Top 10 Instances Where Guns Were Used To Defend People


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

Shai Dromi

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

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  1. It should be noted that the vice principal, Mr. Myrick, that subdued Luke Woodham was not armed “nearby.” He could have potentially stopped the entire thing from happening. However, Mr. Myrick was forced to run out to his truck, grab his pistol and then run back to try to subdue Woodham (Woodham was armed with his brother’s lever action hunting rifle that he stole from his house after he stabbed his mother to death). By then, Luke was in his car. He had finished at the High School and was planning on driving to the Middle School to kill some younger kids (this is in his actual testimony). Mr. Myrick confronted Luke at gunpoint while he was behind the wheel. Myrick held Woodham until police arrived. Although tragic that Mr. Myrick was not allowed to keep his gun on his person (Mississippi law has now changed), he is undoubtedly a hero and saved the lives of many young children.

  2. Incidents of innocent victims defending themselves with firearms happen every day in the US; there are hundreds of cases each day. The only reason people only hear about cases of criminals killing people with guns is because the biased main stream media refuses to publish the stories of legal gun owners who protect themselves and families with guns, due to their shamelessly biased agenda.

    If you search gun-related web sites for such cases, they are very-well documented (and very numerous).

  3. dannyexplosion on

    Bold list. The angry mob has pronounced Zimmerman guilty…. But I’ll wait for the verdict.
    I’m all for responsible gun ownership by law abiding citizens. Love reading these lists daily, Thanks!

  4. On #1 why does this wevsite only show that picture of martin when he was 11 years old. Why not one of his most recent pics of just about the time he got shot. He had a criminal record by the. A bunch of gang related tattoos and not to mention why jot post the pics of gis facebook of him holding firearms.. This kid was up to no good his back pack was full of tools to commit crimes, such as bolt cutters wire cutters duct tape a mallet and such .. All the black community jumped on this case cus for a change it was a black man getting killed but if it was a white man getting killed by a black man the black community wouldnt even be heard off .. Its whats calle reverse racism folks !! Bunch of fn hypocrits !!

    • PragmaticStatistic on

      All of what you claim is unsupported, hear say. Prove he had a criminal record, prove the photos of criminal tools are his tools. BTW, I am not black. Unless Zimmerman can prove his victim was in the process of a break in with the criminal’s body inside a home, his judgement is all hypothetical guess work. He should have waited until the crime actually had taken place. Otherwise, he should have remained at a distance and just observed. When challenged he should have walked away. But an adult with a gun has a sense of superiority over a teenager, and a sense of fearlessness that affected his better judgement and his legal authority. As the 911 tapes proved, Zimmerman’s questionable judgement involved a resident of the facility who was wearing his pajama’s and putting his garbage out late at night. The problem with neighborhood watches is that it places individuals in a role of superiority over anyone who enters their realm and these watch guards don’t have the ability to tell the residents, visitors, guests, or family from the criminals. Especially when one of the residents could be the criminal. A criminal could even be some one he knows personally. Like a church member who stabbed 4 members of a church choir during mass in Albuquerque, N.M. because the stabber thought the choir leader’s speech was different and that that made him a Mason worthy of attack. Thus, another case of a self-righteous individual over reaching his legal authority and profiling his neighbors as someone to be feared and punished like in the days of the Salem witch hunt. Its another form of fascism seeking a purer community at all costs both legal and moral.

      • Trayvon Martin did not have a criminal record, but he did have a long disciplinary record at his high school for violent behavior and drug use. (–abc-news-topstories.html)

        “He should have waited until the crime actually had taken place.”

        So your argument is that it’s better to respond to crime long after it’s already happened than to prevent crime while it’s happening?

        “The problem with neighborhood watches is that it places individuals in a role of superiority over anyone who enters their realm and these watch guards don’t have the ability to tell the residents, visitors, guests, or family from the criminals.”

        Neither do cops.

        “Like a church member who stabbed 4 members of a church choir during mass in Albuquerque, N.M. because the stabber thought the choir leader’s speech was different and that that made him a Mason worthy of attack”

        Apples and lampposts comparison.

  5. The title is somewhat misleading…These are all significant instances in which guns were used, but it seemed like it was going to be a list of instances of legitimate self defense. Truth be told, it’s kind of refreshing to see a mix of legitimate and illegitimate self defense claims.

  6. That was… ugly. No, I don’t think I have much to say. I’m sure it would have been easy to find a lot of cases where guns where used the “right” way, but I can’t see many of them here. Number 1 is especially strange, since this case is not yet closed.

    • Wrong wording. I wanted to say that there are some cases here that are defenitely not self defense cases, while I doubt that it would be hard to find ten clear ones. Whether this article is pro or contra guns, it would fail on both sides: On pro because some of the cases are rather questionable, on contra because some of the cases are good and others are that questionable that accusing pro-gun activists of promoting such a behaviour would be nearly a straw man.

  7. PragmaticStatistic on

    Now that Top Ten has decided to enter politics, it owes its readers the Top 10 situations where a well-intentioned good-samaritan shot killed innocent victims when playing cop. Those situations are not so easily found. By creating this article Top Ten appears to support gun-ownership of a minority of the U.S. population, and are glorifying their efforts, against the majority of non-gun owners like me.

    The California Supreme Court recently held that a person rendering nonmedical aid is not immune from liability in tort under the state’s “Good Samaritan” law, which the Court held applies only to persons providing medical aid. So if you harm an innocent victim in you good-samaritan efforts, you are liable for your actions.

    See Watson v. Torti where a good-samaritan is sued and lost the case for her non-emergency medical care. The victim claimed that good-samaritan dragged her out of the car “like a rag doll” and exacerbated the back injuries the accident had caused, resulting in her being paralyzed.

    The George Zimmerman case now in court, is the perfect example of a well-intentioned good-samaritan gone wrong. What training did Zimmerman have that helped him understand the difference between an invited guest looking around and investigating his surroundings vs. a person with criminal intent? And, why does the Stand Your Ground Law apply only to the shooter, but not the victim? The Stand Your Ground Law here in Florida applies to situations where you feel threatened in your home, not out on the street. If you were a teenager being hunted down by an adult stranger, on a dark rainy night, wouldn’t you feel threatened? Wouldn’t you be forced to decide to protect yourself when the stalker gets close enough to do physical harm? Especially, when the stalker does not identify himself as the Neighborhood Watch Guard from a distance? Just consider how the power company personnel stand far from your door and identify themselves when they visit your home.

    Also, the 911 personnel is equally responsible, because when he informed Zimmerman not to follow Martin. His choice of words (“We don’t NEED you to do that.”) left Zimmerman the opportunity to claim he was allowed to follow Martin. If the response was “We don’t WANT you to do that.” Zimmerman would legally have to stop. And, 911 suggesting that Zimmerman keep an eye on his victim, basically allowed Zimmerman to follow Martin. Its a case of the 911 center protecting its perceived liability. Thus our 911 call centers are in need of reform, because the call center is now liable for its part in not stopping Zimmerman.

    Zimmerman, while liable for his actions, will probably get off free because of the legally limiting 911 operator response. Thus a teenager, not mature enough to make the right decisions, died because of a perceived legal liability of what I suspect is a privatized call center that handles multiple communities at once.

    • 1. I agree. Several of these cases don’t seem to be self-defense to me.

      2. You are correct. If you, as a shooter, open fire and miss the person attacking you and hit an innocent bystander, you are legally liable for any damage caused. This is one of the most basic rules of gun safety: be sure of your target and what’s behind it. However, the number of people injured by self-defense shooters is actually quite low, since most self-defense shootings occur less than 4-5 feet apart. If you use a firearm to defend yourself, you’re far more likely to be face to face with the perp than you are to be tucked behind a tree, taking careful aim from 50 feet away.

      3. The issue of the 911 operator is much more basic: they have no legal authority. They can’t order a person to do anything. In fact, unless you are under arrest, a cop cannot legally order you to do anything, and even then you have constitutional rights.

      4. If Zimmerman gets off, it won’t be because of the 911 issue – it will be because his legal team successfully argued that he had a right to defend himself from a threat that would cause a reasonable person to conclude that their life was in danger.

      • Matthew Zarzeczny on

        Dear readers,

        Just out of curiosity, what do you make the appropriateness of the “knock, knock” joke during opening arguments?



        • I thought the joke was actually appropriate. He was demonstrating the difficulty of getting a jury of 6 people who’d never heard of George Zimmerman thanks to the media circus.

          Was it wise and effective? Time will tell. My guess is that the media is far more concerned about it than the jury is.

    • I’m all for a list of this nature: “Top 10 situations where a well-intentioned good-samaritan shot killed innocent victims when playing cop.”

      TopTenz didn’t just enter politics, we have written about many political (emotional) debates, guns just being one of many. I let the author decide how they wish to present the issue; that is what makes this site so interesting, many different view points. TopTenz (me) usually tries to stay out of the debate other than to support the author’s right to their opinion. Feel free to write a list about the topic you choose and submit. I always leave this as an open invitation and a few have answered the call. Thanks for reading and voicing your opinion. For the record, I’m am all in favor of tighter gun control and less guns in America, but that is just my personal stance.

      • To echo what Shell’s said – back in February / March, he had 2 big lists on guns. One was very pro-gun-control. The other was my own list dealing with misconceptions about gun issues that I tried to provide a sense of balance to. It was certainly a decent counterpoint to the earlier list.

        As an occasional writer, I’ll venture into the debates, but mostly to provide information. Sometimes not, tho. But while I’ve disagreed with some of the commenters on this site and their opinions, the staff seems to be pretty good at staying out of political debates. There are some other similar-content sites I cannot say the same about, who only exist to drive up traffic by publishing poorly-researched inflammatory screeds.

      • Shell is right, I have to say. More times than not, I have seen articles right here with the political slant OPPOSITE of what was posted in this one.I was definitely intrigued on discovering the subject and just had to read it.

        The points presented seem very fair and unbiased. A rare find on toptenz.

        Just because you claim to “just be entering politics” with this article, does not mean that your intentions are hidden in any way. It is not some kind of mystery on the leanings of your politics.

        I applaud you on your cautious and responsible use of facts and being reasonable in your judgments. I will, with some trepidation, follow your posts, once again.

  8. Numbers 9, 7, 2 and 1, almost half of the list, do not indicate that the ‘defendent’ was in any way in personal danger, and that use of lethal force was the only possible course of action. I’m not saying it wasn’t, but the limited information here seems to indicate that the defendent could have backed off and called the police.
    And number 8. Really? Shooting a police officer carrying out his duty is justified as self-defence?

    sorry, this list just doesn’t cut it for me.

  9. Ummmmmm…. the last one was not self defense nor was it comparable to the other none stories.

    • Actually, the issue is undecided. Based on his appearance after his initial arrest, I would say that Zimmerman had most certainly been attacked (his face was pretty well mashed up) and the back of his head had injuries that could be construed as having come from an attempt to cause head trauma by beating it on a hard surface like a rock or on the asphalt.

      The big question in the case seems to be “did Zimmerman chase after Martin”, and if so, did that fact negate his right to self-defense. Honestly, if I were arguing the case, I would really, really hope to be on the defense because so far, the prosecution’s argument looks to be built solely from the emotion gut reaction of the protestors for the weeks after the prosecution’s original decision not to charge him. In other words: the trial is more about pacification of the crowd than actual law.

      Let me be clear: it doesn’t really matter if Martin was unarmed, black, hooded, drugged out, carrying tea and Skittles, or if Zimmerman called 911 every hour on the hour, got his bail increased, or didn’t obey the 911 operator (who has no legal authority). What matters are the facts of the case: if Martin presented a threat that would cause a reasonable person to conclude that their life was in danger (say, by beating Zimmerman’s head into the sidewalk), then Zimmerman had every right to use deadly force.

      And yes, that includes cases where one person is armed and the other is not. It’s a legal concept called “disparity of force”, and it means that if an attacker’s situation puts them at a massive advantage in a life-threatening situation (such as by having more than 1 person or by them being a trained soldier or by them being a skilled athlete) over an impressively weaker opponent (handicapped, much smaller, much weaker, female, etc.), then the weaker opponent has a greater right to use a firearm. In this case, Martin was a football player in his physical prime while Zimmerman was a pudgy late-20’s average Joe. The bruises and cuts on Z’s face indicate a reasonable disparity of force and, again, if Z had a reasonable cause to believe his life was in danger, then he had a right to defend his life.

      • Thank you. Actualy providing a comment that’s intellectually stimulating is rare on the internet.

        • This case is shrouded in shotty poliece work though. Why would he not be brought in for official questioning after KILLING another human being?

        • He WAS brought in for questioning immediately after the crime (which is where we got some of the original videos that featured the large gash in the back of his head) between the hours of 7:52 PM and 1:00 AM. The very next day, he voluntarily re-enacted the events of the incident for police officers. The Chief of Police and DA both believed, based on their interviews, that he acted in self-defense. It wasn’t until the protests that the case became a national issue and the case changed hands to people who would be more inclined to bow to the crowd.

          And the result? So far, it’s a show trial where the star witness is an obvious racist and other prosecution witnesses are claiming that, in fact, Martin was straddling Zimmerman, beating his head into the pavement. In other words, it’s exactly what I’ve been saying it was for a long time: a sad, but not illegal tragedy.

    • Well, please define self-defense. If you are lucky enough to defend yourself (with an gun or knife or grenade, or WHATEVER) Who am I to say that you did not fear for your life afterward? Are you saying I can make that determination by watching what I see on TV?