In the days and weeks after the
Let's begin with the obvious: Had everyone in Boston been armed the day of the bombings, the bombings would have still occurred. The initial violence resulted from explosives hidden in common, everyday backpacks unobtrusively discarded in the crowd. (Fortunately, no one has yet made the argument that the only way to stop a bad man with a bomb is a good man with a bomb, although the logic is about as sound as its corollary.)
The only way that everyone carrying guns in public would have lessened casualties that day would have been the likelihood that many people would just choose to stay away from supposedly peaceful public gatherings were they to become armed camps. Army Lt. Col. Jason Dempsey, currently on tour to train the Afghan army, sees the NRA vision as wanting to turn American civil society into a gun-toting version of what he sees every day in Afghanistan. "It is a philosophy," writes Mr. Dempsey, "that offers false comfort to frightened individuals and would do nothing for our collective safety."
The only people shot during the incident and its aftermath were carrying firearms. In fact, slain
Bottom line: Good guys with guns can sometimes unintentionally arm bad actors; they are often incapable, in the fog of exchange, from acting effectively; and they can even increase a situation's lethality by turning public spaces into multidirectional fire zones. The participants in Watertown were trained police; adding armed civilians without police training would be fraught with peril.
Meanwhile, the owner of the Mercedes SUV that was hijacked and the owner of the boat where
It has not yet been revealed where the Tsarnaevs (neither of whom reportedly could legally own a gun in Massachusetts) procured their guns, but if it turns out that they did so through an unregulated gun show, it would be further proof that one of the things that could very well stop a bad guy with a gun is effective background checks for people with domestic violence convictions or who have been investigated for active terrorist affiliations.
Yet, the NRA continues to debate the straw man. The only thing that prevented a capable, law-abiding resident of Watertown from having had a gun sufficient for defense of their house during the lockdown was personal choice. That would still be true of every law-abiding American had Congress passed the background check law defeated the very week of the bombings. In point of fact, there was one Class A (large capacity) gun permit for every thirty-six households in Watertown the night of the gunfight. The people of Massachusetts through their legislature and personal choice have enacted sensible gun safety laws, and their rate of gun possession ranks 48th in the nation. Correspondingly, those sensible decisions have resulted in Massachusetts being one of the states least prone to gun violence (49th).
Had Massachusetts the same rate of gun deaths as the state that ranks third from the top in terms of gun ownership instead of its position as third from the bottom, 758 more Massachusettsans would have died from gun violence in 2012 than was the case. That is the bottom line on whether more guns in the state would have promoted public safety.