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Slate runs a piece today on the efficacy of armed citizens in stopping mass shooters. Their conclusion is that only armed, off-duty police officers can truly make a difference.
A Republican congressman responded to the Newtown shootings by calling for more citizens to be armed. “I wish to God she had had an M-4 in her office,” Rep. Louie Gohmert of Texas said on Fox News on Sunday, referring to the Sandy Hook principal who was killed while lunging at shooter Adam Lanza. Have armed citizens ever successfully intervened to bring down a potential mass shooter?
Yes, but it’s rare. Often it’s not clear whether brave actions on the part of armed civilians prevented further death. In 1997, assistant principal Joel Myrick used a handgun to stop fleeing school shooter Luke Woodham.* Woodham, who had killed his mother that morning, murdered two students and wounded several others before Myrick, an Army reservist, rammed his car into Woodham’s and then forced him to the ground. At a 1998 shooting at a middle-school dance in a Pennsylvania restaurant, which left one teacher dead and three other people wounded, restaurant owner James Strand took out a shotgun and chased down the teen shooter before persuading him to give up his weapon. After 51-year-old teacher Carl Brown opened fire on a Miami welding shop in 1982, killing eight, a man nearby grabbed his gun, jumped in his car, and chased Brown as he fled on his bicycle. The pursuer fired what he said was a warning shot, striking Brown in the back, and then ran Brown into a light pole. (Dade County State’s Attorney Janet Reno concluded that the pursuer had used “justifiable force.”) Not all interventions are successful: Other armed civilians who have attempted to stop shootings have been left severely injured or have been killed.
Their conclusion, however, is based on a flawed premise. They say that most people who were carrying a weapon for protection did not help stop crimes. The reason, however, is that the majority of people are not armed because there are laws that restrict it. Thus they are not stopping crimes because they are in the vast minority.