Do Civilians Armed With Guns Ever Capture, Kill, or Otherwise Stop Mass Shooters?


Do Civilians Armed With Guns Ever Capture, Kill, or Otherwise Stop Mass Shooters?
Eugene Volokh • December 14, 2012 3:32 pm

… such examples will be rare, partly because mass shootings are rare, partly because many mass shootings happen in supposedly “gun-free” zones (such as schools, universities, or private property posted with a no-guns sign) in which gun carrying isn’t allowed, and partly for other reasons. Moreover, at least some examples are contested, because it might be unclear — as you’ll see below — whether the shooter had been planning to kill more people when he was stopped. But here are instances that I have seen, not counting killings stopped by people who were off-duty police officers (or police officers from other jurisdictions) at the time of the shooting.

  1. In Pearl, Mississippi in 1997, 16-year-old Luke Woodham stabbed and bludgeoned to death his mother at home, then killed two students and injured seven at his high school. …
  1. In Edinboro, Pennsylvania in 1996, 14-year-old Andrew Wurst shot and killed a teacher at a school dance, and shot and injured several other students. He had just left the dance hall, carrying his gun — possibly to attack more people, though the stories that I’ve seen are unclear — when he was confronted by the dance hall owner James Strand, who lived next door and kept a shotgun at home. …
  2. In Colorado Springs in 2007, Matthew Murray killed four people at a church. He was then shot several times by Jeanne Assam, a church member, volunteer security guard, and former police officer (she had been dismissed by a police department 10 years before, and to my knowledge hadn’t worked as a police officer since). Murray, knocked down and badly wounded, killed himself; it is again not clear whether he would have killed more people had he not been wounded, but my guess is that he would have.

If the national “news” media were doing their jobs - reporting rather than advocating - incidents like these would not be little known. Personally, I knew only of the fourth one; whether I would have known of that one but for a tenuous indirect personal connection, I’m not sure. Re Murray, given that he had killed some people at a missions base near Denver and then driven quite a few miles to Colorado Springs, Eugene Volokh’s “guess” that he would have killed more but for being wounded by Jeanne Assam seems to me pretty much a certainty. Volokh’s list is not complete …


For some reason, this aspect of this mall shooting didn’t get much play - if any - on national news:

Clackamas man, armed, confronts mall shooter
by Mike Benner

The friend and baby hit the floor. Meli, who has a concealed carry permit, positioned himself behind a pillar.

“He was working on his rifle,” said Meli. “He kept pulling the charging handle and hitting the side.”

The break in gunfire allowed Meli to pull out his own gun, but he never took his eyes off the shooter.

“As I was going down to pull, I saw someone in the back of the Charlotte move, and I knew if I fired and missed, I could hit them,” he said.

Meli took cover inside a nearby store. He never pulled the trigger. He stands by that decision.

“I’m not beating myself up cause I didn’t shoot him,” said Meli. “I know after he saw me, I think the last shot he fired was the one he used on himself.”

Don’t overlook the two things that, thankfully, hindered the Clackamas Mall shooter: 1.) His rifle jammed; 2.) As he was clearing the jam, he saw that he was not the only armed person in the mall, a realization that led him to shoot himself rather than more innocents.


This man is a hero. When interviewed, he had explained he didn’t pull the trigger because he saw civilians running behind the shooter and was afraid he could possibly hit them. Still, from the sounds of it, and this would make sense; The shooter saw him and then committed suicide immediately.