One of the gun industry’s main talking points is to divide the world up into “criminals” and “law-abiding gun owners,” and then suggest that the battle against gun violence is an epic war of good versus evil, and therefore the more guns we have in the hands of the “good guys,” the better. As you’re about to see, reality could not be more different.

Gun Crimes Committed By “Law Abiding Citizens”

Michael David Dunn was an otherwise “law abiding citizen,” the type of gun-toting enthusiast that comprises the NRA’s base. Having first fired a gun when he was three, he had owned firearms his entire life and was one of the first to apply for a concealed weapons permit once Florida passed more relaxed gun carry laws. And like many gun-toting citizens, he was just one argument away from blowing a fuse and committing murder.

As he pulled into a gas station one night, he pulled in next to a group of teenage kids who were in a car parked next to him. Irritated with “that thug music” the teens were playing on their car radio, he rolled down the window and screamed for them to turn it down. At first the driver obliged, but teens being teens, a boy sitting in the back seat unbuckled himself and turned it back up again. An argument ensued. That’s when Dunn, reaching across his dashboard to his glove compartment, retrieved his gun and yelled, “You’re not gonna talk to me like that!” Then he opened fire on the kids in the vehicle. Throwing the car in reverse, the teens tried to escape. Dunn got out of his Jetta and continued firing at the vehicle, two-fisting his gun.

The teens escaped to another parking lot. Unfortunately, one teen was shot dead in the process. Another had a bullet miss his head by half-an-inch. But in many ways everyone there that night got lucky. Not only is it astonishing that only one teen and no innocent bystanders were hit, but had one of Mr. Dunn’s stray bullets struck the wrong spot on the gas pumps that were directly in his line of fire, he, along with dozens of other completely innocent shoppers, would have been incinerated in a giant fireball. (Solotaroff, 2013; Wickham, 2012)

Mr. Dunn would later claim he acted in self-defense, and fought against murder charges under Florida’s stand-your-ground law. “They defied my orders,” Dunn told detectives. “What was I supposed to do if they wouldn’t listen?”

As he pulled into a gas station one night, he pulled in next to a group of teenage kids who were in a car parked next to him. Irritated with “that thug music” the teens were playing on their car radio, he rolled down the window and screamed for them to turn it down. At first the driver obliged, but teens being teens, a boy sitting in the back seat unbuckled himself and turned it back up again. An argument ensued. That’s when Dunn, reaching across his dashboard to his glove compartment, retrieved his gun and yelled, “You’re not gonna talk to me like that!” Then he opened fire on the kids in the vehicle. Throwing the car in reverse, the teens tried to escape. Dunn got out of his Jetta and continued firing at the vehicle, two-fisting his gun.

The teens escaped to another parking lot. Unfortunately, one teen was shot dead in the process. Another had a bullet miss his head by half-an-inch. But in many ways everyone there that night got lucky. Not only is it astonishing that only one teen and no innocent bystanders were hit, but had one of Mr. Dunn’s stray bullets struck the wrong spot on the gas pumps that were directly in his line of fire, he, along with dozens of other completely innocent shoppers, would have been incinerated in a giant fireball. (Solotaroff, 2013; Wickham, 2012)

Mr. Dunn would later claim he acted in self-defense, and fought against murder charges under Florida’s stand-your-ground law. “They defied my orders,” Dunn told detectives. “What was I supposed to do if they wouldn’t listen?”

A look at who commits gun crimes

Here’s the cold harsh reality of gun crime: very few incidents involve career criminals. Murder in America is seldom carried out by bank robbers or home invaders. Drug dealers and gang members certainly commit their fair share, but not because they’re targeting ordinary citizens. It’s because in the process of shooting at each other, their stray bullets end up in unintended targets. Sexual assault killings and predatory murders are rare, so they make up only a small portion of murders each year. The majority of murders and gun crimes – contrary to what the NRA would like you to believe – are committed by otherwise ordinary citizens. As fellow gun-owner Dan Baum states, gun crime in America is about “the tens of thousands of shootings every year by people who aren’t criminals until they pick up a gun.” (Baum , 2013)

Anger, fear and despair are what lead to most gun crimes, not criminality, and everyday gun owners are just as prone to these emotional shootings as anyone else. In Dacoma, Washington, 5 children ranging in ages from 7 to 16 were shot to death in their home by their father. The man did this because his wife was leaving him for another man. (ABC News Phoenix, 4-5-2009) A gun-toting mother in Florida used her weapon to murder her 4 children as an extreme form of discipline. Upset with the kids’ behavior, she took out her gun and started shooting. Three of the kids managed to run bleeding to a neighbor’s home and pleaded for help. But when their mother poked her head out the door and called them back home, they listened obediently. Once she got the kids inside the house, she shot them again to finish them off.

In just the first half of 2007 alone, murder-suicides caused 554 deaths, including 45 children under the age of 18. Firearms were used in nine out of ten cases. (Koch, 2-5-2009) It often doesn’t take much to bring on these horrific murders. A gun owner loses his or her temper over some minor issue, kills some people, then realizes what they’ve done and commits suicide rather than face the consequences. A gun owner in Kentucky killed his wife, his stepdaughter, and 3 of his neighbors with a shotgun before killing himself. The 47-year-old man, who was facing eviction over his hostile temper, had apparently become enraged because his wife didn’t cook his eggs the way he likes them, which led to the slaughter. (Eversley, 9-13-2010)

Stephen Martinez, 59, of Moss Point allegedly pulled a gun on his veterinarian because he had to wait too long to pick up his dog. (USA Today, 2-20-2012, 4A) Two teenagers in Iowa were shot because one of them apparently made a comment about pickles that the shooter didn’t like. (USA Today, 10-28-2015, p. 4A) Another gun owner killed 3 young Arab neighbors to settle a dispute over a parking spot in the Townhome where they lived.

A Cleveland firefighter complained to his neighbors after fireworks were keeping him up on the 4th of July. When they failed to keep things quiet, he got his gun and opened fire, killing 3 people. (Barone, 2009) In another case, a conflict broke out between two families over their children playing too loudly in the yard. This dispute escalated into a shooting. (Rust et al., 2017) Such scenarios seem almost comically absurd when printed on paper, but rage can often be brought on by rather trivial things, and gun owners do this a lot more than you might think.

For example, the number of workplace killings committed by angry customers has more than doubled in recent years as more people have been allowed to carry guns, even as overall homicides have declined slightly. In the 1997-98 statistical year, when gun carry laws were more strict, 60 homicides were committed by disgruntled customers and clients. In 2007-2008, the figure was as high as 133. (Fox & Levin, 2010) Overall, around 500 such cases occurred from 1997-2008, more than half of which took place in public buildings such as restaurants or retail stores, endangering anyone who happened to be there.

Often times the most enthusiastic gun owners hold other extremist views as well, and this can drive them toward reckless or criminal behavior. For example, On January 21, 2010, 24-year-old Fausto Cardenas was exercising his second amendment rights under Texas law when he entered the building looking for a private meeting with State Senator Dan Patrick and his staff, a republican who represents the Houston area. The Texas capital allows guns on the premises. But after his request was denied, the angry man exited the capital and fired his weapon. (Campoy, 2-8-2010) In another case, an ex-police officer made threatening gestures with his gun to express his displeasure toward a black female activist. (Wired, Nov. 20155, p.111)

A number of gun owners have shot at undocumented immigrants or assaulted them at gunpoint. (Reyes, 3-4-2011) In May 2009, there was an atrocity committed by a group of “minuteman” in Arizona – the gun-toting, America “defending” (at least in their own eyes), racist, anti-immigration enthusiasts. This group of self-righteous gun owners decided to conduct a home invasion against those they deemed the “enemy,” killing a 9-year-old girl and her father and seriously wounding the girls’ mother. The group had assumed this Hispanic family to be drug dealers (they were not) and were planning to rob them, using the drug money to fund their anti-immigrant operations. According to court documents, the little girl begged for her life before being shot to death execution style. (Bacon, 2-15-2011)

This is the reality of murder in America. It’s not career criminals who are threatening the public or your family. It’s otherwise law-abiding citizens who commit most gun murders, either because they’re angry or distraught or because they feel a need to defend their honor or their personal beliefs. There is no neat and tidy separation between criminals and gun owners; the gun criminals come from within the ranks of gun owners.