When people read my book,
The Best Defense: True Stories Of Intended Victims Who Defended Themselves With A Firearm
many tell me they cry at the end of Chapter 4. The story of Sammie Foust, as told to me in poignant interviews and supported by over 600 pages of police reports, relates her ordeal at the hands of an assailant.
On the morning of May 6, 1996, Foust was cleaning her bedroom when James Wayne Horne burst through the door. A crack addict, he wore a stocking mask and carried a box cutter. Horne attacked Foust, slicing her throat and shattering her face with brutal blows. He forced her to give him $400 in cash and all her jewelry. But he wasn't finished.
Convinced that there was a stash of money in the house, he tortured her for more than an hour. Foust was able to reach a .25 caliber semi-automatic handgun and put an end to the attack. The assault was so horrific that police and paramedics who responded to her call cheered when they learned Horne was dead. Foust survived, but her nose was broken, four teeth had been knocked out (which she swallowed during the assault), the bones in her gums were crushed, her cheekbones had been fractured, her larynx was cut open, and her left eye required surgery. Foust's life since the attack has been hell.
This much, however, is certain: had Sammie Foust not had a gun, she would be dead. And her assailant, who had a history of such assaults, would have been free to continue victimizing other women. The Sammie Foust story is one of more than a dozen such accounts I relate in my book. In each, the victim was going about his or her daily activities--at home, at work, at play--when attacked by one or more vicious criminals. Fortunately, each victim had access to a firearm and was able to stop the attack.
There are an estimated 225 million firearms in the hands of American citizens. 99.5% of those firearms will never be used in a crime. Hundreds of thousands of them, however, will be used for self-defense. Although no records are kept, the National Institute of Justice estimates 108,000 cases of self-defense with firearms each year.
Dr. Gary Kleck, a criminologist at Florida State University, has done more research on this issue than anyone else--he estimates 2.3 million instances of self-defense with firearms each year. Dr, Kleck is no NRA shill--he is an admitted liberal, and a member of Amnesty International and the ACLU.
Firearms in America are used legally in many ways, such as for hunting, target and skeet shooting, collecting, historical research (we are free today because our forefathers owned firearms), and, of course, for self-defense.
Self-protection with firearms encompasses many elements, from the President's Secret Service detail to the bodyguards of movie stars and CEOs to the lowly convenience store clerk who keeps a pistol beneath the cash register. We know that firearms are effective in stopping most attacks on the President. Movie stars who keep bodyguards are rarely assaulted. It is difficult to measure the numerical effectiveness in protecting lives when an attack never occurs--it is safe to say, however, that thousands such attacks are avoided each year because the perpetrator has knowledge that an intended victim is armed.
Interviews with convicted felons confirm this. More than half said that they have avoided committing crimes because of their fear of encountering armed citizens. Jail house interviews have also determined that many armed robbers refuse to rob "mom and pop" stores because of the fear that the owner keeps a gun. Chain stores, on the other hand, are fair game because most prohibit employees from keeping a firearm on the premises.
Almost all criminals choose people they consider to be easy targets.
On October 15, 1998, two men knocked on the door of an upscale Pinellas County, Florida home. The homeowner became suspicious of the scruffy-looking pair and lifted his shirt to show them a handgun. They quickly left. A few minutes later, the pair knocked on the door of Gerald and Carol Leary. Living down the block from the first homeowner, they were robbed, kidnapped and left for dead in the trunk of their own car. Fortunately, they survived, but suffered an excruciating ordeal at the hands of their kidnappers.
Self-preservation is a vital human instinct. Without it, we would have gone the way of the dinosaur. As long as violent crime occurs, people will look for ways to counter it. Many Americans feel that firearms are the most practical and effective protection available in our society.
As legislators consider firearms laws and regulations, more attention should be focused on the fact that hundreds of thousands of Americans are alive today because they had access to firearms. I would suggest they talk to Sammie Foust about the positive uses of firearms.