When Jeanne Assam's Gun Stopped a Church Massacre
Once again, the cries for gun control measures that wouldn’t have stopped the shooter are being heard. Yet once again, it was a good guy with a gun that in this case pursued the killer in a chase that resulted in death, preventing further deaths and saving lives. Once again, we hear cries that the good guy with the gun should be disarmed.
If a good guy with a gun had been inside the First Baptist Church, the killer could have been blown away and we might not be having this conversation. Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton pointed out what should be obvious -- that we don’t need more unarmed potential victims sitting like sheep, targets in what amounts to a gun-free zone:
Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton (R) indicated during an interview with Fox News’s Brian Kilmeade that the response to the Texas church shooting should be more armed law-abiding citizens rather than more gun control.
Paxton pointed out that there were numerous laws already on the books, including “laws against murder,” and the attacker violated those laws without hesitation. He observed, “So adding some other gun law, I don’t think would in any way change this guy’s behavior.”
It’s not clear to me that [the attacker] wasn’t already prevented from having a gun, given his history in the military. What ultimately may have saved some lives is… people that were outside the church that actually had guns that may have slowed this guy down and actually pursued him. So I would rather arm law-abiding citizens and make sure that they can prevent this from happening as opposed to trying to pass laws that would prevent law-abiding citizens from having guns.
Guns in churches seem like some sort of grotesque oxymoron but in the right hands a firearm can be the ultimate peacemaker. Many were thankful that day in 2007 that Jeanne Assam, a volunteer security guard at New Life Church in Colorado Springs, had easy access to a gun when Matthew Murray entered the east entrance of the church and began firing his rifle. Murray was carrying two handguns, an assault rifle, and over 1,000 rounds of ammunition.
Assam, who worked as a police officer in downtown Minneapolis during the 1990s and is licensed to carry a weapon, shot and killed Murray. Had she not done so, more than two would have been killed at the church that day. Two others had been killed by Murray at the Youth Mission School in nearby Arvada. New Life’s senior pastor Brady Boyd said Assam’s actions saved the lives of 50 to 100 people:
A former police officer, Assam, 42, was on security duty Sunday morning at New Life Church here. Hours earlier, a 24-year-old who had been rejected from a missionary school in a Denver suburb had shot and killed two staffers there. Now he was spraying New Life's parking lot with gunfire and pushing through the doors to the sanctuary.
Assam hid and inched toward the gunman, Matthew Murray, as dozens of terrified worshipers fled. She waited until he got close enough, revealed herself, aimed her pistol and fired. Murray dropped to the ground. He was carrying an assault rifle, two pistols and a backpack holding more than 1,000 rounds of ammunition.
"I just prayed to the Holy Spirit to guide me," Assam said at a packed news conference Monday. "I give the credit to God. This has got to be God, because of the firepower he had versus what I have."
As they say, praise the Lord and pass the ammunition. In places like Sutherland Springs, San Bernardino, Orlando, and other mass shooting sites, the slaughter of the innocent could have been cut short by someone with a gun. As the widow of one of the San Bernardino victims noted:
Amy Wetzel is the widow of San Bernardino shooting victim Michael Wetzel and she is also applying for a concealed carry weapons permit. During a recent interview, she speculated that the outcome of the San Bernardino terrorist attack could have been very different if someone had been carrying a concealed gun.
“What if someone in that room (at the Inland Regional Center) had had a permit to carry (a concealed weapon),” she said.
Overlooked in the news coverage of the mass shootings was the Oregon massacre that wasn’t at Clackamas Town Center Mall in December of 2012. As Investor’s Business Daily noted, fortune placed another good guy with a gun at the same place a bad guy with a gun planned a massacre:
Before the tragedy in Connecticut, a shooter at an Oregon shopping mall was stopped by an armed citizen with a concealed carry permit who refused to be a victim, preventing another mass tragedy.
In the target-rich environment of the Clackamas Town Center two weeks before Christmas, the shooter managed to kill only two people before killing himself. A far worse tragedy was prevented when he was confronted by a hero named Nick Meli.
As the shooter was having difficulty with his weapon, Meli pulled his and took aim, reluctant to fire lest an innocent bystander be hit. But he didn't have to pull the trigger: The shooter fled when confronted, ending his own life before it could be done for him.
We will never know how many lives were saved by an armed citizen that day.
Indeed, we will not. What we do know is that killers will deliberately choose gun-free zones such as Umqua or that Aurora, Colorado movie theatre to target their victims knowing there will be no one thereto immediately return fire:
As John R. Lott Jr., president of the Crime Research Prevention Center, wrote in an op-ed in the Chicago Tribune on Tuesday, "Since at least 1950, all but two mass public shootings in America have taken place where general citizens are banned from carrying guns." This is usually why they are selected as targets, Lott says.
In the July 2012 mass shooting inside a movie theater in Aurora, Colo., the shooter had a choice of seven movie theaters within 20 miles of his home that were showing the Batman movie he was obsessed with. The Cinemark Theater he chose wasn't the closest, but it was the only one that banned customers from carrying guns inside.
Ever since Cain slew Abel, there has been evil in the world and a desire among some to kill others. Disarming the law-abiding to prevent such killings is like trying to fight drunk driving by making it harder for sober drivers to get driver’s licenses. We don’t need more gun-free zones populated with unarmed targets. We do need more people able to defend themselves.
Sen. Rand Paul (R-KY), who was at the batting cages in the Alexandria, Virginia baseball field where Rep. Steve Scalise (R-LA) was shot, said the obvious, that for the presence of a defender with a gun, a massacre would have ensued. As Fox News reported:
“Without Capitol Hill police, it would have been a massacre -- we had no defense -- we had no defense at all,” Paul said on “Fox & Friends” just minutes after the incident. “I think we’re lucky Scalise was there because this was his security detail and without them, it would have been a massacre.”
Paul described the scene as "sort of a killing field," and said there were more than 50 shots of gunfire which lasted for at least 10 minutes. Paul described the sounds of the gunfire as possibly coming from an “AR-15” style rifle. The actual model gun used by the shooter has yet to be confirmed.
“We were like sitting ducks,” Paul said, describing his location during the shooting as inside the batting cages, which was approximately 50 yards from second base where Scalise was.
“We were so lucky Capitol Hill Police were there,” Paul said. “They saved our lives.”
But for the Capitol Hill Police detail assigned to protect Scalise as a member of the House Republican leadership, the killer would have been free to roam the fenced in field picking targets at random. The field would have been just another gun-free zone, as in places such as Paris and Orlando
There will be more endless hand-wringing on what we must do to stop this violence. How about learning the lesson of places like Alexandria, Clackamas, and the New Life Church? A lesson taught in so many other places -- that the only way to stop a bad guy with a gun is with a good guy with a gun.
Daniel John Sobieski is a freelance writer whose pieces have appeared in Investor’s Business Daily, Human Events, Reason Magazine and the Chicago Sun-Times among other publications.