Is a good guy with a gun really a good thing?

Second Amendment

Editor’s Note: The writers below are addressing the question, “Is the man who killed the Indiana mall mass shooter a hero?”

Cam Edwards, (TNS)

Is Elisjsha Dicken a hero? It depends on whom you ask. The police chief in Greenwood, Ind., thinks he is, as does the mayor. Even the property management company that owns the Greenwood Park Mall where Dicken killed an active shooter in July called his actions “heroic,” although Dicken violated mall policy by having his concealed pistol on him while he was shopping with his girlfriend.

Talk to gun-control advocates, on the other hand, and you’re likely to hear complaints about praising Dicken for his actions. Sure, he saved lives, but what if this leads to more people carrying guns to protect themselves and others? What if the police thought Dicken was the perpetrator instead of the public defender?

The one “what if” these anti-gun activists don’t want to bring up is, “What if there hadn’t been an armed citizen on hand to stop this attack within seconds?”

Moms Demand Action founder Shannon Watts originally called for Dicken to be arrested before deleting her tweet and replacing it with one that huffed, “I don’t know who needs to hear this, but when a 22-year-old illegally brings a loaded gun into a mall and kills a mass shooter armed with an AR-15 after he already killed three people and wounded others is not a ringing endorsement of our implementation of the Second Amendment.”

Others took issue with describing Dicken as a hero or a good Samaritan.

Dicken’s heroism is inconvenient to the gun-control crowd because his actions pose a real-world counterpart to their simplistic argument that we can ban our way to safety; that there’s some magical set of regulations that, if put in place, will prevent committed killers from carrying out their heinous attacks.

That may be a comforting fantasy for some, but it defies both logic and reality.

According to the FBI’s recent report on active-shooter incidents in 2021, the state with the tightest gun regulations in the country was also home to the most attacks. California had six active-shooter situations last year, as defined by the FBI, despite hundreds of gun control laws on the books (including an “assault weapons” ban) that impose draconian restrictions on law-abiding citizens’ ability to purchase, possess and carry firearms for self-defense. These laws haven’t prevented mass shootings, obviously, but they’ve greatly curtailed the ability of typical Americans to protect themselves and others from one of these cowardly murderers.

You may think guns are icky. You may believe the Supreme Court has gotten the Second Amendment wrong, that we the people don’t actually possess the right to keep and bear arms. You might even have convinced yourself that in a nation with tens of millions of legal gun owners and hundreds of millions of lawfully possessed firearms, we can outlaw gun ownership or at least make it so socially taboo that all those guns will disappear.

But suppose you were ever in a public space with a demented individual intent on killing as many innocent people as possible. In that case, I don’t think you’d be complaining if someone like Elisjsha Dicken stood up and took down the attacker. In fact, if you were honest with yourself you might even call him a hero.

Cam Edwards is a Second Amendment advocate and editor of


Robert Pawlicki, (TNS)

Calling the young man who shot a mass shooter at a mall in Greenwood, Ind., in July a “hero” has deadly consequences. It’s not that the young man didn’t act heroically. He did. He was also lucky. It’s that calling him a hero is dangerous. Giving massive publicity to a young shooter feeds our country’s horrific violent-crime crisis.

It feels like good news when we focus on the prevented deaths. However, when we examine the big picture, the hero intervening encourages more guns to be bought, with significant negative consequences. It increases the likelihood of untrained citizens engaging in cowboy-style exchanges with armed individuals, causing innocent bystanders to be killed or injured in a prolonged battle. It takes control away from professional law officers.

The 22-year-old is not one of society’s heroes in the long-term sense of the word. Giving him this label has grave consequences. It encourages imitations, many of which will not turn out well.

Lives were saved in Indiana. We can be pleased with that. However, considering this a heroic deed feeds into the myth that it is smart and manly to own weapons built to kill other humans. It is not.

Imagine a world of armed would-be heroes, some well-trained and most not, some with good aim and judgment but most not. Picture yourself in a mall with your children caught in the crossfire of many armed citizens shooting from multiple directions. You’ve seen such episodes portrayed in cartoons, but there’s nothing funny or heroic here — just potential carnage.

We are currently awash in guns. The NRA, gun companies and retail gun stores are undoubtedly delighted over this young man’s behavior. It plays into their story line and profits. Gun-promoting governors likely have smiles on their faces as well.

The young man’s actions coincide with the imagery of weapons manufacturers and the pro-gun lobby. For the gun manufacturers, his action could bring millions of dollars to an already bountiful business. Gun retailers, too, will be pleased. They benefit from a considerable supply of young men wrestling with their identity, youngsters vulnerable to the mythical power that gun ownership provides.

The manufacturers and gun retailers tell buyers that they can win the lottery of being a hero, a protector of loved ones and others.

The media played right into the hands of the pro-gun advocates. “Hero” and “good Samaritan” filled television spots on the right and left. The local police chief called the young man’s action “nothing short of heroic.” Fox News described him as “a true American hero,” a ready-made quote for weapon companies. These remarks come as police chiefs across the country mourn the widespread availability of guns, tying it to the increase in violent crime.

Here are a few facts that gun proponents will leave out in their promotion of the gun-toting hero. States with the highest gun ownership have the highest rates of gun violence, including the highest rates of deaths by guns. When gun ownership goes up, suicides and accidental deaths and gun injury increase. The Jim Brady website states, “Every day, 22 children and teens are shot in the United States.”

The Gun Violence Archive recorded 692 mass shootings last year and 356 through the first three weeks of July 2022. That’s 1,048 mass shootings. Where were the remaining 1,047 “heroes” to save the day? Heroes are not the answer. Changing our gun culture and restricting the number of guns that kill human beings is the only answer that makes sense.

We have no shortage of heroes. They are not on the front pages of our newspapers. They are in legislatures where men and women are attempting to reduce the number of handguns in our nation. They are the parents building up young men and women to be strong, not needing a weapon to give them an identity. They are the real heroes working to save lives.

Robert Pawlicki is a retired psychologist and a frequent contributor to the Savannah (Ga.) Morning News.

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