By John Lott, ,
Published November 12, 2017
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 more.
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.
It is 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 shootings.
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 the surface.
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.”
-- Lyman, 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.
-- Philadelphia, 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 shot Hjelmeland.
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.”
Permit holders 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.