Exercising the Right
by Robert W. Lee

"... the right of the people to keep and bear Arms, shall not be infringed."

Not in the Cards

On October 9th, two men walked into a Brooklyn card shop. One pulled out a machine pistol (which New York City’s draconian gun control laws did not prevent him from obtaining), while the other announced a holdup.

Shopkeeper Joe Ming Chen had noticed something suspicious when the men entered the store, so had reached for the licensed handgun which he kept behind the counter. When he saw the robber’s weapon, he grabbed his own gun and fired at least five shots, striking James Baylor, 31, four times in the chest and Antoine Miles, 29, once in the side. Baylor, alive but critically wounded, attempted to flee, but collapsed outside the store. Miles temporarily escaped, but was later apprehended at a hospital emergency room.

Chen had been robbed on at least two other occasions in recent years. The New York Post for October 10th quoted a fellow store owner as saying, "He finally got fed up and applied for the gun and license for it."

According to the Post, "Investigators for the district attorney questioned Chen, determined the shooting was justified and said he would not be charged."

When Animals Attack, Guns Save Lives

On April 28, 1996, a gunman killed 35 persons and wounded 19 in the Australian state of Tasmania. The incident triggered additional gun control legislation that forced Aussies to surrender some 650,000 firearms. Predictably, with ordinary citizens less secure and the criminal element emboldened, murders, assaults, robberies (armed and unarmed), unlawful entries, and motor vehicle thefts subsequently increased.

It has apparently become more difficult to effectively cope with non-human threats as well. The Sydney Morning Herald for September 14th reported that two days earlier "a kangaroo smashed through a glass front door and terrorized a Northern Territory family during a three-hour rampage through their home" in Jibaru. The homeowner, awakened by the sound of shattering glass shortly after midnight, had "armed himself with an empty bourbon bottle," which proved useless as the animal "bounded through the mining town house and over an 11-year-old boy — one of five children in the house." When two constables eventually arrived, they "spent the next two hours trying to coax the wounded animal … out of the house" as, in the words of one, "It was hissing at us, rearing up at us boxing-like with its front paws." Eventually, they were able to rope and hogtie the animal and force it into a police car. It was later destroyed. If only the family had had access to a firearm instead of a bourbon bottle, the marauding kangaroo could have been stopped relatively quickly, preventing the multi-hour rampage entirely and ensuring the safety of family, hearth, and home.

Here in the U.S., the difference that firearms can make during confrontations with vicious animals was underscored by two recent incidents involving pit bulls.

On the morning of September 19th, Gwen Kemp of Fineview, Pennsylvania, was awakened by the blood-curdling screams of a neighbor, Marquitta Harris, from half-a-block away. While waiting for a bus, Harris and another neighbor, Judy Rassius, were being attacked by two pit bulls. Mrs. Kemp awakened her husband, Henry, who grabbed a crowbar and ran to help the two distraught women as his wife called 911.

Two other residents of the area, one armed with a stick and the other with a two-by-four, also ran to the scene and began pummeling the dogs, but to no avail. Even the crowbar would not deter them, so Mr. Kemp rushed back to his house and returned with a wooden closet bar. "I needed something longer and bigger," he told the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette. "It was like hitting a piece of steel. They didn’t feel a thing." When the closet bar also failed to subdue the dogs, they turned on Kemp, biting him several times. Mrs. Kemp told the newspaper, "I saw the dogs. They looked so tiny. But I could tell from the walk they were pit bulls. Then I saw Henry fall and I thought [sucking in her breath], ‘Oooh.’"

Fortunately, Pittsburgh police Officer Pete Jawojski soon arrived, stepped from his patrol car, and attracted the dogs’ attention. As they ran toward him growling and barking, he pulled his gun and fired, striking one in the head. Both turned and ran. The wounded animal fled to its owner’s porch, where it died. When the second dog returned and again charged Jawojski, the officer fired a second time, wounding the ferocious creature. It ran to the back of its owner’s home, where it was later found and eventually destroyed.

As reported by the Post-Gazette for September 21st, "Henry Kemp had bites on the left hand and right leg. Rassius was bitten on the left thigh and the buttocks. Harris, who was attacked first and was the most severely injured, had numerous bites on her left arm and thigh and serious injuries to her left hand." All were treated at a local hospital and sent home. Mr. Kemp told the newspaper, "If the policeman didn’t show up with a gun, there would have been more people chewed up."

In a similar incident, a grandmother and granddaughter were walking together on their block in Chicago on October 4th when they were attacked by a pair of pit bulls. As reported by the next day’s Chicago Sun-Times, "A pit bull attack on a four-year-old girl and her grandmother was interrupted Wednesday by a neighbor who came out of his West Side house and shot the two dogs, killing one and critically wounding the other." The child suffered severe lacerations on her face, legs and an ear, but was reported in good condition at a local hospital. Her grandmother was treated for a knee wound and released. The armed Good Samaritan prevented what could have been a deadly tragedy.

"Ninja" Neutralized

On September 26th, Kevin Fitzsimmons, 25, went to a pawn shop in Crystal River, Florida, to pick up a handgun that he had purchased the previous week. Shop owner Dave Phillips noticed that Fitzsimmons was acting strangely, so decided not to let him have the gun. The man became enraged, told Phillips that he was a "ninja" (someone trained in Japanese martial arts), then went to his car and returned with a samurai sword. He stabbed Phillips in the chest, then followed as his victim staggered to a back room of the shop. Before Fitzsimmons could inflict further harm, however, Phillips grabbed a loaded firearm that he kept in the room and fired once, striking his assailant in the head. Both men were taken to a local hospital, where Phillips was reported in fair condition from the sword attack. Fitzsimmons died the next day.