That Gun Don’t Make You No Hero, Mister

Ben Sargent Editorial Cartoon, September 30, 2010 on

If I’d gone down there sooner, maybe I could have shot him myself,” Mr. Zamudio, age 24, said in a phone interview Sunday night.

… By the time Mr. Zamudio was in close range, others had wrestled the suspect to the ground. Mr. Zamudio helped hold him down.

And young Mr. Zamudio deserves all due credit for his assistance during the chaos. But what the WSJ leaves out in their storyBystander Says Carrying Gun Prompted Him to Help (yes, that’s the real title) is this part, via Slate andDigby:

But before we embrace Zamudio’s brave intervention as proof of the value of being armed, let’s hear the whole story. “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.

Zamudio agreed: I was very lucky. Honestly, it was a matter of seconds. Two, maybe three seconds between when I came through the doorway and when I was laying on top of [the real shooter], holding him down. So, I mean, in that short amount of time I made a lot of really big decisions really fast. … I was really lucky.

When Zamudio was asked what kind of weapons training he’d had, he answered: “My father raised me around guns … so I’m really comfortable with them. But I’ve never been in the military or had any professional training. I just reacted.”

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.”

This is a much more dangerous picture than has generally been reported. Zamudio had released his safety and was poised to fire when he saw what he thought was the killer still holding his weapon. Zamudio had a split second to decide whether to shoot. He was sufficiently convinced of the killer’s identity to shove the man into a wall. But Zamudio didn’t use his gun. That’s how close he came to killing an innocent man. He was, as he acknowledges, “very lucky.”

Daniel Hernandez, who kept Giffords from bleeding to death, didn’t have a gun. Neither did 61-year old Patricia Maisch, who kept the shooter from reloading, or Roger Sulzgeber, the man who helped Zamudio hold him down.

Guns aren’t magic. Guns don’t make heroes. Heroism does.

13 thoughts on “That Gun Don’t Make You No Hero, Mister

  1. The probability that one armed bystander will kill additional people while playing “hero” is perhaps 10%. But, if there are 10 armed bystanders the odds that one of them will do so rise to 65% – simple math. We need to stop worshipping guns and go back to worshipping money.

  2. Of course, the other thing is, that by the time Mr Zamudio was ready to play hero, the damage had already been done.
    That’s what everybody forgets in the “carrying guns prevent crime” argument: the element of surprise, and of the unexpected. Nine times out of ten, the bad guy has the drop on you before you realize what’s going on and get a chance to play Dirty Harry. Which will likely end up with you getting shot at that point…
    And let’s face it, if everybody’s armed, what are the bad guys likely to do? Why, assume you’re armed, and simply blow you away before lifting your wallet, or whatever…

  3. Be sure not to fall into the same fantastic trap of thinking guns will ever be outlawed in this country. Personal firearms might be fantasized to stop mass shootings like this by idiots convinced they would react more swiftly and superhero-like in the face of danger, but they are more truthfully effective for home and personal defense.
    On a basis of tactics alone, there are any number of scenarios that could have resulted at the scene of the crime, and we are left only with the sorrow that it was as deadly as it was, and the relief that it wasn’t as deadly as it could have been.
    This can go several ways. The shooter’s 31 bullet magazine both allowed him to get more rounds off but it made it more physically difficult for him to reload. That turned out to be the moment of decision for those courageous enough to rush a man with a gun and demonstrated ill intent.
    Had he gotten the second clip in the weapon, or had he simply brought two guns, Zamudio’s presence on the scene may have had much greater impact. We’ll never know.
    And he made the exact same decision we hope any police officer would have made – pointing his own weapon at the man holding the gun and yelling “drop it.”

  4. Not bashing Zamudio, Cousin Pat. Just saying that his bravery and quick thinking is what made him a hero, not his weapon.
    And I have no illusions that firearms will ever be outlawed.

  5. Uh, have they considered that with everyone packing heat, unless everyone has perfect aim while under stress, you will create a circular firing squad?

  6. How come the right wing is so insistent that arming everyone is the response to crime on the street,
    But, other than Archie Bunker, they don’t propose arming everyone on an airplane to stop hijackings?

  7. Virgo Tex – I didn’t mean to insinuate that you were doing either, just wanted to make those points for the record. You’re absolutely right that Zamudio’s gun was not what made him a hero in this instance. I’m sure he is more relieved than he let on that he didn’t have to use it.
    MapleStreet – The right does not actually think arming everyone is the response to street crime, they know acting that way wins elections and generates campaign dollars. The only proven way to prevent crime on the street is to have an active, dynamic community that keeps their area safe. With so much of the American population living in dysfunctional suburban communities where neighbors keep to themselves, there is a real fear that when someone or their family faces crime they will do so alone. Under that circumstance, the only plausible defense is to arm yourself.
    When you start to believe that a gun is your only reaasonable defense, you tend to vote and contribute to the politicians who attempt to enunciate your fears (they understand you) and protect your ability to defend yourself (gun rights). You tend to relate to those individuals who want to carry a gun anywhere, and the fantasies that come with gun ownership, because if you fear crime in your own home, you fear crime everywhere.
    Democrats and liberals have a track record of completely missing this dynamic, which is why the gun control “debate,” or what passed for one at the time, was won – lock, stock and smoking barrell – by the GOP back during the Clinton administration.

  8. What level of training and experience have the people using terms like “idiot” to describe people who own and carry guns? I thought so… and if I sounded no smarter than they do, I’d hesitate to use the term “idiot” in anything I wrote. I am no threat to anyone with a firearm unless they are a threat to me or someone else. There are all kinds of things that can happen in a gunfight. The only thing that can happen when only one person has a gun is a whole bunch of people usually get shot. The one person will have no inclination to follow some silly law prohibiting him from having a firearm. Are you people nuts? Nobody has advocated arming everybody. I wouldn’t want anyone as daft as the people expressing the judgement that these situations would be better if only the shooter had a firearm, and everyone else was helpless.
    My training? Nearly fifteen years of working in law enforcement, and then returning to school to become a physical therapist. Graduated with honors, and have worked since 2000 helping people daily. And carrying a handgun daily. Weird though… where I live no permit is required, and nobody cares if you’re carrying a gun. Fact is, they’re pretty surprised to run into someone outdoors who hasn’t got one. We’ve got things here that will not only mug, rob, and rape you, but kill you and eat you well.
    Look up how many hijackings happened before the early 1970s when you could carry a handgun on a plane. Ask yourself if a few passengers on each plane had been armed, would we have had a 09/11 in the sense we did? Or would we have had some people shot on some planes, and maybe 1 or 2 of them crashed? Not “everyone”, just the few who care enough to go through the process to get a permit to do so.

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