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Should You Intervene in a Shooting? If So, When?

dagnygromer/Flickr (CC BY-NC-ND 2.0)

From Texas Standard

A robbery turned fatal at the Rolling Oaks Mall in San Antonio on Sunday. The shooting has brought up questions about concealed carry and when it’s appropriate for people to intervene in such incidents.

Two men were robbing the Kay Jewelers in the mall. One of the suspects was reportedly waving a gun and shot and killed a bystander, who had tried to stop the robbers.

Another man, who some news sources are calling a “good samaritan,” pulled out his licensed concealed handgun and fired his weapon, critically wounding one of the robbers. The suspects shot and killed him.

Two other bystanders were wounded.

Robert Farago is the creator and editor of the blog “The Truth About Guns”. He says when he heard about the San Antonio shooting, his first thought was to question why the “good samaritan” decided to pull out his gun and begin shooting.

"It's really not a good idea to jump into the middle of an armed robbery,” Farago says. “It's only stuff, and it wasn't his stuff, and he paid for that with his life."

Some people who carry say they do so for protection. Farago says it’s better to avoid armed conflict if it is possible to do so, even if a person is carrying a gun. He says the "good samaritan" who shot and wounded one of the suspects should have let the robbery play out and kept his life.

But Farago says it is appropriate to intervene in some cases.

"The standard for using your firearm for armed self-defense is you must be facing an imminent, credible threat of death or grievous bodily harm," he says. "That doesn't mean you should respond in every situation where that occurs.”

In the case of the San Antonio shooting, Farago says, the first person who intervened in the robbery was shot, and at that point, other bystanders were facing an imminent credible threat.

"[The robber] has shown their ability and shown their inclination to take innocent life,” Farago says. “At that point, it's pretty much chalks away if they decide that they want to engage that person and shoot them – which the so-called 'good samaritan' did – they are fully legally able to do so."

Farago says “The Truth About Guns” scans all national, local and network news daily to gather statistics of cases where people used guns in defense. He says the estimates vary, but the lowest possible one that he’s seen by a reputable source is that 60,000 defensive gun uses take place per year in the United States. The more accepted figure is about 1 million uses per year, he says.

"We don't really know exactly how many defensive gun uses there are,” he says. “But we certainly know they outnumber all of the homicides and suicides combined in the United States. It's a net positive for this country."

When a person is in an armed conflict situation, Farago says they have to make a determination: are they going to intervene or are they going to step back?

“It's not necessarily your responsibility to intervene to save people,” he says. “Some people say 'I couldn't live with myself if I didn't,' and that's something everybody has to decide for themselves. But you have no obligation to intervene in a robbery. It's only stuff."

Written by Beth Cortez Neavel.

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