Let’s Stop Talking About the Shooters and Start Talking About the Heroes

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By Dagny Taggart

It’s a been a heartbreaking last few weeks here in the United States, with mass shootings occurring on July 28, August 3, and August 4.

What is becoming of our nation? The US continues to rank disturbingly low on the Global Peace Index scale, coming in at 128 out of 163 countries. The US is home to five of the world’s most violent cities.

Despite these grim statistics, fewer violent crimes are occurring in the US overall.

But there is still a tremendous amount of room for improvement.

Mass shootings seem to be here to stay.

The Gun Violence Archive, a nonprofit research group that tracks shootings and their characteristics in the US, defines a mass shooting as an incident in which four or more people, excluding the perpetrator(s), are shot in one location at roughly the same time. By that criteria, there have been 255 mass shootings in this country so far in 2019. To put this in perspective, today is the 217th day in 2019.

We’ve had more mass shootings than days this year.

Mass shootings are not anything new. They have been occurring since at least the 1920s. There is no standard, widely-accepted definition for what constitutes a mass shooting, which makes gathering accurate statistics challenging. Some sources say these events are occurring more frequently, some say they aren’t – and still others say they are happening less often but are more deadly now.

But it doesn’t really matter, does it? The fact that they happen at all is deeply troubling.

In the wake of a tragedy, it is easy to find ourselves slipping into feelings of desolation and hopelessness. While it is important to study the minds of mass shooters and others who are prone to violence for the sake of preventing tragedies, it is also important to take some time to recognize the courageous individuals who step in to help during these events.

I know that many people believe these mass shootings are false flags (and it certainly is possible that at least some of them are), but for the purpose of this article, we will take things at face value, and focus on people who try to help others during these incidents.

I feel it is important to mention that I am personally very pro-gun rights. Many people tend to blame guns for these tragedies rather than the individuals who committed the atrocities. I think that is a copout – it is easier to blame inanimate objects and call for the government to do something (typically in the form of useless gun control laws – since when do criminals obey laws?) than it is to take a deep look at the possible root causes of these horrible crimes. What drives people to mass murder? What can be done to reduce or eliminate these events? Those are tough questions that do not have simple answers.

Guns are not the problem – people are – but that is a complex topic that is beyond the scope of this article.

While mass shootings expose us to the worst of humanity, they also expose us to the best – the brave people who put their own lives on the line to save others.

There are still a lot of good people out there.

Glendon Oakley, a 22-year-old Army serviceman, was shopping at the Cielo Vista Mall in El Paso on Saturday morning when a child ran up to him and said there was a shooter at the nearby Walmart. Oakley said he didn’t take the boy’s claims seriously at first, but knew it was real when he began to hear gunfire. He said he immediately went into combat mode and began to grab as many children as he could to get them out of harm’s way, reports ABC News:

“I did that because that’s what I was trained to do. That is what the military has taught me to do,” he told reporters Sunday. “But I really want you guys to focus on the people that are actually grieving through this. Yes, I’m grieving, but I’m not the one that lost a family member. Yes, it feels like I have lost one. But they are the ones that need to be the [focus].”

Oakley refused to offer details about the “tragic” scene he witnessed, but he called it “the worst thing” he’s ever seen.

“I’m not describing anything,” he said. “I didn’t get any sleep last night. I don’t want to think about what happened because it was tragic. I’m telling you this was the worst thing I’ve ever been through in my life. And I don’t want to keep having flashbacks of what happened.” (source)

Yesterday, Oakley addressed the media. The first five minutes or so of the interview is a bit erratic, but stick with it – it is worth it.

Every bit of Oakley’s interview moved me, but I found this bit remarkable:

“Don’t be afraid to put others before yourself.”

We could use more of that mentality, couldn’t we?

Surely there were others who stepped up to help out during this event, like this woman:

A Walmart employee told KTSM in El Paso that she was working by the self-checkout when gunshots rang out.

The employee, who only wanted to be identified by her first name, Leslie, said she initially thought boxes had been dropped.

“I thought it was just like loud boxes being dropped or something, until they got closer and closer,” she said. “That’s when I looked at my co-worker, and we looked at each other like shocked and scared.”

“I got all the people that I could, I even found a little girl that was missing from her parents, and I got her, too. I tried to get as many people as I could out,” the Walmart worker said. (source)

In times of crisis, many people DO snap into survival and protection mode and help others.

Heroes have emerged during past tragedies as well.

The following individuals demonstrated extraordinary courage in the face of danger. Some made the ultimate sacrifice, losing their own lives to save others.

  • As shots fired inside a synagogue outside San Diego in April, Lori Gilbert-Kaye, 60, put herself in between the shooter and the rabbi and died as a result. Oscar Stewart charged the shooter and chased him into the parking lot. Jonathan Morales shot four bullets into the shooter’s car, and he and Stewart were able to get the man’s license plate number as he sped away.
  • Riley Howell, 21, was fatally shot when he charged a gunman who burst into a University of North Carolina-Charlotte lecture room carrying a pistol on April 30.
  • In May, at a STEM school in Denver, Colorado, Kendrick Castillo, 18, lunged at a fellow student who had pulled a gun in class, giving his classmates time to take cover. He was the lone student killed in the attack. Brendan Bialy also helped subdue the gunman. “Brendan’s courage and commitment to swiftly ending this tragic incident at the risk of his own safety is admirable and inspiring,” Capt. Michael Maggitti said in a statement. “His decisive actions resulted in the safety and protection of his teachers and fellow classmates.”
  • When a gunman walked into a Waffle House and opened fire in April 2018, James Shaw Jr waited for the right moment to tackle the man. Shaw was able to wrestle the gun out of the shooter’s hands – and stopped the murderer from killing more people. Four people were killed by the shooter. Shaw started a GoFundMe campaign for the victims’ families and raised $241,731 – far more than his goal of $15,000.
  • Juan Carlos Nazario and Bryan Whittle, two armed citizens, gunned down a shooter outside an Oklahoma City restaurant in May of 2018.
  • Stephen Willeford stopped a man who shot 46 people (26 of them died) at a Texas church in 2017. Willeford opened fire on the shooter and hit him twice before the murderer took off in an SUV. Willeford then jumped inside a vehicle driven by Johnnie Langendorff, who gave chase until Kelley’s Ford Explorer hit a stop sign 10 miles away, lost control and veered into a ditch, where he shot himself in the head.
  • In 2018, Jason Seaman, a middle school science teacher, tackled a student who walked into his classroom and fired shots. Seaman and one student were injured during the incident, but no one was killed.
  • Anthony Borges was shot five times during the Parkland school shooting. He was 15 at the time. Borges barricaded a classroom door and used his body as a shield as the bullets flew, protecting a class full of students from harm. Aaron Feis, 37, worked as an assistant football coach and security guard at the school. Feis threw himself in front of students to shield them from bullets. He was shot and later died during surgery. Several other teachers and school staff took action to protect students during the massacre. (Meanwhile, the Coward of Broward County, Scot Peterson, did nothing to stop the shooting, despite being employed as a school security officer.)

Are mass shootings causing psychological changes in Americans?

In the article The Hero Solution to the Mass-Shooting Contagion, David French observes that we’re now remembering the heroes’ names more than the shooters. “The shooters failed in two of their core missions — to kill large numbers of victims and achieve enduring fame. And if they keep failing, I wonder . . . could the mass-shooting contagion finally start to break?” he writes.

But I do wonder if the sheer number of mass killings has caused a psychological change in a segment of the American people. I do wonder if “fight” is replacing “flight” in enough American hearts that immediate and courageous resistance becomes the norm – and that killers will start to understand that they’ll have to instantly battle one or more raging, charging men before they can complete their terrible, deadly work.

And if we can continue to honor and elevate the heroes at the same time that we ignore the killer, so that they don’t enjoy the infamy of their predecessors, perhaps we can start to change the psychology of a dreadful national moment. (source)

French concludes,

The killer? He should either die or rot away in anonymity. Take away his fame, take away his victims, and you just might take away his purpose. If so, we’ll have men like Riley Howell and Kendrick Castillo to thank. They didn’t just save lives; they’re inspiring a change in American hearts. (source)

I think French is onto something. I refuse to give mass shooters the notoriety they seem to crave, which is why I omitted their names from this article.

Let’s focus on the heroes – their courage should be appreciated and serve as inspiration for all of us.

Related Resources

How to Survive a Mass Shooting

Would Your Kids Know How to Survive a School Shooting?

How to Survive a Sniper Attack

What do you think?

Do you think would-be mass murderers will think twice about shooting up public places if they think they will face resistance? Do you know of any heroes I have forgotten to mention here? How do you think you’d react during a mass shooting event? Please share your thoughts in the comments.

About the Author

Dagny Taggart is the pseudonym of an experienced journalist who needs to maintain anonymity to keep her job in the public eye. Dagny is non-partisan and aims to expose the half-truths, misrepresentations, and blatant lies of the MSM.

Dagny Taggart

About the Author

Dagny Taggart

Dagny Taggart is the pseudonym of an experienced journalist who needs to maintain anonymity to keep her job in the public eye. Dagny is non-partisan and aims to expose the half-truths, misrepresentations, and blatant lies of the MSM.

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