Gun Owner Who Showed Restraint, Good Judgment Is Apparently an Argument Against Gun Ownership


That seems to be the takeaway from this Will Saletan piece.

Does the Tucson, Ariz., massacre justify tighter gun control? Don't be silly. Second Amendment advocates never look at mass shootings that way. For every nut job wreaking mayhem with a semiautomatic weapon, there's a citizen with a firearm who could have stopped him…

The new poster boy for this agenda is Joe Zamudio, a hero in the Tucson incident. Zamudio was in a nearby drug store when the shooting began, and he was armed…

But before we embrace Zamudio's brave intervention as proof of the value of being armed, let's hear the whole story. "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…

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.

This seems like a strange interpretation of what happened. Zamudio saw violence. He was carrying. So yes, he's naturally going to ready his gun. But he didn't draw, point, or shoot before he assessed the situation. He did exactly what he's supposed to do. I'm not sure how that's an argument for gun control.

Contrary to stereotypes, legal gun owners tend to be sticklers about safety. For example, I received about a dozen emails and Facebook messages from gun owners chastising me for our October 2010 cover, which shows a woman violating gun safety rules by having her finger on the trigger.

Saletan notes that these mistakes happen in war all the time. I'm not sure that analogy works. While the military certainly tries to prevent collateral damage and friendly fire on the battlefield, it's also understood that they're inevitable and expected consequences of war. Accidental shootings and mistaken identity don't generally result in criminal charges. The same goes for cops, who are rarely even disciplined for honest mistakes, much less charged. On the other hand, most people who carry legally do know that they will face severe consequences for responding to a violent incident by drawing and firing on the wrong person. And those consequences will likely include jail time.

Perhaps the wild west scenarios Saletan lays out have happened, but if they have I haven't heard about them. And I would think "would-be hero gun owner shoots, kills wrong guy" would be the sort of story that would have generated some headlines.