Indiana Mall Shooting Good Samaritan Hero is a Statistical Unicorn

Elisjsha Dicken, 22, was the so called Good Samaritan that shot and killed the heavily armed Greenwood, Indiana, shopping mall shooter Jonathan Douglas Sapirman last Sunday.

Or as the NRA said: “We will say it again: The only way to stop a bad guy with a gun is a good guy with a gun.”

But Dicken’s act, though heroic, was also a statistical unicorn. An examination of 433 active shooter attacks in the United States between 2000 and 2021 showed that only 22 ended with a bystander shooting an attacker, according to data from the Advanced Law Enforcement Rapid Response Training Center at Texas State University. In 10 of those cases, the armed bystander was a security guard or off-duty law enforcement officer. In other encounters, civilians attempting to step in and stop an assailant were themselves shot to death by police.

“It is exceedingly rare, the exception rather than the rule,” Adam Skaggs, chief counsel and policy director at the Giffords Law Center to Prevent Gun Violence, said of scenarios like the one in Indiana. “The reality is that more people carrying guns means more conflicts escalating into deadly violence and more people being shot and killed.”

Adam Winkler, an expert on gun policy at the University of California, Los Angeles, School of Law, noted that there are 400 million guns in the United States, and yet the nation has one of the worst gun death records. “If more guns led to less crime, America would be the safest country in the world,” he said.

“If we really thought that good guys with guns were the answer, then we would require the good guys to go through extensive training, so that if they engage a mass shooting, we can depend on them to do it right,” he said.

Indiana is one of 25 states that have passed so-called constitutional carry laws that allow people to carry a concealed firearm without a permit. Police found no indication that Dicken had a permit for the handgun. But the chief said he was carrying it legally under the new law. 

“As long as you’re 18 or older and not prohibited, meaning convicted of a felony or some kind of domestic battery or any kind of the disqualifiers the state has, you now will not have to go through the tedious process of asking your government permission to actually exercise your constitutional right,” said Greg Burge, owner of Beech Grove Firearms.

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