Why gun owners think they should be vigilante shooters

Due to the impossible political discourse in this country, nobody works very hard to understand anyone else. Time after time, we see that people deflect from (or wholly ignore) systemic issues because they are so convinced the other side is wrong. However, very little is done in these interactions to bring people together, or try to get 1 side to actually understand the other. To be clear – this does NOT mean that dishonest actors/debates should be put on a platform (which is what mainstream media does). What I’m talking about here is actually understanding the HUMANITY underneath the actions and arguments of your so-called enemy.

Guns are the best example in the USA. Sure, mainstream news will either tell you that “most Americans want gun control” or “most Americans don’t want gun control,” but the news will NOT actually explain why the divisions exist. There are many people in this country that honestly believe they need a gun for protection, even if that belief is based on dishonest evidence. These people might be raised believing that gun rights prevent the government from becoming tyrannical. It can be quite hard it can be to unlearn assumptions your parents raised you with. Especially when their strategy is to refuse any compromises.

So in the interest of real understanding and conversation, I’m putting this out there for those who are liberal. Just because someone is a gun-nut, it doesn’t mean they are a bad person. We all have weaknesses and flaws that make us human. None of us are gods. But why do people, who have some capacity for empathy, think that an environment is more safe when they are in it with such a lethal weapon? Why do they think that, in the heat of violence and chaos, they’ll be ready to expertly deal with an active shooter while not harming others?

It’s nothing new. It is very common for people to think they are just as skilled as experts, even when they clearly have a lower level of skill. It’s called the Dunning-Kruger effect. This from Wikipedia:

“In the field of psychology, the Dunning–Kruger effect is a cognitive bias wherein people of low ability suffer from illusory superiority, mistakenly assessing their cognitive ability as greater than it is. The cognitive bias of illusory superiority derives from the metacognitive inability of low-ability persons to recognize their own ineptitude; without the self-awareness of metacognition, low-ability people cannot objectively evaluate their actual competence or incompetence.”

Everybody has a time (or several) where they think they are better at something than they really are. It’s kind of like bloggers who think they are journalists. It’s kind of like guys with sportcars thinking they are race car drivers. Or rich idiots with businesses handed to them, thinking they should be presidents of countries.

In this case, people have guns and they love it. They go to the range regularly and shoot targets well. They also see incompetence in some police forces, and those are the guys that are supposed to tote the weapons. So now these gun owners feel like they are just as capable of doing the gun things that police do. One of these things is fighting bad guys.

Imagine there is an active shooter situation at college with 3,000 students. If everyone is toting a gun in this high stress situation, how will they all look up and know who the bad guy is? Now you have hundreds or thousands of people all walking around paranoid, pointing guns. What if the original shooter (or a partner) puts their weapon away and blends in with the population? Unfortunately, best intentions could be pretty devastating in this situation. On the other hand, if it was extremely difficult for people to acquire guns in the first place, the bad guy would at least have to exert some effort to make this mess.

But it is very hard to tell someone, especially someone that you don’t know, that you doubt their ability as a combat warrior. We should keep trying, though.