But what happens when someone actually fires their weapon in self-defense? I met three concealed handgun permit (CPL) holders in Detroit who pulled the trigger.
Life-Changing And Traumatic: Darrell Standberry
“I was parked at the pump right in front of the gas station. I exited my vehicle and before I could even get to the door of the gas station, the young man was already sitting in the driver’s seat of my vehicle,” says Standberry, who just earned a degree in green energy technology. He’d left his Yukon XL running with the key in the ignition.
Darrell Standberry — from Detroit — shot and killed a 19-year-old who tried to steal his car. Courtesy of Darrell Standberry
He says he told the young man to get out of his car. The young man told him to step back. That’s when Standberry says he saw the carjacker reach toward his pocket.
Standberry unholstered his Sig Sauer .45, reached through the passenger-side window, and fired one shot. He hit the carjacker in the torso. Gravely wounded, the carjacker drove away, crashed into a tree and died. Police found a pistol in his pocket.
“It changed a lot in my life,” he says. “Matter of fact, in my English class, I just did a report on it. I named it, ‘The incident that changed my life forever.’ ”
Standberry went to counseling. He became fearful of gas stations. And he carried the burden of killing a 19-year-old.
“You know why? Because my son was 19 at the same time. It really bothered me that I had to take a 19-year-old’s life. His life was just beginning. But he was into the wrong things. To this day, I still ask God for forgiveness,” he says.
Caught In A Gunfight: Alaina Gonville
Gonville is a mother of three, a big woman who works as a bouncer at a Detroit bar.
Alaina Gonville works as a bouncer in Detroit. Gonville was shot after being approached by robbers outside a grocery store. Courtesy of Alaina Gonville
Gonville was coming home from work late at night. She’d stopped at a store for a bottle of papaya juice. A scrawny guy walked up, pulled out a pistol and demanded her money. His accomplices were watching from a car behind him. As it happened, Alaina was carrying her pistol openly on her hip.
“I’m assuming they saw my gun. That’s when they opened fire from their vehicle. I heard the gunshots coming at me. That’s when I pulled my gun and returned fire,” she says.
She doesn’t know if she hit them or not. The robber bolted. His henchmen sped out of the parking lot, spraying Gonville and her car with military-grade bullets.
“I got shot with an AK-47, and it basically blew my arm off. It was dangling. I carried it into the hospital. After four surgeries and a lot of prayer it’s healed about 70 percent,” she says.
Did she think that having a handgun that night saved her life or endangered her more?
“That’s a good question. I replayed the situation in my head over and over. I can’t say, but I’m glad I had it,” she says.
In Trouble For Thwarting Shoplifters: Tatiana Rodriguez
Born in Colombia, Rodriguez owns a small tree-trimming business in a Detroit suburb. Last October, she was outside a Home Depot loading some materials into her truck.
“A lady comes screaming through the door for help, and somebody [was] running,” she says.
A man was running into the parking lot pushing a shopping cart full of merchandise. Rodriguez used to work at Home Depot, and she knows the company policy: Don’t pursue shoplifters. But she says she thought this was more serious because a lady was screaming.
She saw the shoplifters getting away in an SUV. She had her Heckler and Koch 9 mm.
“So I take my gun out and I point at the car when he was coming towards us. I jump to the side and decide to shoot out the tires to stop them,” she says.
In Michigan, it’s illegal for a citizen to use deadly force to stop a property crime. Rodriguez got 18 months of probation for reckless discharge of a weapon and had her gun license revoked. She thinks the punishment would have been harsher, but the cops caught the shoplifters after she shot out their tires.
Her story got lots of news coverage. It turned into a case study of when not to use your pistol.
“It was not my intention to do anything wrong. I was just trying to help somebody who really needed it. And it backfired on me. So what do you learn? It’s like you have to think a lot before you help somebody,” she says.
For this story, I contacted firearms instructors and lawyers who reached out to dozens of handgun carriers who had pulled the trigger in self-defense. To my surprise, very few wanted to talk.
Some had been arrested by the police or sued afterward, and had spent thousands of dollars on legal fees. They didn’t want to be dragged into the media spotlight again. Others were just traumatized by the whole experience.
Gonville urges people to think long and hard before they carry a gun.
“A lot of times I believe people are just playing around and they think it’s cool to have a gun,” she says. “It’s not just about being cool. It’s real life. Life and death is serious. Getting shot is serious. Shooting somebody is serious.”
Is It Safer To Carry A Gun?
An eye-opening Gallup poll released late last year revealed that 56 percent of respondents said they’d feel safer if more Americans could get permits to carry concealed handguns. Jennifer Carlson, a sociologist at the University of Toronto, wrote a book about handgun carriers in Michigan called Citizen–Protectors.
“This is what I think is really fascinating,” she says. “It’s not just the idea of if I conceal carry then I’m safer. It’s the idea that if I just imagine there’s people out there who are conceal carrying then the world is safer.”
All the trigger pullers I talked to for this story said the range time required to get a handgun license is grossly inadequate in terms of being prepared to defend themselves from an active shooter. They believe they’re alive today because they did extensive practice on their own.
Mark Cortis, a veteran firearms instructor in Detroit, urges all of his CPL students to get more training. But he says hardly any of them ever do.
“One of my concerns about the [Michigan] state requirements for getting a CPL is they don’t really include the tactics and the strategy that one will need to win or prevail in an actual gun situation,” Cortis says. “A hostile attack by a violent criminal is a fight.”
Not only are most handgun carriers in America totally unprepared for a gunfight, but gun-control activists hasten to point out that more guns lead to more suicides and accidental shootings.
Three years ago, Detroit’s new police chief, James Craig, made a startling public announcement. He encouraged law-abiding citizens to consider carrying concealed weapons as a deterrent to violent crime.
In an interview, I asked Chief Craig if he ever worries about the citizens that he has urged to arm themselves?
“What concerns me, more than anything else, is guns in the hands of criminals, guns in the hands of terror suspects. That’s what keeps me up at night. Not armed citizens,” Craig says.
Meanwhile, Cortis reports so many Detroiters are seeking concealed pistol permits, classes are booked for two months out.