Count me as among the "Southern radicals" who support Americans' constitutional right to own weapons for self-protection, hunting or recreation. The sustained uproar over guns in the past two decades hasn't changed that opinion any more than would blaming my fork for gaining weight, or my car for a multiple-fatality interstate pileup.
Being a responsible gun owner, I firmly believe our ability to bear arms is ingrained by the Second Amendment outlined in the Constitution's Bill of Rights.
I also readily acknowledge there are legitimate circumstances rooted in common sense where people should not have firearms. For instance, should the mentally and emotionally ill, violent criminals, domestic abusers or children have unrestricted access to such deadly force?
Our intellect and sensibilities tell us of course not. We certainly have witnessed plenty of carnage that results not from the weapons in and of themselves, but from human rage, twisted minds or those oblivious to the dangers they present.
These crimes sadly have become predictable nowadays. The news is full of stories about yet another unstable person using a firearm (whether taken from a parent's closet, purchased, traded or inherited) to take innocent lives. The news is full of these tragic cases.
It has led me to believe the most effective way to stop a bad person with a gun in time to save lives is a good person with his or her own weapon as a defense. And in that regard, I believe every responsible and trained person should acquire a concealed carry license. I earned my own five years back and hope I never have to use it.
Along these lines, Amy Swearer, a senior legal policy analyst with the Meese Center for Legal and Judicial Studies at The Heritage Foundation, a conservative think tank, has compiled a list for its journalism website, The Daily Signal.
It lists reported instances throughout December 2019 where a responsible citizen with a firearm proved instrumental in stopping carnage.
It is the kind of revealing article many of us wouldn't expect to find anywhere other than a source of conservative-oriented news. For me, it only adds credibility to the argument that good people with a firearm are by far the most effective way to stop bad ones from doing harm with a gun. I realize it sounds "Wild West," but unfortunately it's what our society has become today.
Swearer reports that the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention concluded almost all major studies on defensive gun use have found Americans use firearms defensively between 500,000 and 3 million times every year. "The vast majority of these defensive gun uses receive little or no media attention," she writes.
And 2019 ended with numerous reported examples of citizens across America using their legitimately held firearms to successfully defend themselves and others.
For instance, Swearer writes that on Dec. 4 in Moore, Okla., "a concealed-carry permit holder helped bring an end to a chaotic few minutes at a Best Buy electronics store. It started when three men ran out of the store with thousands of dollars of stolen merchandise.
"An employee was able to tackle one of the men in the parking lot, but the other two got into their car. They then appeared to drive the car straight toward the employee with the intent of hitting him, but missed. When they reversed the car and tried again to run over the employee, the concealed-carry permit holder placed himself between the car and the employee.
"The permit holder then drew his firearm and pointed it at the driver, causing him to stop the attack and drive away. Arrest warrants were issued for the suspects."
Two days later on Dec. 6 in Amarillo, Texas, Swearer writes, "when two would-be robbers entered a convenience store and threatened the store employee with a shotgun, the employee drew his own weapon and shot the robbers in self-defense. One of the suspects was killed and the second was injured, but the employee was not harmed."
On Dec. 8, in Bloomer Township, Mich., "a homeowner was attempting to sell another man a dog when the man became confrontational, pulled out a gun, and fired several shots at the homeowner. The homeowner retrieved a rifle from inside the house and returned fire, causing the man to flee in his vehicle with the homeowner's dog. State troopers later took the man into custody after a traffic pursuit."
In Memphis on Dec. 13, "a University of Memphis student living in off-campus housing used his lawfully possessed firearm to shoot and wound a man breaking into the apartment."
Five days later in Philadelphia, Swearer writes, "an armed man tried to rob a FedEx driver who had just dropped off a package but was instead shot and killed by the driver, who drew his own firearm in self-defense."
In Fresno, Calif., on Dec. 20, "three masked men, at least one of who was armed with a handgun, entered a smoke shop and held the clerk at gunpoint as they stole cash and merchandise. The store owner retrieved his own legally possessed gun and, after being fired upon, returned fire in defense of himself and the clerk, killing two of the robbers while sending the third fleeing.
"Police suspect the three robbers were involved in at least one other recent store robbery," Swearer reports. "Unfortunately, it appears the store owner still has ample reason to keep himself armed--the robbers who died belonged to a street gang that has since left vulgar graffiti on the store, threatening retaliation against the owner for having the audacity to defend himself.
In Houston on Dec. 23, three home intruders--one armed with a handgun--burst into a house, reports Swearer. "The 19-year-old homeowner used his shotgun to defend himself and his roommate. Although the homeowner was seriously injured in the exchange of gunfire, he was able to shoot and kill all three intruders," leaving the roommate unharmed.
On Christmas Eve in Pittsburgh, "an Uber driver shot and wounded a passenger in self-defense after the passenger and three others attacked him. All four passengers were later arrested by police, who said they will be charged with robbery."
In Lansing, Mich., on Dec. 27, an assailant began shooting at people leaving a restaurant. One concealed-carry permit holder "returned fire," writes Swearer, "causing the assailant to flee. No one was injured and police are trying to track down the assailant."
On Dec. 29 in Las Vegas, "a woman shot and killed a home intruder in self-defense. Police say the intruder lurked near her house for hours, looking for the opportunity to break in. Neighbors were shocked by the home invasion, but they applauded the woman, with one man saying, 'I hope any would-be crime breakers [sic] learn their lesson that, yeah, people are scared when you break into their house, but they are also prepared.'"
And in White Settlement, Texas, on Dec. 29, Swearer writes, "as congregants of West Freeway Church of Christ were finishing communion during its Sunday worship service, a mentally disturbed man with a long history of violence opened fire with a shotgun on the more than 200 people inside the church.
"Jack Wilson, a firearms instructor and member of the church's volunteer security team, immediately drew his concealed handgun and fired a single round that killed the gunman, ending the threat just six seconds after it began. The gunman was able to kill two congregants, but Wilson's heroic actions saved many lives. Incredibly, at least five other congregants drew their concealed firearms during the interaction, ready to defend their fellow churchgoers."
The lessons from these year-end examples of armed citizens protecting their lives (and those nearby), Swearer writes, are apparent. While the Second Amendment protects the rights of all law-abiding citizens--rather than only those who meet certain training to ensure safety and responsibility--every gun owner should receive adequate training.
In today's deeply troubled society, none of us knows when we may be suddenly thrust into the moment of a life-or-death decision.
Now go out into the world and treat everyone you meet exactly like you want them to treat you.
Mike Masterson is a longtime Arkansas journalist, was editor of three Arkansas dailies and headed the master's journalism program at Ohio State University. Email him at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Editorial on 02/08/2020