

In an October 2015 article for The Nation, reporter Joshua Holland took a close look at gun-rights Republicans’ favorite fable and concluded it was nonsense:

[NRA chief executive Wayne] LaPierre, a career lobbyist, has no clue what it’s like to use a firearm in anger. But The Nation spoke to several people who do—including combat veterans and former law enforcement officers—and who believe that the NRA’s heroic gunslinger mythology is a dangerous fantasy that bears little resemblance to reality. Retired Army Sergeant Rafael Noboa y Rivera, who led a combat team in Iraq, says that most soldiers only function effectively after they’ve been exposed to fire a number a times. “I think there’s this fantasy world of gunplay in the movies, but it doesn’t really happen that way,” he says. “When I heard gunfire [in Iraq], I didn’t immediately pick up my rifle and react. I first tried to ascertain where the shooting was coming from, where I was in relation to the gunfire and how far away it was. I think most untrained people are either going to freeze up, or just whip out their gun and start firing in that circumstance,” Noboa said. “I think they would absolutely panic.”

After Las Vegas, you’ll hear a lot of the same pro-gun myths coming from the right, but no number of good guys — or travel bans or walls, for that matter — could have prevented this massacre. What we really need is better policy.

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