Concealed Carrier Prevents Mass Shooting at South Carolina Nightclub?

Was a mass shooting at a South Carolina nightclub averted by a legal gun owner? Lack of detail about the incident makes it difficult to determine.

Published June 30, 2016

In the aftermath of a high-profile Orlando nightclub shooting in June 2016, a shooting incident at a nightclub in Lyman, South Carolina, was widely claimed to be an instance where a legally armed club-goer "prevented another mass shooting."

Media Silent as Concealed Carrier Stops Mass Shooting in Progress at a South Carolina Nightclub

A remarkable incident is being largely ignored by corporate mainstream media — as it doesn’t fit their “guns are bad” narrative. A man with a concealed carry license stopped a mass shooting in progress outside a South Carolina nightclub in the early morning hours after an assailant opened fire in a crowd of people, striking and injuring three people.

The interesting thing about this incident is that it flies in the face of the narrative that people would be safer if we make it harder for individuals to gain access to, or legally carry, firearms.

Had this legal concealed carrier not been present when this gunman began opening fire, this incident would have likely had much more deadly consequences. The reality is that a legal concealed carrier at ground zero of an attack can stop the carnage sooner.

This characterization of the incident as a "mass shooting in progress" stopped by a legally armed citizen with a carry permit is problematic, though, because accounts of the altercation don't indicate the gunman intended to kill multiple victims (or anyone at all). According to Columbia, South Carolina, television station WIS, the suspect got into an argument with another club patron and afterwards pulled out a gun and started shooting towards a crowd gathered in front of the club, striking and injuring three people:

Deputies said 32-year-old Jody Ray Thompson pulled out a gun after getting into an argument with another man and fired several rounds toward a crowd that had gathered out in front of the club.

"His rounds struck 3 victims, and almost struck a fourth victim, who in self-defense, pulled his own weapon and fired, striking Thompson in the leg," Lt. Kevin Bobo said.

Bobo said the man who shot Thompson has a valid concealed weapons permit, cooperated with investigators, and won’t be facing any charges.

"Thompson was still on the scene when deputies arrived, but the initial scene was chaotic," Bobo said. "It wasn’t until victims and witnesses were interviewed, and video from the scene was reviewed that Thompson was identified as the suspect."

Thompson was charged four counts of attempted murder, possession of a weapon during the commission of a violent crime, and unlawful carrying of a weapon.

Bobo said none of the victims' injuries were life threatening.

Based on this somewhat skimpy account, it sounds as though a gun owner with a legal carry permit may have been instrumental in stopping a shooter from injuring more (and possibly killing some) victims. However, this incident as described doesn't fit the definition of a "mass shooting" (or, as the FBI now terms it, an "active shooter"):

The agreed-upon definition of an active shooter by U.S. government agencies — including the White House, U.S. Department of Justice/FBI, U.S. Department of Education, and U.S. Department of Homeland Security/Federal Emergency Management Agency — is “an individual actively engaged in killing or attempting to kill people in a confined and populated area.”

Mass shootings typically involve one or more gunmen deliberately setting out to indiscriminately kill multiple victims. But the scenario described here apparently involved a hot-headed, irresponsible gun owner who pulled out a weapon in the heat of a dispute and indiscriminately fired it towards a crowd, not someone who started out with a premeditated intent kill people using a firearm brought for that purpose.

Was the perpetrator trying to shoot people and didn't care whom he hit, or was he discharging a gun in a blind rage without thinking about the consequences? Was he shooting "into" the crowd, or "toward" the crowd? (That is, was he shooting straight at people, or was he intending to shoot high or wide of the crowd but inadvertently hit some victims or struck them with ricochets?) All we know so far is that he didn't kill anyone, and no evidence has yet indicated that he was trying to kill anyone, so the incident as described doesn't meet the FBI's definition of an "active shooter."

People firing into crowds following arguments and altercations at nightclubs is not uncommon, and prior to the Orlando nightclub mass shooting incident, such events were not termed mass shootings. Consider all of the following incidents, none of which was described as a mass shooting (or a potential mass shooting):

o New York, 2005:   A Bronx gangbanger was charged with killing a young mom, wounding two other women, and nearly killing a fourth victim in a wild shooting outside a Flatiron District nightclub.

o Dekalb County (GA), 2012:   A man was shot in the back when another man fired into a crowd of people outside a DeKalb County night club.

o Largo, Florida, 2003:   Two people were wounded after a gunman fired into a crowd of more than 300 people leaving a Largo nightclub after two women got into a fight. With as many as 20 people throwing punches, a man fired five shots, hitting two bystanders.

o Staten Island, 2014:   Gunmen opened fire outside a Staten Island nightclub, shooting into a crowd and hitting two men.

o Los Angeles, 1994:   A man fired into a crowd outside a nightclub, killing a 17-year-old boy and a 20-year-old woman.

o Mount Dora, Florida, 2015:   A gunman fired into a crowd outside a nightclub, killing a 31-year-old man.

o Orlando, 2016:   A gunman fired several shots into a crowd just outside several busy bars, hitting a 26-year-old man in both legs.

o Dallas, 2011:   A man fired into a crowd at a downtown Dallas nightclub valet stand after a minor traffic accident, killing a 24-year-old woman waiting for her car.

Some might validly argue that the suspect's intent in the Lyman nightclub incident (and whether the event fit a given definition of "mass shooting") is irrelevant; all that matters is that a legally armed citizen was able to intervene in a shooting in progress and thereby possibly prevented additional injury (or even loss of life). That may be true, but in the absence of additional details about the event, unequivocally stating that a "mass shooting" was prevented is problematic.

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