Joe Zamudio gained unexpected, instant fame as the first armed (non-police) responder during the shooting at the Gabrielle Gifford rally in Tucson. You’ve probably already heard of Joe as “that crazy Arizona gun nut who almost shot the wrong man.”
As Mark Twain once noted, a lie can travel halfway around the world before the truth can get its boots on. Here, in Zamudio’s own words, courtesy of American Handgunner Magazine, is what really happened:
Zamudio continued, “I reached into my pocket, put my hand on my pistol, took the safety off, and ran down the sidewalk (towards the shooting). That’s when I saw a group of people wrestling with (Jared Loughner). The first thing I focused on was the man closest to me. His back was to me. He raised up with a Glock in his hand, open, magazine sticking out. In that second I decided that because the gun was open, I didn’t have to shoot him. I immediately grabbed him by the wrist, turned the gun in toward him, told him to drop the weapon. He did.”
Note well: the gun never even left Joe’s pocket. Joe maintains this, and no one on the scene has ever stated otherwise –that they saw a gun in his hand, or even that they saw his gun at all.
You will also notice that although he had his hand on his gun (a prudent move), he did not have “his finger on the trigger,” as reported by the AP. This is a violation of the second most important rule of gun safety. You would have to be really stupid to take a gun’s safety off and then put your finger on the trigger while the gun is still in your pocket!
So to be crystal clear, he did not draw or display his gun, he did not point it at anyone, and he did not put his finger on the trigger.
“A lot of [the press] wanted to know about [my] gun, but only wanted to ask specific questions, and if they didn’t get the responses they wanted, they’d move on and that would be it. They wanted to hear me say I almost shot the wrong guy. On one show they took a short blip from a long sentence to make it sound that way…
“One newspaper lady was very nice, got me when I was by myself, talked for 20 to 30 minutes about wanting to interview me, but didn’t mention the discussion was the interview. She wrote an article for the L.A. Times and sold it to every AP newspaper in the country, it seemed. She was quoting me as saying I almost shot the wrong guy.”
Zamudio and the columnist, Massad Ayoob, summarize this reportage with a very apt analogy:
The anti-gunners tried to say he added to the danger by “almost shooting a rescuer.” Of course, nothing of the kind happened… Zamudio himself has the best answer: “By that thinking, when you get into a car you ‘almost get into an accident.’ Same logic. You control your vehicle, I controlled my firearm. I never pointed it at anyone, so how could I have ‘almost hurt’ anyone?”
So I would ask anyone in the Los Angeles area: if you ever see reporters Molly Hennessy-Fiske or Neela Banerjee climbing into a car, remember to scream, “Look out! She’s gonna crash!”