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On guns, Donald Trump, and the Paris attacks

In the wake of last week’s terrorist attacks in Paris, Donald Trump proclaimed that many lives could have been saved if everyone would have been carrying a gun. Essentially, Trump said two things:

  1. We should all carry guns.

  2. We can create a safer society if we shoot attackers ourselves instead of relying on the police.

What would have happened if Trump had it his way? What if the guest in the cafés that were attacked in drive-by shootings would have carried guns? Let’s think this one through.

In our alternative scenarios, a group of 20 people sits on the terrace of a restaurant, all of them armed with different types of guns, anything from a colt to an M16 assault rifle. Out of nowhere, the terrorist car pulls up and opens fire.

Within a split second, the guests pull their guns and retaliate. Since the guests are ordinary people and not Navy SEALs, their accuracy leaves a lot to be desired. As the terrorist car speeds away, the guests try their best to pull, aim, and shoot within a split second, but their efforts are in vain. Their bullets miss the car and end up in the buildings on the other side of the street, instantly killing and crippling innocent people.

The survivors in these building do not know that they were hit by friendly fire. In line with Trump’s “if they shoot at you, shoot back” premise, they jump to their guns. By now, the drive-by car is long gone, and the angry survivors conclude that the attack must have originated from the people in the café.

To protect themselves, the survivors start shooting at the café. Some bullets flatten the guests in the café, thereby putting an ironic spin on their attempt to save themselves. Other bullets stray into nearby buildings, slaughtering even more innocent people and provoking even more survivors to defend themselves by joining the blood bath. One by one, every building in the street gets hit and starts to retaliate. Within minutes, the entire block is in full-out warfare. The death toll grows exponentially.

As these events unfold, Donald Trump is hiding in his tower, safely protected by an army of bodyguards, complimenting himself on the thorough grasp he believes to have on the world.

Of course, this is an extreme scenario, but it is more likely than Trump’s version of civilians identifying and neutralizing their attackers with a few skilled shots. My point is that it is not as easy as saying, „Arm everyone and everyone is safe.“

When it comes to weapons, there are good arguments for both sides of the discussion, and if a farmer wants to have a gun to protect himself from wild animals, he has a valid point. But why do we always have to fall so in love with our arguments that we create a black-and-white world where our line of reasoning is the answer to every problem? This way of thinking only distracts us from finding a solution to the actual problem.

Guns don’t stop terrorists, and immediate retaliation might look cool in a John Wayne western, but in real life, it’s usually better to keep a level head. Most of the time, the truth is never extreme, it’s in between. We can lead better, more tolerant lives by avoiding ideas that are as black and white as Trump’s believe in security through wild-west techniques.

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