On Nov. 5, 2009, 12 soldiers and one civilian were killed, and more than two dozen others were wounded, when a gunman walked into the Soldier Readiness Processing Center at Fort Hood and opened fire. Using not an assault rifle but a 357 magnum, with 40,000 trained soldiers on the base which is also the second biggest armory in America who took the guy out?

The military swat team on the base that was called in and wounded him 10 minutes after his shootings.

What I am really asking is there a printed story or proof of any armed bystander in the USA besides an off duty policeman ever stopping a multiple homicide?

  • 45
    Just because this happened on a military base, doesn't mean the soldiers were armed. The soldiers are not allowed to carry their firearms just anywhere and anytime on base. Actually, the opposite is true; their weapons are closely monitored and stored away from the soldiers except when they need them.
    – Dunk
    Commented Dec 19, 2012 at 20:15
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    @Dunk - you are more than right. The target was specifically chosen to be a location where soldiers WERE unarmed.
    – user5341
    Commented Dec 19, 2012 at 20:36
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    There is only one question: are armed bystanders beneficial or not? However the current question is slanted.
    – Sklivvz
    Commented Dec 20, 2012 at 0:19
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    It should be noted that military bases, like Fort Hood, are among the most tightly-controlled areas on the planet when it comes to guns. The possession by any soldier of both a weapon and its ammunition is tightly controlled, and on the overwhelming majority of military bases, only MPs are allowed to possess weapons in a "ready-to-fire" state anywhere other than on the firing range (and weapons entering and leaving that range, if any do at all, are checked and cleared).
    – KeithS
    Commented Dec 20, 2012 at 21:53
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    @fgysin - "Why on earth would a military base need stricter gun rules, than say, a school or supermarket?" Because, traditionally, military bases are peopled almost exclusively by adolescent/young adult males who have been selected for willingness to use violence and encouraged in tribal loyalty. Add a culture which encourages both alcohol use and macho values, and extremely tight control of firearms is a very good idea. Schools and supermarkets just aren't the same. Commented Dec 15, 2015 at 16:43

7 Answers 7


A Slate article covers this very subject. As might be expected for such a highly-charged controversial subject, the results are contradictory and inconclusive.

An investigation by Mother Jones concluded that no more than 1.6 percent of mass shootings were ended by armed civilians. On the other hand, gun advocates argue that it’s hard to know how many more shootings would have become mass murders had civilians not been on the scene to end them early.


Academic studies on the issue have not reached consensus. A 1999 study by John Lott of the University of Maryland and William M. Landes of the University of Chicago, often cited by conservatives, found that “shall issue” laws allowing concealed handguns “reduce both the number of [multiple victim] shootings as well as their severity.” However, a review of studies on the topic found the evidence to be inconsistent and inconclusive. A recent Washington Post fact-check similarly found the current evidence to be too murky for representatives like Gohmert to cite as fact.

References backing those statements up can be found in the article.

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    The TLDR of mine is "don't know" so not too much conflict. But the Slate article is specifically about mass shootings so not perfectly on topic. Commented Dec 20, 2012 at 4:15
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    Frankly, drawing ANY conclusion about effectiveness of armed civilians at stopping mass shooting based on "how many of such incidents happened out of total mass shootings" is idiotic. Because most mass shooting happen in "gun free" zones where there is almost no likelyhood of an armed civilian being around, by design. Now... could that last fact be more than a coincidence? Naaaaaaah.
    – user5341
    Commented Dec 20, 2012 at 15:23
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    The ONLY valid study would be "How many mass shootings happened where an armed civilian was present, and was able/vs/unable to stop the mass shooting"; or comparing the #s between stopped shootings limited to the areas of near-certain presence of an armed civilian at any given time.
    – user5341
    Commented Dec 20, 2012 at 15:26
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    @Oddthinking I don't see a conflict: Cruril's answer says, "it has happened occasionally (i.e. a non-zero number of times)"; and DJClayworth's answer says, "no more than 1.6 percent of mass shootings were ended by armed civilians".
    – ChrisW
    Commented Jun 22, 2015 at 20:31
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    @DVK - excellent point; given current laws and policies, we're unlikely to ever get unbiased, statistically-significant data on how effective an armed civilian is at stopping a gunman, because no mass shooting since Charles Whitman's U.T. rampage in 1966 has occurred at a venue where the average citizen could legally carry a firearm, and in fact the overwhelming majority have occurred in "gun free zones" such as grade schools, colleges, malls, movie theaters, post offices, immigration centers, military facilities, etc. The few that didn't happen in such areas targeted family gatherings.
    – KeithS
    Commented Jun 26, 2015 at 23:54

...is there a printed story or proof of any armed bystander in the USA besides an off duty policeman ever stopping a multiple homicide?

The answer is "Yes".

  1. First, a smaller list. Look at this article, listing 4 cases, two of them in schools:


  2. Now for a bigger list - this one contains 8 incidents, 6 by armed civilian and 2 by civilians helping police with their firearms.

    There was a recent controversy when someone posted a meme on facebook, "claiming the average number of people killed in mass shootings when stopped by police is 18.25, and the average number of people killed in a mass shooting when stopped by civilians is 2.2".

    That statistics was challenged, therefore the meme poster decided to do the job properly.


    He explicitly detailed a more thorough research, listing all of the known facts.

    The tally?

    With 15 incidents stopped by police with a total of 217 dead that’s an average of about 14.29. With 17 incidents stopped by civilians and 45 dead that’s an average of 2.33.

    To make the statistics even cleaner, he separated civilian stops between armed and unarmed civilians

    ... within the civilian category 11 of the 17 shootings were stopped by unarmed civilians.
    If you compare the average of people killed in shootings stopped by armed civilians and unarmed civilians you get 1.8 and 2.6 but that’s not nearly as significant as the difference between a proactive civilian, and a cowering civilian who waits for police.

    He also points out that the statistics could be even worse if not for the fact that many mass shootings aren't actually stopped by the police, but that the shooter kills himself; AND that at least 2 of the police ones were where a police was very greatly assisted by armed civilians.

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    In fairness, the police are only ever involved in mass shootings when they continue for an extended period of time, so it's natural those events would have a higher fatality rate. Still, this pretty clearly answers the question in the affirmative. Commented Dec 19, 2012 at 22:32
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    What you've proved here is that the police are called to more serious incidents. I'm pretty sure if you studied it that fires put out by citizens with a fire extinguisher are less costly than those put out by the fire department. You shouldn't conclude from that that citizens with a fire extinguisher are more effective than the fire department. Commented Dec 21, 2012 at 19:41
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    @DVK I'm not making that argument. The argument as I understand it is whether citizens or police are more effective at preventing shootings. My point is that this data contributes nothing useful to that debate. Commented Dec 22, 2012 at 18:28
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    Sorry, but until you reference reputable sources (i.e. not naturalnews) then this answer is wrong. Commented Dec 27, 2012 at 4:15
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    Natural News cites the Pearl High School shooting. Wikipedia reveals the bystander used his firearm to stop the shooter from fleeing, not to stop the shooter from killing more people.
    – Oddthinking
    Commented Jun 22, 2015 at 21:32

Armed Bystander stops a stabbing.

Police say a bystander who happened to be a concealed handgun license holder pulled his weapon and ordered Barron to drop the knife. Barron surrendered and was taken into custody by the bystander and a school district officer.

From a blog.. Don't know how factual it is though as it is a personal account.

It happened in a town where I used to live. Back in 1997, a kid took a gun to the high school in Pearl, Mississippi, and started firing. He killed two students and wounded seven, then fled the building. Hearing the shots, assistant principal Joel Myrick ushered a few kids into the safety of his office, then ran to get his .45 automatic from his car in the parking lot (state law allowed him to have it there). By the time Mr. Myrick got back, the shooter was in his own car, trying to get away.

"I just pointed at him and I said--I said, freeze," Mr. Myrick told Nightly News the next day. He continued, "I said, don't move. And I could see his--the whites of his knuckles on the steering wheel. And I came up and I grabbed the door, and I opened the door. I said, don't you do anything, you know. I said, I'm going to shoot you. And he got out, he laid on the ground, and then put my foot on the back of the neck."

Man with Conceal and carry permit stops shooting.

Deputies say about 2:25 a.m., 30-year-old Ernesto Villa Gomez walked into the bar and starting shooting. 20-year-old Jose Torres and his 19-year-old brother Margarito Torres were killed. When Villa Gomez was reloading his semi-automatic gun, a man from Reno took out a gun and shot Villa Gomez. That man has a concealed weapons permit.

App State law school Shooting. I'll sum this one up. It did involve an two students who were off duty officers, a county sheriff and a police officer. They confronted the man who had shot several people and he dropped his gun at that point and was subdued by several other students.

This posting lists 2 of the events I have listed as well as two more. One did involve a former police officer.

Most of these the shooter was stopped after someone was killed, but in this example, the shooters were stopped before anyone was killed.

In December 1991, two armed men burst into a Shoney's restaurant in Anniston, Ala., and held the patrons and employees at gunpoint, herding them into a walk-in refrigerator. The robbers kept the manager behind for his assistance as they looted the restaurant. One patron, however, also remained behind. Thomas Glenn Terry had opted against being locked in a refrigerator, hiding from the attackers under a table.

As one of the armed robbers ransacked the cash register, another patrolled the restaurant. When he came across Mr. Terry, he pulled his gun. But unlike the recent victims in Atlanta, this victim was armed. Using his own legally concealed handgun, Terry shot and killed the robber. The other armed robber, busily holding the manager at gunpoint, then opened fire on Terry. Terry shot back, mortally wounding the second robber. The two dozen hostages were released unharmed. Only the criminals -- who had been armed with stolen guns, by the way -- didn't make it out alive.

So in summation, Yes it does happen. When a shooting is stopped I am willing to say that it would get much less coverage. How often do you hear about good Samaritans vs criminals? Bad news brings more attention than good news. Bad news can cause sensationalism more so than good news, which will lead to increased viewer or reader numbers.

  • 1
    Any comment on the reason for the downvote?
    – Cruril
    Commented Dec 19, 2012 at 19:19
  • 4
    Arguably, in your second case, having a gun prevented the killer get away, but it didn't prevent anyone getting killed, and in the last case, the armed men apparently weren't intending to kill anyone.
    – Benjol
    Commented Dec 20, 2012 at 9:07
  • 1
    That is true. In the second case you could argue that he stopped the kid from killing anyone else, since he had already killed people. In the last case, even though you don't know if they weren't going to kill anyone, you don't know if they would have either. A man with a concealed carry permit stopped a crime that could have resulted in several murders.
    – Cruril
    Commented Dec 21, 2012 at 0:50
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    The trouble with giving examples is that they present an incomplete view. Unless you also show examples where the presence of armed good guys failed to prevent attacks. Eg the 20th century saw two presidents shot despite armed guards (not sure whether McKinley counts as he didn't like security). The Florida school had an armed guard on site at the time of the shooting.
    – matt_black
    Commented Feb 23, 2018 at 13:03
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    @matt_black The question currently asks for examples. Probably should have made that complaint there, or in your answer as a lesser "frame flip".
    – user11643
    Commented Aug 27, 2020 at 19:13

Armed bystanders sometimes help, but not often

The FBI have addressed a related question using a large sample (160) of "active shooter" incidents from 2010 to 2013.

The report is available and is called A Study of Active Shooter Incidents in the United States Between 2000 and 2013.

The study excludes many types of gun crime (like drug related shootings) but tries to include all incidents where the public were put at risk by perpetrators with some desire to hurt them. These incidents are particularly relevant as they are the type where injury to innocent citizens is more likely to occur (as opposed to being a side effect or where the injured are likely to be other criminals).

For the 160 incidents, 5 were ended via action by armed citizens and 2 by off-duty law enforcement officers. Three times as many incidents (21) ended when unarmed citizens restrained the shooter. Two-thirds of the incidents ended before law enforcement arrived at the scene.

The majority of all incidents (90) ended with the shooter fleeing or committing suicide.

The conclusions from these statistics are that armed civilians can and have stopped some incidents. But, perhaps more importantly, armed civilians are a very small contribution to citizen safety (unarmed civilians stop 3 times more incidents). The "good guy with a gun" is a small contributor to public safety.

  • 3
    Unarmed civilians stopping three times more incidents says more about how many are armed than the value of weapons. Many incidents occurred where civilians aren't allowed to be armed and even those that didn't sheer chance will say many didn't involved an armed civilian at all. Commented May 12, 2016 at 18:38
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    +1, but the summary here is "good guys without guns stopped shooters" rather than "good guys with guns didn't stop many shooters". I imagine people of such valor should be able to do even better in a fair fight (i.e. they have guns too). As Loren said above, "good guys with guns" as a "small contributor to public safety" really only points to the fact that there are apparently very good guys out in the wild that don't carry guns. It seems a very safe assumption that they'd have used a gun if they had one, and perhaps have drastically changed the outcome.
    – user11643
    Commented Aug 27, 2020 at 19:19
  • @fredsbend "do even better in a fair fight" makes logical sense, but the only judgement about whether that is relevant has to come from real-world statistics as logical ideas are often a dramatically oversimplified version of how the real world works. After all, in a world where everyone carried weapons, bad guys would always shoot first somewhat negating the value of the good guy.
    – matt_black
    Commented Aug 27, 2020 at 20:11
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    @matt_black Yes, maybe. That's why I gave the +1, for a pretty well-balanced answer that doesn't makes sweeping judgments.
    – user11643
    Commented Aug 27, 2020 at 20:15

Armed citizen stops liquor store robbery in Nashville area


EDIT: To elaborate on my answer, it will be highly unlikely that we ever get a statistically-significant, unbiased set of data on mass shootings (or any shooting) in modern times to make the determination of whether an armed bystander reduces loss of life in such situations. This is for one very good reason; the overwhelming majority of mass shootings in modern history have occurred in locations where the intended victims were not allowed to carry weapons either by law or workplace policy.

To back that up, here's CNN's list of the 25 deadliest mass shootings in U.S. history: http://www.cnn.com/2013/09/16/us/20-deadliest-mass-shootings-in-u-s-history-fast-facts//. Let's go down the top 10 one by one:

  1. Virginia Tech massacre, Blacksburg VA, 2007 - 32 dead. Occurred on the campus of Virginia Tech University, a gun-free zone by state law.
  2. Sandy Hook Elementary, Newtown CT, 2012 - 27 dead. Occurred primarily in a gun-free zone by Federal law (one victim, Adam Lanza's mother, was killed in their home).
  3. Luby's massacre, Killeen TX, 1991 - 23 dead. Texas did not allow public carry of handguns at the time. Susanna Gratia Hupp, present at the scene during the shootings, had left her firearm in her vehicle as required. This incident is notable as prompting adoption of concealed-carry in Texas.
  4. McDonald's shooting, San Ysidro CA, 1984 - 21 dead. California has not allowed public carry of loaded weapons since the Black Panthers protest march in 1967.
  5. U.T. Bell Tower shootings, Austin TX, 1966 - 18 dead. Occurred on a college campus where firearms were rare; however, this event is notable as civilians on the scene had access to firearms while the shooter was active. Nearby residents retrieved hunting rifles from their homes and returned fire alongside police and Texas Rangers, limiting Whitman's choice of targets after the initial killing spree.
  6. Ft. Hood shooting, Ft. Hood TX, 2009 - 13 dead. Ft. Hood does not allow anyone not on active MP detail or participating in live-fire training exercises to carry a firearm.
  7. ACA immigration center shooting, Binghamton NY, 2009 - 13 dead. The building was a gun-free zone, and New York is notoriously selective about handgun permit issuance.
  8. Columbine massacre, Littleton CO, 1999 - 13 dead. Elementary schools, as stated previously, are gun-free by federal law.
  9. Wilkes-Barre massacre, Wilkes-Barre PA, 1982 - 13 dead. George Banks targeted primarily family members, many of whom were sleeping, in multiple locations. This is a notable exception to the pattern of gunmen targeting strangers, and George Banks was ruled incompetent to be executed for the killings, but was not adjudged legally insane until after his conviction.
  10. Camden shootings, Camden NJ, 1949 - 13 dead. Camden is a suburb of Philadelphia on the NJ side of the Delaware River, and New Jersey's gun laws have never been permissive. Howard Unruh was adjudged legally insane as a result of the shootings of 12 people while walking around his neighborhood. It is very likely he suffered from what we now know as PTSD stemming from his service in WWII, and was also harrassed for allegedly being gay.

The remaining 15 are the Washington Navy Yard (GFZ), the Aurora theater shooting (GFZ, notable as the shooting occurred in the only theater within 20 miles so marked), the Atlanta day trader shootings (private businesses, effectively GFZs), a family shooting in Alabama (family-targeted), the Red Lake High School shooting (GFZ), the Jacksonville GMAC shooting (GFZ), the Seal Beach massacre (California), the Hartford Distibutors shooting (private business effectively GFZ), the 2010 Appomattox shooting (GFZ), the Carthage nursing home shooting (GFZ), the Omaha mall shooting (GFZ), the SFO law office massacre (California, and San Fran to boot), the Standard Gravure shootings in 1989 (private business, effectively GFZ), and the 1982 killing of 8 people including the shooter at a Miami machine shop (the shooter was killed by an armed civilian while attempting to flee the scene).

So, the situations in the top 25 where citizens could have had guns but didn't primarily involved family members, and in the limited number of cases where civilians had access to guns, they used them, demonstrably limiting the effectiveness of the shooter in one case and ending the threat in another.


Yes. As yet another example,

Uber driver, licensed to carry gun, shoots gunman in Logan Square.

Authorities say no charges will be filed against an Uber driver who shot and wounded a gunman who opened fire on a crowd of people in Logan Square over the weekend.

The driver had a concealed-carry permit and acted in the defense of himself and others, Assistant State's Attorney Barry Quinn said in court Sunday.


According to Police: 2 shot at Oklahoma restaurant; civilian kills gunman

a man armed with a pistol walked into an Oklahoma City restaurant at the dinner hour and opened fire, wounding two customers, before being shot dead by a handgun-carrying civilian

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