If an unlocked door can prove too great a temptation for an honest man, a handgun within reach can lead to an impulsive action that destroys and changes lives forever, with one glaring difference: There is no restitution that can make a victim of gun violence whole again, especially if the victim is dead in the blink of an eye.
I first started questioning the motives of the National Rifle Association back in the 80s when they started pushing handguns and concealed-carry permits. My already-emerging discomfort with the NRA, in spite of having grown up with guns, grew rapidly as soon as I started working in trauma services. I didn’t believe what they told me, I went with my “lyin’ eyes” instead. Growing up, I had always thought of the NRA as an advocate for hunters and sportsmen, and I had never seen anyone shoot skeet or hunt with a hand gun. By the end of that decade, my entire family had resigned memberships, even lifetime ones, because the organization no longer represented us. Indeed, we no longer recognized it.
When I was growing up, handguns were for cops and military officers who carried a sidearm.
That was before the fearmongering and hyperbole of the NRA whipped up fear and resentment and started their campaign to put a weapon in every hand, a pistol in every purse. Using the specious assertion that more guns would lead to less crime. After all, only law-abiding, pillar-of-the-community types would bother subjecting themselves to the permitting process.
Alan Simons was enjoying a Sunday morning bicycle ride with his family in Asheville, N.C., two years ago when a man in a sport utility vehicle suddenly pulled alongside him and started berating him for riding on the highway.
Mr. Simons, his 4-year-old son strapped in behind him, slowed to a halt. The driver, Charles Diez, an Asheville firefighter, stopped as well. When Mr. Simons walked over, he found himself staring down the barrel of a gun.
“Go ahead, I’ll shoot you,” Mr. Diez said, according to Mr. Simons. “I’ll kill you.”
Mr. Simons turned to leave but heard a deafening bang. A bullet had passed through his bike helmet just above his left ear, barely missing him.
Mr. Diez, as it turned out, was one of more than 240,000 people in North Carolina with a permit to carry a concealed handgun. If not for that gun, Mr. Simons is convinced, the confrontation would have ended harmlessly. “I bet it would have been a bunch of mouthing,” he said.
Mr. Diez, then 42, eventually pleaded guilty to assault with a deadly weapon with intent to kill.
The shooting at the Hogs Pen Pub in Macclesfield, N.C., in August 2008 took place after when two men, Cliff Jackson and Eddie Bordeaux, got into a scuffle outside the bar. John Warlick, who was there with his wife, helped separate them, only to see Eddie’s brother, Bobby Ray, fatally shoot Mr. Jackson in the back of the head. Mr. Bordeaux then shot Mr. Warlick in the upper torso, wounding him.
Bobby Ray Bordeaux had obtained a concealed carry permit in 2004 and used to take a handgun everywhere. He was also an alcoholic and heavy user of marijuana with a long history of depression, according to court records. He had been hospitalized repeatedly for episodes related to his drinking, including about a year before, when he shot himself in the chest with a pistol while drunk in an apparent suicide attempt. Mr. Bordeaux, then 48, started drinking heavily at age 13. He had been taking medication for depression but had not taken it the day of the shooting, he later told the police. He also said he had 15 beers and smoked marijuana that night and claimed to have no memory of what occurred. He was eventually convicted of first-degree murder and assault with a deadly weapon inflicting serious injury.
John K. Gallaher III, a permit holder since 2006, was also an alcoholic with serious mental health issues, said David Hall, the assistant district attorney who prosecuted him for murder. In May 2008, Mr. Gallaher, then 24, shot and killed a friend, Sean Gallagher, and a woman, Lori Fioravanti, with a .25-caliber Beretta after an argument at his grandfather’s home. The police found 22 guns, including an assault rifle, at his home. Mr. Gallaher pleaded guilty to two counts of first-degree murder last year.
And the list goes on and on…and multiplies exponentially when lesser assaults, such as when the gun is not discharged, are factored in.
Yet evidence doesn’t matter to those with an ideology to push, and it is now easier than ever to get a permit and carry a concealed weapon, whether it’s needed or not — and usually it’s not.
And if the NRA gets their way, it will be easier still. They want permits issued in any state to be recognized in all states, thus allowing a person with a permit issued in a must-issue state to carry their weapon in any other state, even a might-issue state that would deny that person a permit.
I continue to be amazed at the silence of the states-rights crowd on this…
***A short paragraph of incorrect information was struck from the the text here.
[This post is written as part of the Media Matters Gun Facts fellowship. The purpose of the fellowship is to further Media Matters’ mission to comprehensively monitor, analyze, and correct conservative misinformation in the U.S. media Some of the worst misinformation occurs around the issue of guns, gun violence, and extremism. The fellowship program is designed to fight this misinformation with facts.]