A Criminal Will Just Take the Gun Away from You

For a very long time, gun control proponents would insist that having a gun was a mistake, because many people (especially women) would not be willing to shoot a person who was attacking them—and the criminal would then take away the victim’s gun and use it on the victim. Oddly enough, while the authors have recorded a large number of incidents where someone has their gun taken away from them, it is usually the other way around. In 227 incidents, a criminal’s gun was taken away from him by the victim. This does not necessarily mean that the victim shot the criminal, but it does mean that the victim successfully disarmed the criminal and then threatened the criminal with it in order to make him leave, or make him remain on the scene until the police could arrive. Often, these were situations where the victim, at the start of the attack, did not have a gun.

On May 14, 2010, police arrested Major Lee Barnes, 19. Barnes is alleged to have first solicited an act of prostitution from a woman, and when she declined, he threatened her with a handgun, ordering her to, as the newspaper described it, “get on her knees and perform a sex act on him.” Barnes apparently put the handgun back in his pocket, “put his arms back in an apparent relaxed gesture,” at which point the victim grabbed the handgun, and shot him.
On March 13, 2010, three men, at least one of them masked, walked into a store in Romulus, Michigan, and attempted to rob it at gunpoint. A customer walked into the store, saw what was going on, and “successfully fought the gunman for control of the weapon and fired two rounds,” killing the gunman. The other suspects left, having failed to rob the store—short at least one handgun.
On February 7, 2009, a Georgia man was able to get control of the gun even after his attacker shot him. Richard Ellis, 38, pulled into his garage in Marietta, when John Harrison, 33, an acquaintance (but not, apparently, a friend) appeared with a handgun demanding money—and then shot Ellis in the leg. Ellis immediately “grabbed the gun and a fight ensued in the driveway of the resident.” Ellis was able to get control of the gun, and shot the assailant twice. Harrison died later at the hospital.
There may be a fine line between stupidity and courage, and trying to disarm a criminal when you do not have a gun could present more risks than simply complying with a robber’s demands—but it is startling how often this works out well for the victim, considering how often the opposite situation is claimed to exist. By comparison, the data set contains only 11 stories out of 4,699 where a criminal took a gun away from a defender; the reverse, as we have seen, was reported more than 20 times more often. Again, these are situations where a defender may not have been shot. Of course, even if a defender loses control of the gun, it does not mean that the criminal “wins” the engagement.

Here is a reasonably positive outcome, nonetheless. On January 16, 2008, a Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania man confronted two home invaders. They took his rifle from him—but the homeowner then drew his handgun, shooting one of the robbers. The other robber fled with the rifle.

This enormous disparity—227 criminals disarmed by their victims compared to 11 victims disarmed by criminals—is not necessarily an accurate measure of how often this happens. Because the data set gathers defensive gun use stories, many incidents where a criminal disarmed and killed a victim will likely not be reported. Still, since the research methods of the authors are unbiased (i.e., stacked in favor of finding one type of story versus the other), the numbers suggest that the great fear of gun control advocates—criminals disarming victims—is exaggerated. It may also be true that a great many of the criminals are so easily disarmed by their victims because the offender is intoxicated, stupid, or overconfident. Yet, it would appear that a shop owner threatened with losing his entire livelihood, a woman in fear of rape, or a parent afraid of losing everything, often has a greater motivation and finds a greater tenacity to fight back than a criminal hoping for an easy “score.”