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Con Men Hate Guns

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"He who robs with gun in hand,
Gets twenty to life, in the can"
The Fonz, Happy Days

In various media, con artists and other crooks who pride themselves on their wits tend to dislike using guns. Usually, they also dislike carrying them; sometimes, they don't want to be anywhere near them.

It might be simple fear because guns are dangerous weapons and the conman might very easily prove to be far less proficient in a gunfight than his supposed victim. It may be pragmatism, as guns are often taken as evidence of intent to kill and will usually get you a longer prison sentence if you get caught, as well as increasing the chance that someone will draw a gun on you in return. The conman might be based in a setting where civilian ownership of guns is strictly regulated, if not completely banned, therefore obtaining illegal guns is even more difficult (Japan, Australia, and the UK, for instance). Given that conmen are frequently serial offenders, it may be illegal for them to just own one on account of their existing criminal record.

On the other hand, it is quite often a point of pride — guns are beneath them. After all, they aren't called the con artist for nothing — a truly good conman makes people do his bidding with cunning. Just threatening to shoot somebody like a common thug is crude and inelegant, if not outright cheating.

From an out-of-universe standpoint, it's usually because the easiest way to turn a Lovable Rogue, The Family for the Whole Family, or The Pirates Who Don't Do Anything into terrifying, evil criminals is to show them terrorizing people with guns.

If guns have not been invented, or otherwise do not exist in the setting, then sometimes the con artist will have a dislike for swords, or knives, or whatever else is the most prolific/dangerous personal weapon.

Contrast Evil Is Not Pacifist. See also Firearms Are Cowardly.


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    Anime & Manga 
  • The eponymous all-female team of Cat's Eye never use firearms to commit heists.
  • Aiber in Death Note. His profile notes that he dislikes violence, and he refuses to take a gun when preparing to ambush Higuchi. He ultimately gets tossed a gun during the crisis due to extreme circumstances, and his internal monologue gripes that he hates guns.
  • Lupin III takes after his grandfather (in literature) by also being such a Consummate Professional that the gun is his last resort. The difference with his ancestor is that the Third still considers it a tool to be used. He also specifically recruited Jigen to his team because he is explicitly one of the — if not the — greatest gunslingers alive.

    Films — Live-Action 
  • The Asphalt Jungle: Doc says, "I haven't carried a gun since my twenties. You carry a gun, you shoot a policeman. Bad rap, hard to beat."
  • Entrapment: After stealing her Pillow Pistol, Gentleman Thief Mac tells Gin his number one rule is to not rely on guns.
    Mac: Rule number one: Never carry a gun. If you carry a gun you may be tempted to use it.
  • In The Flim Flam Man, the rather elderly conman Mordecai Jones (George C. Scott) never uses force and surrenders peacefully when a gun is pulled on him.
  • Done for multiple reasons in The Italian Job (2003). Charlie and company make it a point of pride to not use guns, but we also get the impression that they're not very violent people in general, and wouldn't do very well if it came to a shoot-out.
  • Layer Cake: The main character, a career criminal, expresses distaste for his comrade's gun collection, then immediately picks one up and starts fawning over it.
  • Roy in Matchstick Men keeps a gun next to his money, but when someone tries to rob him, he doesn't want to use it.
  • Money Movers: Not a con man, but undercover insurance investigator Leo hates guns and, when forced to carry one for his cover, takes the shells out and sticks them in his pocket. This saves his life when one of the robbers grabs his gun and tries to shoot him with it.
  • None of the cons in the Ocean's Eleven films like to use guns. The only time they do carry guns is when they're impersonating a SWAT team, and they use blank shots. In the third film, Linus shows professional disdain when a self-proclaimed master thief robs him with a gun. After taking his loot, the master thief reveals that the gun was empty.
  • The titular Olsen-banden and their Norwegian and Swedish counterparts consistently avoid carrying guns, as their plans primarily rely on cunning and trickery, and allows them to maintain a Lovable Rogue image. Their less moral antagonists sometimes carry guns, or employ thugs that do. This is at one point lampshaded by Dr Busé (who's a newcomer to the Swedish group) who asks why they, being criminals, don't have guns. (Vanheden responds by showing how far cunning and trickery can actually get you.)
  • Captain Jack Sparrow of the Pirates of the Caribbean franchise will usually go out of his way to avoid killing or violence, preferring to sneak and con his way out of situations; as noted by Barbossa in the first film: "Now you see, Jack, that's exactly the attitude that lost you the Pearl. People are easier to search when they're dead." The only time he shoots somebody is when he uses the pistol he was marooned with to shoot Barbarossa at the end of the first film.
  • Hooker in The Sting states at one point that he'd rather kill Lonnigan for murdering his friend and mentor, Luther but doesn't have the skills necessary to do so so he's settling for swindling him out of a huge amount of money instead. Gondorff, meanwhile, actually does carry a gun at one point for use in another part of the con, when he "shoots" Hooker with it (using a blank) so that Lonnegan will think they're both dead and not come looking for further revenge.
  • Tazza: The High Rollers: The Card Sharp gang fleece a mark, and among the stuff they take from him is a valuable collector's item revolver. Mr. Pyeong, The Mentor, promptly throws the revolver in a pond, telling the others that card sharps such as themselves should not be messing around with guns. Later, it's revealed that Madame Jeong (the gang's Honey Pot) retrieved the gun, when she pulls it on Agui, showing that she is more bloodthirsty than her mentor.

  • Arsène Lupin, in Maurice Leblanc's short stories. Very much due to the Consummate Professional aspect of the trope. He dislikes anyone risking their lives (despite putting his own on the line), whether the person taking the risk is one of his accomplices or his victim. Defying his rules can earn you a meeting with the hangman, as he withdraws his protection from the cops.
  • In Lawrence Block's Bernie Rhodenbarr series, Bernie, a burglar and conman, fears guns, as he tends to picture them being used on him.
  • Mick Connelly in Betrayal in Death is a con man, pickpocket, and various other thievery-related professions. He expresses a disdain for the guns in Roarke's private weapon collection, instead perusing the knives.
  • Discworld
    • Moist Von Lipwig in Going Postal dislikes swords because they "raise the stakes too high". In Making Money, he buys a cosh because life's too dull and he wants to raise the stakes a little, and immediately wonders what he was thinking. Vetinari also calls him on this, marveling what Lipwig "who has never struck a man" would want a weapon for. In Going Postal, Lipwig himself takes some pride in his non-violent nature and is offended when his golem parole officer calculates he has "killed 2.338 people" by ruining people and hastening the deaths of many by just a bit. At the end of Making Money, Vetinari experimentally shows that Lipwig dislikes weapons so much he is more nervous when holding a sword than when being threatened by one.
    • Kieth, the Stupid-Looking Kid from The Amazing Maurice and His Educated Rodents, never carries any weapons or even throws a punch. Granted, it's easy to get by without a weapon if you have a Clan of intelligent rats traveling with you who aren't averse to fighting.
    • On another note, the Thieves' Guild prefers to incapacitate or frighten its victims into handing over their possessions rather than killing them outright, because that would intrude on another Guild's territory (the Assassins' Guild). Reducing the number of people there are to rob in a city is also bad for their business. Of course, they are free to punish those who steal without a license however they wish. Thieves breaking demarcation by killing people earn a short word from an Assassin: "Goodbye."
  • Jack from the Dragonback books, like his uncle, never carries any lethal weapon. After all, they can't accuse you of assault with a deadly weapon if you don't own one. He does, however, enthusiastically embrace nonlethal weapons such as tanglers.
  • The villainous triumvirate in the Hand of Thrawn duology has one character who never makes threats or so much as touches a blaster, and that's the professional con man/actor. Then again, he usually gets on okay with the strategist, who is a clone of a Red Guard and is much more wiling to try violence. The politician once tries pulling a blaster on the strategist and is disarmed quickly enough that the strategist didn't even take the threat seriously; the con man probably remembered that the strategist is ridiculously good at combat.
  • Raffles: Bunny, normally unarmed during robberies, plays the trope straight, but Raffles himself is an aversion and carries a revolver just in case.
  • James "Slippery Jim" diGriz, the main character and con man from The Stainless Steel Rat series is a variant of this. He sometimes carries a .75 caliber recoilless handgun with explosive rounds; however he hates killing, only using the gun to Shoot Out the Lock and related things. He also carries it in the shower.
  • In Time Scout, Skeeter Jackson doesn't hate guns so much as he'd prefer a weapon he's more familiar with, like a Mongolian recurve bow.

    Live-Action TV 
  • Michael of Burn Notice, a former spy turned MacGyver-for-Hire, doesn't particularly like guns (but is willing to use them when necessary, which of course they increasingly are as the series progresses).
    Michael : Guns make you dumb. Duct tape makes you smart.
  • In an episode of The Famous Jett Jackson, the executives decide that Jett's character in the Show Within a Show Silverstone should have a gun, and, as a result, so should his enemies. The actor portraying the villain The Rat quits in protest, saying that it wasn't in character for the cunning Rat to use guns. (The execs relent and he's back by the end of the episode, though.)
  • Leverage
    • Eliot doesn't like guns, but explains it's only because they're too imprecise (this from the guy who could probably kill you in various unpleasant ways with a toothpick or something). His reasons vary from episode to episode, but the real reason he doesn't like them is that they take him back to a part of him he doesn't like. However in “The Big Bang Job” he does state that not liking guns doesn't mean he can't use them. He is even able to put most action movie heroes to shame with his over-the-top shootout.
    • The rest of the team is a more straight example, besides the pilot, none of them wield guns for the entirety of the series. However in the pilot, both Parker and Hardison bring guns to the meeting when they had been cheated and in their flashback Sophie and Nate shot each other.
    • In one season finale, a really ticked off Nate practices using his father's gun, intending to shoot the man who killed his father. Everyone else on the team tries to persuade him not to. He doesn't end up shooting him, choosing to instead turn his partner against him and have them kill each other.
  • In The Mentalist, titular mentalist Patrick Jane is well versed in con games and general messing with people, and makes his dislike for guns apparent on several occasions — contrasting him with the team of hard-boiled state agents he assists. When two CBI teams have an unexpected meeting and reflexively draw their guns on one another, Jane yells at them to put them away, exclaiming "Cowboys!" in alarm and exasperation. He also immediately drops the shotgun he used to kill Dirty Cop Tanner, who was about to attack Lisbon.
  • Scoundrels (2010): Wolf might be a criminal, but he's a criminal with a Code of Honour: "No violence and no drugs". He also made sure this applied to the entire West family, who mostly stick to petty cons and thievery.
  • Sneaky Pete: hate is probably a strong word, but the only time Marius uses a gun is as part of a con; he clearly has no intention of using it. Also, he is shown not to really want to use guns, despite often having his life or the life of people close to him in danger.
  • White Collar: Neal Caffrey is usually able to talk his way out of a situation and never has to use one. He does prove in one episode that not liking guns doesn't mean he can't be a very good shot with one, though.
  • Breaking Bad: Amoral Attorney Saul Goodman has no fighting skill whatsoever and considers the occasional beating an "occupational hazard", but still prefers to hire an unarmed bodyguard rather than carry a gun. As Walter White's meth operations become more dangerous he starts wearing a bulletproof vest. When he does eventually acquire a gun it appears to be the smallest one he could find, and he still can't bring himself to keep it on his person, preferring to keep it (rather uselessly) in a desk drawer.
  • Better Call Saul: The Breaking Bad Spin-Off delves into Jimmy McGill's earlier life as a conman and his struggles as an unsuccessful lawyer before he adopts the "Saul Goodman" persona. As he gets involved with increasingly unsavoury clients he is frequently threatened with violence but still refuses to carry a gun. The one time he does handle a gun is when he is ambushed by cartel gunmen and picks up a dead man's gun to use in self defence, but he clearly has no idea what to do with it and becomes visibly freaked out before tossing it away in horror.

    Tabletop Games 

    Video Games 
  • In Tales from the Borderlands, it's possible (depending on the player's choice) for Fiona to have this opinion. Particularly impressive if so, given that that the game takes place on a Death World. However, this is dropped in later episodes where she clearly has no problem using guns and is even stated to be a better shot than her sister Sasha.

    Visual Novels 
  • Arsène Lupin in Code:Realize dislikes violence in general, but he's particularly dismissive of Van Helsing's tendency to shoot problems until they go away. When it does become necessary to use force, Lupin prefers to go into battle with his walking stick and a selection of mostly harmless pyrotechnic devices.

    Web Comics 

    Western Animation 
  • Stan Pines in ‘’Gravity Falls’’. Implied/parodied when Mabel asks if there’s a ladder in the house to get Stan over his fear of heights Stan replies by saying: “Studies show that keeping a ladder in the house is more dangerous than keeping a loaded gun. That’s why I have own ten guns! In case some maniac tries to sneak in a ladder.”
  • Walter Hardy in The Spectacular Spider-Man typically doesn't carry a gun. The key word is typically — as he gets older and slower, he resorts to carrying one... and killed Ben Parker with it. He is genuinely remorseful, and believes he deserves to stay in prison, even turning down the chance to escape in "Opening Night".
  • Heartily Averted by Swindle of Transformers: Animated. Though a cheerfully conniving con artist and shameless shill, he just loves gunrunning and is only too happy to sell all manner of dangerous implements... and graft more than a few of them to himself. The obvious Arm Cannon is only the start of all the weapons and gadgets he has at his disposal, and he's quite willing to use them on anyone who threatens his profit margins.

    Real Life 
  • Some criminals avoid guns because the prison sentence for possessing a gun during a crime is much greater than without one. Other times it's simply because physical confrontations aren't a part of their plans.
    • There's also a safety aspect to not carrying a gun, in that if someone who's armed (like the police, for instance) catches you committing a crime and sees that you're armed they're far more likely to just shoot and ask questions later.
    • A lot of robbers also rationalize their crimes as robbing big businesses rather than the working people, thus they don't want to risk hurting the employees of the place they're robbing.
  • Some retired pickpockets have told reporters that any thug can threaten someone with a gun, but it takes skill to steal someone's wallet and not have them realize it's gone.