What Trump gets wrong about gun violence

By Paul Clifford

During a Student Government-organized Town Hall meeting on Nov. 16, students openly asked UA Vice President of Advancement Larry Burns, and the new Director of Athletics Lawrence Williams questions about several prevalent issues on campus. In the discussion’s final minutes, a concern on concealed carry rose among the other topics. The student lamented about the pervasive emails he has received about crime on campus, and expressed his belief that “a gun-free zone allows criminals to feel safe, permitting violent crimes knowing their targets cannot defend themselves.”

Although reducing crime and improving safety on campus is in everyone’s best interests, it’s important to consider how effective some common solutions would be. In response to the catastrophes in Paris over the weekend, presidential candidate Donald J. Trump similarly accused gun-prohibited zones for having adverse effects.

In fact, all of the remaining 2016 presidential candidates had something to say about the 129 fatalities and over 350 people that were injured in the attacks on Paris last Friday night, ranging from sympathy to calls for action. But Donald Trump used this as an opportunity to discuss the matter of gun control- and this isn’t the first time he’s done this in the face of disaster. Earlier this year in January, after the Charlie Hebdo attacks, he tweeted the following:


Despite being dated in January 2015, this tweet resurfaced during the fury of violence on Friday night and many mistook it as Trump’s response to the terrorism. But he affirmed what he had said before in an address to the people of  Beaumont, Texas the following day, saying:

“When you look at Paris, you know; the toughest gun laws in the world, Paris, nobody had guns but the bad guys. Nobody. Nobody had guns. And they were just shooting them one by one. I’ll tell you what, you can say what you want. But if they had guns, if our people had guns, if they were allowed to carry- it would be a much, much different situation.”

The idea seems simple enough. The hostages of the Bataclan Theater weren’t allowed to have weapons, so if they had been allowed, they could’ve stopped the terrorists. So this idea can be intensely infuriating, provoking the question: why not allow these people to carry firearms if that’s what will stop this kind of terrorism? But there’s a reason why this issue is so controversial and vehemently debated. It’s because there is just no simple fix to this problem. And there are several more reasons why Trump’s suggestion in wrong.

Of the estimated 129 deaths on Friday night, around 100 of them were in the hostage situation that developed in the Bataclan Theater where eight terrorists were eventually either shot in their confrontation with the Préfecture de police de Paris, or killed by detonating explosive vests. It’s important to note that the Bataclan is a theater, a public place, and that according to the Crime Prevention Research Center, 92 percent of all mass shootings happen in public places, which are gun-prohibited zones. So even if the Paris citizens in the theater could’ve had concealed carry permits, they couldn’t legally bring guns there.

Trump wasn’t the only politician to call this out. Newt Gingrich also tweeted:

“Imagine a theater with 10 or 15 citizens with concealed carry permits. We live in an age when evil men have to be killed by good people.”

But really imagine that theater. What Gingrich misses is that these terrorists don’t come wearing turbans or military clothing. They’re dressed exactly like you and me. Ten or 15 extra sources of gunfire from the audience would be indistinguishable from the terrorists, and these multiple additional sources of gunfire would probably kill more people, only contributing to the death toll.

Furthermore, if the Parisians in the theater would’ve had firearms on them, it’s highly unlikely that they would’ve stopped the violence. Of all U.S. mass shootings, only 1.6% have ever been stopped by an armed civilian. And that’s in America, which has the highest gun ownership of any country by far.

It’s also worth noting that the terrorists were organized, and in a group. And it’s unlikely that a few hypothetical concealed carry holders would be seated together so they could actually organize into a force that would’ve stopped the terrorists. So they would be spread out, and the confrontation would be more like 8 vs. 1 vs. 1 vs. 1 vs. 1.

We all want a simple fix that ends tragedy, and there’s great comfort in knowing that we can do something to prevent bad things from happening again. But it’s important to realize that there is no simple fix, and that the solutions that offer this aren’t helping anything. Arguing that arming civilians would have stopped this denies basic facts. It’s unreasonable and irresponsible to believe this.