In the film True Romance, Christian Slater remarked, “It’s better to have a gun and not need it than to need a gun and not have it.” With that single sentence, he offered a succinct and valid case for possessing a firearm. Members of pro-gun organizations have frequently alluded to the value of civilians owning firearms as a means of potentially defending against such violence. This article discusses ten particular incidents typically alluded to by pro-gun lobbies as evidence supporting their case.
10. The 2007 Colorado YWAM and New Life Shootings
Over the course of a day, Matthew Murray attacked both the Youth With A Mission training center in Arvada, Colorado around 12:30 AM, and then New Life Church in Colorado Springs, Colorado around 1:00 PM. In the first incident, Murray killed two victims and wounded two others. In the second incident, he again killed two victims, but this time wounded three others. During the second incident, Jeanne Assam, a former police officer and current church member providing security, fired upon Murray, hitting him multiple times. The wounded gunman then took his own life via one of his firearms.
The church’s pastor claimed that Assam saved perhaps one hundred lives by her decisive actions. As Assam remarked, “God guided me and protected me [and I]did not think for a minute to run away.”
9. Shai Dromi’s act of self-defense
Israel is no stranger to violence. The country seems to be endlessly plagued with either acts of terrorism or wars with its neighbors. On January 13 2007, a different kind of violent incident took place, when an Israeli farmer named Shai Dromi found his dog poisoned by four intruders, before he shot and killed a trespasser. Dromi was actually administering first aid to his property invader when authorities arrived. Dromi was subsequently acquitted of manslaughter and even had a law popularly named after him passed by the Knesset (the legislature of Israel,) that makes opposition to intruders a legal act of self-defense in Israel.
8. The Death of Sergeant Daniel Tessier
On March 2 2007, Laval police in Canada executed a search warrant at the home of Basil Parasiris, purportedly to look for evidence of activity concerning illegal narcotics. The police entered with force and surprised Parasiris and his wife, who were sleeping at the time. Thinking it was a home invasion, the husband went for his gun and opened fire. In the short shootout, Officer Tessier was fatally wounded, while his partner was also hit. Meanwhile, the wife hid, while the eldest child in the house called 911. Parasiris was later acquitted of murder and attempted murder charges.
7. The Death of John Ward
John Ward lived a troubled life. During his life, he amassed a perversely impressive eighty convictions from thirty-eight separate court appearances over the course of thirty years, for everything from assault to burglary to larceny. His two sons had also faced charges for violent attacks on others. On October 14 2004, Ward trespassed on the property of Irish farmer Pádraig Nally. Encountering this strange man, Nally wound up fatally shooting Ward. Although initially sentenced to six years in prison for manslaughter, Nally successfully appealed his conviction and was acquitted in 2006. As a result, the Irish government enacted a new self-defense law in 2011.
6. The Appalachian School of Law Shooting
School shootings are among the most saddening of gun violence incidents, and much of the current uproar going on about gun control stems from the many such school shootings in the 1990s, 2000s, and 2010s. One incident however, was prevented from being as bad as others, due to the intervention of armed civilians. Peter Odighizuwa, a former student of The Virginia Appalachian School of Law, opened fire on school officials and students alike on January 16, 2002. The shooter killed a dean, a professor and a student, and wounded three other students in the rampage.
He was then confronted by three students outside of the building where the attack occurred. As it turns out, one was a police officer, another was a sheriff’s deputy, and the third a former Marine. They successfully subdued the shooter at gunpoint (two of them were armed) until police arrived. The shooter was eventually sentenced to three life terms and an additional twenty-eight years, without the possibility of parole.
5. The Parker Middle School Dance Shooting
Whereas the previous incident involved adult students, this tragedy involved juveniles. On April 24 1998, Andrew Jerome Wurst, 14, left a suicide note under his pillow, took his father’s pistol, went to a school graduation dance, and fatally shot 48-year-old John Gillette while wounding another teacher and two students. The owner of the restaurant then bravely confronted the teenager with a shotgun, and successfully prevented Wurst from firing on anyone else or committing suicide. He pled guilty, and was sentenced to thirty to sixty years, with possible parole in 2029.
4. The Pearl High School Shooting
Another act of gun violence committed by a teenager occurred at a high school in Mississippi. Sadly, however, two of the nine victims were killed when 16-year-old Luke Woodham stabbed and bludgeoned his mother to death in his home, before driving to Pearl High School, where he shot and killed his former girlfriend and sent bullets into the bodies of seven others.
Fortunately, Joel Myrick, Assistant Principal and U.S. Army Reserve Commander, was nearby and armed with a Colt 1911 .45 automatic. Myrick prevented Woodham from escaping, and detained him until authorities could arrest him. He was later sentenced to three life terms plus an additional 140 years in prison, and will be eligible for parole in 2046, when he is 65 years old.
3. Korean Armed Resistance in the Los Angeles Riots
One of the most memorable violent incidents in 1990s America was undoubtedly the protests and riots concerning the arrest of Rodney King. Regardless of whether you believe King’s or the officers’ stories, the subsequent acquittal of the officers was enough to spark a full on riot in Los Angeles in 1992, that took fifty-three lives and wounded another 2,000+ individuals.
During the chaos, Korean-Americans defended themselves and their property against the rioters. Multiple shooting incidents threatened Koreatown. Two incidents proved particularly unforgettable. Armed jewelry store and gun shop owner Richard Park and his gun store manager, David Joo, retaliated with pistol shots against looters, after the shooting of Mr. Park’s wife and her sister by looters. Joo said, “I want to make it clear that we didn’t open fire first … somebody started to shoot at us.” Meanwhile, at a shopping center several miles north of Koreatown, Jay Rhee estimated that he and others fired five hundred shots into the ground and air, amidst the tumult.
2. The Killing of Reginald Calvert
On June 21 1966, Major Oliver Smedley, a Military Cross recipient operating a pirate radio station after World War II, fatally shot rival offshore radio station owner Reginald Calvert, who had also achieved some success as the manager of The Fortunes pop group and singer Screaming Lord Sutch. His career, however, took a disastrous turn when he came into dispute with Smedley. The two men tried to cooperate with each other, but Calvert argued that Smedley sold him an improperly functioning transmitter. So, when Calvert refused to pay for it, Smedley sent men to retrieve it from Calvert’s “Radio City.”
In response to this perceived attack on his station, on June 21 1966, Calvert went to Smedley’s home to voice his concerns in person. The two men violently struggled with each other, until Smedley shot Calvert dead with a shotgun. Smedley’s subsequent claim that he feared Calvert intended to kill him was enough to win an acquittal on grounds of self-defense.
1. The Shooting of Trayvon Martin
The most recent, and certainly most controversial, entry on this list is the infamous shooting of African-American youth Trayvon Martin. In February 2012, neighborhood watch coordinator George Zimmerman noticed Martin purportedly acting “suspicious.” So Zimmerman telephoned the police saying, “This guy looks like he’s up to no good, or he’s on drugs or something. It’s raining and he’s just walking around …”
What exactly happened next is still in dispute, but what is known is that Zimmerman vacated his vehicle while still on the phone with police. He and Martin then engaged in some kind of altercation that ended with Zimmerman fatally shooting Martin in the chest. Zimmerman suffered a bloody nose and two lacerations on the back of his head. Although he claimed self-defense, media coverage of the shooting, and public reactions soon after, railed against Zimmerman for everything from racism to civil rights violations. Zimmerman’s trial has finally begun, and will hopefully clear up the story once and for all.
By Dr. Matthew Zarzeczny, author of Banned From The Internet