If a defensive use of a firearm goes unreported in the media and nobody hears about it, does it really count?

I’m happy to report that the answer is a resounding “yes,” and I have evidence to prove it.

A man who was patrolling his employer’s property to protect it from thieves, confronted by an apparent carjacker, drew his legally carried firearm and subdued the stranger as police officers arrived and arrested the man. 

A security camera captured it all, as you can see below.

I know about this only because the man who held the criminal suspect at gunpoint, a Daily Signal reader who holds a concealed carry permit, reached out to tell his story.

Every month, I write a Daily Signal article highlighting some of the incredible stories from around the nation of gun owners who successfully used their firearms to defend themselves or others. Every time, I note that we have good reason to believe that most defensive gun uses never are reported to law enforcement, much less are picked up and publicized by a media outlet.

Almost every major study on these issues has concluded that Americans use their guns in self-defense between 500,000 and 3 million times a year. Even two “outlier” studies have concluded it likely occurs around 100,000 times a year.

Yet we see a massive disparity between the numbers of self-reported defensive gun uses analyzed by these studies and the “confirmed” defensive gun uses found in media sources.

A Video to Back Up His Story

Of course, several reasonable explanations exist for these “unreported” defensive gun uses, as I’ll explain.

Despite such explanations, though, many gun control advocates continue to argue that the idea of “unreported” defensive gun uses is largely bunk. They insist that these self-reported but unverifiable incidents are mostly just figments of the imaginations of would-be “good guys with guns” who want to rationalize their gun ownership to others.

In other words, if someone’s defensive gun use didn’t make it into a news story, we ought to assume it didn’t really happen.

Except that, well, they do happen. And this is just one example.

When the reader first reached out to me, his story in some ways seemed too good to be true. He said his own defensive use of a gun was unreported, and he could prove it.

No, the incident didn’t make it onto the 6 o’clock news. No, the local papers didn’t report it. And no, the reader didn’t have access to an official police report on the events leading to the arrest, which he wasn’t sure would mention his defensive gun use anyway.

But he had something even better. He had the video. And he had a gripping story to go with it.

What Happened That Night

Let’s call him John Jones, because he asked that The Daily Signal not publish his real name out of concern for retaliation by the individual he subdued before police arrived. Jones works for a towing company in a large Virginia city, neither of which is being specified here for the same reason.

As one might imagine, angry car owners who don’t want their vehicles towed sometimes threaten to harm Jones for doing his job. In early 2020, he obtained a concealed carry permit to enable him to better protect himself while on the job by carrying a firearm.

He had the permit for less than a month, Jones says, before he needed to rely on it.

Jones says the towing company that employs him has had problems with the theft of parts from towed vehicles kept in a parking lot shared with several other businesses. Employees take turns driving around the lot to keep an eye out for would-be thieves.

On the night of April 13, while Jones was on patrol duty in the parking lot, a stranger in a white T-shirt walked up to his car and tried to open the passenger’s side door. Jones realized that the man was trying to carjack him.

Worse, Jones knew police had spent the night scouring the area to find a criminal suspect, and he surmised that this man might be him.

Concerned for his own safety, Jones got out of his vehicle and drew his firearm, prompting the would-be carjacker to raise his hands and lay down in surrender.

Here’s the video:

Within seconds, as the video shows, several city police cars raced into the parking lot with sirens blazing. Jones says his suspicions were confirmed—the man who had tried to jump into his car was in fact the subject of the police search.

At first, the video shows, a couple of the police officers drew their guns on Jones. Fortunately, Jones says, one of the officers recognized him from previous work with the towing company and it quickly became clear that he wasn’t the threat.

Jones holstered his gun, and the officers turned their attention to the detained suspect.

Why Doesn’t Media Report Such Incidents?

The best part about this story is that we don’t just have to take John Jones’ word for it. The security camera at a neighboring business captured the entire incident, confirming Jones’ account and providing riveting visual evidence of just how quickly a routine night can escalate into a dangerous predicament.

Records show that police charged Jones’ assailant, identified as Thomas T. Turner, 23, with pointing or brandishing a firearm, misdemeanor assault, burglary, drug possession, and driving while his license was revoked

Jones says this wasn’t the first time he has used a firearm to defend himself or others.

Several years ago, while parked in a public lot, Jones says, he saw a man approach a car and demand the driver’s purse and phone at gunpoint. Jones jumped into action, drawing his own legally possessed “open carry” handgun and pointing it at the would-be robber, who promptly fled—without the driver’s belongings.

How is it, then, that neither of Jones’ dramatic defensive uses of a firearm made it into the local news? Well, it’s possible they never even made it into the police blotter in the first place.

Jones says that in both cases, the responding law enforcement officers were rather unconcerned with obtaining a statement. Once the officers were reassured that Jones wasn’t the suspect or a threat to their safety, they basically told him to go back about his business.

It is reasonable to suspect that many of these “minimal” defensive gun uses also receive minimal detail in police reports, so that even when they are made available to the public, they don’t garner much attention.

Moreover, in both incidents in which Jones used a firearm defensively, police were soon on the scene. But this isn’t always the case.

What the Reality Is

Now, as a lawyer who researches and writes on gun policy, I know that the best rule of thumb is to call police any time you take any defensive action with your firearm, no matter how minimal it may seem.

The reality is, however, that many Americans often choose not to call police afterward, especially if they didn’t actually fire their weapon. They simply don’t see the need to involve law enforcement over what they consider non-incidents.

This is particularly likely to be true of gun owners in states that take a less-than-friendly view of the Second Amendment. Why call the police over a “non-incident” when it could very well mean that you—as a gun owner—get arrested over some legal technicality?

On top of all this, just because a defensive gun use is reported to police doesn’t mean that a news reporter will notice it or think it’s significant enough to write a story about it.

Quite clearly, plenty of pieces have to fall into place before a defensive gun use becomes a “reported” defensive gun use that can be picked up readily in an online search. As Jones’ account shows, it’s easy for those pieces not to fall into place.

But just like the proverbial tree falling in a forest makes a sound even if no one is there to hear it, “unreported” defensive uses of guns happen even if they aren’t in the newspaper or on the nightly TV news.

And sometimes, we can see the video evidence.

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