After finding holes in national gun statistics in the wake of Sandy Hook, Mark Bryant, who has been shooting guns since he was five, decided to keep track himself. Since 2014, he’s recorded more than 100,000 incidents
The “good guy with a gun”. He’s armed with a concealed-carry permit at home and a loaded pistol at his side. To hear fervent gun rights advocates tell it, he uses his gun to defuse tense, violent situations and keep those around him safe all the time.
It’s a storyline reinforced by groups such as the National Rifle Association, whose vocal leader Wayne LaPierre has perpetuated the mantra: “The only way to stop a bad guy with a gun is a good guy with a gun.”
But if there’s an adversary the good guy with a gun isn’t on the lookout for, it’s Mark Bryant. A native of Harlan County, Kentucky, Bryant stands 6ft 1in with long hair and a bushy white beard. He’s an avid shooter, a former NRA member who likes to destress at the local gun range by “killing paper”, as he puts it.
Bryant collects handguns. Revolvers, mostly, but the occasional pistol as well, such as the one he used to pass his test to get a concealed-carry permit. He also collects gun violence data. From his home office in Lexington, Kentucky, Bryant has developed what is by some measures the most comprehensive database of recent gun deaths and injuries in America.
More than 13,000 people were shot and killed last year alone, with twice as many injured, according to the Gun Violence Archive, the not-for-profit group Bryant founded. Since 2014, Bryant’s team has recorded more than 100,000 incidents, including those where a gun is used in public and no one is hurt. Instances of “defensive gun use” – ie a good guy with a gun who made a difference – accounted for less than 3%.