After the anti-Semitic attack in New York and the church shooting in Texas — on Saturday and Sunday, respectively — an argument has again been ignited over whether houses of worship should have armed security and armed congregants. The debate is oddly timed, to say the least. The attack in Texas was neutralized within seconds by an armed volunteer security guard named Jack Wilson. What is there to discuss? If he had not been there, many more would have died. He was, so they didn’t. The math seems pretty straightforward.
Of course, you could argue that if the heroic Wilson weren’t there, the assailant might have been taken down by one of the other armed worshippers who can be seen on video. Their presence deals another blow to standard anti-gun talking points. We’re often told that the “good guy with a gun” strategy is flawed because all of those gun-toting good guys would turn a mass shooting into a wild west gun fight with bullets flying everywhere. Now, even if this were true, isn’t it better to have bullets flying everywhere rather than bullets flying only in the direction of innocent bystanders? Nobody wants church to turn into a Gunfight at O.K. Corral, but I’d rather have that than another Massacre at Sutherland Springs.
In any case, this is a false choice. There was no gunfight, no wild west chaos, and no massacre on the level of Sutherland Springs. That’s because a good guy returned fire, killed the bad guy, and the other good guys refrained from spraying bullets all over the place just for the sake of it. Compare this with the attack at a rabbi’s home in New York on Saturday, where a Jew-hating goon was able to stab five people with a machete before fleeing the scene unharmed. Without guns to protect themselves, the only recourse the victims had was to throw a table at their attacker and then record his license plate information as he drove away. Can any rational or responsible person argue that victims are better off defending themselves with furniture than with firearms? No, but there are plenty of irrational and irresponsible people out there, and they are very vocal on this issue.
These are indisputable facts, and the events of this weekend prove it: Houses of worship should be protected with guns. Members of minority groups that are often the target of violent attacks should protect themselves with guns. Buildings that house our children for eight hours a day should be protected with guns. I agree with the anti-gun crowd that such measures shouldn’t be necessary. I agree that society should be safer. Just as I agree with the feminists who say that women shouldn’t have to defend themselves against rapists because men shouldn’t be raping in the first place. I agree that many things happen in our world that should not happen. And if there were any reliable way to preempt all of these bad things without using guns, I would be in favor of it. But there isn’t.
All of these shoulds and shouldn’ts don’t amount to anything when the bad guy who shouldn’t be bad shows up to your church or synagogue to actually do the thing he shouldn’t be doing with the weapon he shouldn’t be using. You aren’t going to stop a bullet by talking about what should or shouldn’t be. When shouldn’t becomes is — which it so often does in this fallen world — the only thing you can do is respond to the reality of the situation. Should and shouldn’t are good topics for campaign speeches and song lyrics, but they are useless when the lead starts flying. That’s when you need a very practical guy like Jack Wilson. And you need him to have a very practical tool. And that’s just the way it is, whether we like it or not.