Lebanon resident Mica Smith said he was prepared when he pulled his concealed sidearm to stop an attacker with a knife Thursday. He also said he was scared.
He's had his concealed carry permit for five years, and the incident marked the first time he has ever gone to his gun. But his training as a licensed concealed handgun carrier added the layer of discipline required to prevent the situation from flying off the rails.
Smith, a bartender at Conversion Brewing on Main Street in Lebanon, was having a pint and a burger with his wife, Kylee, and some friends at the brewpub Thursday evening when he noticed a confrontation between Michael Ryan VanGelder, 30, and Elizah Bullock, 39.
Bullock was sitting in his car when Smith said he heard VanGelder shout, "What the (expletive) did you say to me?" while rushing toward Bullock. Smith said he next heard a loud sound he described as a "tang" and then saw VanGelder pulling out a knife and holding it out as if he would attack Bullock.
The U.S. Army veteran reacted to the threat, leaping from the patio and pulling his Glock 42 .380 on VanGelder, shouting at him drop the knife. VanGelder then tried to run, and both Bullock and Smith chased and tackled VanGelder. Bullock was injured in the commotion.
Once they got the knife from VanGelder, Smith holstered his weapon while his wife sat on VanGelder to subdue him until the police arrived. They arrested VanGelder for unlawful use of a weapon, menacing, fourth-degree assault and second-degree disorderly conduct.
The incident amplifies the value of trained and responsible citizens carrying concealed weapons, said Linn County Sheriff Bruce Riley.
"That's a good example of what concealed carry permits are intended to do," said Riley, who added that the county has just around 11,000 people licensed to carry concealed weapons.
Riley added that, unlike an untrained citizen who may have the right to carry a gun, the permit brings training and awareness that adds discipline to a threat situation. Smith echoed that sentiment when he described how he used his weapon during the incident.
"I did not put my finger on the trigger," said Smith. "I do not put my finger on the trigger unless I'm going to fire."
Smith added that as a concealed carry license holder, he assumes great responsibility if he fires his gun.
"I knew that somebody's life was in danger, and that others could be threatened too," he said.
Smith also said he believes Bullock would have been killed had he not intervened.
As far as the training required for the license, Smith feels it needs to be more intensive.
"The five-hour training is not enough," he said. "It's also important to go to the gun range to practice trigger discipline and develop muscle memory."
Smith said he'll never carry a gun that he has not fired between 50 and 100 rounds through. This is important, he said, to be able to know the weapon and how best to fire it. Still, the last thing Smith said he wants to do is to fire his weapon outside the range, but he maintains a philosophy that always having his gun is important.
"Its better to have it and not need it than to need it and not have it," he said. But he advocates concealed carry not just for the training and responsibility it includes, but because he believes open carry can invite confrontation.
"I think with open carry, you could end up with someone picking a fight just to see if you're a badass," he said.
Smith also spoke about VanGelder, who suffers from mental illness, according to his family.
"The state needs a way to better take care of people with mental issues," Smith said. "So the two things I take away from the situation are these: The Second Amendment and concealed carry are a good thing, and mental instability is something that needs to be addressed."
Smith's son, Michael, a sophomore at Lebanon High School, said he's proud of his dad and happy nothing bad happened that night. He said his dad was a little shaken after the incident, but that it shows the value of responsible gun ownership in the community. And according to his dad, people at Conversion Brewing converted to believing in concealed carry that night.
"There were people there that were against concealed carry, " said Smith. "But after what happened, they've changed their minds."