Lessons From The Lost: An Educated Opinion

We, the law-abiding armed citizens, see some things differently than the general public. When we see the murders of the innocent, our hearts go out to the victims and their loved ones, just as does every other good member of this society. But we see something else, too. We sigh inwardly and say to ourselves, “If only the victim had had a gun…”

You may be familiar with the name Dominick Dunne. He was a successful film and television writer who changed his focus and became famous for his coverage of high-profile murder trials, most notably that of O. J. Simpson. What veered him off his successful course and into the new specialty was the trial of the man who murdered Dunne’s own daughter.

I recently re-read Dominick Dunne’s book Justice: Crimes, Trials, and Punishments. It opens, fittingly, with the trial of John Sweeney, the man who strangled Dunne’s daughter, Dominique, to death.

Dunne is a gifted writer, and his skill allows us to share his pain. He writes, “When my daughter was about to be taken off the life support system at Cedars-Sinai Medical Center, we went in as a family and talked to her. Then we each went in alone to say goodbye to her privately. They had cut her beautiful hair off. She would have hated that. I kissed her on her bald head, and I said, ‘Give me your talent.’ She did. I believe with all my heart that she has guided me to the paths of justice.”

Headstone of Dominique Dunne
Gravestone of Dominique Dunne. This file is licensed under the Creative Commons Attribution 3.0 license. Author

A Balance of Values

Let us look at two atrocities that occurred not long ago in two different small-town churches in Texas. In the little community of Sutherland Springs, a hate-filled maniac with an AR-15 rifle mass-murdered 26 helpless, unarmed victims and wounded 22 more. He was stopped by a neighbor, Stephen Willeford, who heard the gunfire and had to open his safe, partially load a magazine, grab his own AR-15, and run barefoot to the scene. Willeford’s gunfire severely wounded the cowardly perpetrator, who fled. Willeford pursued the coward in a truck driven by a courageous unarmed citizen, Johnnie Langendorff. The killer called his father on a cell phone, whining that he had been badly wounded and was going to die, and when he crashed his getaway vehicle, he put a bullet through his own head. Willeford and Langendorff were publicly recognized as the heroes they indeed were.

The death toll was so high at Sutherland Springs because none of the intended victims were armed.

When another vicious killer opened fire, rapidly killing two people at close range with a shotgun, what could have been another horrendous body count was cut short in less than six seconds. Church security volunteer Jack Wilson fired a single 135-grain Hornady Critical Duty bullet from his .357 SIG P229, instantly killing the mad dog gunman. Authorities credited him with saving many, many lives.

An Analogy

For decades, I’ve taught my students that the defensive firearm is a direct analog to a fire extinguisher or an Automatic Electronic Defibrillator. Each of those objects is emergency life-saving equipment for the first responder. Let’s face it, the emergency services – police, fire, and emergency medicine – are really the dot-gov first responders, who must first be notified of the emergency and then make their way there. The true first responders are the citizens who are there, on the ground, where the life-threatening crisis breaks out. The old saying is true: “When seconds count, emergency services are minutes away.”

In the mid-20th Century, only medical professionals knew CPR, and for the most part, only firefighters kept extinguishers at home. But well before the dawn of the 21st Century, Americans had learned their lesson: a majority of adults knew CPR, and kept fire extinguishers in their homes and even their cars. These practices have saved countless lives. The same would have been true with the firearm had it not been for the strident and influential voices of the anti-gun crowd and their shallow understanding of how to prevent murder.

We have made strides, though. In 1974, only the state of Vermont allowed permitless carry, and seven states didn’t even issue permits, with most of those being “may issue.” Half a century later, a majority of states are “Constitutional Carry” and, thanks to the Bruen decision, “may issue” is at least theoretically gone. After such atrocities as Columbine, Sandy Hook, and Uvalde, we’re finally seeing armed school personnel, but still far too few. It’s irrefutable that no mass murders have taken place in schools that have announced armed faculty.  The thwarted losers who shoot up schools may have a sick fantasy of dying “in a blaze of glory” in a shootout with a SWAT team, but those fantasies don’t include being shot in the head by Miss Grundy, the history teacher, as soon as they pull their murder weapon.

For the far greater number of innocent murder victims, the ability to instantly “fight fire with fire” would be an obvious life-saver. Professor William English’s recent study shows 1.67 million people who use a gun in defense of themselves or others every year, a figure that dwarfs the actual rate of gun murders.

The gun isn’t known as an “equalizer” for nothing.

Imagine the pain of Dominique Dunne’s mother and father as they sat in court watching the trial of their daughter’s killer. The pain of hearing the forensic pathologist explain that the five-foot-one 112-pound 22-year-old woman might have spent as long as six minutes of agonizing, oxygen-starved mortal terror with the crushing hands of the six-foot-one 170-pound killer before she was finally, irretrievably brain-dead.

As I set down the grieving father’s sad book, a single refrain ran through my head.

“If Dominique Dunne

had had a gun

she would have won.”

Massad "Mas" Ayoob is a well respected and widely regarded SME in the firearm world. He has been a writer, editor, and law enforcement columnist for decades, and has published thousands of articles and dozens of books on firearms, self-defense, use of force, and related topics. Mas, a veteran police officer, was the first to earn the title of Five Gun Master in the International Defensive Pistol Association. He served nearly 20 years as chair of the Firearms Committee of the American Society of Law Enforcement Trainers and is also a longtime veteran of the Advisory Bard of the International Law Enforcement Educators and Trainers Association. A court-recognized expert witness in shooting cases since 1979, Ayoob founded the Lethal Force Institute in 1981 and served as its director until 2009. He continues to instruct through Massad Ayoob Group, http://massadayoobgroup.com.

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