With two tragic rampage shootings in recent news, both the Aurora Colorado Dark Knight shooting and now the Milwaukee Wisconsin Sikh Temple Shooting, the debate rages about gun rights in the United States. One camp imagines they can save lives by passing laws and regulations so burdensome a shooter would be unable to acquire a deadly weapon. The other camp hopes to repeal laws and regulations making it easier for victims to defend themselves from the inevitable. And both camps have a wall of statistics backing up their position. But I thought of an innovative way to look at shooting rampage statistics, which I'd like to share. I compiled and analyzed 93 shootings, and these are my findings.
The average deaths in a shooting rampage when stopped by police is 14.3.
The average deaths in a shooting rampage when stopped by civilians is 2.3
It makes perfect sense if you think about from inside the mind of a heroic civilian with a concealed carry permit. It goes something like this:
“Holy crap! that guy shot that other guy.”
“He’s just going to keep shooting people!”
And the shooter goes down.
Quite a few cases went something like that. In fact, I found only one example of a shooter stopped by civilians who killed more than 3 people. Jared Loughner killed 6 people in Tucson, Arizona before he was tackled by two civilians. Maybe it’d have been less if one of those two men were armed.
I want to be perfectly clear. I am not much of a firearms enthusiast. I don’t own a firearm. I’ve only ever been shooting twice. For me it’s not an issue of gun rights. It’s about property rights. A person has a natural right to own a hunk of iron in any damn shape they want, and they shouldn’t be criminalized until they use that hunk of iron to harm someone. People can argue crime statistics ’till they’re blue in face. I frankly don’t care about people’s ideas for managing society.
What I am is a math enthusiast, so if you want raw numbers and my methodology you can see it here.
The first point I want to draw your attention to is that roughly half of shooting rampages end in suicide anyway, so they aren’t even part of this statistic. What that means is that police are not even in a position to stop most of them. Only the civilians present at the time of the shooting have any opportunity to stop those shooters. That’s probably more important than the statistic itself. In a shooting rampage, counting on the police to intervene at all is a coin flip at best.
Second, within the civilian category two thirds were stopped by unarmed civilians. What’s amazing about that is that whether armed or not, when a civilian plays hero it seems to save a lot of lives. I found only one case where the heroic civilian was killed in the process, although many were wounded. In 2005, when David Hernandez Arroyo Sr. opened fire with an assault rifle from the steps of a courthouse in Tyler, Texas Mark Wilson fired back. Mark succeeded in drawing Arroyo’s fire, and ultimately drove him off, but was fatally wounded.
If you compare the average deaths in a shooting rampage stopped by armed civilians to unarmed civilians you get 1.8 and 2.6, but that’s not nearly as significant as the difference between a proactive heroic civilian, and a cowering civilian who waits for police.
So, given that far less people die in rampage shootings stopped by proactive civilians, only civilians have any opportunity to stop rampage shootings in roughly half of incidents, and armed civilians do better on average than unarmed civilians, wouldn’t you want those heroic individuals who risk their lives to save others to have every tool available at their disposal?
Crossposted at the Daily Anarchist