How Often Do Civilians Take Down Active Shooters? You Might Be Surprised…

Helistockter /

Anti-gun proponents shudder at the sight of a gun-slinging open-carrying shopper pushing a cart through their local Walmart. That is…until they end up singing praises to one of them for saving their lives. Such was the case at an Indianapolis shopping mall where a pistol-packing cowboy stopped an AR-15-toting mass shooter, literally, dead in his tracks.

It wasn’t the quick and practiced reflexes of a well-weathered pro that kicked into gear. It was the instinctive action of 22-year-old Elisjsha Dicken who didn’t hesitate to draw his weapon, but not before 20-year-old Jonathan Sapirman had a chance to spray bullets into five shoppers, mortally wounding three of them. 

Dicken faces no charges for gunning the killer down. On the contrary, police Chief Jim Ison is beside himself for Dicken’s heroic action in the face of danger, instead referring to him as a “good Samaritan.”

The question is, how rare is it for a civilian bystander to blast back at an active shooter?

If the figures compiled by the Advanced Law Enforcement Rapid Response Training Center at Texas State University are correct, of the 433 mass attacks in the U.S. between 2000 and 2021, fewer than 3% met with any civilian resistance.

In the majority of mass shootings, the killing stops before the police can arrive on the scene, but only because the shooter knows they’re on their way and has fled. A fresh example of this would be the Highland Park massacre where seven parade watchers were left dead in a pool of blood on a sidewalk as the attacker boot-scooted off the death floor. 

Criminal justice expert Adam Lankford at the University of Alabama downplayed the need for ordinary citizens to pack protection by saying, “There’s been this statement: ‘The only thing that stops a bad guy with a gun is a good guy with a gun.” That’s factually inaccurate because of the word ‘only.’”

Lankford thinks it would a mistake to rely on armed civilians always being present to lend a helping handgun. “While it’s certainly a good thing in this mall shooting that someone was able to stop it before it went any further, let’s not think we can substitute that outcome in all past and future incidents,” he said.

“If everyone’s carrying a firearm, the risk that something bad happens just gets much larger,” he added.

The NRA, as well as other gun rights activist groups, seized the opportunity to use that very saying against Lankford in reference to how things worked out in Indianapolis. Had Dicken not been present… They also countered with, “Takes guns away from the good guys and only the bad guys will have them.”

As of July 1, any Indiana resident age 18 or older can legally open carry. No special permit is required. However, the new law doesn’t apply to private property owners who can still ban the practice at their sole discretion, and as such, Greenwood mall where the shooting occurred, did not allow weapons anywhere on the premises.

The mall isn’t going to push the issue and Dicken has no worries, but Gun Owners of America hopes this sends a clear message of how gun-free zones put people too at ease by the false sense of security they create. They want malls and other privately owned high foot-trafficked areas such as grocery stores and hospitals to reconsider their policies. 

Simon Property Group, which owns the mall, is giving the press the silent treatment except for issuing a statement that thanked Dicken for the “heroic actions of a good Samaritan who stopped the suspect.” Suspect?

There’s nothing suspect about Jonathan Sapirman. He was a cold-blooded killer the same as those who follow him will be. Better hope there’s someone like Dicken around, not if it happens, but the way things are going, when it happens.