by Amy Swearer
The last week of May proved just how quickly the seemingly stable peace of our world can devolve into chaos and near-anarchy. Many of us, already concerned that police departments were stretched thin by COVID-19, watched in horror as law enforcement seemed to lose control of protests in major cities.
For several nights, police officers scarcely could keep their own precincts from being overrun, much less respond to calls for help from terrified civilians.
In many instances, civilians were forced to take matters into their own hands, relying on nothing more than their Second Amendment rights to protect their lives and livelihoods from violent rioters who sought to co-opt peaceful protests for their own benefit.
It should come as little surprise that Americans would be willing to protect their communities in this way. In fact, in 2013, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention concluded that almost every major study on the issue has found that Americans use their firearms in self-defense between 500,000 and 3 million times a year.
For this reason, The Daily Signal has published a monthly series highlighting some of the news stories of defensive gun use that you may have missed—or that might not have made it to the national spotlight in the first place. (Read accounts from 2019 and 2020).
The 11 examples below of lawful defensive uses of guns represent only a small part of the many stories we found in May. You can explore more examples in The Heritage Foundation’s Defensive Gun Use Database, an interactive map that allows users to find recent defensive gun uses from all over the country quickly and easily.
- May 2, Pensacola, Florida: A concealed-carry permit holder drew his handgun in self-defense after a group approached and threatened him while he was trying to leave the beach. He attempted to get into his car and flee, but the group prevented him from doing so, police said. That’s when the permit holder began to fear for his life, pulled out his firearm, and told the group to let him go. They apparently complied.
- May 3, Madison County, Alabama: A woman who fatally shot her former fiancé acted in self-defense when the man attacked her, police said. The woman had called 911 just before midnight to report that the man—who had a long history of domestic violence convictions—had showed up at her home. By the time police arrived, the woman already had relied on her firearm to defend her life.
- May 5, Port Arthur, Texas: A man out catching crabs fatally shot a would-be robber who had pointed a rifle at him and a woman with him, demanding money. Minutes earlier, police said, the assailant had robbed a grocery store and fled in a stolen car. The crabber retrieved a handgun from his truck, and after an exchange of gunfire, shot his assailant in self-defense.
- May 8, Casselton, North Dakota: A man acted in lawful self-defense when he shot and killed an acquaintance who began choking him during an argument, police said. The man immediately called 911 and placed his gun in a safe while waiting for law enforcement.
- May 12, Buffalo, South Carolina: A woman, fearing for her safety because of a violent ex-husband, had invited an armed friend to stay at her apartment and protect her and her two children. When the ex-husband kicked open the front door and opened fire on the woman, the armed friend shot and killed him before anyone else could be harmed. Police said they had been searching for the ex-husband for several days because he was wanted on charges of domestic violence and assault.
- May 16, Houston, Texas: A man shot and wounded his brother when, under the influence of narcotics, he assaulted their mother. The man initially tried to calm down the brother, who was damaging the residence. He shot his brother when he began hitting their mother with large chunks of concrete.
- May 20, Fulshear, Texas: A homeowner used his handgun to defend himself when an intoxicated man kicked in his front door and aggressively confronted him. Neither the gun owner nor his family members were harmed.
- May 22, Eureka, California: When several people got into an altercation outside a man’s home at 2:40 a.m., the homeowner went out onto his porch and asked them to leave the area. Some of those involved became hostile and tried to force their way onto the homeowner’s property. He tried unsuccessfully to deter his attackers with pepper spray. When they continued to enter his home and assault him, the homeowner retrieved a handgun and fired in self-defense, killing one attacker and wounding another.
- May 25, Mesquite, Nevada: A father shot and killed his son after the son attacked his mother with a knife. Police said the son’s mental state recently had deteriorated and he may have been intoxicated when he pulled the knife on his mother. Officers determined that the father’s actions were justified and that, had he survived, the son would have been charged with assault with a deadly weapon.
- May 26, Panama City, Florida: An elderly homeowner, standing outside his house, was approached aggressively by a man who had been acting erratically while walking down the street. The homeowner retreated inside, but the man pursued him, smashing a glass door and entering the home. The homeowner told police that he grabbed a handgun and fatally shot the man when he assaulted his wife.
- May 31, Cleveland, Ohio: As peaceful protests over the death of George Floyd devolved into violent riots, owners of Corbo’s Bakery took the defense of their livelihood into their own hands. Video from bystanders captured the moment that the bakery’s owners, armed with shotguns, forced back looters who smashed front windows with rocks. The bakery, shut down for almost two months due to COVID-19 restrictions, had been scheduled to reopen June 1. The owners’ actions spared the bakery from the destruction experienced by many other businesses in downtown Cleveland.
Of course, as gun owners our impulse should be to avoid confrontation and rely on law enforcement when it’s possible to do so.
But as these stories clearly show, police officers are not always there to protect our homes or our communities when we need them the most.
Although we know the battle over our Second Amendment rights is far from over, May provided an eye-opening reality check for many Americans.
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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.