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Good guys with guns

That’s what the head of the National Rifle Association says is the most effective deterrent to bad guys with guns.

With gun violence back on the front page, because of the release of the Newtown massacre police report and the president’s event at the White House, two things occurred to me.

First, there is a logic to the NRA’s argument that recalls our Cold War nuclear containment strategy against the Soviet Union. The only thing that will stop a bad country with nukes is a good country with nukes. The strategy was called, ironically, “MAD” which stands for “mutual assured destruction.” We’re all still here, so obviously, it worked.

But that was the equivalent of just two gunfighters with weapons drawn and pointed at each other. Could one be certain he could fire and kill the other without being killed himself?

The NRA strategy involves potentially hundreds of millions of gunfighters. Each one has a small circle of allies: family, friends and colleagues he knows is each a good guy. All the other gunfighters are unknowns and therefore potential bad guys, so every good guy has to be on constant alert.

Second, even good guys who are trained and carry guns as part of their job every day aren’t very good at hitting what they aim at. The latest example was last summer at the Empire State Building in New York, but it’s not a new problem.

In 2006, New York City police officers fired 364 bullets and hit their target just 28 percent of the time. In 2005, the hit rate was 17 percent. Of course, when an officer has to draw and fire his weapon, it is always in a very high-stress situation.

How accurate would we everyday good guys be under that kind of stress?