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Tucson Heroes: Unarmed People Who Stopped the Armed from More Killing

It is a common battle cry of gun rights extremists, reinforced by thousands of Dirty Harry faux heroes in movies and television, to claim that if only everyone carried firearms, and everyone knew that, murderers and crazy people would be stopped in their murderous rampages as armed, law-abiding citizens rescued the crowd by taking out the would-be shooter. It’s the ultimate male fantasy for those who have a need for that.

And no doubt one can conceive of scenarios in which the sequence of events made it possible for that to happen. Think of the Army base shootings, in which police fired back at the shooter and probably saved lives.

But I suspect that’s rare, and the scenario doesn’t seem to be true in the Tucson shootings. Instead, it seems that even though there were armed “friendlies” at Rep. Gifford’s event, their weapons were useless, and the real heroes were unarmed people who had the presence of mind and personal courage to stop the armed people from killing even more people.

On the Ed Show last night, one of these friendlies present at the shooting explained that he had a concealed weapon, had his hand on its safety, and would have been willing to shoot if others had not already subdued the suspect shooter. But he also noted that initially he had raced at another guy (presumably friendly) who was holding a weapon and had grabbed his wrist and made him drop the gun before others told him he had the wrong man. One can imagine the chaos and deaths multiplied if either had mistakenly shot the other, making it impossible to know who was on whose side.

So it seems there were at least two friendlies at the site with loaded weapons, one drawn, one about to be drawn, but neither of them could react fast enough to stop a crazed shooter from getting off some 30 rounds, killing six and wounding more than a dozen others. And they almost shot each other.

That’s not exactly the everything turns out well hero scene you see in the movies or tv, but when you stop and think about it, it’s probably the more likely scenario. Semi-automatic, rapid-fire weapons with 30-round clips seem to have been designed to allow crazies and/or thugs to kill a lot of innocent people before anyone can stop them. What other legitimate purpose do they serve?

Contrast the experience of the armed people with those who were unarmed. We had a brave young man who, when he first heard the shots, ran towards the shooting to help save Ms. Giffords, not by shooting anyone but by dealing with her wounds. We have others who tackled the shooter and held him, not with guns, but with their hands, their bodies.

And we have the lovely white-haired lady, Patricia Maisch, who appeared on KO’s Countdown. When the shooter was hovering over her and then thrown down on top of her, she prevented him from reloading. Unable to grab the gun from the shooter as he was being pinned, she reached over and grabbed the extra magazine the shooter had taken out to reload and then sat on the shooter’s legs to keep him from getting up. Once relieved by others, she ran into the store, not to get away, but to secure bandages for those wounded.

The unarmed kept the armed from killing more people. Deal with it, America.

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John has been writing for Firedoglake since 2006 or so, on whatever interests him. He has a law degree, worked as legal counsel and energy policy adviser for a state energy agency for 20 years and then as a consultant on electricity systems and markets. He's now retired, living in Massachusetts.

You can follow John on twitter: @JohnChandley