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Stopping Power — Why 70 Million Americans Own Guns
A Book by J. Neil Schulman
Gun Fight at the 4 ‘n 20 Pie Shop

The following article appeared in the October 27, 1992 Los Angeles Times.

Here’s another story you didn’t see on the network news.

At midnight on Friday, September 18th, 1992, former top-ranked boxer Randy Shields was sitting at his usual table at the 4 n 20 Pie Shop in Studio City, writing a screenplay. Suddenly, two masked robbers burst in with a shotgun blast and handgun fire. Shields dropped to the floor; the robbers immediately shot at him, winging his leg. Dragging himself into the darkened back room, Shields watched as the robbers pistol-whipped a busboy to get him to open the cash register, then shot through his shoe when he couldn’t do it. “Somebody’s gonna die tonight!” one of the robbers yelled, then opened fire toward several customers and waitresses, ordering them to hand over their wallets.

Shields saw his opportunity to fire without endangering bystanders. He pulled out his concealed .380 Walther PPK/S pistol, which he carries licensed as a part-time private bodyguard, and opened fire on the robbers, wounding them. They ran out to the parking lot where their driver was waiting; Shields put a couple of bullets into the getaway car, then ran out of ammunition. The robbers opened fire on him again and he dived back into the restaurant. The robbers squealed out to Laurel Canyon then pulled a U-turn so they could fire a few extra rounds into the restaurant.

Aside from Randy Shields’s minor leg wound, and the busboy’s bruises, none of the restaurant’s employees or customers were hurt. The robbers called an ambulance to treat their gunshot wounds, claiming to be victims of a drive-by shooting. But the bullets Randy Shields put into their getaway car — and a bullet hole Shields had put in a wad of money from two previous robberies they’d committed that night — were enough for police to make an arrest.

Even an advocate of restricting civilian carry of handguns would find it hard to argue against the effects of Randy Shields being armed that night.

But that advocate of handgun restriction will undoubtedly argue that this incident is mere anecdotal evidence, useless in deriving any public-policy conclusions regarding the value of issuing civilians concealed-carry weapons permits to deter crime. Surely, carrying a gun is no guarantee that others will be as brave and clear-headed as Randy Shields when faced with armed criminals. Further, since no criminal justice agency in the United States compiles statistics on anti-crime gun use by civilians, the gun-restrictionist’s objection is difficult to answer.

Difficult but not impossible. Criminologist Gary Kleck, professor at Florida State University, has compiled survey data that American civilians successfully use handguns for defense about 645,000 times each year, without wounding anyone 99% of the time. A 1986 National Institute of Justice survey of 2,000 felons in ten state prisons documents that 34% of felons have been “scared off, shot at, wounded or captured by an armed victim,” and 57% agreed that “Most criminals are more worried about meeting an armed victim than they are about running into the police.” Professor Hans Toch of the State University of New York School of Criminology at Albany concludes, “[F]indings suggest that high saturations of guns … inhibit illegal aggression.”

But even granting possible deterrence against crime, doesn’t the danger of even licensed, concealed firearms in the hands of civilians outweigh the benefits?

No. To begin with, criminologist Don Kates of the Pacific Research Institute said, “Instances of citizens using guns with excessive force or against innocent persons they have misidentified as criminals are negligible.”

And while the California Department of Justice doesn’t compile records on firearms licenses revocations, a few states do. After rigorous tracking, the Florida Department of State reports that of 129,049 licenses issued since October 1, 1987, under that state’s mandatory license issuance to all qualified applicants, it has revoked 222 licenses (1 in 581)) but only 115 for a crime (1 in 1122) and only 17 licenses have had to be revoked for a crime utilizing a firearm: 1 in 7591. Meanwhile, according to FBI crime reports, the homicide rate in Florida dropped 20% between 1986 and 1991, while the U.S. homicide rate increased 14% during that same period.

Indiana, which has 220,623 licenses outstanding, doesn’t break down its reasons for revoking licenses, and reports 349 licenses revoked between 1989 and 1991 (1 in 632), with most revocations being one year for unnecessarily brandishing a firearm.

By comparison, California Department of Motor Vehicles reports a rate of 1 in 368 drivers’ licenses revoked for all causes in 1991 alone – a higher rate of revocation than Florida or Indiana has for firearms licenses.

Any sensible public policy demands that hysteria and demagoguery not bury the facts. Firearms carried by responsible, competent civilians present no danger to the public, and both survey data and dramatic examples such as Randy Shields provide us good reason to believe that they save lives.

If anyone wants more proof than that, then they will have to demand that the criminal justice agencies that track the evil that people do with firearms also track the good that they do as well.


Next in Stopping Power — Why 70 Million Americans Own Guns is If Gun Laws Work, Why Are We Afraid?

Stopping Power — Why 70 Million Americans Own Guns is
Copyright © 1994, 1999 J. Neil Schulman &
Copyright © 2010 The J. Neil Schulman Living Trust. All rights reserved.

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