20/20 If I Only Had a Gun – Unabashed Anti Gun Propaganda

Published by the LearnAboutGuns.com Author on April 13, 2009 at 12:01 am
LearnAboutGuns.com > Gun Related News > 20/20 If I Only Had a Gun – Unabashed Anti Gun Propaganda

ABC’s 20/20 recently ran a show entitled If I Only Had a Gun, which really amounts to little more than anti gun propaganda, Brady Campaign sound bytes, and flawed pseudo-scientific “testing” of the effectiveness of concealed carry.  The basic premise of the show is that only the police should have guns, on the incorrect theory that ordinary citizens cannot effectively use guns for self defense.  I disagree with the conclusion, and find the reasoning to be quite flawed:

The show begins by showing a security camera clip of a store clerk being robbed by a pair of armed criminals.  The store clerk grabs his self defense gun, and a shootout ensues.  Neither the clerk or the robbers are shot, and the robbers flee.  20/20 calls this a self defense failure, saying that the clerk was unable to shoot the robbers.  In fact, this is a self defense success story.  When defending oneself, the goal is to prevent the criminal from inflicting harm.  Shooting the criminal is certainly one way of accomplishing this goal, as a criminal who is effectively shot will be unable to continue the attack.  However simply shooting at the criminal, even if one misses, can be quite effective too.  When being shot at, the criminal will often take cover, which hinders the criminal’s ability to aim.  The criminal may also flee, as happened here, ending the threat to the citizen.  20/20 can call this a failure, but I see it as a resounding success, as the criminal’s robbery attempt was foiled, and the clerk went home to his family.

20/20 goes on to suggest that guns are a deadly danger to one’s children.  The fact is that storing a gun safely and responsibly virtually eliminates the risk that a child can find and misuse it.  Teaching children about gun safety also reduces this risk, as it is children who know nothing about guns that end up misusing them.  Remember, even if your home doesn’t have a gun, your child could find a negligently stored gun at a friend’s house, leading to tragedy if they don’t know about gun safety. It is also worth noting that children who are taught to shoot under responsible adult supervision are considerably less likely to misuse guns than children who are not taught to shoot.

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Perhaps worst of all, 20/20 stages a flawed “experiment” in which an unwitting student (often with little gun experience) is placed in a room filled with actors who are aware of what is going to happen.  The student, who believes they are participating in a gun training exercise, is given a gun configured to fire a paint marker.  Expertly trained cops play the role of school shooters, often entering in a team of two, and are aware of the layout of the room.  It appears that the cops playing the role of school shooters also knew where the armed student would be sitting, and the other actors were of no assistance to the student who tried to stop the school shooters.  The students don’t fare well at all, and 20/20 draws the conclusion that having a gun is of no help, and that students should instead call 911.  This is about as flawed of an “experiment” as I can conceive.  Firstly, concealed carry permit holders often have much, much more training and skill than these generally novice students.  A concealed carry permit holder is generally quite familiar with the real gun they carry, rather than the paint marking gun that these novice students were given.  Secondly, in a real school shooting situation, the shooter is not a calm and trained cop, but another student who is generally mentally unstable and not in the best frame of mind.  Thirdly, the school shooter does not know how many students will be armed, or where they will be sitting.  Fourthly, the other students may try to stop the school shooter, or at least panic in a way that impedes the school shooter’s ability to kill the armed student(s).  The fact is that school shootings in the US and other countries have been stopped by armed citizens, while “gun free zones” are really just places where criminals can go to murder defenseless victims.

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This 20/20 show also features interviews with people who lost loved one due to the actions of an armed criminal.  This attempt to inject emotion into the program is not uncommon when it comes to anti gun propaganda, as showing grieving people surely plays on viewers emotions.  However this tactic missed the point: Gun control laws just don’t stop criminals or the mentally ill from committing murder. A person willing to commit the crime of murder will be just as willing to break a law that tells them that they can’t have a gun.  For example, Chicago has had a handgun ban since before I was born, yet is the murder capitol of the United States, with most murders being committed by criminals who ignore the handgun ban.  Instead, gun control just ensures that the law abiding members of society are defenseless against the still-armed criminals.  Even if, for the sake of argument, it were possible to make all guns magically disappear, this would benefit criminals while harming victims.  Guns are the great equalizer, which allow a elderly lady to defend herself against a teenage criminal.  Guns enable a disabled veteran to defend himself against young and strong robbers who break into his home.  Guns allow a domestic violence victim to fend off a stalker who breaks into her home.  Take away guns, and the physically stronger criminals will be able to beat, burn, or stab their victims into submission, since criminals tend to be young males, who are the strongest members of society.  The sad fact is that criminals who want to murder one person or many people can do so with many everyday tools.

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I could go on, but the point is that this program was little more than anti gun propaganda, aired by a media outlet which is supposed to be unbiased.  This is especially sad, given the excellent 20/20 piece on concealed carry by John Stossel.  Those who would like to read a more in-depth review of this 20/20 episode, its anti gun propaganda, and flawed methodology, I would suggest this article by David Van Edema.  Gun Owners of America also has a great article discussing ABC’s anti gun propaganda.  Those looking for real-life examples of armed self defense may be interested in this page.  Also, John Lott’s response to this biased episode of 20/20 is a good read as well.

My thanks to Willis for pointing out this biased piece of “journalism.”  My thanks to James for pointing out John Lott’s response to the 20/20 piece too.

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  • Bill Wilsen

    Your analysis of the 20/20 program is flawed.

    More guns = higher percentage or chance they will be used incorrectly no matter what training or how "safely" stored.

    Simple analogy = more cars on the road. Higher percentage of accidents that lead to death. More cars = more deaths.

    Pretty cut and dry.

  • https://www.learnaboutguns.com LearnAboutGuns.com


    I must disagree. First, your car analogy itself does not work. Having more cars on the road won't necessarily result in more deaths from car accidents. Deaths in car accidents depend upon road quality, car safety features, use of seat belts, speed limits, etc. Car accident rates (adjusted for the total driving population) may be very high in some developing nations, yet much lower for countries such as Germany, notwithstanding the Autobahn where there is no speed limit. The point is that there are many factors, and simplistic blanket statements don't really work. I discuss the inappropriateness of comparing guns and cars in more detail here: https://www.learnaboutguns.com/2008/10/25/guns-are

    Getting back to guns, more guns does not mean more misuse. Some northern European countries have very high gun ownership rates, compared to the US, yet very low rates of gun misuse: https://www.learnaboutguns.com/2008/12/17/world-ma

    In the US, many southern and rural areas have very high gun ownership rates, yet lower misuse rates (adjusted for population) than urban areas with low gun ownership rates.

    It is also worth noting that guns, unlike cars, can often save their owners lives: https://www.learnaboutguns.com/tag/self-defense-ex

    Guns have also been shown to save many more lives than are lost, by a factor of over 30: https://www.learnaboutguns.com/2008/07/22/gun-cont

  • JD

    Mr Bill Wilsen you sound very much like a spokesperson for the Brady Bunch or maybe a leftest liberal but no matter it is your opinion but yet a rather poor comparison between guns & cars I must say. I will comment with my opinion now. More guns means far less criminal assaults on legal gun bearing persons as well as many unarmed persons. I hope you never have to defend yourself against deadly force but if you do I hope a legally armed concealed carrying person is close by you so as to deter the perp. Would be an eye opener I bet. good day sir

  • ftwguy

    The article is half right. In addition they trained several 'students' but only showed three. I assume some of the other 'students' asked what the police expected them to do with the concealed paint ball gun. The real idiots were the two who decided to fight it out with paintball guns.

    One 'student' didn't pull his paintball gun but rolled up in a ball. He was shot in the back. From this we can assume everyone was dead without regard to having a gun. Having a gun did not make anyone less safe.

    Where the article is incredibly wrong is that people with a concealed weapons permit are trained. I have my CHL and can punch holes in paper all day long. That does not equal training at Thunder Ranch or GunSite. Knowing to move, training to look at the sites and not the target, training to pull a weapon smoothly takes time. I will get training before carrying.

    Now, change the scenario. You are in a classroom and someone is going from room to room shooting people. You hear the shooting, pull your concealed weapon from your ankle holster (not a quick draw location), get the other students out of the line of fire, and wait in ambush.

  • http://womenofcaliber.wordpress.com Kellene

    Yes, not only is the classroom setting a total set-up, the armed individual in the room is seated in the same place in all three scenarios – front and center. It was easy enough for the shooter to take them out knowing who “exhibit a” was. In real life, it wuoldn’t be so easy to know who was armed. http://tinyurl.com/cf4nsj

  • RivCoFireman

    I love how the shooter was a firearms instructor, but the student had a whole hour or two of training. I really loved the knee length t-shirt covering the gun. I wonder how hard it was for the shooter, knowing exactly where the armed student was (front and center in every example). It was really cool when the one student with range time and probably the only one that may have actually done well, got sabotaged by having two shooters. (ABC would have looked pretty dumb if anyone did well) Were the Columbine shooters firearms instructors? What about the Virginia Tech guy? Any recent incidents where the shooter(s) were firearms instructors or LE???

  • RivCoFireman

    I would have liked to see Barbara Walters be the shooter, and have someone with a CCW be in an undisclosed location in the room. (I guess that wouldn't bode well for ABC's anti-gun stance.) Instead of new gun control, why doesn't this country try to figure out criminal control? Sure, there are people with no prior criminal history that commit gun crimes. But that number is considerably lower than the repeat criminals (who by the way, don't follow gun control laws anyway). How about a law like; Three strikes, you're out (for good). Swift and sure execution (with a gun) and send the family a bill for the bullet. No more 25 year, tax payer draining, "Death Row". No more life in prison. Make room in the jails and prisons for the upcoming generation of hood rats and thugs.

  • https://www.learnaboutguns.com LearnAboutGuns.com


    Thanks for the comments.

    I must respectfully disagree when it comes to capital punishment. Simply put, capital punishment leads to the execution of innocent people while failing to have a deterrent effect upon criminals. It is also racist in its application. I'm (obviously) all for self defense, but the killing of a person who is tied down to a table is not self defense, but instead barbaric. The long version of my thoughts on the death penalty can be seen here: http://www.myrandomtangents.com/2008/06/30/my-tho

  • RivCoFireman

    Regardless of the end punishment, this country is too soft on it's criminals, and too restrictive of it's law abiding citizens.

  • https://www.learnaboutguns.com LearnAboutGuns.com


    We are certainly in agreement there! Time after time, a criminal commits a violent act, only to receive a very light sentence. After they are released, they go commit another violent crime. For example:

    Then guns are blamed, rather than the criminal who committed the crime, and the judge who let the criminal out to go commit other crimes.

  • http://www.examiner.com/examiner/x-9268-Seattle-Libertarian-Examiner~y2009m4d25-Where-have-all-the-j Gerbera

    There is a really good article that was written about the 20/20 program "If I only had a gun" in the Seattle Examiner


  • Bird of Paradise

    ABC news deserves to be sued for this lie these news agencies are nothing but lies and left-wing propeganda