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Old 09-09-2019, 02:30 PM
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The myth of good guys & bad guys


Resolved: The world is not a binary division of good guys and bad guys, but rather a spectrum of people with myriad life histories and motivations.

A thread which has become infamous around here lately is Positive Gun News of the Day. This debate is not about that thread per se, but many of the posts in that thread involve the reposting of news items where a "good guy" with a gun kills a "bad guy" with a gun, casting such events as "positive."

I'll grant you that if I had a gun, and someone pointed a gun at me, I would shoot. But short of a clear threat, this whole concept of "bad guys" is a myth from 1940s movies about the wild West. There are two issues with this business of knowing who's a "bad guy."

The first is that you can't tell who is a bad guy just by looking. Even trained police officers identified a man who was legally carrying a gun as a bad guy, so they killed him. He turned out to be a good guy. Police killed an armed security guard who was responding to a gunman in a bar. What are the chances that a civilian passerby is going to make the right call?

The second is that there is really no such thing as a good guy or bad guy. There are people thought to be good right up until they shoot someone in an argument, or go nuts and shoot up their workplace. Even people who have committed crimes cannot be simplistically classified as "bad guys." There are thousands of stories of people convicted of crimes who chose the wrong path but regret their actions and have turned their lives around. Sure, there are people who have just decided to make violent crime a way of life, dehumanizing their victims, will never be productive members of society, and would do it all over again if they get out of prison. But there are all sorts of shades of gray. "There but for the grace of God go I."
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  #2  
Old 09-09-2019, 03:06 PM
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I guess I get your distinction, but I don't see that it can make all that much difference.

Maybe the guy who is breaking into my house to rob me or rape my wife isn't all bad. Maybe he's good to his mother and shows great promise as a pianist or something. And maybe if he survives my shooting him, he will turn his life around 27 years later like the guy in the podcast you linked to. That doesn't really help at the moment he's breaking in.

If he's being a bad enough guy right now, then that's enough of a valid dichotomy for me to decide whether or not he needs shooting.

The good guy vs. bad guy model is good enough to fit the situation as it exists. It isn't perfect, but what is?
Quote:
The first is that you can't tell who is a bad guy just by looking.
You can't always tell, that's true. But the Positive Gun News thread to which you linked has a lot of examples of being able to make a pretty good guess. And there are examples of gun uses where nobody got shot after all.

Maybe he has an innocent explanation as to why he is in my living room. Working the action on the shot gun makes it clear that he better stand still and not make any sudden movements while he explains that he's not really such a bad person after all. If he can do that, fine - everybody's happy and no one got hurt. If he can't - then at least one of us is happy.

Regards,
Shodan
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Old 09-09-2019, 03:09 PM
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As Shodan said, in some cases the distinction is quite clear. Sure, it may be blurry in some cases (two drunken men menacing each other in a bar with guns, are they both bad? Maybe.) But if it's like a United Flight 93 situation where passengers are trying to taken down the hijackers, there's no ambiguity. (Yes, I know, no guns involved in that airplane flight, but you get the point)
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Old 09-09-2019, 05:18 PM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by CookingWithGas View Post
But there are all sorts of shades of gray.
If you are accepting that there are all sorts of shades of gray, then you must also accept that there is black at one end and white at the other end. Yah?

The problem with using terms like "good guy" and "bad guy" (or the loathsome "illegal") to describe a person is that the terms are better suited to describing an act. A "good guy" is a "good guy" until the moment that they murder their spouse, then they become a "bad guy"? What if they, in the next moment save a bunch of children from a burning building? Do they now become a "good guy" again, or are they still a "bad guy"? Whereas, if you were to focus on the acts you can make a more salient distinction.

Regret remorse rehabilitation and podcasts 27 years later are all well and good, but rather than twisting yourself around the axle trying to define if this person is a "good guy" or a "bad guy" one can say with certainty that while they were committing whatever act that got them convicted, they were engaging in a bad action.

Last edited by Icarus; 09-09-2019 at 05:19 PM.
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Old 09-09-2019, 06:03 PM
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I'm going out on a limb and say that Norman Borlaug was a good guy and Ted Bundy was a bad guy.

As far as I know, neither one of them favored guns.
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Old 09-09-2019, 07:22 PM
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Originally Posted by Icarus View Post
If you are accepting that there are all sorts of shades of gray, then you must also accept that there is black at one end and white at the other end. Yah?
Oh, absolutely, and I tried to make that point in the OP. There are some very bad people in the world. And a few very good ones.

Quote:
Originally Posted by Shodan View Post
I guess I get your distinction, but I don't see that it can make all that much difference.
If someone broke into my house with me in it, I wouldn't waste time asking a lot of questions. But seeing someone holding a legally-possessed gun in a public place where open carry is legal doesn't mean Johnny Do-Gooder has a right to blow him away in the name of getting rid of bad guys.
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Old 09-09-2019, 08:12 PM
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Whatever happened to color-coding good guys and bad guys with hats? Or is that too racially charged now?
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Old 09-09-2019, 08:22 PM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Shodan View Post
...linked to. That doesn't really help at the moment he's breaking in.

If he's being a bad enough guy right now, then that's enough of a valid dichotomy for me to decide whether or not he needs shooting.

The good guy vs. bad guy model is good enough to fit the situation as it exists. It isn't perfect, but what is? ...
Yes, and perhaps "Bad actor" in that a person (who might otherwise be nice to dogs and their mother*) who is currently being a bad and dangerous criminal RIGHT NOW is what we are talking about. On second thought, that is made pretty damn clear in that thread. No one, I repeat no one is suggesting killing someone just because they are a "bad guy". They are posting stories where a criminal is currently and at that very moment being a "clear and present danger".

The Ops whole point is thus invalidated.


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WHEN A FELON'S NOT ENGAGED IN HIS EMPLOYMENT (his employment)
OR MATURING HIS FELONIOUS LITTLE PLANS (little plans)
HIS CAPACITY FOR INNOCENT ENJOYMENT (-cent enjoyment)
IS JUST AS GREAT AS ANY HONEST MAN'S (honest mans)

......
WHEN THE ENTERPRISING BURGLARS NOT A'BURGLING (not a'burgling)
WHEN THE CUT THROAT ISN'T OCCUPIED IN CRIME (-pied in crime)
HE LOVES TO HEAR THE LITTLE BROOK A'GURGLING (brook a'gurgling)
AND LISTEN TO THE MERRY VILLAGE CHIME (village chime)

WHEN THE COSTER'S FINISHED JUMPING ON HIS MOTHER (on his mother)
HE LOVES TO LIE A'BASKING IN THE SUN (in the sun)..."
  #9  
Old 09-09-2019, 08:28 PM
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I've always felt that the Kinsey Scale works on all facets of the human psyche.

No one is 100% good or 100% bad.
  #10  
Old 09-10-2019, 09:39 AM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by DrDeth View Post
They are posting stories where a criminal is currently and at that very moment being a "clear and present danger".

The Ops whole point is thus invalidated.
Hardly. This thread is not about "that thread" per se. It's about the greater attitude expressed in tidy little aphorisms like "the only way to stop a bad guy with a gun is a good guy with a gun" that paints the world in absolutes. I gave two examples where people we would like to think of as "good guys" (police) shot and killed innocent men, with clouds of racial bias hanging over the incidents. Who were the good guys and who were the bad guys?
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Old 09-10-2019, 10:16 AM
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There weren't any bad guys in those examples. But neither of the people shot in your examples were shot because anybody thought they were "bad guys". They thought, mistakenly, that they presented a threat.
Quote:
It's about the greater attitude expressed in tidy little aphorisms like "the only way to stop a bad guy with a gun is a good guy with a gun" that paints the world in absolutes.
The aphorism is wrong - it isn't always the only way. But I don't see how that helps. People aren't usually 100% good or 100% bad. OK, granted. That doesn't affect my assessment of whether or not to shoot someone much.

Regards,
Shodan
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Old 09-10-2019, 10:28 AM
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I think the model breaks down for shootings in public places, especially places like malls, stadiums, movie theaters, etc. -- places with a bunch of strangers who mostly don't know each other. Ideally, among the "public" when a shooter appears with the desire to shoot as many people as possible, there's one retired SWAT officer (or Navy SEAL or equivalent) who legally carries (or even more ideally, a full retired SWAT team on a shopping trip together, all of whom carry), and no one else (aisde from well-trained security and LE in uniform), and everyone else scatters or gets on the ground, and the retired SWAT guy(s) and/or security/LE engage(s) and neutralize(s) the shooter.

But in reality, if concealed-carry becomes common, you could have a dozen carriers in a crowded mall/theater/etc. Some of them might be competent, but some of them are likely to be idiots. Adding idiots with guns to an active-shooter scenario could make things even worse -- far, far worse, possibly. Even if it's only competent folks, it would still be almost impossible for a competent armed person to determine who among the dozen-other strangers around them with guns is the "bad" one, and if a single one makes a mistake that could make the situation much, much worse again.

Last edited by iiandyiiii; 09-10-2019 at 10:29 AM.
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Old 09-10-2019, 01:00 PM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by iiandyiiii View Post
But in reality, if concealed-carry becomes common, you could have a dozen carriers in a crowded mall/theater/etc. Some of them might be competent, but some of them are likely to be idiots. Adding idiots with guns to an active-shooter scenario could make things even worse -- far, far worse, possibly. Even if it's only competent folks, it would still be almost impossible for a competent armed person to determine who among the dozen-other strangers around them with guns is the "bad" one, and if a single one makes a mistake that could make the situation much, much worse again.
How much more prevalent does concealed carry have to be for you to consider it common? In 41 states, there is either shall issue or constitutional carry such that most of the population in the country is in an area where carry is available. This takes the same form as scare tactics before shall issue was widely adopted - presenting potential doom and gloom scenarios that have not come to pass. First it was gunfights over parking spots, and now it's mahem during mass shootings.

***

As to the thread - I don't think it's necessary to make a binary assessment most of the time. No one really pushes a binary assessment, but when reducing down to a digestible sound byte, the good guy/bad guy dichotomy is easy shorthand.

Last edited by Bone; 09-10-2019 at 01:01 PM.
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Old 09-10-2019, 01:32 PM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Bone View Post
How much more prevalent does concealed carry have to be for you to consider it common? In 41 states, there is either shall issue or constitutional carry such that most of the population in the country is in an area where carry is available. This takes the same form as scare tactics before shall issue was widely adopted - presenting potential doom and gloom scenarios that have not come to pass. First it was gunfights over parking spots, and now it's mahem during mass shootings.

***

As to the thread - I don't think it's necessary to make a binary assessment most of the time. No one really pushes a binary assessment, but when reducing down to a digestible sound byte, the good guy/bad guy dichotomy is easy shorthand.
It'd be as "common" as I suggest in my hypothetical if that hypothetical comes to pass (tautological, obviously!). And I've never been "doom" or "scare tactices" about concealed-carry... I'm not sure if I've ever pontificated on the issue on this board. I've certainly talked about my concern about idiots with guns, but I haven't advocated any particular policy to prevent that. Guns are widely available, and tons of people are idiots, ergo lots of idiots have guns. And in my understanding, accident statistics bear this out -- there are tons of accidental shootings. A friend of mine from high school (a very nice young man) died in college when he shot himself accidentally while cleaning his gun.

I think the policy discussion is pretty much done. You guys won, about as decisively as any political issue can be won. I'm in favor of universal background checks and a few other relatively minor "gun control" policies (not that I think this would have a significant effect on crime), but America is a gun country, in which guns are incredibly easy to obtain, no matter how the law changes, for the short and medium term. I'm much more interested in discussing what this means for the present and future. In my understanding, concealed carry is growing in popularity. What will this mean? What effects will this have? I think this is interesting to think about and discuss.

Last edited by iiandyiiii; 09-10-2019 at 01:33 PM.
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Old 09-10-2019, 01:35 PM
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Originally Posted by CookingWithGas View Post
Hardly. This thread is not about "that thread" per se. It's about the greater attitude expressed in tidy little aphorisms like "the only way to stop a bad guy with a gun is a good guy with a gun" that paints the world in absolutes. I gave two examples where people we would like to think of as "good guys" (police) shot and killed innocent men, with clouds of racial bias hanging over the incidents. Who were the good guys and who were the bad guys?
Then your Op was worded poorly.

And yes, that aphorism has value if you add the unspoken ""the only way to stop a (currently acting as clear and present danger and as a ...)bad guy with a gun is a (currently acting as a )good guy with a gun" .

And yes, police are still human, Robocop notwithstanding, and they make mistakes. So?
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Old 09-10-2019, 01:47 PM
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The aphorism is wrong in both directions. Bad guys with guns are often stopped without a good guy with a gun, and often, a good guy with a gun isn't a way to stop a bad guy with a gun.

In actual fact, we know what stops bad guys with guns. Gun control works, everywhere it's ever been used. If you're not proposing gun control, then you're not actually trying to stop bad guys with guns.
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Old 09-10-2019, 01:58 PM
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...
In actual fact, we know what stops bad guys with guns. Gun control works, everywhere it's ever been used. ....
It's never worked in the USA, and even in poster boy places like Australia, there are conflicting opinions.
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Old 09-10-2019, 02:04 PM
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It's never worked in the USA...
...because of compromise and sabotage.
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Old 09-10-2019, 02:11 PM
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...because of compromise and sabotage.
Of course. We have had gun control and it has never worked, so obviously the solution is to double-down and make more laws!
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Old 09-10-2019, 02:17 PM
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Of course. We have had gun control and it has never worked, so obviously the solution is to double-down and make more laws!
You say "Of course", but then you respond as if you didn't understand what I posted.
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Old 09-10-2019, 03:51 PM
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Originally Posted by Chronos View Post
The aphorism is wrong in both directions. Bad guys with guns are often stopped without a good guy with a gun, and often, a good guy with a gun isn't a way to stop a bad guy with a gun.

In actual fact, we know what stops bad guys with guns. Gun control works, everywhere it's ever been used. If you're not proposing gun control, then you're not actually trying to stop bad guys with guns.
Did it work in Venezuela?
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Old 09-10-2019, 04:35 PM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Chronos View Post
The aphorism is wrong in both directions. Bad guys with guns are often stopped without a good guy with a gun, and often, a good guy with a gun isn't a way to stop a bad guy with a gun.

In actual fact, we know what stops bad guys with guns.
The Positive Gun News thread is full of examples of what stops bad guys with guns. And often it is a good guy with a gun.
Quote:
If you're not proposing gun control, then you're not actually trying to stop bad guys with guns.
If that were true, the Positive Gun News thread would not exist, because it gives examples of actually stopping bad guys (some with guns) and is not proposing gun control.

So, often, a bad guy with a gun is stopped without a good guy with a gun, and, often, a good guy with a gun isn't a way to stop a bad guy with a gun, and, often, a good guy with a gun is a way to stop a bad guy, sometimes with a gun and sometimes without.

Regards,
Shodan
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Old 09-10-2019, 05:02 PM
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