Can Gun Carriers Be ‘Good Samaritans,’ Too?

In Texas, a man is facing assault charges for intervening in an altercation -- with a licensed firearm.
By @katierucke |
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    (Photo/Michael Martelli via Flickr)

    (Photo/Michael Martelli via Flickr)

    After an incident this past weekend in Texas, in which 40-year-old Christopher Ducret approached a couple who was having an altercation in the parking lot of a mall in Frisco, Texas and allegedly shot an unidentified male while trying to intervene, the American public has resumed its never-ending discussion on who should have the right to own a gun and how arming civilians affects public safety.

    According to a press release from the Frisco Police Department, the altercation between a 42-year-old male and an unidentified female in the mall’s parking lot on Saturday night. It’s not clear whether the altercation was physical or simply verbal. Ducret reportedly shot the 42-year-old male, who was then transported to the Medical Center of Plano, where police say he is in stable condition.

    Police have not indicated whether or not Ducret and the couple had any relationship to one another prior to Saturday’s shooting.

    When officers arrived on the scene, police reported Ducret surrendered peacefully and demonstrated that he has a valid Texas Concealed Handgun License. For his actions, Ducret has been charged with using Aggravated Assault with a Deadly Weapon, which in Texas is a second degree felony. If found guilty, he could spend up to 20 years in prison and as much as $10,000 in fines.

    The Frisco Police Department’s Public Information Officer Sgt. Bradley J. Merritt told Mint Press News that the victim was in stable condition at the hospital, and that police would not be releasing the identity of the victim at his request.

    When asked about how often incidents like this occur — where someone with a valid Texas Concealed Handgun License gets involved in another person’s argument or altercation and uses deadly or violent force — Merritt responded that they are “very rare.”

     

    Good Samaritans

    After the tragic mass shooting last December at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, Conn., many pro-gun advocates claimed that if ordinary citizens such as teachers had been armed, the killer could have been stopped. According to an investigation by Mother Jones, however, that’s not necessarily true.

    After an analysis of 62 mass shootings that have occurred in the U.S. during the last 30 years, the left-wing magazine found that not one of those tragedies was stopped by an armed civilian. In some cases, those persons that tried to take heroic actions actually were injured or killed themselves.

    Take Mark Wilson for example. In 2005, Wilson — a firearms instructor — fired his licensed handgun at a man who was on a rampage at a county courthouse in Tyler, Texas. Wilson tried to shoot the man, who wielded an AK-47, but ended up being shot dead himself.

    Robert McMenomy is an assistant special agent in charge in the San Francisco division of the FBI. He said that while come civilians like Wilson are well-intentioned in their actions, the reality is that they not only increase the danger for themselves, but additionally increase the risk an innocent bystander would be a shot and make it more difficult for law enforcement to do its job.

    “In a scenario like that,” McMenomy said, “they wouldn’t know who was good or who was bad, and it would divert them from the real threat.”

    According to Stephen Hargarten, a leading expert on emergency medicine and gun violence at the Medical College of Wisconsin, there is no evidence that arming Americans will help prevent mass shootings or reduce the carnage. He said that in reality the opposite often happens, as there appears to be a relationship between the proliferation of firearms and a rise in mass shootings.

    Armed civilians attempting to intervene are actually more likely to increase the bloodshed, says Hargarten, “given that civilian shooters are less likely to hit their targets than police in these circumstances.”

    But in his book The Bias Against Guns, Bill Landes found that as states passed right-to-carry laws between 1977 and 1999, the number of multiple-victim public shootings decreased on average by 78 percent.

    In any case, if a person does decide that a situation calls for civilian intervention and use their gun, will they be protected by ”Good Samaritan” laws?

    In states like Vermont, a person is legally required to offer assistance if someone is in grave danger, no one else is helping and you wouldn’t be placing your own life in danger if you intervened. Most states protect a person from civil or criminal liability for calling 911.

    Whether or not someone is protected under this law if they are carrying a gun is not clear, but based on other cases, the use of a gun doesn’t appear to be included under the law. But just because Good Samaritan gun laws may not exist — at least not yet — that doesn’t mean prosecutors don’t take a shooter’s intent into account.

    For example, in January, Benjamin Srigley, 39, fired his Ruger 9mm pistol at three pit bulls who were attacking 11-year-old Jayeon Simon and his friend as they rode their bikes down a Washington, D.C. street. Srigley’s shots killed two of the dogs and injured one. The sounds of the gunshots caught the attention of a police officer who was in the area, who discovered that Srigley’s weapon was not registered. The punishment for possessing an unregistered firearm is up to one year in jail and a $1,000 fine.

    Because of the unusual circumstances of the case, the prosecutors decided to only charge Srigley the fine and dropped the criminal charges against him for owning three unregistered firearms as well as the ammunition he owned, saying they took into account the fact that Srigley saved a boy’s life.

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      • djstucrew

        A whole LOT of unsubstantiated claims going on up there! First off, exactly how many instances have there been of innocent bystanders being shot by a legally licensed civilian? I’ve found a good many reports of COPS who have hit unintended targets, but none in my admittedly hasty Google search. The last ones I heard about were “almosts.” During a recent mall shooting, a licensed carrier got the drop on the shooter as he was reloading. When asked why he didn’t take the shot, he replied that he noticed people behind the shooter and was afraid he’d hit one of them. Another was during the Gabby Giffords shooting, where a licensed CCW came out of the store, saw a person holding a gun and nearly took a shot. Not being absolutely sure of the situation, though, made him hesitate, and it turned out the man with the gun was the one who tackled the real shooter. These instances seem to AFFIRM that legal CCWs are a fairly responsible lot.

        Then there’s the logical “slippery slope” falacy, where because one CCW was killed trying to help somebody, then nobody should try it. To me, that’s not only poor logic, but a creed of cowardice.

        Next, I just wrote a book on the topic of guns and their politics (http://www.amazon.com/dp/B00E4V2VQW) where I detail high-profile mass shootings since the University of Texas (a.k.a. “the tower”) shooting in 1966. SEVERAL of those shootings were halted by an armed person. In fact, an armed policeman and citizen intervened. (Note that they don’t count police or off-duty police as “citizen intervention.”)

        Word to the wise: beware of statements blurted as fact without any supporting evidence.

      • doctoralstudent

        The MotherJones.com reference of 62 shootings is wildly inaccurate and has been soundly debunked. Not only does MJ not use accepted scientific study practices, they went the opposite direction of accepted logic, sampling, and even changed definitions to fit their story.

        MJ’s article is not a reference, it’s a hacked-hit-piece that uses blatant falsehoods.

      • Sven79

        “given that civilian shooters are less likely to hit their targets than police in these circumstances.” Oh really? That’s quite a bold statement to make without any documentation, especially when one considers the less than stellar hit rate by the NYPD at the Empire State Building, which was about 19 percent. I guarantee that I can do better than that with my eyes closed.

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      • Howard Lee Harkness

        “After an analysis of 62 mass shootings
        that have occurred in the U.S. during the last 30 years, the left-wing
        magazine found that not one of those tragedies was stopped by an armed
        civilian”

        They didn’t look very hard. They didn’t consider any of several dozen shooting that were stopped by an armed citizen *before* they became mass shootings. But such distortion is to be expected of a left-wing magazine. Getting the actual facts would have required journalism.