Often we will see an article where someone used a firearm in self-defense and included in that article is a statement from the people at Handgun Control, Incorporated. Usually this statement runs to the effect that successful self-defense cases are "very rare" and that "all too often" they "result in tragedy" or "result in an innocent person being shot".
One of the lessons I learned in high school history classes came from studying Nazi propaganda - "If you tell a lie often enough, people believe it is the truth". Here we have what I'd say is a perfect example of that principle in action. Not only do newspaper articles fail to support the falsehood that self-defense with a firearm is "rare", they fail to support the notion that innocent people are frequently the victim.
Many gun-rights organizations note the study by Florida professor Gary Kleck which indicates that American citizens use firearms in lawful self-defense up to 2.5 million times per year. Gun-control groups point to the government's crime victim survey which puts that number closer to 700,000 times and then point out that about 1 million crimes are committed with firearms to support their "cost versus benefit" argument. Of course their fallacy is that by banning private ownership of firearms, the crime rate will increase by those 700,000 previously prevented crimes (a 70% increase!) because even if every gun were to magically disappear, those crimes could still be committed with other weapons. As you read these stories, think about how severe restrictions or prohibition of guns would have affected the outcome.
Rather than bore you to death with yet more statistics, let's take a look at some of the published news articles describing self-defense that have appeared in the press in fairly recent months. These articles have been edited for space.
Bleeding and weakened from the bullet wound in her chest, Susan Gonzalez aimed her husband's .22-caliber pistol, the one she hated, and emptied it into one of the robbers who had burst through the front door of her rural Jacksonville home.
Those shots ended the life of one robber, led to a life prison term for another and became an epiphany for Gonzalez, a 41-year-old mother of five who runs a photography studio.
Gonzalez had always feared guns, never wanted a gun and argued with her husband, Mike, to please not keep guns in their home.
"I hated guns, all of them," she said. "I was that scared of them that I didn't want them around."
That all changed that terror-filled night nearly three years ago when Susan Gonzalez fought for her life inside her family's home near Jacksonville International Airport.
She and her husband, 43, no longer argue about guns, and she goes almost nowhere without her holstered Taurus .38 Special. She sits with it while watching television and takes it outside to do yardwork.
She joined advocacy groups such as Women Against Gun Control and the Second Amendment Sisters.
And she became a vocal opponent of gun control, traveling to Washington in May to meet with President Clinton and counter-organizers of the Million Mom March, which organized a huge Mother's Day rally to support gun control legislation. She recently taped a segment scheduled to air on ABC-TV's 20/20 in the fall. And this month, she was filmed by a British TV crew for a documentary on Americans and guns.
Gonzalez's story is naturally compelling because she was anti-gun and because she successfully defended herself against an armed intruder after being shot herself, said Janalee Tobias, founder and president of Women Against Gun Control.
"She actually fired a gun," Tobias said. In most cases where potential victims protect themselves, Tobias said, a person is able to scare off an intruder simply by displaying a weapon.
Gonzalez never imagined herself advocating gun owners' rights. She still weeps at the memory of taking a man's life.
"I live every day knowing I had to shoot that boy," she said.
But she said she thinks it's important that stories like hers get told.
"Two and a half years ago I felt just like all them other women [at the Million Mom March]," she said. "You hear about criminals with guns, and you hear about kids committing suicide with guns, but you never hear about the self-defense aspect."
The 42 bullet holes police counted in the Gonzalez home the morning of Aug. 2, 1997, are stark evidence of the sheer terror the couple endured on the night that changed their lives.
The night seemed to be winding down as any other. While Mike Gonzalez slept, his wife sat on the couch watching television and waiting for their 18-year-old son to arrive home from a friend's house, where he had been playing video games.
Susan Gonzalez remembers hearing the doorknob jiggle about 12:40 a.m. She thought to herself as she walked toward the door, "Wow, he's early."
Suddenly the door flew open and two masked men burst into the doublewide wearing gloves and camouflage jackets and waving guns. One of them ordered Susan Gonzalez to lie down, but she ran. He chased her back to the master bedroom, where she woke her husband and tried to hold the door shut. She was shot in the chest.
"It burned like a fire going through me," she said.
As her husband, 43, wrestled with the two robbers in the living room, Susan Gonzalez dialed 911, told the operator they were being shot, gave her address and hung up. She then grabbed her husband's Ruger .22 from a drawer in the headboard and, fearing she would hit her husband by mistake, fired several shots over the robbers' heads to scare them off.
It didn't work.
"One came towards me firing, and I ran," she said. "After running to my bedroom, the intruder didn't follow me all the way . . . because he now knew I had a gun also."
She peered out from her bedroom doorway and saw one of the gunmen, Raymond Waters Jr., crouched near her refrigerator. She crept along the wall, sneaked up behind him and emptied the Ruger, hitting him twice with her seven or eight remaining bullets. The other gunman, Robert Walls, then shot Susan Gonzalez, now out of ammunition, as she retreated to the bedroom again.
"I was standing in my closet asking for forgiveness of my sins, because I knew I was dead," she recalled.
Walls fled from the house but returned when he found the robbers' getaway driver had left. He put a gun to Susan Gonzalez's head and demanded the keys to the couple's truck. As he sped off, the truck ran over Waters, who had staggered outside.
Walls, 24, is serving five life prison terms for second-degree felony murder, armed robbery, armed burglary and two counts of attempted first-degree murder. Louie T. Wright, 27, the getaway driver, pleaded guilty to robbery and was sentenced to five years.
Susan and Mike Gonzalez, each shot twice during the gunbattle, were treated at area hospitals. She required lung surgery. His injuries were less serious, and he went home in three days.
Nancy Hwa, a spokeswoman for the Center to Prevent Handgun Violence, was reluctant to criticize Gonzalez.
"Every incident is different," she said. "In this particular case, she certainly was justified using whatever means necessary to defend herself."
But the compelling story obscures the fact that "incidences like Ms. Gonzalez's are very rare," Hwa said, citing statistics that show firearms are far less likely to be used in self-defense than in suicides, accidental shootings or homicides involving members of the same household. And, she said, the center believes having a handgun escalates the potential for violence.
"People have to weigh the risk of losing a TV, jewelry or whatever vs. losing their life," Hwa said.
Don't you think Ms. Gonzalez figured that out in the first few seconds of this incident? Out of ammunition and unarmed, the robber held a gun at the twice shot woman's head to get the truck keys. One can surmise that he didn't execute her because he thought she would die anyway.
The statistics don't matter to Susan Gonzalez.
"Reality set in when I was shot," she said, "to the point where I realized why my husband and others had guns for self-defense."
Robbed three times, Edmond Cody installed a video camera to keep tabs on his Carol City yard, showed his children a gun he kept in a locked box and warned them to stay away from it.
But when six gun-toting robbers stormed his house again Friday afternoon, son Derrick, 16, grabbed the weapon and exchanged fire with the thugs, his family said. When the scene cleared, two robbers were wounded and Derrick's father was sprawled on the front lawn, shot in the back.
Five in the pack sped off in a car, leaving one of the wounded behind at the Cody home in the 2100 block of Northwest 173rd Terrace. The group dumped the other wounded man in the parking lot of North Shore Medical Center, where he died soon after, Miami-Dade Police said.
Edmond Cody, a Delta Air Lines cargo supervisor, and the robber who was left behind were airlifted to Jackson Memorial Hospital, where they were in critical condition Friday night. Police questioned Derrick into the evening.
The 1:20 p.m. shootout was the second attempted home invasion in two days in which robbers encountered an armed victim. Thursday, a man tried to rob unit 5-G at Center Court Apartments in North Miami but was stopped when the occupant apparently shot him in the leg. Police caught up with the man at Parkway Regional Medical Center.
This morning, I was no more than awake, still in my nightgown and robe having my morning coffee, when my dog started barking. It was one of those, " there is someone in my yard" barks, so I paid attention and went to check.
There at the door, I saw through the storm door, was a young man I would imagine to be around thirtyish, nice looking, clean clothes who looked kind of startled when he saw me, but then gave me a big smile and asked to use my phone, his car had broken down. I didn't open the storm door but talked through it and I told him to give me the number, I would dial it and make the call for him.
He stuttered and stammered and said that would be okay but could he use my bathroom.
I said, "nothing personal dear, but with all the crazy things going on, no," he could not use my bathroom. I wasn't about to let him in the house. He then asked for a glass of water. I thought this was strange since he had just told me he was about to wet himself. I told him to go around the corner, he was a guy, he could pee outdoors. (a bit crude huh?) Told him to get a drink at the hose at the side of the house. He mumbled something and walked away. I closed the door but had a really uneasy feeling. I sort of half expected him to come back to use the phone. I called my son who lives on the other side if town and he said he would come over. It would take him 10 minutes if there wasn't a train.
The next thing I know, the dog is barking again. This time at the back of the house. I looked out the back window and he was in my back yard. Usually people are intimidated by the dog but not this time.
I have a fenced in back yard with a gate. We have a fire place and my husband has a pile of cut wood in the back yard, some logs and some kindling. He had picked up one of the smaller pieces if wood and was just standing there. Like he was 'thinking' of what his next move would be. I went and got my handgun and just stood at the window, with my handgun in one hand, I tapped on the window with the gun (not pointed but wanted him to see it.) and the telephone at my ear. He dropped the wood and ran. I called 911 and gave them a description and told them what happened.. They were here within minutes and found him about a block away. He did have a record for breaking and entering and had spent time in prison.
Maybe I was just paranoid,and over reacted. I don't know what he had in mind, or if my life was in danger but I think the sight of the gun did get the message across that this was no ordinary grandma he was dealing with here. My theory is he was thinking of breaking in and was surprised to find someone at home. Most of the people on this street work, and most of the homes are unoccupied at this time of day. My car is in the garage and the door was shut, so it looked like no one was here either. He just picked the wrong house this time. By the way, there was no broken down car in the area but one in perfect running order.
My heart is still pounding a hundred miles a hour...
KENT, WA -- A man with a history of domestic violence was shot to death after he broke into his ex-girlfriend's home early yesterday.
Kent police say the woman's male companion shot the 37-year-old Kent man after he woke the pair and threatened them with a large butcher knife about 3:15 a.m.The ex-boyfriend broke into the home in the 27300 block of 145th Court Southeast, said Detective Sgt. Mark Gustafson of the Kent Police Department.
A 23-year-old Kent man shot the intruder multiple times with a semi-automatic handgun, which appeared to be legally owned, and then called 911, Gustafson said. The intruder died at the scene. His identity was not released last night pending notification of next of kin.
Neither the shooter nor the woman was injured. Police did not release their names last night.
In the last month, there were four documented police reports of domestic disputes at the home where the shooting occurred. Gustafson said the intruder was kicked out of the home a few weeks ago, and the woman had a restraining order in place against him since then.
A gunbattle in a Las Vegas home early Tuesday left an intruder dead and the 60-year-old homeowner shaken but unharmed, police said.
The Tuesday morning shootout unfolded as the two men stood just a few feet from one another in the den of the homeowner's residence in the 3200 block of South Tenaya Way at Desert Inn Road.
"It was quite an exchange of gunfire," said Las Vegas police Lt. Wayne Petersen. "Amazingly, they weren't very far apart at all. They were standing maybe six to eight feet apart."
In the past three years, at least eight robbery or burglary suspects have been shot or stabbed after they broke into valley businesses and homes. All but one of those shootings by home or business owners have been ruled justified by authorities.
"I was born and raised in Las Vegas, and it does seem like (now) you do see a lot of situations like this," said Ronald C. Bloxham, Clark County chief deputy district attorney. "I think the public is starting to protect themselves more and more."
Tuesday's events started at 5:15 a.m. when the 60-year-old, sleeping alongside his 61-year-old wife, was awakened by the sound of their dogs barking. Petersen said the man retrieved a handgun, then went downstairs to investigate.
The man opened the door to his den and was confronted by an armed intruder standing just feet away. The two immediately started shooting at one another, prompting the homeowner's wife to call 911.
"The suspect fired three shots, the victim eight," Petersen said.
The intruder, tentatively identified as a 20-year-old Las Vegan whose name has not been released, died at the scene. A second intruder fled the house, driving off in a silver Jeep as Las Vegas patrol officers arrived.
"The vehicle didn't have any plates, and that was what really caught the officers' attention," Petersen said.
Patrol officers tried to stop the Jeep, but the driver sped off, prompting a high-speed police chase. Officers pursued the man to a Taco Bell parking lot at Charleston and Decatur boulevards, where officers used their patrol cars to trap the Jeep in the parking lot.
Petersen said Laron D. White, 19, of Las Vegas was arrested in the parking lot. Petersen said White had a cut on his arm, which authorities believe resulted when White and the dead man broke a rear window while entering the Tenaya Way home.
The dead suspect was found by police inside the residence, a firearm still in his hand. Petersen said it appears the man had been arrested numerous times on burglary and battery charges in the past 18 months. Police were unable to locate any prior record for White.
In the past three years, there have been shootings in the Las Vegas Valley in which home and business owners fatally shot intruders. Below is a summary of some of the cases:[Note: Several studies indicate that fatal shootings make up less than 10% of the self-defense uses of a firearm. For every article like this you see in the media, multiply by 10 for a conservative number of times people use a firearm in self-defense.]
MINNEAPOLIS, Updated 7:28 a.m., June 1, 2000 -- A clerk shot a 17-year-old boy who tried to rob a Minneapolis jewelry store Wednesday.
The teen entered American Quality Jewelers, 2401 Central Ave, N.E., at about 6 p.m., pointed a semi-automatic gun at the clerk and handed him a note, WCCO-TV reports.
After a second clerk set off a silent alarm, the employees tried to leave, but were stopped by the gunman. The teen then fired into a display case, but it did not shatter.
As the robber tried to flee the business, an employee shot him in the stomach.
However, the teen was not done shooting.
As he fled, the teen tried to carjack the vehicle a woman was driving. When she refused to stop, the youth fired a shot at her, just missing her head. "The bullet came so close to her head that she went to the doctor with ear pain," WCCO-TV reports.
The teen was arrested a short time later. He was listed in satisfactory condition at the Hennepin County Medical Center Thursday.
The clerk was not arrested.
A Line Street woman opened fire Tuesday night on some men she discovered had broken into her home, injuring one man and possibly another, Charleston police said.
One of several shots the woman fired at about 7:30 p.m. injured one burglary suspect who fell to the floor. A second suspect apparently was also injured but managed to run from the scene, police said.
"She struck one, possibly two," police Col. Ned Hethington said. He said a trail of blood leading from the home is believed to have been made by a second man who was in the woman's home.
No charges are planned against the woman. The wounded man who was on the floor inside the home when police arrived was taken to Medical University Hospital and will be charged with burglary, Hethington said.
Apparently a bullet entered his back, Hethington said.
Burglars ripped steel bars from a side window and shattered glass to enter the home, he said. The woman, who was being interviewed by police late Tuesday, told police her home has been broken into several times.
Hethington said the woman and a boyfriend arrived in a vehicle and parked on the street, near her front door. When she opened the door, she realized someone was inside and went back to the vehicle to get her gun.
The woman fired some shots, one of which left a visible mark when it glanced across the front door. Neighbors called police, and she put the gun down on the pavement as ordered to by the first officer to arrive.
South Carolina law gives residents the right to use deadly force to protect their home.
"There will be absolutely no charges against her, whatsoever," Hethington said. "She was fully cooperative and seems to be an excellent witness."