One Man's Journey From Potential Victim To Armed Hero
Grenades were exploding everywhere. Pews were shattering. Bullets were flying. People were diving under chairs and grasping for whatever cover they could.
The church at St. James in Cape Town, South Africa was under attack by guerrillas armed with automatic machine guns. The worshippers that night were sitting ducks, except for one man, Charl van Wyk.
"Instinctively, I knelt down behind the bench in front of me and pulled out my .38 special snub-nosed revolver," Charl says. "I always carried [it] with me."
As the mayhem continued, Charl began moving slowly toward the attackers. From a kneeling position, he fired off two rounds at the attackers. One of the slugs hit its intended target.
Sprinting to the back door, Charl exited the church and rounded the corner of the building. He came upon the armed thugs from behind and fired off his final three rounds as the attackers jumped into their getaway car and sped away.
A "snubby" sends machine guns fleeing
Back in the church, the wailing and screaming continued. Dust, smoke and smell of sulfur filled the air. But the congregants were safe now. Charl's heroic actions had chased away the aggressors and saved the lives of dozens of people.
In his book, Shooting Back: The Right and Duty of Self-Defense, Charl van Wyk recounts this horrifying incident in graphic detail. Like a scene out of a movie, the reader sees the splintering pews, the flashes of light and the heroic actions of several people in the congregation.
Shooting Back is a book that is quite relevant for Americans today. Now that the FBI Director Robert Mueller is warning Americans of possible terrorist strikes, this book certainly offers lessons for combating such assaults.
Most terrorists are cowards. They don't like being shot at by their victims. Charl's story shows how citizens, with relatively little firepower, are capable of driving away guerrillas who are more fully armed.
The Bible supports carrying arms
But Shooting Back is more than just a retelling of the St. James massacre of 1993 where 11 people died and 53 were wounded. It is also an appeal to several different kinds of people.
First, the author makes a plea to Christian pacifists by demonstrating, quite convincingly, that the Bible is not at odds with self-defense.
The irony is that Charl did not always carry a gun. Even though he had spent time in the South African army, he was not convinced that it was necessarily right for him to carry a gun as a civilian. Protecting the nation is one thing, he thought. It's quite another to walk around carrying a firearm all the time.
By the time the attack on the church occurred, however, his transformation was already complete. Not only was he carrying a gun everyday, he says, "I would have felt undressed without it."
So what changed his mind?
It was an article authored by Larry Pratt, the Executive Director of Gun Owners of America. The subject entailed the Bible and guns.
A life-saving decision
Reading that article was "an answer to prayer," Charl says. He realized there was no problem whatsoever for Christians to be armed for the protection of self and others.
On a sober note, Charl writes that if he had not read that monograph, he would probably not have been carrying a weapon that fateful day and "I may not have been here to tell the story."
For those who think that the teachings of Jesus conflict with the duty to protect family and home, Charl reprints the entire text of Larry Pratt's What does the Bible say about Gun Control?
"I had found answers to all the questions that had been plaguing me," Charl writes. "I am sure that the arguments put forward by Larry would help anybody that is experiencing the same kind of doubt."
Guns save lives
In Shooting Back, Charl van Wyk also appeals to the self-defense "agnostic," to those who are unsure that guns serve any useful purpose or who are ignorant about the self-defense uses of guns.
Many in our culture today are unaware of the thousands of times that law-abiding citizens use a gun for defensive purposes each day. After reading this book, the reader will encounter many examples showing how guns have been used to protect home and families; and conversely, how gun control has led to the slaughter of many defenseless citizens in countries around the world.
Finally, Shooting Back is a challenge to those who already believe in the right to keep and bear arms.
Charl grapples with many of the questions that most gun owners must eventually come to grips with: Should we carry arms? Is the use of lethal force appropriate in every situation? What can we do when our freedom to carry arms is legislated away from us?
But be forewarned. If you're looking for a textbook approach, then Shooting Back is not for you. Charl's style is very conversational. And many of the insights he presents come from the lessons he was forced to learn on the street.
Like most of us, Charl was an ordinary man -- until the day he was called upon to be extraordinary. His story is inspiring and will encourage you to keep your best defense with you at all times.