A fighting chance

Posted on June 28, 2016. Filed under: Arkansas Democrat-Gazette Columns | Tags: , , , , , , , , , |

Just a short week after Orlando, another assault weapon shooting was in the news much closer to home.

Late Sunday night, a Jonesboro man was confronted at his front door by two men, one of which reportedly carried a shotgun.

When the pair threatened him and tried to shove their way into the house, the resident retrieved his AR-15 rifle and opened fire.

The armed assailant was killed; his suspected accomplice is in custody, charged with aggravated robbery, police said.

On Monday, several states away in Waynesboro, Pennsylvania, an armed robber burst into a pharmacy, shoved his pistol in the face of a female clerk and shouted demands for money and drugs.

The pharmacy’s owner, who possessed a concealed weapons permit, was thrown a bag and ordered to fill it with Oxycodone.

Turning his back as if to obey, the owner drew his own handgun and shot the robber several times.

The assailant survived and remains in critical condition in a nearby hospital.

Two weeks earlier, another Pennsylvania pharmacy robber wasn’t so lucky.

Armed with a shotgun, which he tried to conceal behind an umbrella, a man wearing a Halloween mask entered the Levittown, PA pharmacy and charged the counter.

The pharmacy owner shouted twice that he had a gun.

As the would-be robber leaped over the cash register, the pharmacy owner—who had watched the man approach on security cameras mounted outside the store—opened fire, mortally wounding the assailant.

In each of these examples, the outcome intended by the criminal was changed by an armed victim.

In each instance, the intended victims had a fighting chance against violent lawlessness and evil—and prevailed.

No law on earth would have changed the criminals’ behavior. The only thing more gun laws might have changed is the consequences for the innocent people who were attacked.

Countless self-defense shootings are captured on surveillance videos, and easily accessed by Internet search. Almost every time, the criminals are surprised to be confronted with armed resistance.

The silent film footage typically reveals an instant change in attitude: one moment a gun-wielding, tough-talking thug is barking orders, and the next he is like a roach trying to dodge, scamper, hide—do anything—to escape the very fate he had been threatening his victims with.

As the district attorney observed of the dead robber in Levittown, “The fella asked for what he got, and he got it.

“Frankly, [the owner] should be commended,” D.A. David Heckler said, “he performed a public service in taking out this fella.”

From a fiscal standpoint, it’s certainly cheaper for the state to bury an armed robber than incarcerate him for 20 years. And the recidivism rate for dead violent criminals is zero.

News stories of thwarted crimes like these and hundreds of thousands of others are generally relegated to local coverage, while sensational shootings in which the criminal is successful command national headlines.

Who knows what might have happened differently in Orlando if, in addition to the lone armed security guard at the entrance (which the shooter outgunned immediately), a few of the 300 or so patrons inside the club had been legally carrying concealed weapons?

The outcome might have been the same; it wouldn’t have been worse.

It appears the shooter there, like so many others, would have been surprised had someone from the crowd come up shooting back. He reportedly cased the club, and was familiar with the security setup.

Chances are, had the security guard brought the gunman down before any loss of life, the story would have stayed mainly a local one.

In the end, that adage gun-control advocates hate proved true. The only thing that stopped the bad guy with a gun was a good guy with a gun—in that case, the police, who arrived too late to save 49 lives.

Orlando is an extreme incident, of course. More common shootings of any kind—single or multiple—all begin the same way, with a criminal pulling out a gun and hoping no one else there has one. The likelihood of a gunman committing his crime in full view of a police officer, who can intervene at the onset, is slim.

Most crimes for gain (as opposed to rage or passion crimes) are planned to some extent. Criminals bring guns along because the last thing they want is a fair fight.

The best hope for reducing shootings is for criminals to become more and more worried that more citizens might be ready to shoot back—or even shoot first once they realize the lethal threat.

A short anonymous essay has made the rounds on Facebook recently, which begins with this:

I stand behind you in line at the store with a smile on my face…and a handgun in my waistband and you are none the wiser, yet you are safer for having me next to you.”

If I’m with my family in a theater, or a convenience store, or a pharmacy, or a nightclub, and some criminal wants to be the only one there with a gun, I want that safety next to me. I want a fighting chance.

You should too.

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