Can a good guy with a gun stop a bad guy with a gun?
August 8th, 2019, a terrifying scene played out in a Walmart in Springfield, Mo. A man pulled up to the store, donned body armor, and armed himself with a rifle, a handgun, and more than 100 rounds of ammunition. He walked into the store and began recording himself on his phone as he pushed a shopping cart. The moment screamed active shooter.
Panicked customers fled, the police sped toward the store, but by the time they arrived, the crisis had passed. A private citizen had pulled his firearm and was holding the man at gunpoint. That thing that “never happens” just happened again. A good guy with a gun averted a potential crisis.
We don’t know the intentions of the heavily armed man but there are other recent incidents where we do know the criminal intent – where the shooting had already started – and men with guns intervened to save lives. But we tend to forget the attacks that are frustrated or foiled, and we always seem to forget the heroes that saved lives.
For example, I bet you can recall the names of at least four or five mass shooters. But do you know the name Bryan Whittle? What about Juan Carlos Nazario? These two men heard the popping of gun shots at a popular restaurant in Oklahoma, grabbed their weapons, moved towards the danger, engaged the shooter, and killed him.
Have we forgotten Jonathan Morales, the armed citizen who engaged the synagogue shooter in California? I’d imagine that not even the most dedicated gun rights supporter can remember the non-massacre at Schlenker Automotive in Florida. There, the shooter killed one man and wounded another before Don Smith and Nathan Taylor returned fire, wounded the shooter, and held him at gunpoint until police arrived.
The FBI has recorded at least 19 times in a five year span between 2014 and 2019 where active shooters were stopped by citizens. Seven times armed citizens stopped the shooting entirely. Twice, an armed citizen engaged the shooter and caused him to flee. Citizens stop active shooters less often than police do, but it’s crystal clear that armed citizens have saved lives. They’ve stopped massacres that would have furthered polarized American politics.
No person knows until the fateful moment comes, if you’ll respond with the bravery of Don Smith, Nathan Taylor, Jonathan Morales, Bryan Whittle, or Juan Carlos Nazario. We find (or lose) our courage at times of ultimate testing. But the one thing you can do – you can prepare to be brave.
Here’s the bottom line. Regardless of your frustration at national politics and regardless of your sense of frustration at social forces that you feel are out of your control, you can do something about mass shootings. You can defend yourself. You can defend the people you love. And that’s exactly what you should train yourself to do.