Those who push restrictive gun laws would have you think guns are only the tools of criminals, and that law-abiding citizens never use them in defense of self and others. In fact, Shannon Watts, head of the Michael Bloomberg-funded Moms Demand Action, said just that in a television interview last year.
“This has never happened,” Watts said, referring to NRA Executive Vice President Wayne LaPierre’s statement that the only thing that stops a bad guy with a gun is a good guy with a gun. “Data shows it doesn’t happen.”
Of course, we know the opposite is true. Armed, law-abiding citizens use firearms in self-defense many times each day throughout the nation. And gun rights advocates love hearing the stories. That’s why “The Armed Citizen®” column ranks as the most popular section of this magazine.
The story of Mark Vaughan, NRA Life member and chief operating officer of Vaughan Foods in Moore, Okla., must give Watts and other gun-ban advocates a tremendous headache. Vaughan, as you’ll likely recall, is the armed citizen who ran to his truck, grabbed his AR-15 rifle and shot a crazed attacker who had already beheaded one woman and was cutting on his next victim.
Not wanting to draw attention to himself, Vaughan had been unwilling to speak to the media since the attack. He recently decided to grant me an exclusive interview about what happened that fateful day.“Others who were right there at the time of the initial attack were kicking, hitting, throwing chairs, books. And they were unable to stop him. He was determined, and he chased several folks off with a knife.”
Incidentally, Vaughan is also a reserve deputy sheriff for the Oklahoma County Sheriff’s Department, a fact unknown to many working at Vaughan Foods on Sept. 24, 2014. On that day, however, he was just another American, going about his normal daily duties—until emergency alarms sounded. He didn’t yet know that Alton Nolen, a recently fired employee, had already beheaded 54-year-old grandmother Colleen Hufford and was continuing his attack.
“I immediately exited my office,” Vaughan said. “I went down to my personal vehicle where I keep an AR-15 rifle. I donned a vest that said County Sheriff on it and ran about 130 yards to the customer service area. It was a bad scene. Many people were exiting the building; people were crying and screaming. It was a very chaotic situation.
When he entered the building, Vaughan couldn’t believe the carnage he saw. But he knew he had to do something to stop the attack.
“When I first arrived down that hallway, I could see the knife raised above his head and strokes with the knife, blows with the knife,” he said. “I yelled at him to stop and he did. He took a few steps toward me and then disappeared around another hallway. I proceeded after him.”
Vaughan said the attack occurred during a shift change. Consequently, there was a lot of activity in the area, with employees coming and going.
“Suddenly he reappeared, running at me and others near me at full speed with the knife still in hand, blood on his arm and on the knife,” Vaughan said. “I yelled a couple of times for him to stop, and he did not. And just at about 12 to 15 feet from me, I fired three rounds. He collapsed to the floor [with] the knife still in his hand. I stopped the threat.”
For his quick, efficient actions, many—including this publication—have called Vaughan a hero. Looking back, he still doesn’t consider himself a hero, although he admits he might have saved many more lives with his action.
“I do not view myself as a hero at all,” he said. “I did what I had to do to protect the folks that work for me to stop this atrocity.“When I owned the company, I allowed concealed-carry holders to carry in the facility and to keep firearms in their cars,” Vaughan said. “My opinion is a gun-free zone just simply makes it harder for the rest of us to protect ourselves.”
“But I have no doubt that Traci Johnson would likely be dead today, as well as others he was targeting. He would not have quit, had a firearm not been involved here by someone who is trained to use it. The consequences, though bad enough, would have been much greater. My involvement was a very thin slice of time, less than three minutes. But afterward it really hit home, the heinous nature of this crime. We have some people that are not back to work; many are still in counseling, very understandably.”
In fact, Johnson, the second victim whose throat was cut but who was saved by Vaughan’s quick response, has seen her life changed forever. She was in the women’s locker room when she heard the worst scream she’d heard in her entire life.
“When I first saw him [Nolen], it was just pure evil,” she said. “His eyes looked like they could just pop out of his head. I see this knife, bloody knife in his hand, and I just froze. And he ran after me. The next thing you know he started attacking me and started slicing my neck.”
Interestingly, according to Vaughan the current ownership of the company doesn’t allow employees to carry firearms during working hours. There’s no restriction to them being in personal vehicles. They do allow armed security, although on the day of the incident there was no armed security on site.
“There are several [right-to-carry permit holders] here, and some involved directly in this event who have since received their concealed-carry permit and I know are practicing. It’s worth every penny.”
Vaughan believes Nolen was probably aware of the “no carry” policy before he started his knife attack, which might have emboldened the vicious murderer.
“He had gone through orientation here and the training that’s required before a full-time employee starts here,” he said. “I’m sure he was apprised of the policies about guns.”
Vaughan believes the armed citizen is America’s first line of defense. Even though he is involved in law enforcement as a reserve deputy, he knows the police can’t always get there in time when the chips are really down.
“You cannot take the attitude they [attacks] are not going to happen to you or to your workplace,” he said. “We need to know they will happen with more frequency moving forward.”
“I believe that firearms should be part of that strategy by qualified and trained individuals. And to have those people allowed to have firearms in the building, have access to firearms. We cannot rely on law enforcement to be there the instant they’re needed. That’s not reality.”“Whether you’re civilian or law enforcement, it’s something that you need to take seriously,” [Vaughan] said. “And by that, I mean you need to be out at the range shooting, getting training. There’s lots of good training available out there. It’s worth every penny.
Vaughan also believes Americans should feel a sense of responsibility toward their fellow man. That’s only natural. But without being properly equipped—in this case, with a firearm—living up to that responsibility can be very difficult.
“When you’re faced with the violence that our team here and I faced on that day, it’s not about a ban on a certain thing,” he said, addressing firearm bans. “It’s about that innate responsibility we have to protect those around us and to protect ourselves. And anything that restricts that is going against that thing that we hold most dear.”
While a strong proponent of Right-to-Carry by average citizens, Vaughan says all who choose to carry or keep a firearm for self-defense have a duty to properly train with that firearm. Because, as he learned last September, when the situation is dire, training takes over.
“Whether you’re civilian or law enforcement, it’s something that you need to take seriously,” he said. “And by that, I mean you need to be out at the range shooting, getting training. There’s lots of good training available out there. It’s worth every penny.”
“The stories you hear about tunnel vision are true. I mean, everything for me shut down except my focus on that individual. I have gone through scenarios in my mind, but there’s no thinking or no opening textbooks. My training took over.”
Johnson, who still bears the scars—both physical and mental—from the attack, sums up the story well. She has since left the company because she has flashbacks just going to the crime scene, but she has said she will always be grateful that Vaughan had his rifle in his vehicle—and that he knew how to use it when the time came.
“Mr. Vaughan saved my life, and I thank God for him every day,” she said. “You know, I say that he’s my hero, he’s an inspiration to me. If he wouldn’t have been there, I’d probably not be here today, and Nolen would have probably killed some other people also.”
Vaughan Named NRA LEO Of The Year
For his heroic actions to stop the attack at Vaughan Foods, Mark Vaughan has been named Law Enforcement Officer of the Year by the National Rifle Association. His dual role as both armed citizen and reserve sheriff’s deputy ensured that he was at the right place at the right time when employees were fighting for their lives.
“The actions of Deputy Vaughan on Sept. 24 were nothing short of heroic,” Jim Porter, outgoing NRA president, said while presenting the award to Vaughan during the NRA Annual Meetings & Exhibits in Nashville, Tenn., in April. “Thinking quickly and clearly, he put an end to an unspeakable rampage. The National Rifle Association is honored to name Deputy Vaughan as NRA’s Law Enforcement Officer of the Year.”
The NRA Law Enforcement Officer of the Year Award was established in 1993 and recognizes an exceptional act or service by a law enforcement officer and is administered by the NRA Law Enforcement Division. Nominations are accepted from anyone having knowledge of the nominee’s actions.
Terror In The Heartland
Many have reported that Alton Nolen, the attacker at Vaughan Foods, was engaged in an act of terror against those he hated. You sure won’t find Mark Vaughan arguing against that assertion.
“There is not a single day that goes by that I don’t think about the incident, that I don’t run those images through my mind,” Vaughan said. “Terrorism is here.”
Vaughan knows that many people don’t even want to think about the possibility of terrorist attacks in the United States. And even though this attack was officially labeled “workplace violence,” he believes most Americans know the truth.
“The heinous and barbaric nature of this attack, I think, put everyone on their heels,” Vaughan said. “I don’t think the population of this country is convinced [it was workplace violence]. They know the basis behind this attack.”
Vaughan added that it’s up to the jury to decide Nolen’s fate. But he hopes the violence of the attack hits home with many Americans, creating the awareness that homegrown terror does, indeed, exist.
“We still live in the greatest country in the world and I’m proud—very much—to be an American,” he said. “But we need to know that it’s going to be part of how we lead our daily lives moving forward.”