In America, guns in general are a big problem. But the mass shooting that took place early Sunday in Dayton, Ohio, is the latest illustration that some guns are bigger problems than others — even in situations when law enforcement is able to respond to almost instantaneously.
According to Dayton Police Chief Richard Biehl, the gunman who opened fire in the popular Oregon District in downtown Dayton around bar close time was “neutralized” by officers a mere 30 seconds after he fired his first shot. But largely due to the .223-caliber high-capacity rifle with 100-round magazines he was wielding, 30 seconds was all the time he needed to leave nine people dead and at least 27 others injured before he was killed by police. CNN, citing Dayton officials, reported that the gunman fired 41 shots in less than 30 seconds, and stuck 14 people with gunfire.
Authorities said the Dayton gunman — who wore a bulletproof vest — purchased the rifle he used to carry out his attack legally online from a Texas retailer, though Biehl added during a news conference on Monday, without providing details, that it was modified to shoot more “like a rifle” and “to avoid any legal prohibitions.”
Reporting from the scene on Monday, Brooke Baldwin of CNN counted to 30 to demonstrate just how quickly the Dayton shooter was able to carry out so much violence.
“In just 30 seconds a gunman murdered 9 people and left 37 injured here in Dayton, Ohio. In just 30 seconds police took down that gunman, saving hundreds of lives. In just 30 seconds, you can call your elected representative and demand they do something about this.” —@BrookeBCNN pic.twitter.com/4NjzGxeMXy
— CAP Action (@CAPAction) August 5, 2019
The timeline of the Dayton shooting serves as the latest refutation of the idea pushed by prominent Republicans — including President Donald Trump — that the solution to mass shootings isn’t gun control, but a “good guy with a gun.”
The “good guy with a gun” myth is just that
Trump has responded to school shootings by proposing to arm teachers. He didn’t advocate anything similar while addressing the country Monday morning after the weekend’s shootings, but during his most recent speech to the National Rifle Association, he claimed that “the only way to stop a bad guy with a gun is a good guy with a gun.” The NRA, unsurprisingly, endorses that position, and polling indicates that a broad swath of Republicans support it too.
But it appears officers in Dayton responded to the shooting on Sunday morning as quickly and effectively as possible. The gunman was still able to use a legally purchased firearm, high-capacity magazines, and some at-home modifications to shoot upward of a person per second.
Tragically, the Dayton shooting isn’t the only recent mass shooting illustrating that the “good guy with a gun” myth is just that. As I detailed just last week, the timeline of the mass shooting that took place on July 28 at a garlic festival in Gilroy, California, teaches the same lesson:
Consider this: After the 19-year-old Gilroy shooter opened fire with a WASR 10, a derivative of an AK-47, officers engaged him in less than a minute. That’s a very small window. Yet in that time, he was able to injure 15 people, including three who died from their wounds, before he was killed by officers. Videos from the chaotic scene indicate the gunman was able to fire off many more shots than just the ones that hit people.
It wasn’t as though officers were lucky to be in the area of the gunman when he started shooting. According to CNN, security at the festival was “present and conspicuous.” It included a police compound on site, officers on horses and motorcycles, bag searches, and metal detector wands. But none of that was enough to stop the gunman, who gained entry to the festival by cutting through a back fence before opening fire at random.
Like the Dayton shooter, the Gilroy shooter purchased the firearm he used to carry out the attack legally. And while Trump’s initial response on Twitter to the mass shootings that took place over the weekend in Dayton and El Paso, Texas, alluded to the possibility of new bipartisan legislation for “strong background checks,” it’s unclear whether such checks would’ve stopped the Dayton or Gilroy shooters from obtaining their weapons, as neither of them had significant criminal records. As my colleague German Lopez has explained, even universal background checks aren’t necessarily a panacea.
Police didn’t respond quite as promptly to the mass shooting that took place at an El Paso Walmart on Saturday, but officers still made it to the scene about six minutes after shots rang out. In that time, the shooter was able to kill at least 22 people and wound 24 more. He also purchased his firearm legally.
It’s true in some sense that both the El Paso and Dayton shootings ended because of “good guys with guns” — the El Paso shooter surrendered to police, while the Dayton shooter was killed. But that didn’t happen before 31 people died, so the events of this weekend hardly seem like a vindication of the theory pushed by Trump and others that more guns, not fewer, are the solution to mass shootings.
“Good guy with a gun” arguments might be more plausible in a world where people didn’t have the ability to legally obtain weapons that allow them to shoot more than a person per second. But in the real world, the evidence is overwhelmingly clear: As long as would-be mass shooters can obtain high-powered weapons, “good guys with guns” can’t possibly act quickly enough to intervene before it’s too late.