The Volokh Conspiracy

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The Good Samaritan With A Gun In Indiana Serves To Refute Four Common Gun Control Myths


On Monday, a good samaritan with a gun averted a catastrophe at an Indiana mall. Douglas Sapirman, a 20-year old man brought more than 100 rounds of ammunition and three rifles: a Sig Sauer M400 rifle he bought in March 2022; an M&P15 rifle that was found in the mall bathroom and bought in March 2021; and a Glock 33 pistol discovered on his body. In the span of a few minutes, Sapirman fired 24 rounds, killed three people, and injured two others.

But Elisjsha Dicken, a 22-year old man, was shopping at the mall with this girlfriend. And he was carrying a concealed pistol. The New York Times describes his heroics:

Chief Jim Ison of the Greenwood Police Department called the bystander's actions "nothing short of heroic," identifying him as Elisjsha Dicken of Seymour, Ind.

He engaged the gunman from quite a distance with a handgun, was very proficient in that, very tactically sound, and, as he moved to close in on the suspect, he was also motioning for people to exit behind him," Chief Ison said at a news conference where he described surveillance video footage of the shooting. . . .

All the victims were shot by Mr. Sapirman, who fired 24 rounds, Chief Ison said. Mr. Dicken fired 10 rounds, killing the gunman as he tried to retreat to a mall bathroom where he had spent an hour apparently preparing for the attack. . . . .

Over the past two years, the relatives told the police, the gunman had frequently practiced shooting at a range in Greenwood, which is roughly 15 miles south of Indianapolis. . . .

When the police arrived, they handcuffed Mr. Dicken and took him to a station for questioning, where security camera footage confirmed his description of the events. Chief Ison said that the police could not determine whether Mr. Dicken had a gun permit, but that he was carrying his Glock 9-millimeter handgun legally under the state's constitutional carry law.

"This young man, Greenwood's good Samaritan, acted within seconds, stopping the shooter and saving countless lives," Mayor Mark Myers said on Monday.

This amazing story is simply one data point, but it serves to refute four myths about gun control.

First, a good guy with a gun can stop a bad guy with a gun. Recently, Eugene catalogued other similar instances of defensive gun use.

Second, constitutional carry ensures that good samaritans can carry, even if they do not satisfy onerous carry regimes. I imagine that if this incident happened in New York, the good samaritan would be indicted for illegal possession of a firearm.

Third, a common argument in favor of "high capacity" magazine bans is that defensive gun use never needs more than a few bullets. Here, the good samaritan used ten bullets, and he could have needed even more. In California, for example, magazines are limited to ten rounds. Had the good samaritan needed one more bullet to drop the assailant, he would have been out of luck in California.

Fourth, it is commonly argued that a person armed with a handgun cannot take down a person armed with larger rifles. This incident proves that myth is wrong.

It is difficult to generalize from a single incident, but the situation in Indiana serves to push back against many of the common gun control myths.

Update: I didn't realize that Indiana's constitutional carry went into effect on July 1, 2022. Had this event happened a month earlier, the good samaritan may have been in violation of the state's carry law. The NY Times has some more details:

Mike Wright, manager of the Luca Pizza di Roma in the mall's food court, remembers taking shelter when the firing started and then emerging when it stopped to see the bystander behind a low-slung wall with his handgun trained on the assailant he had shot to death.

"He stood there maybe 25 or 30 feet from the body and held that pistol pointed at him until law enforcement arrived," Mr. Wright remembered on Tuesday. "The good Samaritan guy seemed poised and under control. He appeared to be very disciplined." Jim Ison, the local police chief, went further, saying that his engagement with the gunman, who had killed three people, was "nothing short of heroic."

But along with the horror, drama and acclaim came a roaring and rekindled controversy in a country united in revulsion over its ceaseless plague of gun violence, yet bitterly divided over a loosening of gun restrictions like the Indiana law, passed this year, that allowed the bystander, Elisjsha Dicken, 22, to carry his 9-millimeter handgun in the first place. . . .

Chief Ison said the police found no indication that Mr. Dicken had a permit for the handgun. But the chief said he was carrying it legally under the new law. In a brief interview, Mr. Dicken's lawyer, Guy A. Relford, described his client as an "all-American Indiana boy," and declined to provide any specific information about him or the mall encounter.

Update 2: The Greenwood Police now report that the Good Samaritan acted quickly. In the span of 15 seconds (not 2 minutes), he fired 10 rounds, eight of which hit the assailant. And his first shot hit the assailant from 40 yards!

That is some top-level accuracy.