Stephen Willeford’s heroic actions last Sunday saved many lives
at the First Baptist Church in Sutherland Springs, Texas. The killer,
Devin Kelley, was shooting the wounded when Willeford showed up with a
rifle. Willeford’s quick actions forced Kelley to stop his attack,
presumably saving the lives of the twenty wounded and possibly many
The press derided President Trump for
saying that Willeford saved many lives with his gun, and that stricter
gun control regulations would have only made things worse.
only too bad that someone with a concealed handgun permit wasn’t already
at the church. We may never have heard of the shooting — national news
stories are virtually never done on permit holders stopping mass public
An article at Fox News
this past week mentions four such cases. It talks about a 1997
shooting at a high school in Pearl, Mississippi; a 2007 church attack in
Colorado Springs; and a Chicago Uber driver who in 2015 shot and
wounded a man who opened fire on a crowd. The most recent case was a
2017 church shooting in Antioch, Tennessee. But those cases just skim
A 2014 FBI report
claims that only once between 2000 and 2013 did a concealed handgun
permit holder stop a public shooting (they claimed to look at all cases
where guns were fired in public that weren’t part of a gang fight or
some other crime). This single case occurred in Winnemucca, Nevada in
May 2008, when a customer with a permit fatally shot an attacker who had
just killed two people. They didn’t even include the 2007 church
shooting in Colorado Springs, where a killer had already taken two lives
at the church before being stopped by a permit holder.
A 2014 FBI report claims that only
once between 2000 and 2013 did a concealed handgun permit holder stop a
public shooting. This false claim just shows how politicized the FBI
became under the Obama administration.
This false claim just shows how politicized
the FBI became under the Obama administration. Many times, police,
sheriffs, and prosecutors have gone on the record and credited permit
holders with saving many lives. These attacks didn’t get national news
attention, but they would have been on front pages everywhere if a
permit holder hadn’t intervened.
There are countless examples
of people using guns in self-defense at their homes or workplaces. But
I want to focus on a much narrower set of cases where permit holders
stopped public shootings. Here are 10 additional recent cases.
Arlington, Texas, May 3, 2017: A police spokesman stated that the
concealed handgun permit holder “prevented further loss of life.” A
Dallas Morning News headline read: “‘Hero’ stopped mass murder by crazed
bar patron who was armed to the teeth, police say.”
South Carolina, June 30, 2016: Just a couple of weeks after the Orlando
massacre, 32-year-old Jody Ray Thompson opened fire on another
nightclub. Fortunately, permitted concealed handguns were allowed in
South Carolina bars. Thompson was able to shoot three people before the
permit holder fired back and wounded Thompson in the leg. Fox 5 in
Atlanta reports: “At least one South Carolina sheriff are crediting a
man with a concealed carry permit with preventing further violence at a
nightclub this past Sunday.”
-- Winton, Ohio, July 26, 2015: A man
started shooting at four people who were walking outside on a summer’s
evening. Fortunately, a concealed handgun permit holder fired at the
attacker, giving the four people a chance to escape into their home.
Conyers, Georgia, May 31, 2015: A man killed two people at a liquor
store and continued shooting at others until a permit holder ran inside
and exchanged fire. The killer then fled the store. “I believe that if
Mr. Scott did not return fire at the suspect then more of those
customers would have [been] hit by a gun,” said Rockdale County Sheriff
Eric Levett. “So in my opinion he saved other lives in that store.”
New Holland, South Carolina, May 5, 2015: New Holland Fire Department
volunteers were hosting a children’s day event with ice cream and fire
truck rides, when a man started shooting. Fortunately, two firemen were
permit holders and were able to stop the attack.
Pennsylvania, March 22, 2015: A 40-year-old man started shooting at
people in a barber shop. A permit holder who heard the gunfire ran
inside and shot the attacker. “The person who responded was a legal gun
permit carrier. He responded and I guess he saved a lot of people in
there,” said Philadelphia Police Captain Frank Llewellyn.
Darby, Pennsylvania, July 24, 2014: Convicted felon Richard Plotts
killed a caseworker at Mercy Fitzgerald Hospital and started shooting at
Dr. Lee Silverman. Fortunately, the doctor had his own gun and returned
fire, critically wounding Plotts, who still had 39 bullets on him.
“Without a doubt, I believe the doctor saved lives,” said Yeadon police
chief Donald Molineux.
-- Chicago, Illinois, July 7, 2014: Gang
members started firing at four people who had just left a party. The
attack started because one of the four people removed a cup of liquor
that had been placed on top of her vehicle. Luckily, one of the four
people — a military member — had a permitted concealed handgun and was
able to wound the primary attacker.
-- Portland, Oregon, January
11, 2014: Convicted criminal Thomas Eliot Hjelmeland was ejected from a
nightclub but returned 30 minutes later wearing a mask and carrying a
gun. He shot the bouncer who had ejected him, and shot at others. Two
others were wounded, and Hjelmeland was shooting all around the club. A
concealed handgun permit holder who worked at the nightclub then fatally
And here are just two more cases from 2000 to
2013 — the same period that the FBI claims only had one instance of a
permit holder stopping a public shooting. Again, law enforcement say
that permit holders saved lives in both of these cases.
Plymouth, Pennsylvania, September 9, 2012: William Allabaugh shot at
people as he walked down the street in Plymouth, Pennsylvania. He
wounded one and killed another. Permit holder Mark Ktytor fatally shot
Allabaugh. “Mr. [Ktytor] then acted, taking him [Allabaugh] down. We
believe that it could have been much worse that night,” said Luzerne
County Assistant District Attorney Jarrett Ferentino.
Spartanburg, South Carolina, March 2012: Jesse Gates kicked open a door
to a church and pointed a shotgun at the pastor and congregation.
Parishioner Aaron Guyton, a concealed weapons permit holder, got the
drop on Gates and held him at gunpoint. Sheriff Chuck Wright called
Aaron and others at the church “everyday heroes.”
haven't just stopped public shootings. They have stopped everything
from public knife attacks to vehicle attacks.
I haven't found a
single case where gun control advocates' fears were borne out by the
facts. In not one of these cases did a permit holder accidentally shoot
a bystander, or a police officer accidentally harm a permit holder.
There are many more
of these cases. Imagine how different the gun control debate would be
if some of these heroic permit holders got national coverage. But even
the liquor store shooting in Conyers, Georgia couldn’t get national
coverage, despite being caught on video.
The more you learn about these cases, the more you appreciate that mass public shooters have good reason to keep attacking gun-free zones.
These killers might be crazy, but they aren’t stupid. They realize
that the longer it takes for a good guy to arrive with a gun, the more
people they can kill.
John R. Lott, Jr. is a columnist for FoxNews.com.
He is an economist and was formerly chief economist at the United
States Sentencing Commission. Lott is also a leading expert on guns and
op-eds on that issue are done in conjunction with the Crime Prevention Research Center. He is the author of nine books including "More Guns, Less Crime." His latest book is "The War on Guns: Arming Yourself Against Gun Control Lies (August 1, 2016). Follow him on Twitter@johnrlottjr.