Friday, December 11, 2015

Mass Shootings Where Conceal Carry Gun Owners Were Present But Failed To Stop The Carnage

[This post was updated as of 10/9/17]

The NRA mantra, famously recited by Wayne LaPierre after the Sandy Hook shooting, is that "The only way to stop a bad guy with a gun is with a good guy with a gun."  It is the basis by which they push gun ownership and conceal carry in any and all public (and private) places, along with fabricated data by disgraced pro-gun researcher John Lott.  The "conceal carry hero" is a myth oft repeated by pro-gun forces both high and low.  As one pro-gun state representative put it, "When everyone is carrying a firearm, nobody is going to be a victim."

I've posted before on the ridiculous assertion of the "conceal carry hero," such as after the Aurora theater shooting, or after the Sandy Hook shooting.

But there is no basis to this myth.  Not one mass shooting has been stopped by a conceal carry "hero" who wasn't law enforcement or a security guard.  In fact, Mother Jones did a study, and out of 62 mass shootings that they looked at over 30 years, not one of them was stopped by a citizen with a handgun.  Another study by the FBI, of 185 mass shootings over a 13 year period, also failed to find any that were stopped by a citizen with a gun who wasn't police or a security guard.


The closest case I ever found was of a school staff member (and Army reservist commander) who went out to their car and got a gun, but the shooting was over by that point, the shooter was out of ammo and was driving out of the parking lot.  The only reason he was stopped was that the shooter crashed his car, allowing the staff member to get to him and hold him under arrest.


However, I know of at least nine mass shootings where there was an armed citizen with a concealed handgun present who failed to do anything to stop the shooting, and one of them died in the process.  Here they are.....



Route 91 Harvest Festival, Las Vegas, Nevada (October, 2017)

The Route 91 Harvest Festival massacre was the worst civilian mass shooting of all time in America, by a single shooter with high-powered assault rifles, some equipped with bump-fire stocks.  

Nevada is very lax with gun laws, allowing both open (w/o a license) and conceal carry (w/ license), including in casinos, bars, and the Las Vegas Strip. Apparently guns were not prohibited at the concert.

With 22,000 country fans at the concert that night, doubtless many of them were armed with concealed handguns. Country fans are very often pro-gun. In fact, the NRA has sponsored country singers and events through their "NRA Country" program. Doubtless, too, the untold thousands of people at the Mandalay Bay hotel and out on the Strip were armed, too.  

It is known that some of the country bands and singers were armed. For instance, according to Caleb Keeter, guitarist with the Josh Abbott band, many of the band members were armed that night.  Quoting Keeter from an article:
We actually have members of our crew with [Concealed Handgun Licenses], and legal firearms on the bus,” Keeter wrote. “They were useless.” He continued:
We couldn’t touch them for fear police might think we were part of the massacre and shoot us. A small group (or one man) laid waste to a city with dedicated, fearless police officers desperately trying to help, because of access to an insane amount of fire power.

Josh Abbott Band (source, Rick Kern/WireImage)
Wise words. One of the biggest arguments against conceal carry vigilantism, despite what the NRA says, is that police might not be able to distinguish "bad guys with guns" from "good guys with guns."  And, yes, most of these high-profile mass shooters have "insane amounts of fire power" compared to a single handgun in the hands of a "good guy with a gun."

And even the police, who are highly-trained, had trouble even figuring out where the shots were being shot from, in part due to all the echoes. Transcripts of the radio communications (example HERE) indicated confusion about where the shots were from, and even when they figured it out, they didn't want to fire up at the hotel window for fear of hitting innocent people in surrounding rooms.  Do you think any ordinary gun owner would fare any better? (one disturbing thing from those recordings, though, was that the police were warning each other to lock their patrol cars, since people were trying to break into them to steal the shotguns or even the cars themselves!).

Another of the performers, John Rich, was armed but, but the time of the shooting, was three miles away at a bar that he runs. He gave his handgun to an off-duty policeman who guarded the door. Did either of them go to the shooting site and play vigilante? No, wisely, they stayed put.

As stated in an article by Slate:
A concertgoer carrying a pistol would have been vastly outranged by Paddock; pistols can barely reach targets 50 meters away. It would have taken a concertgoer carrying a rifle, ideally with a scope and large magazine of ammunition, to respond. And even then, it would have taken the discipline and skill of a Navy SEAL to effectively shoot back at Paddock while under fire, and hit him, while not killing scores more in the Mandalay Bay hotel and turning the scene into a firefight.

So the concert, hotel, and streets outside were not gun-free zones. 59 people were killed and 527 injured by a single shooter, who killed himself before SWAT entered his hotel room ... not at the hands of an armed citizen.


Protest March in Dallas, Texas (July 2016)

In the wake of perceived police brutality reports from Louisiana and Minnesota, hundreds of people turned out to march and protest that evening in Dallas. Along with the protesters were up to thirty "open carry activists" with assault rifles slung over their shoulders and handguns strapped to their waists, camo gear, and bulletproof vests, as if ready to go to war. Recently-expanded Texas law allowed open carry of rifles, handguns, and shotguns. Some of the pro-gun supporters of this law said it was to help "aide" local law enforcement.

So, clearly, this was not a "gun-free zone."

Around midnight, shots range out, and confusion reigned. According to Dallas Police Chief David Brown, the presence of all of these openly displayed guns made it difficult to determine who the actual shooter was, as gun violence prevention activists had warned.  In his words:
"We're trying as best we can as a law enforcement community to make it work so that citizens can express their 2nd Amendment rights," Brown said. 
“But it’s increasingly challenging when people have AR-15s slung over their shoulder and they’re in a crowd,” he said. “We don’t know who the good guy is versus the bad guy when everyone starts shooting.”
He added:  “They are suspects until we eliminate that.”  


The mayor of Dallas agreed:
“You know, in dealing with the law of gun holding, you can carry a rifle legally, and when you have gunfire going on, you usually go with the person that’s got a gun,” Dallas mayor Mike Rawlings said on CBS’ Face the Nation programme. “And so our police grabbed some of those individuals, took them to police headquarters, and worked it out and figured out that they were not the shooters.”
Open carry activist Mark Hughes,
confused with actual shooter
(source, Dallas PD via AP)

Instead of "aiding police" or taking out the shooter, the open carry activists scattered and caused confusion. One of them, Mark Hughes, who was dressed in camo and had an assault rifle slung over his back, was, at first, considered a "person of interest" and was confused with the actual shooter. After turning himself in and being questioned for 30 minutes, he was released.

The open carry organizers, instead of acknowledging that their presence can cause confusion, instead called the mayor and police chief "anti-gun" and racist.

Eventually the police were able to identify the actual shooter, an army reservist who was targeting white police officers, cornered him, and killed him with an explosive on a bomb robot.

Five officers were killed. Six officers and two civilians were injured. The shooter was killed by police ... not at the hands of an armed citizen.



San Bernardino, California (December, 2015)


Yes, the 355th mass shooting of 2015, actually had an armed citizen pulling his gun and aiming at the husband-wife terrorists as the event unfolded!  Did this "good guy with a gun" stop the "bad guy with a gun?"  No.  Why?  Because ... he just didn't feel like walking on the grounds of the Inland Regional Center??  From an article:


The armed citizen at the San Bernardino shooting, Glenn
Willwerth, who didn't change the outcome (source)

Glenn Willwirth owns a paper company across the street from the Inland Regional Center. When a man ran into his business and said a shooting was taking place, Willwirth grabbed his .45 caliber handgun and walked toward the center, taking position behind a water truck that was refilling a fire hydrant. Willwirth told CNN that he was able to draw a bead on the shooters but chose not to fire because of the chaos. In a separate interview with the Boston Herald, he added this about why he held back: 
“I wasn’t going to travel onto their property to get involved — just because it’s not my property — but I went up to the edge of it and that was as close as I really needed to be getting to the whole situation. If they came at me it would have been a different story.”
I haven't heard if the Inland Regional Center is a "gun free zone" or not.

14 victims were killed.  17 were injured.  The shooters were later killed by a police SWAT team ... not at the hands of an armed citizen.


Umpqua Community College, Roseburg, Oregon  (October, 2015)


When a deranged gunman came on campus and started shooting up a classroom full of community
The armed student at UCC, John Parker Jr.,
who didn't change the outcome (source)
college students, it wasn't a gun-free zone (which I blogged on before).  Oregon law allows conceal carry on campuses.  And at least one adult student was packing a loaded handgun.  Did he run in to kill the "bad guy with a gun?"  No.  He didn't even go near.  Why?  Because he understood that he might not know all the facts and that he might be mistaken as the shooter by law enforcement.  John Parker, Jr., who is a military veteran, explained why he and some other armed students chose not to confront the shooter:



"When we found out there was an active shooter on campus, we were going to go and see if we could intervene. ... If there was something we could do, we were going to do it." 
"Luckily, we made the choice not to get involved," he told MSNBC. "We were quite a distance away from the actual building where it was happening, which could have opened us up to being potential targets ourselves. And, you know, not knowing where SWAT was on their response time, they wouldn't know who we were, and if we had our guns ready to shoot, they'd think we were the bad guys."
Nine people were killed, and up to ten people were injured, and it wasn't a gun-free zone.  The shooting ended when the suspect shot himself to death ... not at the hands of an armed citizen.


Walmart/CiCi's Pizza Shooting, Las Vegas, Nevada
(June, 2014)


A man and woman, who had been at the Bundy Ranch, decided to "start a revolution" by shooting two police to death, with no warning, in a CiCi's Pizza restaurant.  The couple then went to a neighboring Walmart store and started shooting at the ceiling, trying to scare out customers.  It is clear that their intended targets were police, not customers.
 Joseph Wilcox (source)

At this point, a citizen with a concealed handgun, Joseph Wilcox, decided to intervene.  Wilcox, who aspired to be a police officer, pulled his handgun and confronted one of the shooters.  The other shooter, however, came up behind him and shot him to death.  From an article:
Joseph Robert Wilcox, 31, was at Walmart with a friend returning a modem when a gun-toting couple who had just murdered two police officers at a pizza shop came into the store. Instead of running away, Wilcox, told his friend he was going to confront the one gunman he could see. 
Wilcox pulled out the handgun for which he had a concealed weapons permit but that his family says he rarely carried. He approached Jerad Miller, a 31-year-old ex-convict who investigators say walked into Walmart, fired off one round, and told shoppers, "This is a revolution." His wife, Amanda Miller, 22, was trailing behind, authorities said. 
"[Wilcox] immediately and heroically moved towards the position of Jerad Miller," Las Vegas Assistant Sheriff Kevin McMahill said at a briefing Monday. "As soon as he began to confront Jerad Miller with his firearm, Amanda Miller removed her firearm and shot him one time in the ribs area, where he immediately collapsed."
Why did Wilcox decide to arm himself?  From an article:
“He was very protective of other people. The reason he got that gun was because he got tired of people like that,” people who would pick on others, Debra Wilcox said. 
Joseph Wilcox’s uncle John Wilson, during a phone interview, described his nephew as someone who wasn’t political. “But he definitely believed in the right to bear arms and the right to defend yourself and others,” Wilson said.
Wilcox was living out what the NRA and other pro-gun forces have advocated for a long time:  to be the "good guy with a gun" when freedom is endangered, standing his ground instead of retreating and awaiting police.  And now he leaves behind a young wife and a small child who will never know his daddy.

After shooting Wilcox and clearing out the store of other people, the shooters barricaded themselves in the Walmart store, preparing for a long siege and getting additional ammo from the store's display cases.  A 15-minute shootout ensued with police.

Walmart allows concealed weapons and thus is not a "gun free zone."

Three victims were killed, including Wilcox.  The shooting ended when one shooter committed suicide and the other was shot to death by police ... not at the hands of an armed citizen.


Clackamas Town Center Mall, Clackamas, Oregon (December, 2012)


When an aimless, suicidal drifter armed himself with an assault rifle and started shooting up the food court of the Clackamas Town Center, there was an off-duty security guard in the mall who "always carries" a loaded handgun.  Nick Meli took cover when the shooting began and urged those around him, including his girlfriend and a child, to take cover and escape the scene.  He also pulled his gun.  According to police reports, it was only when the shooter's gun had jammed and he was attempting to fix the jam and reload it, that Meli aimed at the suspect.  From a Sheriff's report:

The armed citizen at the Clackamas shooting, Nick Meli,
who didn't change the outcome (screenshot source)


Mr. Meli told me that he had seen the suspect armed with a rifle. ... He said he directed his girlfriend and child to leave the mall as he stood and watched the suspect attempting to either reload or fix the rifle. He said, "He was trying to reload it, however I think it jammed."

And from a police detective's report:   



Mr. Meli told me that he "handed the baby off" and then he heard about eight more rapid fire shots. Mr. Meli told me that he peered around the corner and saw a man wearing a white "Jason ski mask", a black sweater, black pants and he had an AR-15 assault rifle. Mr. Meli told me that the shooter came running towards where Mr. Meli was. Mr. Meli told me that he took cover behind a support pillar. Mr. Meli told me that he was not sure where the shooter was going. Mr. Meli told me that he then noticed that the shooter had stopped because his rifle had malfunctioned and he was pulling the charging handle. Mr. meli told me that that is when he stepped out and drew his own weapon and "placed it on his head." Mr. Meli told me that as he was going to pull the trigger he saw someone move inside the Charlotte Rouge store. Mr. Meli told me that he knew that if he was to shoot and miss he could hit someone in the store, so he decided not to shoot. Mr. Meli told me that that is when the shooter got his rifle clear. Mr. Meli told me that the shooter turned and looked at him, so Mr. Meli backed up inside Macy's Home.

After this point Meli fled and took cover.  He never fired.


Pro-gun advocates and Conservative websites (example) starting lauding Meli as having "stopped" the gunman by scaring him into submission with his concealed handgun, saving "untold number of lives," but there's no reason to believe this is the case.  All they did was look at each other.  PolitiFact investigated by calling the Clackamas Sheriff's Office and asking if they felt Meli had made a difference in the shooter's actions:

"It’s inconclusive on our end," said Lt. Robert Wurpes, office spokesman. "We can’t say either way whether he did or did not make a difference. It would only be speculation."
Clackamas Town Center is a "gun free zone," so Meli was going against the mall's policy.

Two people were killed and a third was wounded.  The shooting ended when the suspect shot himself to death ... not at the hands of an armed citizen.



IHOP in Carson City, Nevada (September, 2011)

A gunman with an AK-47 assault rifle pulled into a busy retail parking lot, shot a woman by a motorcycle, then went into an IHOP restuarant and gunned down patrons, including a table with National Guard members. He then went back out of the restaurant and opened fire on a number of other businesses.


Ralph Swagler (source)
There was at least one gun owner, Ralph Swagler, with a concealed handgun, who saw the shooter gun down the first woman and thought about returning fire.  From an article:
Ralph Swagler said he grabbed his own weapon, but said it was too late to stop the shooter, who charged into the IHOP through the front doors. 
“I wish I had shot at him when he was going in the IHOP,” said Swagler, who owns Locals BBQ & Grill. “But when he came at me, when somebody is pointing an automatic weapon at you—you can’t believe the firepower, the kind of rounds coming out of that weapon.”

Swagler is the owner of a BBQ restaurant next door, which was shot up by the shooter.  According to an article, "Swagler stared directly into the eyes of [the shooter]" and yet "He had a weapon in his restaurant but forgot about it in the panic."

It's unclear if IHOP allows guns in its restaurants. A pro-gun discussion board suggests not, but that open carry is often tolerated anyway.

Five people were shot to death. Seven were wounded. The shooter shot himself to death ... ... not at the hands of an armed citizen.


Gabby Giffords Public Meeting In Tucson, Arizona (January, 2011)

U.S. Representative Gabby Giffords was holding a constituent meeting in the parking lot of a supermarket when a lone, deranged gunman opened fire.  Giffords was shot point-blank in the head.  The shooter then turned his gun on others at the meeting, including a federal district judge and a 9-year old girl, both of whom died.  It was only when he was re-loading his weapon that members of the audience were able to subdue the shooter.

The armed citizen in Tucson, Joe Zamudio,
who didn't change the outcome (screenshot source)

When the shooting started, there was a man with a loaded, concealed handgun, named Joe Zamudio, in the supermarket adjacent to the stage.  He reacted immediately, moving toward the scene, gun ready.  Did he save the day?  No.  In fact, he almost killed an innocent man whom he, at first, thought was the shooter.  From an article:


"I came out of that store, I clicked the safety off, and I was ready," he explained on Fox and Friends. "I had my hand on my gun. I had it in my jacket pocket here. And I came around the corner like this." Zamudio demonstrated how his shooting hand was wrapped around the weapon, poised to draw and fire. As he rounded the corner, he saw a man holding a gun. "And that's who I at first thought was the shooter," Zamudio recalled. "I told him to 'Drop it, drop it!' " 
But the man with the gun wasn't the shooter. He had wrested the gun away from the shooter. "Had you shot that guy, it would have been a big, fat mess," the interviewer pointed out. 
Zamudio agreed:
I was very lucky. Honestly, it was a matter of seconds. Two, maybe three seconds between when I came through the doorway and when I was laying on top of [the real shooter], holding him down. So, I mean, in that short amount of time I made a lot of really big decisions really fast. … I was really lucky.
The Arizona Daily Star, based on its interview with Zamudio, adds two details to the story. First, upon seeing the man with the gun, Zamudio "grabbed his arm and shoved him into a wall" before realizing he wasn't the shooter. And second, one reason why Zamudio didn't pull out his own weapon was that "he didn't want to be confused as a second gunman."
This was not a "gun free zone."

Six people died and thirteen were injured.  The shooter was stopped and held by unarmed citizens ... not at the hands of an armed citizen.




Tacoma Mall Shooting, Tacoma, Washington (November, 2005)

A disgruntled mall employ entered the Tacoma Mall with an assault rifle and started shooting at store patrons. After shooting a number of patrons, he ducked into a store and held others hostage.
Dan McKown
(source, Martin Kaste/NPR)

As the event unfolded, there was at least one conceal carry permit holder who was armed, a comedian named Dan McKown.  From an article:
Gun drawn, McKown scanned for the shooter. But the gunshots stopped. Unsure what had happened, McKown tucked his pistol back under his coat — just as the shooter walked right in front of him. 
"So anyway, I'm standing there like Napoleon Bonaparte, with his hand, you know, in his jacket," he recalls. "So I said, 'Young man, I think you need to put your weapon down.' " 
That moment of vulnerability gave the other guy just enough time to shoot McKown. The bullet hit his spine, and he found himself unable to aim his own gun.
From another article:  
As he felt the bullets enter his body, “I felt like an idiot,” McKown said. “I carried a gun to protect my fellow man,” but it hadn’t worked out that way.
He was shot five times but survived. He is now in a wheelchair.
Six people were injured. The shooter was arrested when he gave himself up to a SWAT team ... ... not at the hands of an armed citizen.


In each of the above examples, the armed citizen was hailed by pro-gun forces as "heroes" even though it is clear that none of them made any bit of a difference in stopping the crimes they witnessed, even if they tried to intervene.  In some of these, the armed citizen understood, at the last moment, that they did not have the training necessary to engage.  

And that's the real point of this posting.  The vast majority of everyday citizens who get conceal carry licenses are simply not trained to engage shooters like this (such as this person).  They are not police, after all.  None of these people were trained in police tactics, legal intervention, negotiation skills, or live fire evaluations to make sure they can stay cool-headed during a shootout.  They could be mistaken for the shooters themselves.  And, as Wilcox discovered, they might insert themselves into a life-threatening situation without being fully prepared for the consequences.  Here in Oregon, to get a conceal carry license, you don't even need to fire a single shot or even hold a gun.  You can get the license online and take a very simple test, pay a fee, and get a background check, and it's yours.  There are some states, such as Arizona, which don't even require that.

Little wonder, then, that day in and day out, I see reports of conceal carry owners having accidents with their weapons in public places, like this one, shooting people for minor crimes like shoplifting, like this one, or even getting involved in a criminal incident and shooting the wrong guy, like this one.  And let's not forget that conceal carry owners have been convicted of their own homicidal shootings, like the hundreds of examples you can find HERE.

Tactical training experts understand that a conceal carry vigilante is not even close to comparable to trained law enforcement.  From an article:
Tactical officers typically receive training in “judgmental shooting,” which includes knowing when it’s prudent to hold their fire, and “blue-on-blue awareness,” which drills into them the importance of considering whether other cops are present, including officers who aren’t in uniform. They’re trained to overcome tunnel vision by looking not only at their target but also maintaining an awareness of who or what is behind it. 
“The notion that you have a seal of approval just because you’re not a criminal—that you walk into a gun store and you’re ready for game-day—is ridiculous,” says [former ATF agent] Chipman.

The NRA's gunslinger mentality is wrongheaded and dangerous.  The dangers of vigilante justice are real.  It's time they stopped feeding this fantasy into the minds of their followers.  


ADDENDUM (12/11/15):  HERE is an opinion piece, where a seasoned combat veteran, who has been in live firefights and been wounded, calls into question the myth that a typical citizen with a concealed handgun will be able to make correct judgement calls in the heat of the moment.

ADDENDUM (6/15/16): HERE is a great piece about the absurdity of the "good guy with a gun" myth, with input from a forensic scientist on the issue.

ADDENDUM (10/8/17):  HERE is a related article and list of other mass shootings that don't fit the NRA's model of a common citizen stopping a mass shooting.