In December, 11 Times Guns Were Used in Self-Defense

Image: Holstered 1911, Kelly McCarthy

As we enter 2020, lawmakers in several states are gearing up for high-profile fights over gun control legislation that could severely limit the Second Amendment rights of many law-abiding citizens. 

This makes it all the more critical that we continue to emphasize the important role lawful gun owners play—not just as a long-term protection against tyrannical government, but as an immediate and regular defense against crime. 

As we have regularly noted, a 2013 report by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention concluded that almost all major studies on defensive guns uses have found that Americans use firearms defensively between 500,000 and 3 million times every year. 

The vast majority of these defensive gun uses receive little or no media attention.

Over the course of 2019, we brought to readers’ attention several dozen examples of Americans relying on their Second Amendment rights to protect life, liberty, and property. (You can read past articles here: JanuaryFebruary,MarchAprilMayJuneJulyAugustSeptemberOctober, and November).

The year ended just as it began, with plenty of other examples of law-abiding citizens using their firearms to defend themselves and others. 

  • Dec. 2, Moore, Oklahoma: A concealed carry permit holder helped bring an end to a chaotic few minutes at a Best Buy electronics store. It started when three men ran out of the store with thousands of dollars of stolen merchandise. An employee was able to tackle one of the men in the parking lot, but the other two got into their car. They then appeared to drive the car straight toward the employee with the intent of hitting him, but missed. When they reversed the car and tried again to run over the employee, the concealed carry permit holder placed himself between the car and the employee. The permit holder then drew his firearm and pointed it at the driver, causing him to stop the attack and drive away. Arrest warrants were issued for the suspects. 
  • Dec. 6, Amarillo, Texas: When two would-be robbers entered a convenience store and threatened the store employee with a shotgun, the employee drew his own weapon and shot the robbers in self-defense. One of the suspects was killed and the second was injured, but the employee was not harmed. 
  • Dec. 8, Bloomer Township, Michigan: A homeowner was attempting to sell another man a dog when the man became confrontational, pulled out a gun, and fired several shots at the homeowner. The homeowner retrieved a rifle from inside the house and returned fire, causing the man to flee in his vehicle with the homeowner’s dog. State troopers later took the man into custody after a traffic pursuit. 
  • Dec. 13, Memphis, Tennessee: A University of Memphis student living in off-campus housing used his lawfully possessed firearm to shoot and wound a man breaking into the apartment. 
  • Dec. 18, Philadelphia, Pennsylvania: An armed man tried to rob a FedEx driver who had just dropped off a package but was instead shot and killed by the driver, who drew his own firearm in self-defense. 
  • Dec. 20, Fresno, California: Three masked men, at least one of whom was armed with a handgun, entered a smoke shop and held the clerk at gunpoint as they stole cash and merchandise. The store owner retrieved his own legally possessed gun and, after being fired upon, returned fire in defense of himself and the clerk, killing two of the robbers and sending the third fleeing. Police suspect the three robbers were involved in at least one other recent store robbery. Unfortunately, it appears the store owner still has ample reason to keep himself armed—the robbers who died belonged to a street gang that has since left vulgar graffiti on the store, threatening retaliation against the store owner for having the audacity to defend himself. 
  • Dec. 23, Houston, Texas: When three home intruders—one armed with a handgun—burst into a home, the 19-year-old homeowner used his shotgun to defend himself and his roommate. Although the homeowner was seriously injured in the exchange of gunfire, he was able to shoot and kill all three intruders. The other resident was not harmed.  
  • Dec. 24, Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania: An Uber driver shot and wounded a passenger in self-defense after that passenger and three others attacked him. All four passengers were later arrested by police, who said they will be charged with robbery.
  • Dec. 27Lansing, Michigan: When an unknown assailant began shooting at people leaving a restaurant, one of the patrons—a concealed carry permit holder—returned fire, causing the assailant to flee. No one was injured and police are trying to track down the assailant. 
  • Dec. 29Las Vegas, Nevada: A woman shot and killed a home intruder in self-defense. Police say the intruder waited near the house for hours, looking for the opportunity to break in. Neighbors were shocked by the home invasion, but they applauded the woman, with one man saying, “I hope any would-be crime breakers [sic] learn their lesson that, yeah, people are scared when you break into their house, but they are also prepared.”
  • Dec. 29, White Settlement, Texas: Just as the congregation of West Freeway Church of Christ was finishing communion during its Sunday worship service, a mentally disturbed man with a long history of violence opened fire with a shotgun on the more than 200 people inside the church. Jack Wilson, a firearms instructor and member of the church’s volunteer security team, immediately drew his concealed handgun and fired a single round that killed the gunman, ending the threat just six seconds after it began. The gunman was able to kill two congregants, but Wilson’s heroic actions saved many lives. Incredibly, at least five other congregants drew their concealed firearms during the interaction, ready to defend their fellow churchgoers. 

There are two important lessons to draw from these year-end examples of armed civilians protecting the inalienable rights of themselves and those around them. 

First, Wilson’s heroism in particular shows the importance not just of having access to firearms, but of being well-trained with those firearms. Wilson has been roundly praised for showing tremendous poise under the gravest of circumstances and was recently awarded the Governor’s Medal of Courage—Texas’ highest civilian honor—for his lifesaving actions. 

That poise and marksmanship did not manifest itself out of thin air. It was the result of regular training to hone his skills and of planning the actions he would take under extreme duress. 

The Second Amendment protects the rights of all law-abiding citizens, not just those who meet a certain level of proficiency. But responsible gun owners should make a habit of training themselves in the use of their firearms. You never know when your life or the lives of others may depend on your ability to confidently end a threat. 

Second, although Wilson deserves the attention and honors bestowed on him, there are countless other lawful gun owners who take heroic actions every day, protecting themselves and their communities from would-be criminals. You don’t know their names, and you’ve probably never seen their faces on the news. 

But they are there, and we will continue to tell their stories.


@AmySwearer Amy Swearer is a senior legal policy analyst at the Meese Center for Legal and Judicial Studies at The Heritage Foundation.