Regular readers will know that I've blogged a number of times on the subject of guns and self-defense (posts too many to link here). My main point has been that, while guns can be appropriately used for self-defense in some situations, a) they are not a cure-all for all security problems, and b) far too many vocal gun advocates have unrealistic (even barbaric) notions about when and how guns should be used.
As a case study in what I've been talking about, I offer the video and commentary linked here. The video itself has been widely circulated on the internet; the commentary is by one of the most respected voices on civilian self-defense in the blogosphere, Dan Djurdjevic. Dan's commentary and dissection of the video is incredibly insightful and I urge you to read it in full. I will add only a few observations of my own:
• Yes, this is case where having a gun was a very good thing for the "victim's" defense needs. Had he not had a gun of his own, he would have been in a very different situation - as you can see in the video, the attacker is out of hand-to-hand melee striking range and on the other side of a counter. Had the cashier not drawn his own weapon the attacker could simply have backed up 4 feet from the counter and raised his weapon again. I will freely admit that having a gun certainly stopped the crime, and may have saved the guy's life.
• Just having the gun was not enough. As Dan points out, the cashier (because of his military training and past experience) had excellent situational awareness and the reflexive skills to stop the attacker from raising his gun at all. Note - he negated the attacker's gun with his bare hand. Had he lacked those skills - the situational awareness that a weapon was likely to be produced, plus the appropriate skill to counter it when it came out - having his own gun would not have done him any good.
• The cashier's gun was available, both in terms of location and in terms of skill. He had it where he could instantly reach it, and he clearly had a well-developed reflex to draw it and bring it to bear quickly. Without these factors, the attacker could have backed up and brought his gun to bear a second time before the cashier could get his out. It is only the fact that he had this "fast-draw" skill that kept shots from being fired at all. If the situation had devolved into a "simultaneous draw", one or the other would almost certainly have fired and one (or both) might be dead. Drawing his own gun was not the cashier's best first option, so he didn't.
• The cashier's response (as Dan points out) was proportionate. He did only what was necessary to insure his own safely. He didn't try to apprehend the attacker or punish him for his attack. He let the attacker walk away. Because of that, he's a hero instead of being on trial for murder. So many of the macho gun stories one sees on the internet are fantasies that pander to emotion - usually anger and fear. This guy kept his emotions in check and responded appropriately.
I'll finish up by echoing one of Dan's points, which in turn echoes a point I've made before. If you want to acquire a gun for self-defense, fine. But the gun itself doesn't come with any of the conditions I've listed here. It's up to you to develop all of the skills on this list - which means training and practice, not at a firing range but from and with a self-defense instructor who knows what they're doing. If all you're going to do is buy a gun, don't bother - get a dog or a bodyguard.