by Amy Swearer
The right to keep and bear arms is based on the natural, immutable right to defend oneself and one’s liberties from crime and tyranny.
Unfortunately, too many well-intentioned people today advocate severely restricting the ability of law-abiding Americans to defend themselves and others with the most effective firearms.
Their desire for strict gun control laws is based largely on misperceptions. They believe that Americans rarely use firearms to protect their rights and liberties, and they think commonly proposed gun control laws will meaningfully address gun-related violence.
But the reality is quite different.
Measures like universal background checks, depriving young adults of their Second Amendment rights, and banning commonly owned semi-automatic firearms or magazines impose huge burdens on law-abiding gun owners, and they fail to address the underlying realities of suicidal and criminal behavior.
Moreover, it is undeniable that Americans use guns in self-defense on far more occasions than criminals use them to commit crimes. Yet those defensive gun uses rarely receive the amount of attention given to criminal gun uses.
Every month so far this year, we’ve highlighted just a few of the tens of thousands of Americans who exercised their right to keep and bear arms for self-defense purposes. As with January, February, and March, April was full of underreported good guys using a gun.
—April 1, Mullan, Idaho. A domestic violence incident ended badly for the male attacker after his female victim defended herself by shooting him in the face. The man survived and is facing charges of domestic battery and attempted strangulation. The woman was hospitalized with her own injuries from the altercation but escaped with her life.
—April 3, Duquesne, Pennsylvania. An elderly taxi driver picked up a passenger who, during the ride, proceeded to pull out a gun and demand money from him. The passenger didn’t know that the driver had a concealed carry permit and was armed with his own handgun. The driver shot and killed the passenger in self-defense.
—April 5, Tallahassee. Police responded to calls about a shooting, but arrived to find that the injured man was actually a would-be armed robber who had demanded money from his two victims while threatening to shoot them and their dog. One of the victims, fearing for his life, used his own gun to shoot the man in self-defense. The man was treated for his injuries, then charged with several felonies, including armed robbery and being a felon in possession of a firearm.
—April 7, Largo, Florida. Two good Samaritans stopped to help the victim of an apparent hit-and-run driver, only to have the man pull out a box cutter and threaten them. One of the good Samaritans was a concealed carry permit holder and shot the man in the leg in defense of himself and the other individual with him. Incredibly, the armed good Samaritan then used his belt as a tourniquet to treat the man’s wounds until medical personnel arrived. Local police said the good Samaritan acted in lawful self-defense.
—April 8, Chicago. A 78-year-old homeowner found three men using a crowbar to break into his house. When one of the robbers raised the crowbar to smash the glass door, the homeowner—who has a valid Illinois firearms permits—shot him, sending all three scattering. The homeowner told reporters that shooting another human being was a hard decision: “I didn’t feel good about doing that, but he would have gotten me with the crowbar. If I get hit with something like a baseball bat, or a crowbar, [I] ain’t gonna make it.”
—April 10, Shasta County, California. After his brother brandished a firearm and threatened their mother by firing a round into the air, Jeffrey Snyder confronted him in their garage. When the brother advanced toward Jeffrey and pointed the gun at him, Jeffrey drew his own gun and fired several rounds, striking and wounding his brother. Deputies interviewed several family members and determined that Jeffrey acted in lawful self-defense, indicating that the brother will face criminal charges.
—April 14, Louisville, Kentucky. Tina Burton’s neighbor broke into her home, entered her 12-year-old daughter’s room, and stripped down to his underwear. Burton alerted her boyfriend, who then yelled at the man to leave and began hitting him with a broom. The man was undaunted and reportedly growled at the boyfriend before getting into a physical altercation. At that point, Burton handed her boyfriend a firearm, and he shot the nearly-naked intruder, who fled and was later arrested by police.
—April 16, Hampton, South Carolina. Despite living less than a block away from the local police department, a homeowner was forced to rely on his Second Amendment rights to defend himself against a home invasion after two men broke into his house. The homeowner shot both of his attackers, one of whom died at the scene while the second was captured by police a mile away.
—April 22, White Center, Washington. A homeowner shot and killed a man who broke into his house in the early morning hours. Police released the 911 recording, in which the terrified homeowner whispers information to the dispatcher while the intruder can be heard smashing items in the background. The dispatcher—later praised for her calm demeanor and precise instructions—talked the homeowner through a harrowing 12-minute call. After shooting one intruder who attacked him, the homeowner hid in the closet for another 7 minutes until police arrived because he heard other intruders and feared he was outnumbered.
—April 26, Chicago. A 41-year-old concealed carry permit holder shot and killed an armed carjacker. The carjacker intentionally rear-ended the permit holder, then threatened him with a gun and demanded his keys when the permit holder got out of his car to check the damage. That’s when the permit holder used his own firearm in self-defense.
—April 28, Ashwaubenon, Wisconsin. After store security systems alerted a small business owner that someone was inside the building after hours, the owner and an employee—a concealed carry permit holder who happened to be armed that night—went to investigate. The armed employee, using his handgun, was able to successfully detain the would-be thief until law enforcement arrived.
—April 30, Bradenton, Florida. A young homeowner saw two men walk onto his property, and then split to approach his front and back door at the same time. As the two would-be burglars attempted to use screwdrivers to break into the home, the homeowner saw that one of them was armed. He then procured his own firearm and fired several rounds at the men, who immediately took off running.
Like the Chicago homeowner referenced above, most lawful gun owners understand the gravity of taking another human life, even in lawful self-defense. They pray the day never comes when they must rely on their Second Amendment rights to protect themselves or others, because it will likely be the hardest moment of their lives.
But those hard moments come, and they come often. We do law-abiding citizens no favors by advocating statutes that make the right to keep and bear arms in self-defense more difficult to exercise. We simply tie one hand behind their backs and insist that they are safer for it.
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Amy Swearer is a senior legal policy analyst at the Meese Center for Legal and Judicial Studies at The Heritage Foundation.
Photo “Open Carry” by Lucio Eastman. CC BY 2.0.