One thing stops multiple murderers: a gun

Early in the morning of December 5, 1999, off-duty Las Vegas Metro police officer Dennis Devitte was one of the customers at Mr. D’s Sports Bar, at Rainbow Boulevard and Oakey Drive, where he and some pals had gone to hear the band Pigs in a Blanket.

A little after 1 a.m., three armed robbers charged through the back door with guns drawn and their faces covered with T-shirts or bandanas. “I’d only been in the bar a short time and was talking to friends,” Devitte later told an interviewer for the International Association of Chiefs of Police. Then, “I saw a ruckus at the end of the bar. …

“One of the gunmen went right by me and shot a man in a wheelchair, hitting him in the shoulder,” Officer Devitte recalled. “I only had my small .25-caliber off-duty gun, which isn’t very accurate, so I knew I had to get really close before I could start shooting. Otherwise I might hit someone else.”

The robbers might have taken a moment to consider the name of the band, which was also made up of off-duty officers. Mr. D’s was often referred to as a “cop bar,” though the IACP contends Officer Devitte was, curiously enough, the only patron armed at the time.

Officer Devitte dug the handgun out of his pocket and approached 19-year-old Emilio Rodriguez, who was firing into the crowd with a .40 caliber pistol. “I went straight at him as he turned and started firing at me,” Devitte said. “He kept firing and hitting me, but I held my fire until I got to less than 18 inches from him.”

The incident took 20 seconds and was recorded on the bar’s surveillance tape. Devitte shot Rodriguez eight times — twice through the heart — before the officer finally fell, the robber’s last round having blown out his knee.

Rodriguez stumbled out the front door and died. The other two robbers fled.

“Dennis was bleeding from everywhere,” recalled Mike Richards, a fellow officer who was playing in the band. “I yelled for towels. Then I tried to get Dennis’ gun from him. Even though one bullet had blown his right hand apart and another had hit his right thumb, he wouldn’t give it up. He told me there were still two more bad guys.”

“Please tell my wife I love her,” Devitte told Officer Curtis Wills, as he lay bleeding from his wounds. “I did the best I could. I hope I didn’t hit anybody else.”

The following year, Dennis Devitte — who recovered and returned to duty — received the highest honor in law enforcement, as the IACP named him America’s Police Officer of the Year.

There are two reasons no innocent parties died at Mr. D’s that night. One, beyond any question, was the selfless courage of Officer Dennis Devitte.

The second reason? One of Emilio Rodriguez’s intended victims had a gun.

On Nov. 6, 2009, America found reason to honor another brave civilian police officer, as Major Nidal Malik Hasan, a U.S. army psychiatrist about to be deployed to Afghanistan, reportedly shouted “Allahu Akbar” and opened fire at a soldier readiness facility in Fort Hood, Texas, killing 13 people and wounding 28.

Police Sergeant Kimberly Munley and her partner responded within three minutes of the report of gunfire. Despite being hit by the mass murderer’s rounds in her wrist and both thighs, Sgt. Munley stood her ground and shot the gunman four times in the torso, ending Major Hasan’s brief career as a jihadist — providing the current White House doesn’t intervene to commute his pending court-martial sentence to singing three rousing choruses of “Kumbaya.”

But Hasan had reportedly fired more than 100 rounds, requiring him to change handgun magazine several times. Why didn’t any of the hundreds of Army personnel in the room shoot back, ending his killing spree far sooner?

Because they couldn’t.

“Time after time, public murder sprees occur in ‘gun-free zones’ — public places where citizens are not legally able to carry guns,” The Washington Times editorialized this week. “The list is long, including massacres at Virginia Tech and Columbine High School along with many less deadly attacks. Last week’s slaughter at Fort Hood Army base in Texas was no different — except that one man bears responsibility for the ugly reality that the men and women charged with defending America were deliberately left defenseless when a terrorist opened fire.”

Among President Bill Clinton’s first acts upon taking office in 1993 “was to disarm U.S. soldiers on military bases,” The Times points out. In March 1993, the Army imposed regulations forbidding military personnel from carrying their personal firearms and making it almost impossible for commanders to issue firearms to soldiers in the U.S. for personal protection.

“Because of Mr. Clinton, terrorists would face more return fire if they attacked a Texas Wal-Mart than the gunman faced at Fort Hood, home of the heavily armed and feared 1st Cavalry,” The Times editorialized.

Maybe — providing the Wal-Mart didn’t specifically ban guns on its property, as many shopping malls do (though such bans are curiously — and unconstitutionally — selective; just ask the store manager if police officers responding to a call to arrest a shoplifter are required to leave their sidearms in their cars.)

But mass murderers do generally have a harder time of it in Texas, nowadays, thanks to the legislative response to the second deadliest mass shooting in U.S. history, which also occurred in Killeen, Texas — home to Fort Hood.

In 1991, George Hennard drove his pickup truck through the window of a Luby’s cafeteria in Killeen, jumped out and began firing two pistols at the defenseless customers and employees inside, killing 23.

One customer, Suzanna Hupp, saw Hennard gun down her parents. Mrs. Hupp later testified that she had brought a handgun with her that day but, to her bitter regret, left it in her car, as required by state law, which at the time barred the carrying of a concealed handgun.

Suzanna Gratia Hupp ran for and was elected to the Texas state Legislature, where she was able to win approval of a “shall issue” law that requires authorities to issue a concealed carry permit to any resident who meets certain objective criteria.

Unless they join the Army.

In an interview on CNN the Monday night after the Fort Hood shooting, news anchor John Roberts asked Mandy Foster — wife of one of the soldiers shot and wounded at the base — how she felt about her husband’s upcoming deployment to Afghanistan. Ms. Foster responded: “At least he’s safe there and he can fire back, right?”

Mr. Clinton’s deadly rule disarms even officers. “Six of the dead and wounded had commissions,” The Times pointed out. And this despite the fact that “All the public shootings in the United States in which more than three people have been killed have occurred in places where concealed handguns have been banned.”

President Obama claims there will be a thorough investigation to figure out how the Fort Hood massacre came to occur, and how future repetitions can be prevented.

He’s probably lying, as usual. If he’s not, he could and should:

1) start by admitting there’s no “mystery” to Hasan’s motivation: This murderous assault was committed by a radical Muslim jihadist, who actually attended the same mosque as two of the Sept. 11 hijackers, speaking enthusiastically about the mosque’s radical cleric, Anwar al-Awlaki. (see www.telegraph.co.uk/news/worldnews/northamerica/usa/6521758/.html) … and

2) repeal the Clinton self-defense ban, re-arming American military personnel on all U.S. military installations.

Right now.

4 Comments to “One thing stops multiple murderers: a gun”

  1. John Brook Says:

    Vin, thanks for the background info on the military gun ban. I had retired from service by that time and wasn’t aware of the Clinton connection. Should have guessed it, however.

    I feel a letter to the editor coming on.

  2. Jerry A. Pipes Says:

    What do you make of the reports that Munley’s partner Mark Todd was actually the one who took Hasan down?

  3. RONALD HEPNER Says:

    Vin, I just finished reading this item in the January 18 edition of Shotgun News. Your comments about Maj. Hasan were not surprising to me. I was in the Army from 1961 through 1963 at 2 posts in the US. At both posts the only personnel who were armed were the Military Police and post security personnel. Even more worrisome at the time was the fact that only the MP’s had ammunition in their firearms but none chambered. The security personnel (also MP’s) were not permitted to carry their weapons loaded, magazines (for M-1 Carbines and 45 autos) were required to be carried separately from the weapon.

  4. Jake Witmer Says:

    Sickening, but necessary, knowledge. Thank you, Vin!

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