Reviewed By John Silveira

Issue #79 • January/February, 2003

I like movies with heroes: High Noon, Death Wish, Dirty Harry and the like where the good guy comes to the aid of guys like you and me. But I always felt uncomfortable with the idea that unless Gary Cooper or Clint Eastwood or Charles Bronson stepped forth to save us common folk, we were toast.
Cover of Guns Save Lives by Robert A. Waters

But that’s the movies. The fact is, in real life movie heroes don’t come out of the woodwork to save us when we’re in dire straights. There is no cavalry. In fact, the police don’t even show up, unless it’s to take a report after the woman has been raped, the store owner shot, the homeowner beaten into submission or the house burgled. And if an arrest is made at all, too often the bad guy is back on the streets in a few years, a few days, or even a few hours, plying his trade once more on folks like you and me. What are we to do?

Robert A. Waters has written his second book on people who have struck back using guns and saved themselves from criminals. His books are not about the philosophy of the gun debate or about statistics, though both are mentioned.

In case after case you read about real people: women who wake up in the middle of the night to find strangers on top of them while their children sleep in the next room, elderly who wind up in hand-to-hand combat with crack addicts, or store owners who find the business end of a gun jammed in their faces. And there is no John Wayne, there is no cop waiting in the wings to save them. And all would have been lost, except for the moment when the citizen—make that average citizen—grabs a personal firearm, and in a turning-of-the-tables that rarely happens in the movies, he or she pulls the trigger and sends the miscreant on a well-deserved, one-way trip straight to hell. About the only time you see a cop in this book is when he shows up to take the report after the thug has been downed.

Waters points out that while a school shooting warrants national coverage, a woman who shoots and kills a serial rapist is only local news. (He aptly points out that in one school shooting, where the principal apprehended the shooter, he did so only because he, too, had a gun—a fact conveniently left out by most of the press.) He also notes that, though there are a few well-publicized shooting at schools each year, at least 700,000 times and perhaps over two million times a year, average American citizens, like you and like me, use a firearm to protect themselves, their families, friends, and sometimes complete strangers from criminal predators. At times the trigger is pulled, but more often the mere showing of a gun is enough to run the hoodlum off.

To compile his books, Waters interviewed would-be victims, read police reports, and culled newspaper accounts. Often the episodes are told in the intended victim’s own words. You get to find out what goes through a woman’s mind when she realizes she’s being overpowered by a man she never saw before, or when a store owner has a gun pointed at him and hears the words, “This is a stickup.”

If you’ve read the philosophical arguments, if you’ve read the statistics and you still are not convinced guns in the hands of American citizens really save lives, read this book a few pages at a time. Feel your adrenaline flow as women, senior citizens, and store owners fight back in bloody encounters in their bedrooms, kitchens, and stores. Sometimes, the most gratifying parts of a chapter are to read the words of the criminals who, having the misfortune of selecting a citizen who has chosen to fight back, sees himself as the “victim.” After 28-year-old James Shugart, carrying his own gun, broke into a house with a friend and was shot by 60-year-old Ann Barry, he didn’t want to talk about the bungled robbery. All he wanted to say to the police was, “That woman was just looking to shoot someone.” He couldn’t comprehend that she was the victim, not he.

Waters makes the case for personal gun ownership so obvious that only Sarah Brady or Bill Clinton can draw the wrong conclusions.

Starting with our next issue, BHM is going to serialize parts of Waters’ book. But you don’t have to wait for that. You can order his latest, Guns Save Lives: True Stories of Americans Defending their Lives with Firearms from BHM’s bookstore. See the order form on page 88.


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