Hours after the horrendous mass shooting of more than 50 people early Sunday morning at the Pulse nightclub in Orlando, Florida, President Obama addressed the nation, calling the shooting a "brutal murder" and saying: "This massacre is therefore a further reminder of how easy it is for someone to get their hands on a weapon that lets them shoot people in a school, or in a house of worship, or a movie theater, or in a nightclub."
As happens after every mass shooting, there will be days of mourning, along with calls for increased gun control and retaliatory urges from pro-gun advocates that say that the solution to mass shootings is having more law-abiding gun owners, not fewer.
This particular piece of NRA boilerplate—"the only way to stop a bad guy with a gun is a good guy with a gun"—is trotted out every time a gunman murders innocent people, despite the fact that it's been thoroughly debunked. Multiple studies have shown that increased gun ownership leads to increased death rates and that legal, defensive uses of guns are far rarer than criminal uses.
Just 11 days before the Orlando shooting, during a PBS News Hour town hall, President Obama was asked about this "good guy with a gun" trope—and gave the most reasonable, responsible answer possible.
The questioner, a gun shop owner named Doug Rhude, asked President Obama:
Knowing that we apply common sense to other issues in our society, specifically like holding irresponsible people accountable for their actions when they drink and drive and kill somebody, or when they text on a cellphone and drive and kill somebody…why then do you and Hillary want to control and restrict and limit gun manufacturers, gun owners, and responsible use of guns and ammunition to the rest of us, the good guys, instead of holding the bad guys accountable for their actions?
President Obama paused for a second, then responded (emphasis mine):
First of all, the notion that I or Hillary or Democrats, or whoever you want to choose, are hell-bent on taking away folks' guns is just not true — and I don’t care how many times the NRA says it. I'm about to leave office. There have been more guns sold since I've been President than just about any time in U.S. history. There are enough guns for every man, woman and child in this country. And at no point have I ever proposed confiscating guns from responsible gun owners. So it's just not true.
What I have said is precisely what you suggested, which is why don’t we treat this like every other thing that we use? We used to have really bad auto fatality rates. The auto fatality rate has actually dropped precipitously, drastically, since I was a kid. Why is that? We decided we had seatbelt laws. We decided to have manufacturers put airbags in place. We decided to crack down on drunk driving and texting. We decided to redesign roads so that they were less likely to have a car bank. We studied what is causing these fatalities using science and data and evidence, and then we slowly treated it like the public health problem it was, and it got reduced.
We are not allowed to do any of that when it comes to guns because people — if you propose anything, it is suggested that we're trying to wipe away gun rights and impose tyranny and martial law. Do you know that Congress will not allow the Centers for Disease Control to study gun violence? They're not allowed to study it because the notion is, is that by studying it, the same way we do with traffic accidents, somehow that's going to lead to everybody's gun being confiscated.
When we talked about background checks — if you buy a car, if you want to get a license, first of all, you got to get a license. You have to take a test. People have to know that you know how to drive. You don’t have to do any of that with respect to buying a gun. And we talked about doing effective background checks. It was resisted because the notion was we were going to take your guns away.
I just came from a meeting today in the Situation Room in which I've got people who we know have been on ISIL websites, living here in the United States, U.S. citizens, and we're allowed to put them on the no-fly list when it comes to airlines, but because of the National Rifle Association, I cannot prohibit those people from buying a gun. This is somebody who is a known ISIL sympathizer. And if he wants to walk into a gun store or a gun show right now and buy as many weapons and ammo as he can, nothing is prohibiting him from doing that, even though the FBI knows who that person is.
So, sir, I just have to say respectfully that there is a way for us to have common-sense gun laws. There is a way for us to make sure that lawful, responsible gun owners like yourself are able to use it for sporting, hunting, and protecting yourself. But the only way we're going to do that is if we don’t have a situation in which anything that is proposed is viewed as some tyrannical destruction of the Second Amendment. And that's how the issue too often gets framed.
If President Obama sounds angry about the prevalence of the "good guy with a gun" myth, and the continued insistence of pro-gun advocates that he's trying to take away people's guns, perhaps it's because the Orlando shooting marks the 15th time he's addressed the country after a mass shooting on U.S. soil. Maybe it's time for a change.