Simple, law-abiding carrying of a handgun by this month’s CCRKBA Gun Rights Defender of the Month demonstrates a truth which for years has been self-evident to gun rights activists.
That truth is that the mere evident presence of a firearm in the hands of a law-abiding private citizen can be a deterrent to crime.
Oftentimes, these incidents do not show up in police reports because a crime has not been committed, but they do show up in scholarly surveys indicating that the presence of firearms in the hands of private citizens prevents or interrupts the commission of crimes millions of times a year in the United States.
When Dennis O’Connor of Prince George, Virginia, openly and legally carried a holstered handgun into a bank the day after Christmas, his mere presence apparently motivated a would-be bank robber to flee the premises before he even had a chance to perpetrate the crime.
When Phil Van Cleave, President of the Virginia Citizens Defense League (VCDL), brought the incident to the attention of John M. Snyder, CCRKBA Public Affairs Director, Snyder decided to nominate O’Connor for the CCRKBA Gun Rights Defender of the Month Award.
“O’Connor’s consistent public defense of the right to keep and bear arms,” said Snyder, “combined with this fortuitous de facto demonstration of the veracity of one of the chief arguments for respecting that right, that is, that guns in the hands of law-abiding citizens serve as an effective crime deterrent, warrants his reception of this Award.”
O’Connor went down to the Sun Trust bank branch in Hopewell, Virginia on December 26, 2006, “to complete some financial transactions. I got there just as they were opening and entered with a woman who had been waiting outside. There were three tellers in position to the left, one customer service associate at a desk to the right, and the manager was seated in his office to the rear right, so there were seven of us in the bank.
“I have been banking there for years and know the tellers fairly well, who are quite used to me walking in with my holstered 1911 government model .45 and two reserve magazines. As I was transacting business with my teller, a man came through the front door on this warm December morning wearing a full ski mask, with only his eyes showing. He was wringing his hands and glanced furtively toward the office and then swept his eyes across the room, finally towards me and the tellers. At that, he turned and BOLTED back out the door!”
O’Connor wrote that, “The teller next to my position was the first to recognize the implications of what had just happened, and yelled for the manager, who came rushing out from his office. He glanced toward me before sticking his head out the front door, looking both ways down the sidewalk, and pronounced that the suspicious character had apparently left the area. The same teller then expressed her relief that I been there, and mentioned that the next Sun Trust branch down on Route 10 (Iron Bridge Road) had just been robbed the week before.”
Later in Christmas week, said O’Connor, “I went by the bank again to make a deposit. The same three tellers were on duty. I asked them if the police were called over the ski-masked intruder. They said no, but they had all discussed the incident yesterday afternoon and agreed it was me standing there with a gun at Sharon’s window (the first one from the door) that spooked him into changing his plans, and they all thanked me again.”
O’Connor said modestly he “didn’t DO anything.” But that, said Snyder, “is just the point. The mere evident carrying of the gun itself was enough to prevent anything additional from having to be done.”
Dennis O’Connor was born September 11, 1956 in New Haven, Connecticut.
He attended high school in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, graduating in 1974.
He then enlisted in the United States Army and, during his first tour in Korea during the mid-1970s, he met and married his wife, Pok Cha, with whom he has two sons, Bill, 29, and Dennis, Jr., 26.
During his Army service, he availed himself of educational opportunities to earn a Bachelor of Science and a Master of Arts in Humanities, “and bought my first home under the G.I. Bill.”
Now a retired Army Warrant Officer, Dennis is a manager for Sodexho, Inc. He is a VCDL Director, Secretary and State Gun Show Coordinator.