In America, has an armed civilian ever taken down a rampaging psycho?

Apropos of recent tragic events. America is one of, if not the, most armed society in the world, with 90 guns per 100 people. When a random lunatic decides to go on a rampage with one of said firearms, have there ever been cases where one of his would-be victims turns the tables and delivers some on-the-spot retribution?

It seems that chances would be fairly high that the gunman would bump into someone with concealed carry and come unstuck, but usually reports of these incidents seem end with either the nutter topping himself, suicide by cop or the police managing to take them alive. Have there been any reports of civilian resistance in these incidents?

I think they helped in the UT tower shooting. Kept Charles whitman pinned down with return fire which probably aided the officer get to him.


That’s not much of a counterexample. That’s a robbery, not a rampage.

Not to nitpick too much, but that wasn’t a rampaging psycho, it was a robbery. The only one shooting was the armed civilian.

So what? If either of those thugs had opened fire, the result would have been the same.

During Charles Whitman’s rampage on the UT Tower, quite a few students, citizens and LEOs returned fire with hunting rifles, which my have pinned him down enough to lessen his body count:

96 Minutes - Texas Monthly

It should probably also be mentioned that several of those bullets also nearly hit the men who climbed the Tower to stop Whitman, though, although one of the officers who shot Whitman agreed that the civilians should be credited with keeping Whitman pinned and making it difficult to aim. Three of the men who climbed to the observation deck were police officers and one was a civilian, but they were far from a coordinated SWAT team - the Tower shootings were one of the reasons why SWAT teams were invented.

FWIW, most of the “random lunatic on a rampage” incidents seems to happen in schools, post offices, and other places where concealed carry isn’t allowed. Also, the theater in question in the latest incident banned concealed carry. RLOAR have been with us a long time, but concealed carry only reallys started taking off in the late 80s, which would exclude such notable incidents as the San Ysidrio massacre.

Home (well, party) invasion robbery/rape? One of the attempted rape victims was also apparently hit in the crossfire, non lethally. That said, there’s no shortage of crimes being thwarted by people with guns. That wasn’t really the OPs question, I think.

I’m not aware of incidents where someone with the express aim of killing a lot of people in a planned fashion (as opposed to say killing someone after robbing them to eliminate witnesses) i.e. a rampage was stopped by a concealed carry civilian. The person conducting the rampage obviously has the advantage of surprise, preparation, and planning and anyone trying to shoot back becomes an interesting dilemma for the cops who show up shortly thereafter. I’d be interested to hear if anyone knows of any though.

If you’re going to plan a rampage places like a movie theater are actually pretty smart. People are hyper-focused on the screen, it’s dark, it’s also like shooting “fish in a barrel.” Even if 20 people in the crowd were armed, they’d be 20 people trying to randomly return fire in a dark movie theater and probably just as likely to hit other moviegoers as the gunman. The gunman on the other hand knows everyone else is a target and can just open up at any silhouette he sees. Schools and such also have captive audiences in a similar fashion, but with virtually no chance anyone is armed.

Ah yes, the wiki article on him mentions that civilians went to get their rifles and return fire, which is the kind of example I’m thinking of.

Well, in that case the motive of the perps seems to have been robbery. I’m thinking of cases where a gunman just starts shooting, like the recent case in Colorado. For instance, Anders Breivik managed to go on an extensive murder spree for just over an hour in Norway, killing 69. If he’d attempted his rampage in the United States, is it probable that the Second Amendment would have been his undoing before he could cause the amount of deaths that he did in Norway?

It does happen but it is under-reported by the media.

*Two of the three Virginia law students who overpowered a gunman in a fatal school shooting were armed and used their weapons to disarm the shooter. Yet of the 280 stories written about the shooting, a mere four mentioned the fact that the heroic students were armed and used their guns to halt the rampage.

“Yet in this age of ‘gun-free school zones,’ the vast majority of news reports ignored the fact that the attack was stopped by two students who had guns in their cars. The quick response by two of the students, Mikael Gross, 34, and Tracy Bridges, 25, undoubtedly saved multiple lives,”*
*SALT LAKE CITY (ABC 4 News) - A citizen with a gun stopped a knife wielding man as he began stabbing people Thursday evening at the downtown Salt Lake City Smith’s store.

…the knife wielding man seriously injured two people. “There is blood all over. One got stabbed in the stomach and got stabbed in the head and held his hands and got stabbed all over the arms.”

Then, before the suspect could find another victim - a citizen with a gun stopped the madness. “A guy pulled gun on him and told him to drop his weapon or he would shoot him. So, he dropped his weapon and the people from Smith’s grabbed him.”*

I’d say probably not. Most of the victims were under 21, the minimum age for concealed carry in most US jurisdictions (of the 69 only 13 were over 21). Also we’re getting even more into speculation, but the camp probably would have banned concealed carry anyway because it was left-wing (run by the Labour party).

Had more of the campers been of legal age and the camp allowed weapons I’d speculate it’s possible. From the Wikipedia article it seems the shootings were over a long period of time, it was daylight, and campers were spread out and started to hide. Plenty of time to carefully aim and return fire, or even sneak back to your bunk to get your weapon out of a your suitcase.

At the 2002 Appalachian Law school shooting two students retrieved guns from their cars and got the shooter to drop his gun, although it is not known whether he had planned to shoot anyone else.
In 1997 at the Pearl Mississippi shooting the vice principal retrieved his gun from his car and detained the shooter who had planned to drive to a middle school and start shooting people there.
In Edinboro Pennsylvania, a armed man stopped a 14 year old shooter who had stopped to reload after shooting 4 people at a school dance.
At the Trolley Square shootings an off duty cop pinned the shooter down, until a SWAT team arrived and shot him.
At a Santa Clara shooting range a gunman was shot by an armed customer after he had taken three employees hostage and said he was going to kill them.

Missed edit window.

I’d also note that had I been in the Breivik case my weapon of choice wouldn’t be a handgun. Brievik had a carbine and a shotgun, which meant you’d be vastly outgunned by him in a short range, open firefight. Your choices are to shoot him in the back from nearby (this is a camp so there didn’t appear to be any shortage of hiding places), or out-range him. My weapon of choice would be an AR-15. The round is big enough to do the job, it has a high capacity and is accurate. Maybe if it was a righ-wing camp in the US they’d have a rifle range so I would have brought mine along to target shoot?

In the theater I’d pick a handgun. The distances are to short and the consequences of overpenetration are too high, and there’s no way I’d take a rifle to watch a movie even if it were allowed.

It depends on if the area is a “gun-free zone” and if someone has made the decision to carry a firearm.

It’s obvious that criminals are NOT going to obey any law. If the Norway camp had a firearm(s), a camp employee could have attempted to end the slaughter. Simply returning fire could have allowed more victims to escape.

The looney shooting in the Colorado theater had also created bombs, probably to destroy evidence, which would have killed his neighbors. The loonies shooting the students at Colombine had also brought bombs into the school. Luckily, none of these bombs detonated.

Sick, twisted people who intend to kill others will find a way. Should their intended victims be allowed the means to defend themselves? 49 States now have some sort of concealed carry laws. Why? Because a majority of the taxpaying voters elected representatives who changed the laws to allow the taxpaying voters to protect themselves.

49 states is misleading. For instance in New Jersey it is nearly impossible to get a concealed carry permit although it is technically possible. But good luck getting one.

Even an Adam Sandler movie?

It is extremely unlikely that an ordinary armed citizen would have the discipline to overcome his panic in that sort of situation. Trained soldiers and cops freeze under fire, so a man-on-the-street is much more likely to be in the frenzied mob trying to find an exit, than to be trying to John Wayne it against a heavily-armed shooter. As a former military man who has been under fire, I can tell you that remaining calm is not an option. When your heart rate has accelerated to the point where you can hear it in your breathing, and you are hyperventilating from fear, your flight instinct is overpowering. The idea that any ordinary citizen would be able to control that fear (let alone his aim) under that circumstance is just silly.