Last week, an attorney’s office about 1/4 mile down the road from my office was the scene of a shooting. The attacker later took his own life. Fortunately, the victims received “only” superficial physical injuries, according to news reports.
A Coal Valley man’s behavior had been “escalating for a while” before he shot up the Davenport workplace of his estranged wife and then killed himself in Bettendorf, the woman’s divorce attorney said Tuesday. . . Bettendorf Police Capt. Keith Kimball said after the Davenport shooting, Mayes drove to a business in the 4500 block of Utica Ridge Road to search for a male acquaintance of his estranged wife . . . The woman filed an order of protection against Robert Mayes in June. The order is in effect until June 2016. The order stated that Robert Mayes did not have any guns in his home. An Illinois law that went into effect in January 2010 prohibits applicants from obtaining a Firearm Owner’s Identification Card or possessing a firearm if they have an order of protection against them.
Firstly and most importantly, I was relieved to see that no one other than the attacker lost their life. I know the attorneys in that building and am glad that they survived. I hope that the lives of everyone affected return to normal soon. I also hope that we as a society, and the legal profession in particular, can learn from this situation such that we are all safer in the future.
Gun control doesn’t work
One obvious lesson from this shooting is that protective orders do not stop a person who is bent upon committing a violent crime. As the news reports notes, there had been a protective order in place for months, yet the attacker had a gun and was able to make use of it. Obviously, a person who is willing to risk spending the rest of their life in prison for murder wouldn’t be afraid of spending a little time in the county jail for violating a protective order. As I tell my clients, it is perfectly fine to get a protective order – but don’t expect it to actually stop an attacker who is bent upon committing a violent crime.
After recognizing that protective orders and existing laws will not stop violent individuals from having a gun, some individuals argue that the solution is a nation-wide ban on guns. Leaving aside the fact that such a ban would be unconstitutional, it is not a solution, as the British have learned. Instead, such a nation-wide ban on guns just leads to criminals illegally manufacturing guns themselves, smuggling guns into the country, stealing guns from the police, and using other tools to inflict harm. Indeed, British gun-related crime doubled in the decade after the gun ban was implemented. Given that Britain is a smaller country, with an easier-to-police border, with fewer civil rights to stop the police from searching citizens on a hunch, there is simply no way that the United States could succeed at nation-wide gun control where the British have failed. Moreover, there are hundreds of millions of guns in the United States already which would not simply vanish in the event that guns were banned nation-wide.
The police cannot respond in time
By the time the police respond to a 911 call, the crime in question may very well have been completed. Even the best circumstances, the police are minutes away, while a shooting, rape, murder, robbery, home invasion, or other violent crime can take place in just seconds. It is also important to note that the police will sometimes fail to help even when asked repeatedly, and they are not legally liable for that failure. Adding to the problem, police are 5.5 times more likely than an armed citizen to shoot the wrong person, meaning that there is a certain degree of danger anytime there are armed police coming to the aid of a citizen.
Armed self defense works
Even when facing an unexpected attack, armed self defense works. A few examples: This man managed to shoot 2 armed robbers in self defense, despite being choked by the robbers and held at gunpoint in his own home. This homeowner managed to get his gun from a drawer, despite the fact that a criminal held a knife to him. This elderly man managed to grab a self defense gun, despite being shocked with a stun gun and beaten by a 24 year old man. This man managed to draw his concealed carry handgun and shoot an armed robber in self defense, despite the fact that that robber was standing behind him and pointing a shotgun at his back. This jewelry store owner managed to grab his gun from under a desk, despite the fact that two robbers were in his store, one of whom had a gun pointed at him. This pawnshop manager managed to shoot an armed in self defense, saving himself and his teenage employee, despite the fact that a gun was being held to that employee’s throat. I could go on with many more examples, but the point should be clear – armed self defense works and is a crime victim’s best chance at saving themselves from a violent attack.
Given those facts, it seems prudent to be prepared for self defense, just as it is prudent to wear a seatbelt while driving a car.
After making the above arguments about armed self defense, I often hear the (terribly sexist!) remark that women cannot really expect to be able to defend themselves with a gun. Nothing could be further from the truth. The fact is that when women are armed, they are in the best position possible to defend themselves and/or their loved ones. A few examples: This armed woman used her gun to stop violent ex who broke into her home and cornered her in her bedroom. This ill but armed woman was able to fend off 3 home invaders, including one who came back to attack her again. This armed woman was able to defend herself against a rapist who came back to rape her for a second time in a week. This 85 year old armed woman held a young burglar at gunpoint and made the burglar call the police on himself. This armed woman stopped an attacker who tried to ambush her. This armed pregnant woman used a shotgun to scare away two home invaders. This armed female school teacher used a gun to save herself from a convicted felon who broke into her home. As a final real-life example, this armed woman saved herself and her family from a pair of armed, kidnapping, home invaders. Armed self defense works – regardless of the crime victim’s gender.
My humble advice to attorneys (and everyone else)
While shootings at attorneys offices are thankfully rare, this incident shows they do happen. Being prepared for such a situation is no different than being prepared for a fire, tornado, or other emergency. Taking some time to talk to employees about potential safety issues, and encouraging employees to be armed for self defense, can go a long way to mitigating the risks of a violent attack up the office.