A rallying cry for gun enthusiasts has been ‘The only way to stop a bad guy with a gun is a good guy with a gun’. A retired good guy, however, stands accused in a deadly theater shooting.
A 43-year-old Florida man was shot to death and his wife was wounded after an argument escalated in a Wesley Chapel, Florida, movie theater on Monday.
The shooting followed a dispute over the victim texting and making some kind of noise, witnesses said. The movie had not yet started, but a witness said an agitated man apparently got up from his seat — presumably to find a manager to complain to — then returned.
The witness told Tampa Fox affiliate WTVT-TV that shortly after the agitated man’s return, the argument intensified:
“Their voices start going up, there seems to be a confrontation, somebody throws popcorn, then bang, he was shot,” said Cummings, who was there to celebrate his birthday. “I heard the victim say, ‘I can’t believe…,’ then he fell on us.”
The accused shooter — who was inexplicably enraged by someone using their cell phone prior to the movie’s start — turns out to be a retired Tampa police officer.
The rallying cry for gun enthusiasts has long been that the only way to stop a “bad guy with a gun” is to have a “good guy with a gun.”
The accused shooter spent at least a portion of his career as a good guy with a gun. So far, as far as we know, there have been no reports surfacing that this former police officer had any gun problems in his work history. Indeed, he is said to have been “instrumental” in establishing the Tampa Police Department’s first Tactical Response Team. The Tampa Bay Times reported he was also a former director of security for Busch Gardens.
By all accounts, the suspect had been a good guy with a gun.
But if the accusations are true, he may be a good guy with a gun who suddenly — and unpredictably — behaved like a bad guy with a gun.
It didn’t take long for someone on Twitter to mention gun enthusiasts’ other rallying cry: “Wonder how different it would have been if other theater-goers had been carrying guns, too.”
It’s a response so laughably absurd that it astounds me that anyone would actually make it…at least in this case. For one thing: the shooting, by all accounts, happened so quickly that there’s a good chance no one would have seen it coming until after it had occurred. The suspect was detained by an off-duty Florida policeman, it’s worth noting. Apparently, even he didn’t see the shooting coming quickly enough to stop it, and presumably, he’s trained to do so.
The “other people with guns” argument is also absurd because of the setting: do we really want a potential shootout with multiple weapons inside a darkened movie theater? Especially if this was an argument between two people rather than a random shooting in which multiple people were targeted? Who else might get wounded in the crossfire, and is that somehow acceptable?
There’s no mention of whether the off-duty officer who detained the suspect happened to be armed at that moment. It appears instead that the off-duty officer managed to grab the suspect’s weapon rather than using his own. So this particular good guy didn’t have a gun, but stopped an accused bad guy with one, anyway.
We have to remember that even a good guy with a gun can be capable of doing a bad thing. It’s not the gun itself that instills morality in its carrier. It’s not the gun that creates good judgment or mental stability. If those traits aren’t already and always present, the gun will always be a potentially deadly tool in wrong hands. And ammunition against responsible gun owners.