After a gunman killed three students last month at Michigan State University, the campus was quickly awash in cries for more gun control. It wasn’t long before the Rock, a campus monument long used by students as a free canvas for promoting school events and social issues, became a focal point of pro-gun control messaging.
But someone, thought to be a student, repainted the Rock with a fundamentally different message to state legislators and campus officials: “Allow us to defend ourselves and carry on campus.”
For this unknown student, classmates’ tragic deaths clearly highlighted a problem that too few care to acknowledge—other than law enforcement officers, no one on campus that day had the lawful option of armed self-defense.
Michigan, like many other states, prohibits civilians (including holders of concealed carry permits) from possessing firearms inside college dorms or classrooms. Michigan State’s Board of Trustees took this one step further, prohibiting firearms “anywhere upon property governed by the board.”
Of course, none of these prohibitions stopped one man with violent intentions that day from carrying them out to horrific effect.
Although the university quickly sent a local artist to cover up the anonymous student’s message in support of the Second Amendment, no amount of paint will conceal the facts about armed self-defense.
Almost every major study has found that Americans use their firearms in self-defense between 500,000 and 3 million times annually, as the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has acknowledged. In 2021, the most comprehensive study ever conducted on the issue corroborated this reality, concluding that roughly 1.6 million defensive gun uses occur in the United States every year.
For this reason, The Daily Signal publishes a monthly article highlighting some of the previous month’s many news stories on defensive gun use that you may have missed—or that might not have made it to the national spotlight in the first place. (Read other accounts here from past years.)
The examples below represent only a small portion of the news stories on defensive gun use that we found in February. You may explore more using The Heritage Foundation’s interactive Defensive Gun Use Database. (The Daily Signal is Heritage’s multimedia news organization.)
- Feb. 2, Hartford, Connecticut: Two masked robbers confronted a store owner, one shooting him in the lower back with a handgun, police said. The wounded merchant returned fire using two of his own firearms, fatally striking one robber and sending the other running. The store owner was expected to recover.
- Feb. 5, Yakima, Washington: Police said a father visiting a dog park with his young child fatally shot a man who was behaving erratically. The stranger “attempted to endanger the [child’s] life,” despite the father’s attempts to de-escalate the situation. Police had received multiple 911 calls regarding the man’s behavior prior to the shooting.
- Feb. 6, El Paso, Texas: A convenience store clerk with a concealed handgun shot and wounded a robber who demanded money while showing a weapon in his waistband, police said. The clerk was not hurt.
- Feb. 10, Birmingham, Alabama: After a man kidnapped his ex-girlfriend from her workplace, police said, officers as well as the woman’s sister launched a search. She found the man first and engaged him in a shootout, during which she rescued her sister. Both women were injured; police later found the former boyfriend dead, apparently from a self-inflicted gunshot wound.
- Feb. 14, Seattle: A couple and their two children were getting out of a family vehicle when two armed robbers threatened them, police said. The father also was armed, however, and exchanged gunfire with the robbers until they fled. In an effort to protect his wife and children, the father moved away from the vehicle to create distance between them and the crossfire. He was shot three times in the lower body, but his actions prevented his wife and children from being hurt.
- Feb. 15, Interlachen, Florida: A 67-year-old homeowner defended herself and her 90-year-old mother by fatally shooting a mentally disturbed intruder who burst into her home while armed with a handgun, police said. The intruder earlier had broken into another residence, apparently while believing that “people” were “after him.” The local sheriff praised the homeowner’s actions as a perfect example of the importance of the Second Amendment, saying that had she not been armed, his deputies likely would be investigating a double homicide.
- Feb. 18, Union City, Georgia: A good Samaritan fatally shot a suspect in serial stabbings as he assaulted a third victim, saving the lives of at least two women. Police commended the gun owner for “stepping up” and taking immediate action to save lives.
- Feb. 21, Chicago: When an elderly resident with a concealed carry permit confronted two persons near his vehicle, apparently about to steal a catalytic converter, one of the would-be thieves brandished a gun at him. The resident, however, fired at them, sending them fleeing, police said.
- Feb. 22, Eddy County, North Dakota: A farmer spotted a wanted murder suspect walking near his property and held him at gunpoint until police arrived, single-handedly ending a two-day, multiagency manhunt.
- Feb. 23, Bakersfield, California: The holder of a concealed carry permit engaged in a shootout with several armed robbers who accosted him after he pulled into his driveway, police said. The permit holder sustained an injury that wasn’t life-threatening; one robber was in serious condition after being hit by the intended victim’s return fire. He and a second suspect were charged with attempted murder and armed residential burglary.
- Feb. 26, Nashville, Tennessee: During a road rage incident, police said, one driver banged on another driver’s window with a handgun. A bystander in a third vehicle tried to intervene verbally. The assailant approached him threateningly, gun in hand, despite the bystander’s warnings that he was armed. When the assailant ignored the warnings, the bystander fatally shot him.
- Feb. 26, Austinville, Virginia: A resident shot and wounded a woman who showed up to his residence naked, threatened to kill him for being inside “her home,” and assaulted him with a cast-iron frying pan. The woman also allegedly turned off the home’s electrical breakers, police said. She was charged with assault and battery as well as felony breaking and entering.
For these Americans and countless others, the ability to legally defend themselves with a firearm made a drastic difference.
Although it’s impossible to know how differently that day might have turned out at Michigan State University had the government not granted itself a campuswide monopoly on armed self-defense, the data is clear that active shooter situations often have better outcomes when others lawfully choose to defend themselves with firearms.
Unfortunately, most of these shootings occur (and will continue occurring) in places where the government both renders law-abiding citizens defenseless and fails to ensure that its own response will be sufficiently swift and certain to save lives when it matters most.
The reality is that, try as it might, law enforcement simply can’t keep every single person on a college campus (or anywhere else, for that matter) perfectly safe from threats of violence.
The risk of violent victimization does not end the moment someone steps onto a college campus. And, as at least one Michigan State student recognized, neither should the right to keep and bear arms in self-defense.
This piece originally appeared in The Daily Signal