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More guns won't help

As a professor at a large state institution, the never ending series of mass shootings at schools and university naturally concerns me.  As the body count relentlessly increases many people, including some of my colleagues, students, and parents of future victims of gun violence argue for rather than against guns. "Only one person died because the shooter had a gun, the others died because they didn't" is a common mantra.  Instead of banning assault rifles and large capacity magazines, politicians are busy writing laws that would empower educators, such as myself, to carry guns to class, making us responsible not only for the minds, but also for the lives of our students.

I'm not squeamish around weapons.  Like many others in the world, I had to serve in the military.  I shot an AK-47, and handguns, and even threw grenades.  While years have passed since my military service, I am still reasonably handy with a handgun and occasionally go to a shooting range to make sure I don't fully forget my skills.

Above is a picture of my target after a recent practice round.  I shot 50 rounds with a 9 mm handgun, aiming at the three areas highlighted on the target.  For reference, the target is some 16"x22"in sie and it was placed at a 10 yd. distance.    

As you can see, many shots hit within inches of their target and would have certainly killed if aimed at a human being. If you care to count, however, you'll find not 50 holes but 45 - a tenth of my shots missed the target entirely.  At just 10 yards, multiple shots were over 8" away from their intended target.  At 50 yards - a more reasonable estimate of the distance between me and an active shooter on campus - some of my shots may be over a yard or more away from where I'm aiming.  This, of course, assumes that my accuracy when confronting an attacker would be as good as that when I take my time to carefully aim at a paper silhouette.  People are more likely to die not because a bad guy has a gun, but because I, or my colleagues, do.

I, and other teachers, can of course practice and get better at aiming and firing a gun, reducing the risk of collateral damage (euphemism for involuntary manslaughter).  But that's bound to be an expensive proposition. Between range fees and the cost of ammunition (> 50 cents per round for the 9 mm gun I shot), my recent trip to the shooting range ended up costing ~$70.   This cost alone would be prohibitive for most school teachers, let alone the time they would need to devote to practicing to kill people, in addition to taking care of their family, grading papers, or preparing lesson plans.   

Even if a teacher would be able to afford a gun and the ammo and time for regular practice, the results would still be far from certain. Just read the news about a shooting that involved professionals such as the police or the military. Sadly, you won't have to wait long for such a story to make the headlines.  You'll find that even the highly trained professionals shoot tens to hundreds of bullets before hitting their target, especially if the target is shooting back.  

In sum, once an active shooter event starts, all bets are off whether or not teachers, students, or police are armed.  People will die, and the chances that they will be killed by friendly fire grow exponentially with the number of guns thrown in the mix by ill-conceived policies and laws. 

What's worse, is the fact that many more will be killed accidentally in the course of their regular life.  Back in the days handguns were equipped with a "safety" - a switch one had to flip before being able to fire a round.  Many modern handguns, likely all of the most popular models, have done away with this annoying features. If a round is in the chamber, all you have to do is pull the trigger and the gun will fire. "Safety" is provided by the fact that you have to apply more pressure to the trigger to shoot inadvertently.  Perhaps this prevents an accidental mis-fire when dropping the gun or when it bumps against car keys in your bag, but not a willful toddler handling this cool toy they just found

The only way to prevent gun deaths is by regulating access to weapons.  Period!