The Myth of the Confused First Responder

Among the many imagined scenarios for those who object to arming citizens in facilities attractive to spree killers is first responders not knowing the good guy from the bad guy. This is indeed possible, but like most of the objections raised by promoters of gun free zones, unlikely. Here’s why . . .

The “first” in the term first responder doesn’t mean fast. Under the best of circumstances, cops are minutes away when seconds count. If an armed citizen is able to confront the killer, the more likely scenario is that they’ll end the threat. The killer might surrender, commit suicide or be disabled by the defender. Defensive gun uses happen every day and reports good guys being hurt by the police are rare. The good guy may spend some time in handcuffs until the cops sort things out, but that’s not the same as being mistaken for a BG and shot. In fact, over the last several years, the only people I am aware of who were shot unintentionally by cops are innocent bystanders.

No matter what you may think, cops don’t normally just blunder into a situation. They scope things out and are adept enough at assessing threats, typically erring on the side of caution. Cops are trained to demand compliance with verbal commands like “drop the gun” before engaging in lethal action. The defender will most likely quickly comply. If the killer won’t drop it like it’s hot, the cops will know who to air out – it’s the guy who didn’t drop his gun. Tense, Pulp Fiction style three-way confrontations between nervous gunmen aren’t the norm.

Given that there are plenty of defensive gun uses in America by armed citizens in which the bad guy is repelled and the cops don’t ventilate the good guy, the myth of the confused first responder has virtually no basis in fact or statistics. As our nation considers whether or not to eliminate gun-free zones in places like schools and shopping malls, this is just another unfounded concern we can dispense with.