For a second time in as many months, we have seen something that we have been repeatedly told just can’t happen. In the first instance, a man sitting in a car in Chicago saw another man shooting into a group of people. As in most cases of life-and-death, when seconds count, the police were minutes away, so the witness took action. He got out of his car, drew his legally carried, concealed handgun and shot the attacker, ending the attack, preventing an untold number of deaths and injuries and harming no one else in the process.
How many times have we been told that it is a fairytale to think an armed citizen could stop a rampaging gunman? How many times have we been told how much worse a shooting incident would be if “civilians started shooting”? “They’ll shoot bystanders,” we’re told. “They’ll be shot by police,” they say. But once again, the good guy with a gun stopped the bad guy with a gun, and no additional carnage ensued.
Now we have the case in Garland, Texas, where a pair of home-grown jihadists decided to stage a massacre at an event where a couple of hundred people were looking at drawings considered insulting to Muslims. The attackers, armed with powerful, death-spraying “assault weapons,” approached a perimeter guard, jumped from their car and started shooting. An unarmed security guard was struck in the leg, but a police officer drew his handgun and was able to shoot and kill both attackers, sending them on to whatever reward awaited them.
The terrorists were wearing body armor and carrying “assault rifles.” We’ve been told over and over again that this is a hopeless situation for someone armed only with a handgun. Though the officer was probably also wearing body armor, that would be no help. Typical Kevlar body armor, like what was probably worn by both the terrorists and the cop, is designed to stop handgun rounds, but has virtually no effect on high-velocity, centerfire rifle rounds. The officer might as well have been wearing a T-shirt. Still, he managed to put down both attackers before nearby SWAT officers could respond.
Every time there is some sort of mass-shooting incident, we hear the same debate spring up between the anti-rights crowd and the “gun nuts.” The antis say that if the attacker(s) hadn’t had “easy access” to the weapons they used, the tragedy could have been prevented. The “gun nuts” point out that the bad guys can always get the weapons – as they did in Paris – and that if someone present had been armed, the attack could have been stopped sooner. As this debate plays out, the media invariably takes the side of the antis, dismissing as ridiculous the notion that some regular Joe with a handgun could defeat, or even slow down, a determined attacker, especially if that attacker was armed with a “high-powered assault weapon” with “high-capacity assault clips.”
When the impossible does happen – as it actually has on several occasions – we hear excuses and “what if” blather to avoid the obvious. In the case in Garland, the refrain we are already hearing is that because the hero was a “highly trained” police officer, there is no comparing his actions to what a civilian could do. That claim ignores some important facts. Many thousands of “common citizens” have extensive firearm training that surpasses that of most police. Many civilian shooters also have military experience that includes combat, and the best police shooters supplement their training with instruction from civilian trainers and facilities. Many police also use competitive shooting as a way to hone their skills – competing against civilian shooters. The officer who stopped the terrorists in Garland was not some elite SWAT operative. He was a traffic cop, moonlighting as a security guard for the event. Taking down one of the attackers might have been luck. Taking out both of them suggests skill and composure under fire. I would venture a guess that this particular officer is one of us “gun nuts” who shoots U.S. Practical Shooting Association competitions on the weekend. We may never know for sure though, because it would be very dangerous for him and his family if his name were revealed. Still, that probably won’t stop some reporter from naming him in the near future. Both the threat and the likely exposure to the threat by our dedicated “right to know” journalists are a sad reality of the world we live in these days.
What should be clear from what happened in Garland, and Chicago – and the New Life Church in Colorado, and the dozens of successful uses of firearms for self-defense around this country every month – is that it is absolutely possible to stop criminals, terrorists and deranged individuals bent on killing and maiming innocents, but usually the only way to do it is to meet the attacker with deadly force. While a handgun is not the best option in a pitched gun battle, there’s an old saying that the best gun in a gunfight is the one you have, because one you don’t have is not going to do you any good. Handguns are the most convenient for routine carry, and while they are inferior to rifles and shotguns in accuracy, ease of use, penetration and stopping power, they are far superior to a knife or a cellphone when bullets start flying.
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