What if everybody had a gun?

A variety of handguns sit on display at Hawkeye Downs in Cedar Rapids on Saturday, Jan. 9, 2016 during one of the largest gun shows in Eastern Iowa. (Andy Abeyta/The Gazette)
A variety of handguns sit on display at Hawkeye Downs in Cedar Rapids on Saturday, Jan. 9, 2016 during one of the largest gun shows in Eastern Iowa. (Andy Abeyta/The Gazette)

The Iowa Legislature is working on many interesting bills.

For instance, there is Senate File 25 — a “stand your ground” bill.

There is Senate Joint Resolution 2, which allows people to carry guns without permits.

There is Senate File 108, which calls for eliminating federal prohibitions on machine guns and sawed-off shotguns.

And there is Senate File 145, which wants to eliminate requirements for annual permits; it also calls for allowing permits from other states to be valid in Iowa. That includes the states, which have limited, if any, background checks.

What if these bills become laws? With lots of people running around with different guns, it would be impossible to distinguish good people with guns from bad people with guns. The results could be drastic.

Here is a scenario: I am a good person with a gun. I am in a shopping mall. All of the sudden shots are being fired. People are screaming and run around in panic. For me, the choice is obvious: I need to find the bad person with a gun.

My sawed-off shotgun is ready. So am I. And there I see him: A person with a machine gun. I yell, “Freeze!” He turns toward me; gun in hand. So, I stand my ground and shoot him. After all, I don’t know him, and I did not have time to ask him whether he is a bad person or a good person.


What if I do know him and I know that he is a good person? But good people have been known to turn bad. People who used to be good have done most mass killings in the U.S. So, I stand my ground and shoot him.

But what if I actually know that he is a good person? He doesn’t know me. What he sees is a person with a gun. I could yell that it’s OK, that I am a good person. But why should he believe me? So he will try to stand his ground and shoot me. Therefore, I have no choice. I have to stand my ground and shoot him.

Chances are there will be more than two people with guns in that place. So, we can safely multiply the number of people in this scenario by, say, twenty. Which means that many good people will shoot other good people. And the bad person can sit back and enjoy the show.

To those who think that this scenario is improbable and otherwise crazy, I have a question: Why?

With lots of people carrying guns distinguishing a good person from a bad person would be impossible. Therefore, the aforementioned bills threaten to transform public places in Iowa into free fire zones.

• Jozef Figa grew up in Poland, is a naturalized American citizen, and earned his Ph.D. in Sociology from the University of New Hampshire. He has lived and taught in Cedar Rapids since 1988, and serves on the board of Iowans for Gun Safety.



The recent shooting in Florida, like all past mass shootings, is tragic. I cannot begin to understand what parents feel, who lose a child, how they cope, or how they function after living through the worst day of their lives. I a ...

'Tommy's selling used cars, Nancy's fixing hair. Harvey runs a grocery store and Margaret doesn't care ...' I was sorting through files when I ran across an old newsletter from a high school classmate. The chatty missive mentione ...

Give us feedback

Have you found an error or omission in our reporting? Tell us here.

Do you have a story idea we should look into? Tell us here.