November: Lives saved by legal weapons

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Joe Biden has begun naming his picks for top political positions in a Biden administration, and it is already evident that many of them are not fans of Americans’ Second Amendment right to keep and bear arms.

For example, California Attorney General Xavier Becerra—Biden’s choice to head the Department of Health and Human Services—has spent the past three years defending that state’s absurdly restrictive gun control laws in federal court.

Meanwhile, Dr. Vivek Murthy—chosen by Biden to return to the post of U.S. surgeon general—repeatedly has argued that gun-related violence should be reframed as a public health issue, with restrictive gun control measures imposed on law-abiding citizens to help combat it.

One aspect of public health and safety that these gun control advocates regularly fail to acknowledge, however, is just how often law-abiding citizens use their firearms to successfully defend themselves and others.

According to a 2013 report by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, 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. There’s good reason to believe that many of these defensive gun uses aren’t reported to police, much less make the local or national news. 

For this reason, The Daily Signal each month publishes an article highlighting some of the previous month’s many news stories on 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 so far in 2020 here.) 

The examples below represent only a small portion of the news stories on defensive gun use that we found in November. You may explore more by using The Heritage Foundation’s interactive Defensive Gun Use Database.

  • Nov. 2, Daytona Beach, Florida: A man at a gas station made inappropriate sexual gestures toward another motorist’s wife, causing an argument. The man eventually left, but soon returned and attacked the other motorist with a metal pipe. He fired his gun at the attacker in self-defense, causing him to flee. Police later arrested the attacker, who they said was on probation for aggravated battery.
  • Nov. 5, Marion, South Carolina: man opened fire twice on a crowd of people, first while driving past and then after parking and walking toward the crowd, police said. During this second confrontation, an intended victim drew a firearm and shot and wounded the attacker.
  • Nov. 7, Tamarac, Florida: A homeowner handicapped by polio had just gotten out of the shower when he heard a man bashing in his front door with a brick. The homeowner retrieved his handgun and, as he called 911, warned the man to go away. He spent 15 minutes pleading with dispatchers for help as his neighbors also made panicked 911 calls, but law enforcement didn’t respond. Fortunately, between the homeowner’s hurricane-proof glass door and his threats to shoot the intruder if he broke in, the man gave up and walked away. He later was arrested.
  • Nov. 9, Okmulgee County, Oklahoma: Aware that local authorities were searching for someone described as armed and dangerous who had shot at and fled from police, a homeowner became alarmed when his son told him a strange man was at the door. The homeowner saw the man trying to get into a car in the next driveway, grabbed his shotgun, and held the man at gunpoint until police arrived. He was indeed the wanted suspect.
  • Nov. 12, Van Buren, Arkansas: A homeowner opened a closet door to discover a burglar staring back at him. The burglar, later found to have taken the homeowner’s wallet and other items, “became combative,” police said. The homeowner fired several rounds at the burglar, wounding him.  
  • Nov. 16, Charleston, West Virginia: While he was at work, a homeowner’s security cameras alerted him that a man was snooping around his house. He went home, found the man attempting to break in through a locked porch door, and held him at gunpoint while calling police.  
  • Nov. 19, Wilderville, Oregon: When an obviously impaired driver pulled his van over to the side of a highway, other drivers also pulled over to detain the suspected drunk driver until police could arrive. When he tried to speed away, another driver—who was hit by the van—drew his gun and fired, hitting the suspected drunk driver and preventing him from endangering others. Officers later said the driver had a blood alcohol level of .30%, more than three times the legal limit.
  • Nov. 20, Columbus, Ohio: 75-year-old Meals on Wheels driver with a concealed carry permit used his firearm to defend himself from two teenagers who attempted to rob him at gunpoint. One teen pointed a gun at the driver, a retired police officer, while the other took his cellphone and wallet. The driver then drew his own gun and shot the armed teen, wounding him. The second teen fled. Police charged the wounded teen with aggravated robbery.
  • Nov. 22, Dyersburg, Tennessee: During an argument, a man charged at his girlfriend and began hitting her, police said. The woman was able to retrieve her handgun from her bedroom and fired several rounds in self-defense, wounding her boyfriend. Police charged him with aggravated assault and said the woman would not face charges.
  • Nov. 26, New Orleans, Louisiana: Thanksgiving Day took a devastating turn for one New Orleans family when a man suffering from a mental health crisis stabbed his stepfather to death before turning the knife on his mother and stabbing her several times. The man’s brother retrieved a firearm and fatally shot him, saving their mother’s life.
  • Nov. 28, Albuquerque, New Mexico: A man fatally shot a would-be robber who assaulted him, police said. The man was walking back to his car after using an ATM when the assailant threatened him with a machete. Worried for his safety and that of family members in the car, he fired his gun at the man with the machete before his wife called 911.

No one seriously argues that devastating public health consequences don’t occur when criminals or others struggling with mental health conditions have ready access to guns. Policy steps certainly can and should be taken to remove firearms from individuals who pose a danger to themselves or others.

Many of the policies proposed or advocated by Biden’s political picks, however, fail to meaningfully address the realities underlying gun-related violence. Just as importantly, they fail to account for how firearms often are used in defense of physical safety, and how these measures hamper the ability of law-abiding citizens to protect themselves or others.

Serious constitutional concerns aside, these types of gun control laws simply aren’t necessary—indeed, they often aren’t even useful—for saving lives.

But such laws are very good at undermining the Second Amendment and making it more difficult for Americans such as those featured here to ensure their own safety.

Commentary by Amy Swearer. Originally published at The Daily Signal. Reproduced with permission.