Several gun rights advocates decided to make their case not based on facts, but on hypothetical crimes, during Wednesday's gun control hearing the Senate. I understand the appeal: I'm an almost-crime fighter myself.
Two weeks ago, in Miami, two friends and I were cruising down an empty street, listening to a $2 CD with a UFO on it, when my friend yelled, "What the f---! Did you see that?!" At a bus stop, a man was dragging a woman by her hair while a handful of people just stood there, watching. We had to stop it. We did a U-turn. We pulled out our phones, ready to call the cops. We put on our menacing faces. As we slowly cruised by a second time, the hair-dragger, the woman, and the camera crew stared at us. Oh. "It's a film shoot… turn the techno back on." This is the perfect experience of stopping a crime. We got the satisfaction of doing the right thing, by passing some sort of character test when confronted with what we thought was a stranger was in need, but because the crime was not technically real, without the chance of screwing it up by accidentally hurting an innocent person, accidentally helping the bad guy, or getting ourselves killed.
Just like our Miami trio, several political people revealed in Wednesday's gun control hearing that they, too, have been the heroes in imaginary crimes. Fighting hypothetical crimes with guns has an obvious appeal, because when real people use real weapons, they screw up. A lot. In the 1990s, an Emory researcher found that a gun kept in the home was 43 times more likely to injure a member of the household than an intruder. Baltimore County police chief James Johnson testified, "Statistics show that when females are killed, it's more likely, over 50 percent of the time, to be by a spouse or household member. A gun in a home where there is a history of domestic violence, statistics show that there is a 500 percent increase of chance that that person will be victimized by gun violence." Mark Kelly, husband of former Rep. Gabrielle Giffords, testified about a good samaritan who almost shot an innocent person when trying top stop the Tuscon shooting in which Giffords was shot in the head. In July, a New York police officer shot and killed his son at a motel after thinking he was an intruder. In September, a Connecticut teacher shot and killed a masked teen outside a neighbor's home, and discovered it was his son. In October, a retired Chicago cop shot and killed his own son after mistakenly thinking he was a robber.