Bang bang - and a would-be hero turns into a victim, or worse.

Kari Chisholm FacebookTwitterWebsite

In the aftermath of every mass shooting incident, gun-control advocates and opponents leap into action. And sure enough, the events in Tucson have led to arguments on both sides. 

Inevitably, gun-control opponents make an argument that goes like this: if more people had guns, crazed lunatics might be deterred or stopped. As William Saletan points out at, that's exactly the argument made in the wake of the Virginia Tech shooting - and it's an argument that they're making now.

But in Arizona, there WAS someone who appeared on the scene almost immediately, armed and looking to take down the shooter. His name is Joe Zamudio.

"I came out of that store, I clicked the safety off, and I was ready," he explained on Fox and Friends. "I had my hand on my gun. I had it in my jacket pocket here. And I came around the corner like this." Zamudio demonstrated how his shooting hand was wrapped around the weapon, poised to draw and fire. As he rounded the corner, he saw a man holding a gun. "And that's who I at first thought was the shooter," Zamudio recalled. "I told him to 'Drop it, drop it!' "

But the man with the gun wasn't the shooter. He had wrested the gun away from the shooter. "Had you shot that guy, it would have been a big, fat mess," the interviewer pointed out....

The Arizona Daily Star, based on its interview with Zamudio, adds two details to the story. First, upon seeing the man with the gun, Zamudio "grabbed his arm and shoved him into a wall" before realizing he wasn't the shooter. And second, one reason why Zamudio didn't pull out his own weapon was that "he didn't want to be confused as a second gunman."

As Saletan points out, this is a very clear, very real example of why it is that adding more guns to a chaotic shooting scene - even in the hands of the well-intentioned - is a very, very bad idea. 

That's what happens when you run with a firearm to a scene of bloody havoc. In the chaos and pressure of the moment, you can shoot the wrong person. Or, by drawing your weapon, you can become the wrong person—a hero mistaken for a second gunman by another would-be hero with a gun. Bang, you're dead. Or worse, bang bang bang bang bang: a firefight among several armed, confused, and innocent people in a crowd. It happens even among trained soldiers. Among civilians, the risk is that much greater.

Now, I'm not particularly inclined toward additional gun-control measures (though high-capacity ammo clips don't seem to serve any rational purpose) but I certainly don't think that incidents like the attempted assassination of Gabrielle Giffords are a reason to make guns more available.


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    And unlike Kari, I am inclined toward more gun control measures. Conceal and carry laws make this much more likely.

    Individuals who are threats to public safety don't openly display their weapons.

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      And people who are threats to public safety usually can't pass the training requirements and background checks needed to obtain a carry permit in Oregon.

      Arizona, from the news reports I've read, has a much more liberal (pardon the term) set of requirements than Oregon does.

      So, if the question is about more restrictive laws in Oregon, I'd say no, we don't need them.

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      I am interested in conceal-and-carry laws, and how they're applied - though I certainly haven't studied that particular issue.

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        In Arizona, they have no restrictions on concealed carry.

        In Oregon there is a more extensive background check and proof of competence with a firearm.

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    I completely agree with you. We don't need to add more gun control, but we shouldn't promote more guns either.

    Thanks for your post.

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    There are already so many guns out there that attempting to control guns seems as hopeless as attempting to control pot. On the other hand, there should an attempt to control gun-owners. Some people just shouldn't be allowed to have guns. Any guns. Most people though wouldn't be a threat, even with a bazooka in the basement. There needs to be a way to exclude some people from firearms, not just felons.

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      I tend to agree with this, even though I would also support more stringent gun control measures that applied common sense. Perhaps psychological testing of prospective firearms owners is in order. It could be something along the lines of that used to vet law enforcement applicants. If that were done at the federal level and applied to all firearms purchases, as well as to everyone who already currently owns one or more fireamrs, it would probably be far more effective at curbing mass shootings than any laws aimed at a specific type of firearm.

      Even applying Oregon's CCW permitting standards to all firearms purchases would be a good step, in my opinion. It's far more important to regulate the end user than the type of weapon used.

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        After all, a "well-regulated militia" almost certainly does not want or need members that cannot pass basic psychological screening.

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    My late brother served in the Army and was a lifelong hunter and fisher who owned a sporting goods business. He too felt contempt for those who believe that with a concealed weapon they would be heroes in an armed incident, for most of the reasons given above. He was also brave enough to speak out against the NRA's gun-marketing policy and he regretted the repeal some years ago of a federal law restricting the sale of military-type weapons, which would include the pistol with extended clips that was used in this incident. To that I would add that we need a comprehensive national policy on sharing information among various agencies regarding people known to be dangerously unbalanced and potentially violent. (And I understand that in a democratic society there are serious challenges in defining and applying these terms.) For example, apparently campus cops didn't care to share the alarming info they had about this guy even with the city cops. We have to do a lot better than that.

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    Your point is well taken, Kari. But could not one also take away from this that the vast majority of people who legally carry guns have an appropriate amount of self-restraint? If the circumstances were different, he may have shot and may have saved a life. But he did not. I don't recall hearing any news stories of an armed innocent bystanding firing his weapon and hitting other innocents or being mistaken for the bad guy and getting shot him- or herself. If it were happening, it would be in the news, wouldn't it? Are you aware of any contemporary stories which played out as you fear?

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      I cannot give you an example of a public mass attack where a gun owner intervened and shot the wrong person or got shot. In fact I cannot remember a case where a gun owner intervened in a mass attack period.

      However, I do know that about 1,000 people a year are accidentally killed in the U.S. Now some of them are kids playing with guns, but some are innocent people killed by family members who thought they were an intruder or killed hunting by family members. In fact that last case seems to happen multiple times each year in Oregon.

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        John, your first paragraph confirmed my premise.

        Accidental hunting deaths, it seems to me, are apples and oranges unless you support a ban on hunting.

        Kids accidently killing kids is very sad, to be sure. Young children also kill and destroy by playing with matches (probably more often than guns) and I don't assume you support a ban on lighters or matches.

        Cite for me a substantial number of "people killed by family members who thought they were intruders" and I'll reconsider my position. When was the last time that happened in Oregon? I'm 43 and don't recall it ever happening in Oregon in my lifetime. Am I wrong?

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          I'm not offering an opinion here one way or another--just answering Darrell's question about a family member being shot when mistaken by an intruder in Oregon. The AP ran a story this week about a Bend developer who bought his wife a handgun for protection after she'd been attacked in a restroom. She shot him last summer (5 hits) when she mistook him for an intruder. He's still recovering.

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    Two years ago this month two teenage girls were killed and 7 others were wounded in a shooting at the under 21 night club the Zone. The shooter, 24 year old Erik Salvador Ayala of Milwaukie also died as a result of a self inflicted gunshot. Ayala had been diagnosed as a schizophrenic during his high school years. Despite the diagnoses and treatment for mental illness, he had no problems buying the 9 mm handgun used in the shooting from a Portland pawnshop just two weeks before the killing.

    Some evidence is now emerging that the shooter in the Arizona mass killing had police contact and had been ordered to stay away from the Community College because of mental health issues. And yet, once again, this person had no problems obtaining the gun used in the killing. It is clear that we must find a way to keep lethal weapons out of the hands of mentally ill people. The Arizona killer was too dangerous to attend Algebra class in community college, but a 9mm Glock semiautomatic pistol 31 rounds, no problem.

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    I want to piggy-back on John Calhoun's comment about "friendly-fire" casualties.

    In situation like last Saturday, with all of the confusion, it would take a tremendous amount of situational training to not only target the correct person or persons, but also to do so in a way that avoids killing innocent people.

    Remember Nathan Thomas? That was not a case of someone opening fire in a public place, it was in a home, the police had time to set up, they knew what was going on, yet an innocent person was killed by police gunfire.

    If the police, with their training, are unable to avoid killing innocent bystanders in a relatively controlled (as compared to a mass shooting) environment, isn't it likely that untrained civilians will increase the carnage?

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    You finally wrte something that didn't leave me scratching my head wondering why you even bothered. This lesson of this story is a good one to teach concealed weapons permit holders ... there are appropiate times to exercise your right to openly carry a firearm, and there are times that aren't.

  • (Show?) "Officer Jonathan Kizzar, 29, who was standing to the right of Ferguson's second-floor apartment door, fired 15 rounds from his 9 mm Glock. None of the rounds struck Ferguson, but hit the door jamb to the right; one entered the apartment, striking the side of a washing machine, the testimony shows." Most who insist on the essential need for an armed citizenry are either pushing partisan political talking points or suffering from Hollywood-induced delusions of grandeur. The reality is that the presence of more firearms does NOT reduce the risk of bodily injury or increase the likelihood of subduing an "evil doer". As the above trial report makes clear, even a highly trained professional, under the circumstances; 1) couldn't hit his target at close range, with 15 opportunities, and 2) was saved from initiating a massacre by the lack of bystanders within range. The Oregonian ran a story within the last year of some armed "cowboy" who happened upon two perps running from cell phone store with stolen property and who sped off in a waiting car. This "citizen", a regular target shooter by his own claim, went into a kneeling position and "opened fire" on the fleeing suspects. Fortunately for him, he didn't hit a thing. (He thought he might have hit the car.) I much prefer real, practical solutions to problems, not romantic or symbolic gestures that makes circumstances worse.

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      "Most who insist on the essential need for an armed citizenry are either pushing partisan political talking points or suffering from Hollywood-induced delusions of grandeur."

      Absolutely. There are some gun owners out there who fancy they're latter-day Wyatt Earps, but the fact is it's very difficult to hit a moving target with a handgun at any significant distance.

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    More guns in the situation = more bullets flying around = more people injured or killed. That's so simple and obvious even a gun fanatic should be able to understand it.

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    But in the wild, wild west (nka Arizona), surely the goods guys never hit innocent townspeople?!?

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    Let's say for the sake of argument that the shooter had been able to load the next 30 rd mag and was preparing to open fire on his next victims.

    What would you have wanted Joe Zamudio to do? Stand by and watch or draw his weapon and intervene?

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      Assuming Joe Zamudio is no better prepared to shoot and kill a person than Officer Jonathan Kizzar referenced above (a reasonable assumption), and consequently extremely likely to kill or injure numerous innocent people (and not the shooter), I would want Joe to call 911. So Michael, how many innocent bystanders are you willing to sacrifice to promote a fantasy in the hopes a bullet might hit someone who may, or may not be, the perp?

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      Let's not say anything "for the sake of argument."

      In fact, intervention occurred as three senior citizens took this sick person down without firearms. There's no reason to believe that Mr. Zamudio, a young and apparently healthy man could not have effected that same sort of intervention had he chosen to.

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    Oh, come on, Kari. Don't you know that putting more guns out there reduces crime? Ask any gun-rights lobbyist. Besides, a conservative academic with a Ph.D. wrote a book about it back in 1998, so it must be true.

    We'll see a stop to this sort of thing when every single person is required by law to carry a sidearm everywhere they go. Not only will we be completely safe, it will increase good behavior everywhere. After all, "an armed society is a polite society." We know that's true because it was a premise of a pretty good science fiction novel in 1942.

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    Let's not leave our children defenseless. Arm them with compact Uzis when they go to school, just in case a shooter shows up.

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