© 2003 by Robert Waters Artwork © 2003 by Nick Bougas

Guns Are Still Saving Lives

by Robert Waters

Guns Are Still Saving Lives

On June 30, 2002, two Iowa youths escaped from a school for troubled teenagers. For twelve hours, they terrorized the Woods community, stealing four automobiles and managing to evade capture by police. According to the Rapid City Journal, Pete Paul Fast Horse and Jeremy Feltman were in a stolen Ford four-wheel-drive when they “sped through an intersection and crashed into an embankment.”

They then fled on foot from pursuing police and approached the house of Sena Lauritzen. When the 55-year-old grandmother saw the fugitives attempting to enter her house through a patio door, she grabbed a shotgun and held them until police arrived. “This is my little bit of heaven,” she said after the incident. “They had no right to invade it.”

The national media refuses to report gun self-defense stories, stating that they're not newsworthy.

The Brady Campaign to Prevent Gun Violence claims such cases are “rare.” The national media refuses to report self-defense stories, stating that they're not newsworthy. Politicians who wouldn't be caught dead without gun-toting bodyguards routinely pass laws restricting gun ownership for the masses.

Politicians who wouldn't be caught dead without gun-toting bodyguards routinely pass laws restricting gun ownership for the masses.

Yet, even as the preponderance of elite opinion condemns the evil gun, each year tens of thousands of Americans use firearms to save themselves and others. In most cases, as in the incident described above, violent assaults are stopped without a shot being fired. In other instances, citizens use guns to incapacitate or kill criminals.

Even as the preponderance of elite opinion condemns the evil gun, each year tens of thousands of Americans use firearms to save themselves and others.

In the summer of 2001, a 68-year-old wheelchair-bound veteran in Flint, Michigan, killed an assailant inside his home. Clinton Burns had fought for his country during the Korean War and had been awarded a Purple Heart. On June 11, he heard an intruder breaking into his apartment. As the man entered his bedroom, Burns grabbed a .38-caliber revolver from the headrest of his wheelchair. Aiming it at the assailant, Burns pleaded with him to leave. Instead, the intruder attacked the homeowner. Burns had no choice but to shoot. The unidentified man died at the scene. Lt. Diane Garrison, commander of the Michigan state police, said, “A citizen has the right to protect themselves using up to and including deadly force.” The only report of the story was in a local newspaper.

In another case that the national media deemed “un-newsworthy,” South Carolina resident Conita Sims shot Reginald Dewayne Wheeler after he attacked her with a shotgun. Sims had filed a “domestic violence warrant” for the arrest of Wheeler after she had been the victim of several beatings and “terroristic threats” from her former boyfriend. On the afternoon that she obtained the warrant, he showed up at her home and used a shotgun to blast the knob off the front door. But as he entered, Sims herded her children behind her, pulled a handgun, and fired several shots. One bullet struck Wheeler in the chest, dropping him in his tracks. He survived but was later charged with numerous crimes. Sheriff Howard Sellers said, “Sims acted in a legal and responsible manner, and for that reason there will be no charges brought against her.”

And so it goes. “Rare” and “un-newsworthy” as they are, these cases seem to keep occurring.

On April 2, 2002, a Lebanon, Oregon, business owner shot and killed a robber. Kevin Skaggs was at the counter of the Quick Cash Payday Advance when a man wearing a Scream mask walked in. The robber indicated that he had a gun and wanted money. Skaggs pulled his own gun and shot Jeffrey Gordon Duncan in the chest. The assailant fled, running down the railroad tracks near the store. He was found dead a few blocks away. “If there is one good thing that comes out of this,” Skaggs said, “it's that people will know that we are not going to put up with this sort of thing.”

At 4:00 a.m., on March 9, 2002, Jason Chatham was asleep in his Wilkes County, North Carolina, mobile home when two men knocked on his front door. They stated that their car had broken down and asked to use the telephone. Since Chatham knew one of the men, he allowed them to enter the house. Once inside, they pulled guns on him, tied his hands in front of him with a telephone cord, and began to ransack the house. With his hands still tied, Chatham was able to retrieve a handgun he kept hidden in the couch. As Ted Marley Baker (one of the intruders) reached for his own weapon, the homeowner fired. The bullet struck Baker in the neck, killing him. His accomplice fled and was later arrested. Chatham was not charged with any crime.

A report in the Dallas Morning News on September 12, 2002, described the ordeal of Dr. David Avery and his wife Patricia. As the couple backed their pickup truck into the driveway of their McKinney, Texas, home, a car pulled in front of them, blocking their way out. A masked man jumped from the car, stuck an AK-47 in David Avery's face, and ordered him to lie on the ground. As Avery complied, Patricia Avery positioned herself behind the truck, pulled a .38-caliber revolver from her purse, and began firing at the assailant. He returned fire, his heavy slugs slamming into the truck. Undeterred, Patricia kept shooting. Finally, the woman's firepower drove the assailant back to his car. He fled, but the abandoned car was later found by police. At the time the article was written, the assailant hadn't been captured, but blood in a nearby field suggested that he had been wounded. David and Patricia Avery were unharmed, though shaken. “I told her she was a hero,” Dr. Avery said of his wife.

When police stopped a car south of Chattanooga, Tennessee, a passenger, Derrick Middlebrooks, fled. He kicked down the door of a nearby apartment and ran inside, screaming. According to news reports, the resident awoke and “told Middlebrooks to leave and that he had a gun. Middlebrooks ran towards the bedroom where the homeowner was, still screaming, and the homeowner told Middlebrooks again to leave.” Finally, the resident fired, hitting the intruder in the shoulder. Middlebrooks ran back outside and was promptly arrested. The assailant had numerous warrants for domestic assault, aggravated burglary, and probation violation.

In Anchorage, Alaska, two men broke into the house of Normandy veteran Roy Lee Hendricks. During World War II, Hendricks, a member of the 82nd Airborne Division, had parachuted behind enemy lines on D-Day. On the night of August 11, 2002, the veteran awoke and saw two hooded men standing at his bedside. They demanded his billfold, and when he tried to get up, they pushed him down. As the men began beating Hendricks, he grabbed a .22-caliber Derringer from his dresser. The homeowner placed the barrel of the gun against the arm of one of his assailants and pulled the trigger. “They were burning the turf to get outta here once I started shooting,” Hendricks said. A neighbor heard the gunshots, grabbed a gun, and rushed to Hendricks's aid. They held the wounded robber at gunpoint until police arrived. The second man pushed open a window and fled. During the fight, a bullet grazed the tip of the veteran's pinkie finger. Hendricks, in an interview with the Anchorage Daily News, said, “I never ran in my life, and I don't intend to now.”

After two home invaders in Memphis were killed by armed residents in a two-week period, an editorial published on August 30, 2002, in a local newspaper stated that “the shooting deaths may give some would-be home invaders second thoughts before they size up their next targets.” While most people would be deterred by the shootings, it's unlikely they would have stopped one of the home invaders - he'd been arrested for the first time when he was ten years old and had committed a steady string of crimes since. Getting killed was probably the best thing that could have happened to him. It was certainly a good thing for the citizens of Memphis.

The 7,000 documented stories in my files would indicate that these cases are not “rare.”

But were these cases “rare”? The 7,000 documented stories in my files would indicate that they're not.

On the night of September 17, 2002, two residents of Rochester, New York, killed home invaders in separate incidents. In each case, the intruders were violent career criminals. And in each case, homeowners with legally owned firearms refused to be intimidated and defended themselves and their families.

On August 24, 2002, Steven D. Robey, who had a Florida permit to carry a concealed weapon, was vacationing with his sixteen-year-old daughter in Fort Myers when two men forced their way into his motel room. One intruder, armed with a handgun, ordered Robey to lie on the bed while the second man forced his daughter into the bathroom. (Police surmised that he planned to rape the girl.) Robey pulled a .45-caliber semiautomatic pistol from beneath his pillow and opened fire. Phillip Nelson was hit in the chest and died at the scene. Ernest Major was shot in the abdomen, arm, and leg. At last report, he was in intensive care in the Lee Memorial Hospital. The suspects were thought to be responsible for a string of armed robberies in the area. Neither Robey nor his daughter were injured, and Robey was not charged with any crime.

So let the folks at the Brady Campaign live in their fantasy world. Let the national media spike any story of armed self-defense. And let the politicians attempt to pass new restrictions on the evil firearm.

In the real world, Americans will continue to use guns to defend themselves and others.

Robert Waters is the author of Guns Save Lives: True Stories of Americans Defending Their Lives With Firearms.
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