MASSACRES DON'T OCCUR WHEN INTENDED VICTIMS ARE ARMEDRemember this name: Thomas Glenn Terry. It won't be bandied quite as much as Mark O. Barton over the next week, but it should be.
In December 1991, two armed men burst into a Shoney's restaurant in Anniston, Ala., and held the patrons and employees at gunpoint, herding them into a walk-in refrigerator. The robbers kept the manager behind for his assistance as they looted the restaurant. One patron, however, also remained behind. Thomas Glenn Terry had opted against being locked in a refrigerator, hiding from the attackers under a table.
As one of the armed robbers ransacked the cash register, another patrolled the restaurant. When he came across Mr. Terry, he pulled his gun. But unlike the recent victims in Atlanta, this victim was armed. Using his own legally concealed handgun, Terry shot and killed the robber. The other armed robber, busily holding the manager at gunpoint, then opened fire on Terry. Terry shot back, mortally wounding the second robber. The two dozen hostages were released unharmed. Only the criminals -- who had been armed with stolen guns, by the way -- didn't make it out alive.
You probably hadn't heard of the Shoney's restaurant incident. A massacre is a story. Thwarting a massacre isn't. In the media's boundless capacity to stultify the public with sensational news stories, they have made places like Littleton, Colo., household names. But Anniston, Ala., doesn't ring a bell.
Once you know about Anniston and similar averted tragedies, something will start to leap out at you as you read news accounts of gunmen on successful shooting sprees. Massacre stories always include a terrifying account of how the killers proceeded from victim to victim, pausing to reload, and shooting again. An indispensable component of mass murder is unarmed victims.
Thomas Glenn Terry, though heroic, is not altogether unique. Two years ago in Pearl, Miss., a deranged student shot and killed two of his classmates. Fortunately, the assistant principal, Joel Myrick, had a gun in his car. He prevented the shooting from becoming a Littleton-level massacre by holding the student at gunpoint until the police arrived.
A year later, in Edinboro, Penn., a 14-year-old boy opened fire at an eighth-grade graduation dance, killing a teacher and wounding three others. A single murder did not become a mass murder only because a nearby restaurant owner, James Strand, happened to be armed. As the shooter stopped to reload, Strand immobilized the shooter, holding him for more than 10 minutes, until the police materialized. A lot of killing could have been accomplished in that 10 minutes.
How long did it take the police to arrive in Atlanta? Barton walked into one office building in Atlanta, shot five people dead, then left the building, ambled across the street, entered another building, and killed at least four more people.
One of the most striking parts of the news reports on Barton's shooting spree was this: Fully three hours after the shooting, some people were still hiding in the building. As in Littleton, there are film clips of policemen scaling the building's walls to rescue terrified and -- more pertinent -- completely defenseless people hiding inside. Hiding. Waiting like pigs before the slaughter. Because none of them was armed -- none but the madman.
But for some reason, the government's response is always to disarm more citizens. As if not having a gun would have made Mark Barton sane. The initial reports have been that Barton killed his children because his stock portfolio had declined. Well, that's a rational response. Whether it was his stocks or his wife or the weather -- he killed his children. This is a madman. Indeed, he didn't use a gun to kill his wife and two children; he bludgeoned them to death. One of the most efficient murder sprees in this century was accomplished not with guns, but with machetes. Madmen in Rwanda murdered almost 1 million people in under four months.
If only Thomas Glenn Terry had been there to protect them, before the United Nations had a chance to show up.
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