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GUEST COLUMN: Hickenlooper's shots at law-abiding gun owners don't help

By: Ari Armstrong and David Kopel Guest columnists
December 10, 2015 Updated: December 10, 2015 at 4:05 am

In the immediate aftermath of the criminal attack on the Planned Parenthood clinic in Colorado Springs, public officials should be helping the community come together to heal and supporting the survivors and the victims' families. Instead, Gov. John Hickenlooper has used the occasion for a mean-spirited verbal assault on innocent people.

Hickenlooper told CNN: "In Colorado Springs, it's one of the more conservative parts of the state, we probably have more people that have licenses for concealed weapons, probably more guns around. That didn't help."

Hickenlooper's gratuitous insults are baseless. The only person with a concealed carry permit who had anything to do with Planned Parenthood was the clinic's armed security guard. Apparently deterred by the armed defender, the criminal did not attack the clinic until after the guard had left for the day.

The fact is, law-abiding citizens who have been issued concealed carry licenses keep their communities safer - by stopping mass shooters, including in Colorado Springs.

On Dec. 9, 2007, a criminal murdered two people at Youth With A Mission, a Christian training center in Arvada. After he escaped, churches all over the Front Range were on high alert.

The El Paso County Sheriff's Office sent deputies to protect churches, including the New Life megachurch in Colorado Springs. The criminal drove up and waited in his car for the deputies to leave. Then, he murdered two people in the parking lot and entered the sanctuary, where thousands of people were attending the afternoon service.

But waiting inside was a good person with a gun. Church member Jeanne Assam was the church's volunteer security guard that afternoon. She was licensed to carry in Colorado. As a former police officer, she had plenty of practice with defensive tactics.

She heard the shots from outside, and as soon as the criminal entered the building, she engaged him. The criminal had planned on being able to shoot at a mass of unarmed victims, but instead he found that he was the target, with no time to take aim at the churchgoers. Assam was fearless, and her gunfire was disciplined and effective. At the end, the criminal killed himself.

Pastor Brady Boyd said that "she probably saved over 100 lives."

The criminal's window of opportunity for murder begins to close when good people with guns arrive. At Sandy Hook Elementary School, the window for murder stayed open five minutes, until the police arrived. Twenty-six victims were killed in that period.

Three days before Sandy Hook, a criminal opened fire at the Clackamas Mall in Portland, Ore. He was confronted by an armed citizen with a handgun carry permit and promptly killed himself.

The mass shootings you've never heard about are the ones that were stopped by lawfully armed citizens, so the number of fatalities did not become "mass." Recent ones include Logan Square, Chicago (2015, Uber driver), a West Philadelphia barbershop (2015, passer-by intervened), and Mercy Fitzgerald Hospital in Darby, Pa. (2014, armed doctor).

At Planned Parenthood, many lives were saved because of the fast and aggressive response of law enforcement officers. Instead of being able to hunt for more victims, the criminal was forced to take shelter.

One of those officers, Garrett Swasey, died protecting the innocent.

Many lives have been saved because of good people with guns in Colorado Springs - law enforcement officers and citizens alike.

Gov. Hickenlooper has urged people to "tone down" their "inflammatory rhetoric." He would do well to heed his own advice and stop denouncing law-abiding, lawfully-armed citizens. In Colorado Springs, and throughout the nation, they are not part of the problem. They are part of the life-saving solution.


Ari Armstrong is a frequent guest writer for the Independence Institute, a free market think tank in Denver. David Kopel is the institute's research director.

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