A rather startling story out of Texas from early Saturday morning comes our way and it puts a bit of a twist on the old saying about a bad guy with a gun and a good guy with a gun. This tale actually involved four bad guys.

Two men were fatally shot by a customer after they attempted to rob a north Harris County bar early Saturday — the latest in a fury of shootings in Houston this week. Jenny O’Donnell, owner of EJ’s Place, said four armed men came to her bar in the 16400 block of Kuykendall at Colwell, around 2:30 a.m.

O’Donnell, who was not there at the time of the incident, said a head bartender and waitress were closing up for the night when two men walked into the bar and demanded everyone get down on the floor. Two other men “lingered at the bar door,” she said.

That’s when a customer at the bar pulled his own gun and started shooting at the men, she said. The attempted robbers fired at least three rounds inside the bar, said O’Donnell.

“That man was a hero,” said O’Donnell. “We could have had some bodies.”

The bar owner was being a bit overly specific in her description because, in fact, they did have some bodies. Two of them to be precise, but fortunately – and to her point, I believe – none of them were the staff or the customers. The article goes on to state that one of the would be armed robbers died “right outside the door” and another expired at the end of the parking lot. The other two fled, but the owner had security cameras covering the incident and is cooperating with the police as they try to identify them.

I first read about this story at Vox Popoli, where the following is noted.

It’s interesting to observe that four robbers were involved and that still wasn’t enough to guarantee a safe and successful robbery. The more that people are armed, the more dangerous and difficult it becomes for criminals to accomplish anything from basic street muggings to full-fledged home invasions.

There may be more to the story of the customer – described by the bar owner as a hero – than meets the eye, but more details will be required. The report states that the customer who fended off the robbers also “fled the scene” before the police arrived. There could be any number of reasons for this. He may have simply been frightened about the fact that he had likely killed a couple of people and panicked. He could have lacked the proper permits for his weapon and feared retribution from the law, or had other reasons to wish to avoid a confrontation with the police. Or perhaps he just didn’t want to become the story.

But the most remarkable aspect of this was the relatively overwhelming advantage that the criminals had in terms of numbers, yet they still lost the battle and fled the field. One determined man took on four armed invaders, killed two and caused the others to decamp. That’s pretty impressive, no matter what subsequent details emerge. But it also speaks to the larger societal message which I believe Vox Popoli was getting at. Criminals act in a bold fashion when they believe that they will be facing unarmed, compliant victims. But when the potential cost for their actions goes up and their own security is threatened, their resolve is once again seen to melt away. Public attacks such as this become a far more costly proposition when would be attackers know that the population contains a significant number of people who may be carrying their own firepower and bring it to bear upon them at any moment.

An armed society is a polite society. And as to the inevitable questions about why this matter wasn’t left to the police, it’s a given that they can’t be everywhere at once. As one commenter in the article linked above noted, “I carry a gun because a cop doesn’t fit into my pocket.”