In recent weeks, several instances involving the reckless use of firearms dominated national headlines. In one case, a Georgia man tragically lost his life when armed civilians crossed the line between defensive necessity and vigilantism.
But such headlines tell only one side of the story. Every day, many law-abiding and responsible Americans use their firearms lawfully to defend their lives, liberty, and property.
In fact, as the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention concluded in 2013, almost every major study on the issue has found that Americans use their firearms in lawful self-defense between 500,000 and 3 million times a year.
These instances of proper defensive gun use provide an important but often unreported counterbalance to the national conversation.
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For this reason, The Daily Signal has been publishing a monthly series highlighting some of the news stories of defensive gun use that you may have missed—or that might not have made it to the national spotlight in the first place. (Read accounts from 2019 and 2020).
The lawful defensive uses of guns below represent only a small part of the many stories we found last month. You can explore more examples by using The Heritage Foundation’s Defensive Gun Use Database, an interactive map that allows users to find recent defensive gun uses from all over the country quickly and easily.
- April 2, Wolf Creek, Oregon: A homeowner was forced to defend himself with his firearm after confronting a man who was firing guns on the homeowner’s property. The intruder—who previously had been convicted of attacking a family member with a samurai sword during an argument—threatened the homeowner. Police said the homeowner acted in lawful self-defense when he shot and killed the man.
- April 4, Chicago, Illinois: A doorbell camera captured a homeowner’s incredible defense against two armed, masked men who brazenly tried to rob the residence in broad daylight. The video shows that when the homeowner answers the door, two would-be robbers force their way inside. A struggle ensues off-camera, and the homeowner is next seen chasing down and fighting with one of the intruders on his front lawn. When the homeowner returned inside, police said, he found the second intruder pointing a gun at his wife and children. The homeowner retrieved his own gun from a safe, then shot and killed the assailant in defense of his family.
- April 8, Asheboro, North Carolina: A homeowner, leaving for work, discovered that two of his vehicles had been ransacked during the night. As he went back inside to alert others in the house, he heard noises inside the garage and grabbed his firearm to investigate, police said. The homeowner discovered an intruder sitting in the front seat of one of his cars. He held the burglar at gunpoint until police arrived.
- April 11, Fredericksburg, Texas: A woman came to her fiancé’s defense by shooting and killing an intruder who had brutally assaulted him in the couple’s home, police said. The woman begged the intruder to stop as he beat her fiancé and put him in a chokehold, but to no avail. As her fiancé began to lose consciousness, the woman retrieved a handgun and fatally shot the intruder.
- April 17, Gaffney, South Carolina: When a homeowner asked a man to leave his property, he became irate, pulled out a handgun, and threatened the homeowner. The homeowner retreated, grabbed a rifle from inside the house, and again told the man to leave. The intruder then opened fire on the homeowner and five others, including a small child, police said. He fled when the homeowner defended himself and his household with the rifle. Police later arrested and charged a suspect.
- April 18, Fairfield, Connecticut: A homeowner, awakened by his barking dogs in the early morning, was confronted by a machete-wielding intruder. He fled when he realized the homeowner was armed, police said.
- April 20, Sacramento, California: A robbery suspect led multiple law enforcement officers on a chase through two counties, at times driving the wrong way and endangering other motorists. The suspect eventually crashed the car and ran through a residential neighborhood. Police said he approached an elderly homeowner sitting on his back patio and the homeowner, fearing for his life, shot and wounded him.
- April 22, Las Vegas, Nevada: Local prosecutors determined that a concealed-carry permit holder acted in lawful self-defense when he shot and killed a man who fired a gun at him. The permit holder and a woman were eating fast food in a parking lot when the man, apparently angry over a failed gun purchase earlier in the day, randomly chose to vent his frustrations on them. Police said the man began shooting at the permit holder, who hid behind a trash can and returned fire with at least 11 rounds.
- April 24, Lexington, Kentucky: A man who was the subject of active arrest warrants for robbery and domestic violence broke into his ex-girlfriend’s home and opened fire on those inside, police said. An armed resident returned fire, killing the ex-boyfriend and ending the threat long before police could have arrived.
- April 24, Des Arc, Arkansas: Two inmates at a county jail attacked their guards, stole their keys, and escaped. Authorities captured one inmate within minutes, but the other—in jail on capital murder charges—was on the run for more than eight hours, police said. When the escapee finally was captured, it wasn’t by law enforcement but by armed citizens who found him hiding in an abandoned car.
- April 29, Yoder, Colorado: A couple relied on the Second Amendment to defend themselves from four armed attackers who police believe mistook the couple’s legal hemp farm for an illegal marijuana operation. Hundreds of rounds reportedly were fired in a shootout, and the four intruders eventually fled.
It’s true that gun owners sometimes overstep the lawful bounds of the Second Amendment, and the failure to act responsibly with firearms can have devastating consequences.
But it’s equally true that, for countless Americans, the lawful defensive use of firearms has been the only thing standing between them and the devastating consequences of crime.
Whether it’s a woman rescuing her fiancé from certain death, or armed citizens unexpectedly helping to end a cross-county manhunt, it’s clear that the right to keep and bear arms plays a vital role in promoting public safety and protecting individual rights.
Amy Swearer is a senior legal policy analyst at the Meese Center for Legal and Judicial Studies at The Heritage Foundation. Twitter: @AmySwearer.
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