A Good Guy With Pepper Spray

A shooting last Thursday at Seattle Pacific University, a small evangelical Christian school, ended with only one death thanks to the courage of a student volunteer security guard:

The 26-year-old shooter, identified by Seattle’s KIRO-7 as Aaron Ybarra, was armed with a shotgun, a knife, and several rounds of ammunition. When Ybarra paused to reload, a student security guard pepper-sprayed him and pulled him onto the ground. Several other people held him down until the police arrived. As Seattle’s assistant police chief Paul McDonagh told reporters, “But for the terrific response of the people at Seattle Pacific University, this incident might have been much more tragic.”

The Internet thanked the hero, engineering student John Meis, by buying every item listed on his and his fiancée’s wedding registries and raising, as of this writing, over $48,000 for their honeymoon. But would Meis have stopped Ybarra sooner if he had been carrying a gun? Making a case for the virtues of gun restrictions on college campuses, Evan DeFilippis argues that the “good guy with a gun” theory isn’t backed by evidence:

Even if a student or professor were to confront a shooter, their chances of stopping a bad guy with a gun would be slim. This should be self-evident given that New York City Police, for instance, only hit their target in 18 percent of cases. The average student or professor would likely have a substantially lower hit rate, thereby increasing the threat to innocent bystanders.

20/20 segment, “If I Only Had a Gun,” showed just how hopeless the average person is in reacting effectively to high-stress situations. In the segment, students with varying levels of firearm experience were given hands-on police training exceeding the level required by half the states in order to obtain a concealed carry permit. Each of these students was subsequently exposed to a manufactured but realistic scenario in which, unbeknownst to them, a man entered their classroom and begin firing fake bullets at the lecturer and students. In each one of the cases, the reaction by the good guy with a gun was abysmal.

Sarah Posner interviews the Rev. Rob Schenck, an evangelical leader who has soured on the religious right’s “unholy alliance” with the NRA. This incident, he says, should wake up the evangelical community to America’s gun violence problem:

Evangelicals, Schenck said, “have been quiet and have not entered robustly into the discussion on the moral and ethical dimensions of firearms ownership and use. We need to have that.” He said he has met with pastors and other church leaders, offering advice on how to address these issues from the pulpit, and said he hopes pastors, Sunday schools, and other Christian education programs begin to teach on the “theological and moral implications” of gun ownership and use. He said he plans to give a formal address on the topic at the annual convention of the Evangelical Church Alliance, which he chairs, in Branson, Missouri in July. Through speaking engagements, private meetings with clergy and religious leaders, and press conferences in Washington and around the country, he hopes to “catalyze a national conversation with church leaders.”

Update from a reader:

Unfortunately, the “good guy with a gun” theory was just tested in Las Vegas. After killing two police officers:

The suspects then fled on foot to a nearby Wal-Mart, where Jerad Miller fired a single shot upon entering, police said. A patron at the store who carried a firearm confronted Jerad Miller, not realizing that he was accompanied by Amanda Miller, who shot and killed the man, police said. He was identified as 31-year-old Joseph Wilcox of Las Vegas.

“Joseph died trying to protect others,” Sheriff Doug Gillespie said.