By Sam Hoober, GunBelts.com
Could an armed citizen with a CCW have stopped the massacre in Orlando? It’s easy to surmise that one would have. It’s impossible to know for sure. Any event of this nature involves a huge number of variables that are totally unique; the events of the incident in question unfolded exactly the way they did because of the exact circumstances at the time. Any number of things could have happened to dramatically alter the outcome, including whether or not any bar patrons or staff were armed.
Granted, alcohol and firearms don’t mix, at all. That is precisely why firearms are either statutorily banned from bars, clubs and taverns or service is not allowed to those who are carrying. It certainly isn’t that drinking and carrying should be allowed; it shouldn’t. But this does create another class of “Gun Free Zones,” which – as we know – are targets of maniacs.
What we can certainly know is that if one or more persons had been carrying a concealed firearm in The Pulse, the attack MIGHT have been stopped.
Instances of private citizens intervening into mass shootings are rare, but they do occur. A Washington Post article from 2015 discusses 10 instances where it actually happened.
Granted, perhaps not all instances fit some definitions of a mass shooting…though it could be the case that a mass shooting was averted. For instance, one of the ten examples was of one Jesse Gates, who kicked in the door to a church in Spartanburg, S.C., in 2012. One of the churchgoers, a licensed carrier, drew down on him as he was bashing in the door. Gates didn’t have the chance to fire, and was detained with no shots being fired. There’s no way to know if he was going to carry out a mass shooting, which author Eugene Volokh points out.
There are instances of shootings occurring at nightclubs.
Volokh also mentions the case of Ernesto Villagomez, who killed two and wounded two more in a nightclub in Winnemucca, Nevada, in 2008. He was in turn shot and killed by a concealed carrier in the nightclub. Granted, Villagomez was shooting people that were connected to a family feud (which involved a drive-by shooting) so it is possible – as Volokh notes – that he wouldn’t have shot anymore people. It’s also possible he would have. The shooting was ruled justifiable.
In November 2014, one Martin Guerrero opened fire at Club Khaos in downtown El Paso, Tex., wounding five. At least one clubgoer was armed, as fire was returned and Guerrero was wounded at the scene, according to El Paso ABC affiliate KVIA. Guerrero had caused a disturbance in the club and had been ejected, but returned with murderous intentions, though none died as a result and Guerrero was taken into custody.
In January of 2014, one Thomas Hjelmeland opened fire at patrons in a strip club in Portland, Ore. One of the bouncers, one Jonathan Baer, was lawfully carrying concealed and fired on Hjelmeland, according to KOIN6, a Portland, Ore. CBS affiliate. Luckily, the three people shot by Hjelmeland lived. Hjelmeland did not, and a grand jury ruled the shooting justifiable homicide.
In fact, two weeks before the shooting at the Pulse in Orlando, a mass shooting began around Houston, Tex., when Dionsio Garza opened fire with a semi-automatic rifle near a tire store in West Houston. Garza killed one, and wounded six. Among the wounded was Byron Wilson, a licensed concealed carrier who shot at Garza, according to Houston CBS affiliate KHOU. Wilson was wounded three times and at the time of this writing, is still recovering. Garza later faced off against Houston SWAT officers and was killed.
Clearly, there are instances where a licensed carrier has intervened in a shooting, even a mass shooting, and either stopped it or ensured a lesser toll of lives and injuries than what might have otherwise happened. Would a concealed carrier have stopped the shooting in Florida? One or more armed Good Samaritans might have, but unfortunately we’ll never know.
On the other end of the spectrum, some wonder if gun control measures could have stopped the maniac in Florida from being able to obtain the rifle he used. Naturally, gun control advocates are advocating for a renewed assault weapons ban, among other things.
As we know, the FBI had investigated him for links to terrorism. His former spouse left him alleging domestic violence. He probably should have never passed a background check. But that presumes he only would have carried out this heinous act if he’d bought the gun legally. As we also know, gun control doesn’t keep these things from happening. But more concealed carriers might make a difference.
Sam Hoober is Contributing Editor for GunBelts.com, where he writes about gun accessories, gun safety, open and concealed carry tips.