A ‘Good Guy with a Gun’ Won’t Stop Mass Shootings: Study

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Makeshift memorial at the site of the 2016 mass shooting at Orlando's Pulse nightclub. Photo by Maddie Ray via Flickr.

“Contrary to the common ‘good guy with a gun’ argument, mass shootings were no more or less likely to occur in areas with more permissive concealed carry laws,” according to a researcher writing in the Justice Quarterly journal.


In fact, states that have passed permissive concealed carry legislation experience higher rates of gun homicides than states without such laws, writes Emma E. Fridel, an assistant professor in the College of Criminology and Criminal Justice at Florida State University.


In her study, which examines the effects of household gun ownership and concealed carry legislation on the rates of mass shootings and firearm homicides in all 50 states between 1991 and 2016, Fridel found that a disproportionate number of mass shootings occur in states with higher levels of gun ownership.


Nevertheless, mass shootings — incidents in which four or more individuals are killed by a firearm within 24 hours — occur approximately 23 times per year on average and “account for less than 1 percent of all homicides in the United States.”


For this reason, Fridel argued that lawmakers on both sides of the gun debate wrongly “assume that mass shootings are representative of firearms homicide more generally, and therefore that strategies to prevent mass shootings will also reduce gun violence overall.”


As part of her methodology, Fridel used data from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s (CDC) Web-based Inquiry Statistics Query and Reporting System.


Fridel also created a unique dataset of 592 mass shootings in the U.S. from 1991 to 2016 by collecting gun violence data from a number of sources, including the Congressional Research ServiceGun Violence ArchiveEverytown for Gun Safety, and LexisNexis.


Previous research has both supported and refuted Fridel’s argument that more guns in the hands of law-abiding citizens will not deter tragedies like the 2018 shooting at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Fl., which left 17 dead; and the 2016 shooting at the Pulse nightclub in Orlando, Fl., which left 49 dead and 53 wounded.


The Violence Policy Center (VPC), a group that advocates for stricter gun policies, reported that between 2007 and 2019, concealed handgun permit holders were responsible for at least 1,335 deaths not involving self-defense.


“Concealed carry permit holders are supposed to be the ‘good guys’ with guns,” said VPC in a statement. “In reality, far too many permit holders are a direct threat to public safety.”


However, a recent RAND survey found that laws allowing the concealed carry of firearms would reduce murder rates.


And, according to a 2013 report by the CDC, firearms are used in self-defense between 500,000 and 3,000,000 times per year.


“Self-defense can be an important crime deterrent,” the CDC concluded.


Contrary to the CDC, Fridel found that at the state level, more relaxed concealed carry laws were associated with a 10.8 percent increase in the rate of firearm-involved homicides.


Additionally, higher rates of household gun ownership correlated with a striking 53.5 percent increase in the rate of mass shootings, according to the report.


In fact, the study said, “gun ownership was the only significant macro-level predictor of mass shootings.”


That is, “other factors often cited in the wake of mass shootings, such as access to mental healthcare, do not significantly influence the rate of these crimes,” the author added.


The author also found that when concealed carry laws were taken into account, gun ownership had a nominal effect on rates of firearm-involved homicides.


Reflecting on these results, the author wrote that “gun ownership and legislation do not impact mass shootings and firearm homicides in the same way.”


“The results of the current study, for example, indicate that reducing gun ownership…benefits mass shooting prevention efforts, while reinstating more restrictive concealed carry legislation decreases the overall firearms homicide rate,” Fridel wrote.


Interestingly, the author deducted, “neither intervention appears to have a deleterious effect on the other crime (e.g., higher levels of gun ownership do not reduce the firearms homicide rate, and more permissive concealed carry legislation is not associated with a reduction in mass shootings).”


Therefore, rather than “focusing on the rare mass shooting, however tragic such incidents may be,” policymakers should “enact distinct prevention initiatives in order to address different types of gun violence,” Friedel wrote.


She added: “Considering that other policies not considered here may prevent one type of gun violence while promoting another, it is imperative that legislators recognize the distinct correlates of mass shootings and firearms homicide and consider potential collateral consequences before enacting an intervention.”


The full study can be accessed here.


Michael Gelb is a TCR News Intern.

3 thoughts on “A ‘Good Guy with a Gun’ Won’t Stop Mass Shootings: Study

  1. That is all BS. even Illinois has passed “concealed carry” legislation as they are the only state that had no provision to do so until it was made into a May Issue State. Guess which city in that state is also experience a rapid increase in street homicide as well? Why does no one ever talk about the Titusville massacre that targeted a bunch of young school children that was an impossibility according to some groups.

  2. The premise is NOT that a Good Guy with a gun will STOP mass shootings. The premise is that a good guy with a gun can and does reduce the carnage. The purpose of concealed carry is one of self preservation, not to replace law enforcement. Rather than tickling the subject of concealed carry, it would be far more appropriate to report on the cataclysmic effect of now popular reduced funding of law enforcement.

  3. You have completely overlook almost all the facts about mass shootings. The only non-biased report you added in your article was from the CDC a separate entity without an agenda. Mass shooters don’t want a gunfight, they want victims and a lot of them. They have a universal motive of trying to prove some sort of point. The amount of homes with guns has decreased over the past 40 years, not increased. The amount of gun purchased has increased but by people that largely already own guns.

    As we have also seen repeatedly that the most deadly mass shootings are taking place in gun-free zones where no one is there to fight back. In every case where the victims have fought back against their attacker. The attacker was either stopped or killed himself. The average mass shooter has 9 minutes(based on avg police response) of unlimited shooting and reloading.

    If when victims fight back the mass shooting ends. It goes to show a “good guy with a gun” as you call it. Would clearly stop a mass shooting. Leaving almost everything you said distorted from the lack of facts. Look up what happens when victims fight back, that is how you can gauge what would happen if someone had a gun. Remember CCW holders are not allowed to enter gun-free zones, and even in areas where they are not restricted. It does not mean there is someone in the area at the time of the shooting. Even if you look at the Texas Tower shooting from years ago. It was the good guys with guns that allowed that stopped the carnage that was happening at the time. They also assisted the police in taking down the shooter.

    Your article looked at Mass shootings from a point where there was no CCW holder involved and the victims were helpless to stop the gunman. If you void out one key factor of any article your results will always point to your own point of view and will not support the real data. I could sit and show you a lot more facts that you choose to skip but I think I have proven my point, when people don’t fight back the carnage is higher.

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