As US lawmakers are proposing nixing gun-free zones and arming teachers and guards with firearms to halt potential school massacres, one pro-gun group has unwittingly provided a case in point against fighting guns with more guns.
The Truth About Guns, a weapons rights group based in Texas, recently recreated a set mirroring the offices of French satirical magazine Charlie Hebdo, where masked gunmen last week killed 12 people. The group then reenacted the massacre with paintball rounds to determine whether throwing an "armed defender" into the mix could have saved lives.
In nearly every single setup, the armed civilian — portrayed by 12 different local volunteers — died. The only exception was in the scenario where the team member with the gun immediately fled the scene.
The group ran the exercise in Plano, Texas and posted footage from a camera mounted to one of the attacker's rifles to YouTube on Thursday. The Truth About Guns did not immediately respond to VICE News' request for comment on the experiment Friday.
The results also showed some minor victories — seven out of nine armed civilians got hits on at least one of two of the faux terrorists, but overall, the "good guy with a gun" lost out every time he or she confronted the gunmen.
The group deemphasized the outcome, saying that they had placed the defenders in a "no win scenario" by using two "extremely well-trained individuals" to play the attackers.
"Two heavily armed individuals against one person with 18 rounds is definitely not a fair fight, especially when the attackers do this as a job every day and are highly trained," group member Nick Leghorn, a former Department of Homeland Security contractor, wrote in a analysis posted to their website.
"The fact remains that a single armed defender — even one with very little training — is able to successfully kill and stop at least one terrorist," he said.
The group also cautioned gun control activists against using the data as proof that armed defenders are useless, saying it had previously proven that in some cases, civilians with guns are effective at "stopping similarly armed attackers."
"Even with those final results, there's no way to say that they are applicable in any manner to real life," said Leghorn. "The sample size for this test was far too small and the methodology far too rushed to draw any definite conclusions one way or another."
Screenshot from The Truth About Guns website
Ladd Everitt with the Stop Gun Violence Coalition told VICE News that "stunts" like this rarely work in the favor of the so-called "armed defender."
"If more guns equaled safer, then America would be the safest nation on earth," Everitt said. "But in reality, the more guns you have, the more gun violence you have. That's not even a point pro-gun activists deny."
"This stunt didn't go the way they wanted. Groups like this want people to focus on mass casualty incidents, but those incidents — even in the US — are rare compared to the daily reality of gun deaths involving suicides, accidental shootings, and crimes of passion," he said.
"In 78 percent of homicide cases, the parties know each other, it's not a mass intruder jumping through your window or terrorist coming through your door," Everitt added.
Started in 2010 by former journalist Robert Farago, The Truth About Guns is designed to "explore the ethics, morality, business, politics, culture, technology, practice, strategy, dangers and fun of guns," according to a statement on the group's website. With a staff of five writers and two editors, the group publishes a site that in 2013 was approaching nearly $1 million in revenue.
The group has run similar simulations of school shootings in the past to determine whether armed teachers or guards could stop an active shooter. It also aims to provide "facts" on weapons and debunk gun myths on its website.
Follow Liz Fields on Twitter: @lianzifields